March 2, 2023
Introduction: Create an effective emergency response plan.
According to OSHA, A poorly prepared emergency response plan may result in a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, illness or property damage. Emergencies can take place at any time, anywhere, including the workplace. Being adequately prepared to handle an emergency in the workplace is paramount and should be taken seriously. It is vital to have an emergency preparedness plan in place. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you play a critical role. Having a plan in place will help to reduce the severity of any impact that an incident may have and will ensure that everyone stays safe. In this article, we will walk you through the process of developing a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan for your place of business in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide. This plan can be referred to as an emergency response plan or an emergency preparedness plan.
Step 1: Recognize and identify potential emergencies.
The first thing you need to do in order to put together a solid plan for dealing with unexpected events is to determine the different kinds of crises that could arise at your place of business. Examples could include natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes, as well as emergencies induced by humans like fires, chemical spills, or violence in the workplace. Active shooter scenarios also fall into this category and sometimes could require stand-alone response plans with detailed, specific response protocols for employees to follow.
After you have determined the potential hazards that could affect your workplace, the next step is to evaluate the likelihood that each one will materialize and the possible effects they could have if they do. This information will assist you in determining the order of priority for which emergencies to concentrate on and how to distribute resources in order to get ready for them.
Step 2: Establish an emergency response team.
In the event of a crisis, an emergency response team ought to be made up of personnel who have been educated on the appropriate protocols to follow in such circumstances. The team should be comprised from a variety of departments in your organization, such as those dealing with operations, human resources, safety and security, and other departments as necessary.
The emergency response team should be in charge of developing and putting the emergency preparedness plan into action, in addition to carrying out routine training exercises and coordinating with other emergency responders like the local police department, the fire department, and emergency medical services. Your team should have clear defined roles in your plan and should be documented, and communicated appropriately. Here’s a fact sheet from OSHA to help explain.
Step 3: Develop specific response procedures and protocols.
After establishing your team and identifying the possible emergencies that could affect your business, as well as their likelihood, the next step is to write down the procedures and protocols to follow in case of an emergency. These procedures need to provide personnel with detailed step-by-step guidance on what they should do in the case of a crisis.
Instructions on how to evacuate the building, how to shelter in place, how to contact emergency services, and how to perform basic first aid should be included in the emergency procedures. The procedures you develop should be clear, and as detailed as possible to increase the likelihood of a positive response to an emergency situation. Make certain that your plan’s protocols and procedures are easily and readily accessible to team members. This could include having a digital version that team members save to their phones or other means necessary to ensure a swift response.
Step 4: Provide your staff with proper training.
It’s extremely important that your emergency response team knows what to do in an emergency situation and how to respond well. Team members should be thoroughly trained on the steps they should take during an emergency. Throughout the onboarding process, employees should receive training on the emergency protocols, and they should also receive periodic refresher training. Quick response times are great and can certainly make a difference in an emergency, but an ill-prepared response plan can have fatal consequences.
Training should incorporate hands-on activities such as fire drills, evacuation drills, and instruction in first aid and other medical procedures. Workers need to be instructed on how to use emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and automated external defibrillators (AEDs), depending upon your facility’s hazards and equipment. Training completion should include comprehension and understanding checks to ensure all involved parties understand the role that they play, and how to respond appropriately. Just like the other steps, it is important to document your training efforts and plans as part of your overall emergency response plan.
Step 5: Create clear communication protocols.
During an emergency, clear and concise communication is key. Make certain that your plan has a clear course of action for how emergency communications will be sent and received. Some companies use third-party software that can send SMS alerts, others use two-way radios, and others may use intercom systems., Make sure that your business clearly outlines the method of choice in your emergency response plan to avoid any assumptions that may not be correct. The overall emergency preparedness strategy, as well as any updates or changes made to the plan, should be communicated to all staff members immediately.
The communication process should be ongoing and should include regular reminders of emergency procedures, regular updates on emergency equipment, and training opportunities. Instructions on how to report emergencies and how to get in touch with emergency personnel should also be included in all forms of communication.
Step 6: Test and audit.
Your emergency response plan should be tested frequently. Your emergency response plan can be the best in the world on paper, but if you do not test its effectiveness in a live environment, you will not truly know. Emergency drills and exercises should be a part of regular testing, and some examples of these would include fire drills and evacuation drills. Remember to include protocols and methods for performing employee, contractor and/or visitor head-counts upon successful evacuation. Fire safety should always be a concern. Here’s what OSHA has to say about fire prevention plans.
Following each drill, the emergency preparedness plan should be analyzed and revised to meet any gaps in coverage that were found during the exercise. After-action assessments should be performed by your emergency response team. In addition, revisions may need to be made to the protocols for handling emergencies, the training materials, and the communication tactics. When performing drills, switch it up. If you always provide advance notice of your drills to everyone involved, that allows them to plan and anticipate their actions. Conducting a more realistic drill without providing advance notice to your emergency response team will truly test their abilities. Lastly, when performing drills, it can be beneficial to perform time studies which can be assessed during the after-action meeting to measure your true response times.
Step 7: Analyze, adjust, and adapt.
Annually, or anytime there are changes to the workplace such as new personnel, new equipment, or changes to the physical structure of the workplace, emergency preparedness plans should be evaluated and changed. This should be done both in-house and by a third party if possible. Make sure to keep your plan updated and visible to your team and all affected employees.
Throughout the process of reviewing your emergency response plan, the emergency response team should assess how well the plan is working and pinpoint any areas in which it could be improved. The outcomes of the review, as well as any new information or changes that have occurred in the workplace, should be used to inform the revision of the plan. These assessments by the team should be performed separately from after-action meetings from a drill.
Emergency response plans have always been an important role of a business, but over the years, recent events have put a larger focus on areas of opportunity and improvement for a business emergency response plan. Whether you have an existing plan in place, or you are starting one from scratch, use the best practices outlined in this article to help you respond appropriately to different emergency situations in the workplace.
Remember that emergency preparedness is an ongoing process, and regular testing and updates to the plan are essential to ensure its effectiveness. By working together as a team, training employees, communicating effectively, and regularly reviewing and revising the plan, you can ensure that your workplace is prepared for any emergency that may arise.
In addition to the steps outlined above, here are some additional final tips to consider when creating an emergency preparedness plan for your workplace:
- Consider the unique needs of employees with disabilities or other special needs, and develop a plan to ensure their safety during an emergency.
- Identify potential shelter locations in the workplace, such as designated safe rooms or areas that are protected from natural disasters.
- Develop a system for accounting for all employees after an evacuation, and ensure that all employees know the protocol for checking in.
- Consider partnering with local emergency responders to provide additional training or resources to support your emergency preparedness plan.
- Make sure all emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers and first aid kits, are easily accessible and regularly maintained.
- Compare your plan to other plans and use third parties that can help to assess your plan’s areas of opportunities for improvement, if any.
OSHA has a very helpful checklist on how to develop & implement an emergency action plan (EAP). Consider what is laid out for you in this article but we also recommend that you print out their checklist and use this free resource when creating your plans.
Get professional and robust online training.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new or current client. We get it, compliance and keeping up with training can be difficult. Fill out the form below and get real help. It’s that easy. A dedicated training advisor will help you get the best courses for you and your company. No-hassle, no-pressure.