As a property manager or business owner, there are parts of the job that are easily predictable. Unfortunately, the onset of an emergency isn’t necessarily one of them. Incidents that include spills, floods, and fires and severe weather like hurricanes, and tornadoes can sometimes occur with little to no notice. Without the right kind of preparation, that unpredictability can leave leadership scrambling and employees exposed to dangers. If planning isn’t your forte, we’re here to help with these thoughts on how to plan for emergencies in your building.
What is emergency planning?
In short, an emergency action plan (also known as a disaster plan) is a playbook that outlines roles and responsibilities for employees during an emergency. Its goal is to ensure the safety of all parties involved, encompassing a wide variety of functions from disseminating information to taking a more action-oriented role.
It’s also important to note that disaster plans can and should vary by emergency. One person’s role during a fire may differ from during a spill or flood.
What should be in your emergency plan?
This is hard to say because, like the individual roles and responsibilities, the plan could change based on the type of emergency. At a minimum, here are some universal things that you should consider as you draw up any type of emergency plan:
A method for reporting the emergency to the proper authorities and who is responsible for that action
An evacuation policy, procedure and route should employees need to leave the premises
The designation of a safe or refuge area for employees to go if the event occurs during work hours
A communication strategy for alerting employees if the event occurs during non-work hours
A communication strategy for keeping employees abreast of information
· Procedural duties for employees who either don’t evacuate and/or partner with emergency personnel
When to review, practice and update the emergency plan
Emergency action plans should be considered living, breathing things because they must evolve in time. That means that plans should be reviewed once a quarter and updated as needed due to events like changes to the building or key personnel. Additionally, training should take place whenever the plan is initially rolled out, new employees are hired, new equipment is introduced, a change to the building’s layout is made or the plan is updated. Practice drills should also take place often until employees feel comfortable executing the plans.
For more information, check out the extensive how-to guide on planning for workplace emergencies and evacuations developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). And always remember that there’s never a wrong time to start planning.