Emergency Action Planning3 min read
By Kyle Weygandt, Director of Member Safety
One of the best ways to ensure workplace safety is to plan and prepare for disasters and emergency situations. Having good emergency action plans in place can be the difference between life and death. How do you go about planning and enacting them from scratch?
Per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) General Duty Clause, each employer must furnish to each of its employees a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In layman’s terms, this means that employers are required to provide their employees with a safe environment to work in.
As an example, take a moment to compile a mental list of all the items that you would need to take with you for a weeklong camping trip. As you compiled your list, did you consider the location of the campsite? Did you think about the weather forecast? What factors went into each of your decisions?
If you were to ask 10 people to compile such a list, the results may be similar to your list, but with a number of differences. Their list may work for you, while your list may not work for them.
While this exercise is simple, it goes to show just how different our individual needs are. Had all 10 people simply collaborated from the start, it is likely that the list would be better able to meet the needs of all involved. The importance of collaboration should be the first thing you have in mind when you begin developing a workplace disaster plan.
In providing employees with a safe work environment, employers must have an emergency action plan that describes how employees are expected to react in emergency situations, but what does an emergency situation entail? It could include hurricanes, active-shooter events or a widespread viral outbreak. These situations can be short- or long-term, and generally encompass human, material, economic or environmental damage.
It is a broad subject, which can make it difficult to plan. The following four phases of preparedness are designed to serve as a guide when drafting emergency action plans:
- Mitigation – Actions taken to help prevent or reduce the potential occurrence or impact of disasters and emergency situations. This may include upgrading facilities, purchasing insurance or making policy changes.
- Preparedness – Actions taken to prepare for disasters or emergency situations that cannot be avoided. This may include running drills, creating inventories of essential items or designating leaders.
- Response – Actions taken immediately following a disaster or emergency situation. This may include performing CPR or first aid, enacting an emergency plan or calling emergency services.
- Recovery – Actions taken after a disaster or emergency situation has resolved. This may include making facility repairs, providing special mental or physical health services, or reassessing emergency plans.
Considering the four phases of preparedness, developing and finetuning your plan should involve the following three processes:
- Research and plan –Incidences of natural disasters are on the rise, so it is important to consider possible emergency events most likely to affect your organization. Look to expert sources, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to learn more about what situations may occur and how you might best respond to them. Once you have more information, you can begin applying it to your specific organization and put pen to paper on emergency action plans.
- Practice –Once you have some emergency action plans in place, it is time to put them into practice. Run an evacuation drill or practice first aid once a year to ensure that your organization is prepared to respond to the real thing. Tabletop exercises can be great at keeping your organization prepared for the worst while also revealing potential weak points in any plan. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
- Individualize plans –Whether you are dealing with fires, floods or tornadoes, the way that each employee responds will likely be different. How should someone in the field respond to a tornado warning? What do you do if an emergency coordinator is out sick when a disaster occurs? Recognize that circumstances are different among individuals and avoid keeping things too generic.
With this knowledge, you should be better prepared to begin putting emergency action plans into place within your organization.
AMP is here to serve our members in any way that we can. If you have questions or would like advice on planning and enacting emergency action plans, please contact me at [email protected].