As we go to work every day, we never expect a disaster to happen. In the event of a natural or manmade occurrence, are we really prepared? Weather forecasts help us anticipate bad storms, hurricanes, or tornadoes, but there could be any type of problem within the walls of our workplace, or accidents near our location that make it imperative for us to evacuate the premises. Have you thought about what you would do if an evacuation were necessary? Has your company given you instructions?
Preparing for an emergency evacuation is an on-going project. Employers and employees together should establish a good plan and have every one on board before an unforeseen situation happens. In a crisis, it’s hard to think logically, so planning in advance and imagining the worst-case scenarios will be beneficial. Fire, floods, toxic gas releases, chemical spills, explosions, radiological accidents, hurricanes, tornadoes, civil disturbances, or workplace violence resulting in bodily harm and trauma could cause a serious emergency.
When drafting an emergency plan, a responsible individual should be chosen to lead and coordinate the emergency plan and evacuation. This person would have the authority to make critical decisions during emergencies. All workers would then understand who that coordinator is and follow his instructions.
Be certain that every employee knows the escape procedures and where safe refuge areas are. Duties of persons responsible for reporting the emergency; those who are to render first aid, employees who shut down operations are all parts of the chain of command that each employee should be familiar with. Special consideration should be given to assisting employees with disabilities. An assembly area for gathering after an evacuation should be designated. Take a head count after the evacuation. Give the names and last locations of the persons not accounted for to the official in charge.
Personal protective equipment may be needed to evacuate during an emergency. A workplace assessment can determine potential hazards in your particular workplace. PPE may include the following: eye protection – goggles, safety glasses, or face shields; head protection – hardhats; body protection – gloves, hoods, boots, or chemical suits. Respirators should be appropriate to the hazards in your workplace, meet OSHA standards and be certified by NIOSH. In case of an emergency evacuation, your safety consultant may feel that respiratory protection may be necessary if the employees must pass through toxic atmospheres, such as dust, mists, gases, or vapors.
This is the general training to be addressed by your employees, as recommended by OSHA:
- Individual roles and responsibilities;
- Notification, warning, and communications procedures;
- Threats, hazards, and protective actions;
- How to locate family members in an emergency;
- Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures;
- Location and use of common emergency equipment;
- Emergency response procedures;
- Emergency shutdown procedures.
Conducting fire drills often is very important. The more often drills are done, the more familiar the employees will become with what is expected of them. Hopefully, this will never affect you; however, being prepared instead of panicked could possibly save lives.