The importance of having an emergency plan for your office or business is paramount to ensuring that everyone, from employees to clients, remains safe and secure during any sort of sudden upset to daily business life, especially where lives could be at risk.
Emergency plans should be prepared well in advance of any emergency scenario. These plans should include strategies for both communication and evacuation efforts during an incident so that response efforts are as smooth and efficient as possible. The more efficient the emergency response, the less damage is likely to be incurred as a result.
There are many different checklists out there for what should be included in an office emergency plan and below you can find a summation of many of the key items that should be in your office’s plan.
Let’s divide this checklist into two sections: communication plans and evacuation plans.
Communication plan checklist
An effective emergency communication plan will provide your business with all the steps and resources it needs to effectively communicate with all necessary stakeholders during an active incident. A communication plan needs to contain information about the order stakeholders should be notified, with the priority resting with the need to ensure employee and client safety above all else.
Up-to-date contact information
For emergency notification purposes, it is vital that you have the most current contact information for all employees as well as anyone else who will need to be reached at the onset of an incident, such as senior management or members of the board who may not necessarily be on-site. Without a regular process in place to make sure this information is kept up to date (whether it is adding and removing new and old employees or updating phone numbers and email addresses) your business runs the risk of endangering the life of an employee who did not receive an emergency alert when it really counted.
This updating process could be as simple as sending out a reminder to all staff every quarter, telling them to provide any changes to their information to the employee responsible for sending notifications during an emergency, such as the Operations Manager.
List of emergency authorities
Pre-prepared emergency alerts
Preparation has already been stressed as something that is extremely important when faced with an emergency. This is why it is always beneficial to do as much as of the planning before the actual emergency as possible, so you aren’t inundated with tasks when you are trying to ensure your own safety as well as that of others. Pre-creating alert message templates to be filled in and sent out to contacts at the onset of an incident and throughout its duration is beneficial and helps to lessen the workload of emergency managers and personnel so they can focus on other important tasks.
The aforementioned emergency notification systems can assist with the storage and deployment of these pre-created messages, keeping them readily accessible for when they are needed. With their automation capabilities, these systems can allow emergency officials to send out bulk alerts to contacts automatically without having to waste time and resources sending to each group of contacts individually.
Evacuation plan checklist
In the event of an office evacuation you want to be sure that you and the rest of the people in the building are focused on getting out to safety, rather than on figuring out what needs to be done and where to go. The evacuation plan needs to identify office resources that can assist with an evacuation and ensure that an emergency exit from the building runs smoothly.
Sufficient emergency supplies
Every office should possess some standard equipment and materials that can be used in an emergency and hopefully prevent the need for an evacuation. These materials can include (but are not limited to):
- Fire extinguishers in strategic locations around the office
- Fire blanket to help put out fires
- Smoke detectors
- Pull fire alarms
- First aid kits with standard medical supplies
- Portable defibrillator in case of cardiac arrest
- Maps of available emergency exits
Part of your office emergency evacuation plan should include making sure that safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and first aid kits are stocked up and ready for use and that defibrillators are sufficiently charged.
Emergency routes and exits
Emergency exits in every building should be well labeled with signage present in multiple locations around the office to indicate where these exits are in case of a need to evacuate the premises quickly. Every employee should know at least two ways to exit the building if needed, one main route and at least one alternate route in case the main route has a blockage or other impediment preventing escape.
In addition to ensuring all employees are aware of these exits and evacuation routes, the evacuation plan should include a detailed map of each exit and each possible route out of the building.
As well as notifying employees during an incident, it is also prudent to notify the proper authorities should there be cause for concern regarding risk to the health and/or safety of your team. Depending on the urgency and severity of the emergency, calling 911 may not be the appropriate action to take. This is why your office’s emergency plan should include a list of the phone numbers and emails of all the local emergency authorities for easy access.
Emergency notification systems
Why carry out your emergency plan manually when you can utilize an emergency notification system with automation capabilities? These systems have the capability to reduce human error and help the emergency management process become more efficient and streamlined. Such a system allows emergency management teams to send out alerts and notifications to contacts with the click of a button over several communication channels to maximize reach and ensure contacts receive the messages.
If you haven’t already, your business should seriously consider implementing a mass notification system to help minimize stress and uncertainty during emergencies.
Designated rendezvous points
As important as it is to know the location of all the emergency exits and evacuation routes, every employee should also know where it is they are supposed to meet up after they have exited the building. It is important that all employees meet at the same location so they can be marked present during the roll call. If there are employees absent for the roll call who were seen in the office earlier that day, there is a potential of lives being risked re-entering the building to look for them. This is why it is essential that the rendezvous point is included in the office evacuation plan.
Another item worthy of including in your office evacuation plan is a list of all employees who have specialized training in emergency skills such as CPR and first-aid. It is required by law to have members of your staff who are trained in CPR and first aid for whenever there is a medical or other emergency in the office and an employee requires immediate assistance and can’t wait for the first responders’ arrival. By including this list of personnel in your emergency plan, you can be sure there is always someone able to provide the necessary assistance.
It is also beneficial to assign specific tasks to complete during an emergency so there is less confusion over who is going to do what during an active incident. Assigning someone to ensure doors and windows are shut in case of a fire; someone to hold doors for the other employees and be the last one out of the building upon evacuation; and someone to take roll call once everyone has arrived at the designated meeting spot are just a couple tasks you can delegate to employees.
When creating your emergency communication and evacuation plans for the office, keep it simple. There is no need for an overcomplicated approach. During an emergency you will want a clear and concise plan to work from so the resolution of the emergency is speedy, efficient, and, most of all, safe.
Test, test, test. Be sure to regularly run through your office emergency plan with your employees so everyone can be comfortable and familiar with the process should an emergency ever occur. The more your staff is aware of what to do when an incident occurs, the more muscle memory will kick in and override any panic that may be felt.
Having an emergency plan is key to effective emergency management in the workplace. By designating tasks and roles to certain staff members, defining all possible evacuation routes, as well as having a method to ensure prompt communication with employees and stakeholders, you can be sure that you have a comprehensive process to keep all your employees and visitors safe, no matter what the emergency is.