Having an emergency evacuation plan in place for your business may seem obvious, but most organizations tend to fall short when it comes to having a plan that is appropriately established and implemented, especially when asked the following questions:
- Is the plan readily accessible?
- Has it been recently updated and practiced?
- Have you identified, assigned, and trained a Building Evacuation Team who will help carry out the plan and keep your building occupants safe?
- Are your building occupants familiar with the plan and what their responsibilities are in an emergency that may require them to evacuate?
Although most organizations consider the health and safety of their personnel a top priority, typically, the answers to these questions do not reflect that it is.
When an emergency occurs in the workplace, the ability to think clearly or logically is often overcome by fear and confusion. A lack of understanding on what to do can quickly lead to panic and chaos. The assumption that your employees will know to swiftly exit the building in a safe and efficient manner during any emergency that requires an evacuation of the premises can be dangerous and short-sighted. A disorganized evacuation can become irrational or dangerous, resulting in injuries, property damages, and may create an even more dangerous situation for emergency responders.
Consider the following reasons why an evacuation plan may be of high importance to your business.
- FULFILL OSHA REQUIREMENTS
Employers are required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to keep an Emergency Action Plan on file, and the plan must include detailed procedures for evacuation. Any company with more than ten employees needs a written copy of the evacuation plan posted where it is visible to the staff in an emergency situation. Significant changes, such as modifications to the layout of the building, changes in personnel, operating environment or the introduction of new hazards, requires the plan to be appropriately updated.
- ESTABLISH A CHAIN OF COMMAND WITH CLEARLY DEFINED ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES
When an emergency occurs at the workplace, confusion, anxiety and fear will cause most people to want to run and get out of the building as quickly as possible. However, doing so increases the risk of injury, property damage, and could potentially impede responders who are there to assist. Calm, level-headed leaders and others who can coordinate essential tasks and oversee an orderly evacuation are vital to success. In general, companies need to identify a team of individuals responsible for serving in the following roles:
- Designated Point of Contact—This person communicates with emergency services and may also make the decision about when an evacuation should occur (e.g., when it is not obvious or when directed to do so by first responders).
- Monitors/Coordinators—Individuals identified to complete a defined list of safety tasks, which may include shutting off valves or gas lines, doubling checking offices and bathrooms to ensure the floors are clear, and securing the site as best they can (e.g., closing doors, blocking off areas where there are hazards present).
- Special Needs Assistants—Individuals who are pre-assigned to support pre-defined individuals who may require additional assistance to safely evacuate.
- People Responsible for Accountability—On the ground outside, these individuals ensure everyone is accounted for. If each department uses their own person, they need to report to a central authority who coordinates information with the Designated Point of Contact.
- ESTABLISH A DESIGNATED MEETING PLACE
Evacuation plans should inform employees about exactly where to meet after leaving the building and should stress the importance of remaining at that location until further direction is provided. Staying together facilitates the ability to get an accurate account of everyone who should have left the building and facilitates the ability to quickly inform emergency personnel about how many people are left in the building, and where those people might be.
- DEVELOP A PLAN THAT IS EASY TO PRACTICE
A free-form evacuation is guaranteed to result in chaos and disorder once employees begin to panic. Likewise, an evacuation plan that was written years ago, that is not up to date or being used, is useless to the organization and its employees. Frequent reminders and practice (e.g., drills) will ensure familiarity with the evacuation plan. A well-written plan should ensure everyone knows their roles, and how they are expected to respond to an emergency.
- KEEP EMPLOYEES CALM AND INFORMED
In most cases, panic occurs because of uncertainty about what to do in an emergency that may result in an evacuation. Panic results in a loss of focus, which may result in irrational or dangerous behavior. An evacuation plan establishes a clear set of guidelines that clarifies what employees need to do and provides an easy to follow checklist. The progression of steps calms nerves, while keeping employees focused on the task at hand: getting to safety.
- NON-EMPLOYEES NEED TO EVACUATE TOO!
When a crisis or emergency occurs, your vendors, clients, and other visitors may need assistance to make it out of the building safely. Make sure your plan accounts for them, along with signs marking evacuation routes and identifying safety personnel responsible for communicating the plan to visitors in an emergency. This will assist with decreasing the risks visitors face in an emergency, even if they are unfamiliar with the building.
Clear plans and knowledgeable personnel are often the difference between life and death in an emergency that requires an evacuation. Commit to providing your employees with a safer workplace by taking the time to thoroughly develop an evacuation plan. Doing so may save lives, including your own.
CMCG has supported a number of customers with developing building evacuation policies, plans and procedures. If you would like to discuss how we might best support your needs, please reach out to us today to set up a time for your free initial consultation. A member of our team will follow up with you directly.Share