National Preparedness Month: Are You Ready?
If an emergency should occur during work hours, would your employees know what to do, where to go, and where to find supplies? As National Preparedness Month comes to a close, make sure that your employees know the answers to these questions. Preparing for and knowing how to respond to emergency situations will help protect your employees should an emergent circumstance arise while in the workplace.
Known risks: Although emergency situations are unpredictable, you can prepare for known risks in your area. The first step in preparing for an emergency is knowing if the location of your office is susceptible to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or volcanic eruptions. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are at risk of experiencing a variety of natural disasters from earthquakes to storms and should prepare accordingly. Along with the natural disasters that are common in your area, it is important to remember that emergencies like power outages and fires can happen anywhere and also need preparation.
Procedures: Once you have pinpointed possible risks, make sure that you and your employees know the procedures to follow for each scenario. To ensure that everyone is aware of the procedures, post them in common areas throughout the office. Make these postings eye catching and continually reference them in meetings so that they aren’t overlooked. Throughout the year, send out emails reminding employees of proper procedures to ensure that everyone in the office is up to date on how to respond in case of an emergency.
Resources: Part of being prepared is making sure that emergency kits are full and everyone in the office knows where they are located. Some supplies to include in your kit are water, nonperishable food items, flashlights and batteries. To find a complete list of supplies that should be included your office’s kit, visit redcross.org. In addition to an emergency kit, your workplace should have fire extinguishers that are inspected annually, as well as fire alarms and generators.
Evacuation: In the event of an emergency, it is important that everyone in the office is familiar with the evacuation routes as well as the muster area. Like emergency procedures, evacuation routes and the muster area should be posted in highly visible areas throughout the workplace. A muster area is a designated location where employees should meet once they have evacuated the building. It is in the muster area that roll is taken and employees should remain until emergency crews reach the scene. It is important to remember that once you have evacuated, you should not go back in until the building has been cleared by professionals!
Practice: Once you are aware of the risks, proper procedures, resources and evacuation routes, it is time to perform emergency drills. These drills are an opportunity for employees to learn how to respond in an emergency, as well as an opportunity for you to see how well they are retaining the information that you have presented them. This practice should be taken seriously by employees, and as an employer you will need to correct any behaviors that are unsafe (such as using the wrong exit during a fire drill).
Remember that the key to preparedness is reviewing these areas with your employees periodically throughout the year. Although we all hope that we don’t have to use any of these guidelines, the cliché statement “better safe than sorry” really holds true.