Safety Month Topic One – Emergency Preparedness

Safety Month Topic One – Emergency Preparedness

Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the popular term that echoes through boardrooms and classrooms alike: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 

And anyone who has experienced a utilities-delaying natural disaster, panic-inducing medical emergency or any number of other split-second life-changing events can attest to the truism of Franklin’s short axiom. 

Extreme as it may sound, emergency preparedness can be the difference between life and death. And it’s just as important to plan for emergencies at work as it is to plan for disasters at home.

While many of these tips can apply to both circumstances, here are some things you can do today to prepare for emergencies at work and at home.  

How to Prepare for Emergencies at Work

Many spend 50% or more of their waking hours per weekday at work. Given this huge chunk of time, the chances of an emergency striking you at the workplace are quite high. Accordingly, OSHA has a list of recommended actions to keep employers and employees safe. In fact, depending on the size of the organization, your workplace may be required to have an emergency action plan in place, per OSHA’s regulations.  

Regardless of whether a workplace is required to have an emergency action plan or not, these steps outlined by OSHA are a great place to start preparing for emergencies at work.

  1. Establish a known and preferred method for reporting emergencies: Determine a method that works best for your individual organization to communicate issues if, and when, they arise. Consider technological interruptions or infrastructure challenges that may strike in the face of disaster. Clearly communicate this reporting plan to all employees to ensure a timely and cohesive response.
  1. Create a procedure and map an emergency evacuation route: Making sure your team understands how to exit a facility safely is critical to prevent injury, or even death, in the face of disaster. Develop an evacuation policy and procedure. Establish a safe refuge area away from the building where employees can be accounted for. Make sure the evacuation policy and procedure are clearly communicated and understood by the entire organization. 
  1. Write a procedure for employees who remain to perform essential operations: From operating fire extinguishers to shutting down critical equipment during a disaster, make sure to have a plan for who will stay in the facility during an emergency (and understand why!). Ensure these essential employees are adequately trained on their emergency duties and understand the evacuation policy to safely exit the facility.
  1. Designate workers who can perform medical duties: In case of injury, you’ll want team members who are trained and able to respond to immediate medical needs until paramedics or other emergency personnel arrive on scene. 
  1. Record names and contacts for individuals inside and outside the organization for reporting: Document the names and contact information for individuals who can help, both inside the organization and outside, during an emergency event. This may include gathering additional information or contacting appropriate personnel for communicating the emergency and team needs.

How to Prepare for Emergencies at Home

While some of the steps of preparing for emergencies at the workplace outlined above can help at home, there are some specific things you can do today to prepare at your house. The American Red Cross outlines three simple steps to prepare for emergencies at home.        

  1. Ready an emergency preparedness kit: There’s no time to gather the supplies you need when disaster strikes. The best way to respond is to have a kit ready to go when you need it. At a minimum, an emergency preparedness kit should include:
    • One gallon of water per person, per day
    • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Flashlight with extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Seven-day supply of medications
    • Personal hygiene items
    • A book of emergency contacts
    • Extra cash
    • Multipurpose tool
  1. Create an emergency plan: Take the time to sit down with your family and decide how to prepare for emergencies. Identify the responsibilities that each family member will take in case of an emergency and practice as much as possible. Document your plan and review it so everyone understands how to respond. Check out this article from the American Red Cross for more tips on creating an emergency plan.
  1. Educate yourself and your family about the different types of emergencies or natural disasters that can occur in your area: Do you know the difference between a weather warning and a weather watch? What level of action do you need to take for each alert? Understanding your area-specific warnings and natural hazards are critical to properly prepare. Readying yourself and your home for an earthquake is different than being prepared for a tornado, for instance. Take some time to educate yourself and your family about the different types of risks facing your household.

Whether it’s preparing for emergencies in the workplace or at home, responding to disasters quickly and effectively can save lives. And all it takes is some preparation and communication. If you haven’t started, start preparing today. And if you have an emergency plan in place, it’s a great time to review it to ensure everyone understands their part when disaster strikes.     

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