As hard as employers try to make their workplaces safe, emergencies arise from time to time. For example, in 2020, the BLS reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. And 2021 brought natural disasters galore.
These examples highlight how important emergency preparation is for all businesses. Having an emergency action plan in place is the best way to prepare your team for the unexpected. For many managers though, the thought of creating one is overwhelming.
We’re going to break it down for you, so you know exactly what you need. Read on to find out the steps to creating a robust emergency action plan.
Why You Need an Emergency Action Plan
Before you start to create your emergency action plan, you need to understand exactly what its purpose is.
The purpose of the emergency action plan is to ensure that everyone knows what they need to do in the event of an emergency. This includes how to keep themselves and others safe. It also includes how to respond and communicate with stakeholders after the emergency situation has passed.
Without an emergency action plan, you’re likely to face chaos. An emergency action plan can bring a measure of order to a difficult situation.
Types of Emergencies to Cover
Aside from illness and injury, emergencies will vary depending on your geographical location. Research the kinds of emergencies that have affected businesses in your area in recent years. These may include floods, fire, severe storms, and earthquakes.
Also, it’s important to prepare for the unthinkable, such as active shooter situations.
Analyze potential workplace hazards. Consider hazardous materials you have on-site and the danger they pose to your employees. There may also be issues stemming from older buildings, or other hazards related to the type of machinery used on site.
Some emergencies require very different responses, while others can be covered by the same basic steps. For example, the plan for fire (evacuate) is different from the plan for a tornado (shelter in place).
Key Emergency Action Plan Components
You have listed the kinds of emergencies you are likely to face and identified potential workplace hazards. Now you are ready to start adding detail to your emergency action plan.
All emergency action plans must contain the following key components:
- Detailed evacuation procedures
- Protocols for alerting the authorities
- How to communicate with all parties on-site in an emergency
- Accounting for personnel after the event
- Notifying affected parties
- Crisis training for staff
- Review date and procedures
Let’s look at each component and what it should include.
Detailed Evacuation Procedures
Evacuation is vital in the event of fire, bomb, or health-related emergencies. The company needs to produce floor plans, featuring clearly marked escape routes. Display these floor plans prominently where all staff and visitors can see them.
Provide regular training for all staff. This is a chance to practice evacuating the building using the correct routes.
If an emergency occurs outside the building, such as a hurricane or severe storm, the focus is gathering safely indoors. The emergency action plan should also designate safe places to gather.
Protocols for Alerting the Authorities
If John Doe starts having a heart attack, it’s no good if everyone starts dialing 911. The emergency action plan will designate the person who makes that call. All employees should be aware of who that person is.
Depending on the type of business and whether hazardous substances are involved, you may need to alert other authorities. The plan should include their names and numbers, and designate a person and a backup person to contact them.
Communicating an Emergency Situation
In the event of a fire, an alarm will usually sound to alert everyone on site. If the emergency is an individual having a stroke, there’s no need to alert everyone. The plan should outline how to contact a first aider in such a situation.
Strategies for communicating emergencies will vary from business to business. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s clearly outlined in the plan.
Accounting for Personnel After an Emergency
When the emergency has passed, everyone on-site needs to be accounted for. For businesses with visitors and customers coming and going this can be a logistical challenge.
In order to account for workers on site, consider creating daily fire rosters. This is simply a list of all the individual employees who are on-site on a given day.
For larger companies, break this down by department or work area. There should be a designated checker, along with a backup.
Notifying Affected Parties
If anyone is injured or missing, you need to be able to contact their next-of-kin as soon as possible. Does your business involve working with children or vulnerable people? You may need to alert their parents or guardians to collect them.
Your human resources function should maintain up-to-date emergency contact information. The emergency action plan should clearly identify who is responsible for following this up.
Crisis Training for Staff
An emergency action plan is only effective if your staff are well trained. They need to be very familiar with the action plan, and with their individual responsibilities. All new staff must receive this training as soon as possible.
Additional crisis training for staff can help them to remain calm and act safely in the event of an emergency.
Review Date and Procedures
The company should review the emergency action plan regularly. The plan should outline exactly when to review it and who should review it.
It’s also a good practice to review it after each emergency situation. Weaknesses in the plan may have come to light that you can now rectify. If you make updates, all staff should receive full training.
The Bottom Line: Always Be Prepared
Being prepared for an emergency situation gives everyone a much better chance of walking away safely. A strong emergency action plan is the best way to make this happen. Regular training is crucial to ensure that everyone understands their action plan responsibilities.
At ROI Safety Services, we provide the training that your company needs to stay safe and protect itself from loss.
We provide health and safety consultants and training courses. They can help to ensure that your organization complies with OSHA requirements. We can help you to create a robust emergency action plan.
Contact us today for a custom training quote for your company.
Do you have someone that can teach a group of professionals “how to write an emergency action plan”. The course should last between 4 – 8 hours and would be presented at a national level seminar.