Updating “The Office” Evacuation Plan
By Jessica Stark
You work in a completely average office. Well, aside from that guy in sales who seems oddly obsessed with his family beet farm. And you can’t forget the cat lady in accounting. Oh, and the weird inter-office romance going on in Human Resources.
Okay, then again, maybe no office can be considered “average.” With so many wild personalities packed into such a small place, there’s no shortage of interesting dynamics to yield an interesting workplace. Perhaps for that very reason, it’s important that your office has a solid plan for an emergency—you don’t, after all, want to put your fate in the hands of the beet farmer. But how can you test the plan to see if your team knows how to react to an emergency? If your answer was to lock the doors and windows before setting off the alarm, you may be more at home on a network sitcom than a productive office. Consider these four tips when updating and testing your office evacuation plan:
Survey Your Building – If you are updating your evacuation plan or building a new one from scratch, taking a good look at your building’s interior and exterior is the first step. See how many exits there are and if they are clearly marked with exit signs. Look for possible routes that may be more effective – is there an outside stairwell or fire escape from the third floor that would work better than the stairs inside? Think outside of the confines of your current plan to see if there are better solutions.
Choose a Gathering Point – Once you’ve found the most efficient way to get your team to safety, you need a safe spot to gather and do a headcount. How else will you be sure that the overly enthusiastic singer in sales didn’t hit his head on the way out? Pick a spot that’s a safe distance from the building and make sure that everyone gathers there instead of hiding in their vehicles so you can see if everyone made it out okay.
Check Lighting – If a disaster knocks out the power, your emergency lighting still has to work. Regularly check your emergency lights to be sure that the bulbs and power supplies are still in working order. Replace any outdated or non-functioning equipment with updated emergency lights and supplies so your team can see their way to safety.
Meet OSHA Standards – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has many standards for evacuation routes. Larger buildings require more exit routes, doors that may be mistaken for exits must clearly be marked “No Exit” and other standards are required. OSHA has a useful guide for building evacuation plans and meeting all required standards for safety in your workplace. Explore the requirements and make sure they are met to avoid fines and potential tragedies on the job.
Your team may be quirky and full of memorable characters, or filled with sleepy, crossword-obsessed salesmen. Regardless of who you work with, though, an up-to-date and effective evacuation plan is a must for any workplace. Survey your building’s layout to find the most effective routes out in case of an emergency, make sure that your equipment is working and meets all standards and find a place to gather your team.
Thanks, Jessica, for this informative article. Having a few safety posters around the office may help everyone remember to be very aware of emergency exits. Pat