Emergency Response Plan – Life Safety

The emergency response plan might be the one single thing you can do at your workplace to most dramatically improve the odds of survival during a disaster.  In school, we were required to practice an emergency evacuation from the school, a fire drill.  How many of you have an emergency response plan for your business?  Would you be able to guarantee that all people in your building can get out and be accounted for if you were required to evacuate your building for any number of emergency situations?  If you aren’t certain, you owe it to yourself, and your employees, to do some preplanning.  You will always be your own first responder.

If you were required to evacuate your building:

  • Where would all your staff meet outside your building so that you could account for everyone?
  • Is one person responsible for ensuring all employees are out?  If you have multiple floors, is there a different person assigned to ensure evacuation of each floor?  Is someone assigned to check the restrooms to ensure all are out?
  • If anyone is disabled or in a wheelchair and the elevator doesn’t work, how will you ensure that individual can evacuate?
  • Is the phone number for your local police and fire posted at the phone so you don’t have to look for the number while you’re evacuating?
  • Have you considered two way radios so that the internal responders can communicate effectively with the outside team as to the status of the evacuation and reporting to first responders, police and fire, where they are needed immediately?
  • If employees are sent to the hospital do you know which one it will be and what the hospital phone number is so that it can be provided to family members who might call for information during the evacuation?  You won’t be at your desk to look it up.
  • Do you have internal medical responders on staff who might begin CPR or use the AED, if available, while awaiting paramedics?  Have you practiced this?
  • Do you have the procedure for performing the Heimlich maneuver on an individual choking posted in a visible location?
  • If severe weather, like a tornado, is in the area how would you know it?  Who is responsible for monitoring for severe weather?  Where would you go in your building during a tornado warning?  Have you practiced moving to this area with your entire staff? Has your staff been trained to know what to do?
  • If there were a dangerous individual in the area would you take shelter in place or would you evacuate?  Who makes this decision? If this individual were in your building where would you hide?
  • What would you do if a bomb threat were called into your workplace? Do you know what information to ask for?  Would you evacuate?  Who makes that decision? 

These incidents might seem far-fetched and unlikely to ever happen, but if they do a small amount of advanced preparation work might be what saves a life.  This is the most important plan for you to practice.  Proper preparation prevents poor performance.  Poor performance in this set of circumstances might well cost the lives of your employees. 

For more information on this topic or any other business continuity preparedness questions, I can be reached at 410-303-0635 or kmercer@firestorm.com.  www.firestorm.com.  Please join me in two weeks for my next topic, communicating during a crisis.  What you say during a crisis, when almost everything you learn in the first twenty-four hours will be found to have been wrong, will determine if the crisis will continue to escalate or will be stabilized.  Saying the wrong thing will cause your second crisis and will detract from your ability to manage your first crisis.