Part of an effective health and safety plan should be a well-defined plan to deal with major emergencies. Would people know what to do in the case of an explosion at your workplace? Who would be in charge? Who would phone the fire department, the police, and the hospital? Is there an evacuation plan? What happens if the power goes out?
An emergency plan would answer all of those questions, hopefully long before the real emergency. It is much better to be prepared than to be surprised. For employees, it is better to know in advance what your responsibilities are in an emergency situation than to find out when disaster strikes.
A good emergency plan begins with a vulnerability assessment. This assessment shows the organization where potential risks are, helps identify what can be done to prevent such a situation, and outlines the immediate steps to be taken if the risk becomes a reality.
If an emergency does occur, then a set of procedures must be followed that will protect individuals and property. In the case of a fire the procedures might include:
- Declare that there is an emergency
- Sound the alarm
- Evacuate the danger zone
- Call for help
- Initiate rescue operations
- Attend to casualties
- Fight the fire, if absolutely necessary
To accomplish all of these steps there must be an emergency plan outlining individual authority and responsibility, all needed supplies and equipment, and a storage map that shows where they are located. Needed supplies might include everything from flashlights to back up generators, bandages to respirators. But most importantly, each employee must be trained and well informed of the emergency plan, as well as any role they are expected to play. However an emergency plan is designed, it must contain the following elements:
- An evacuation plan that all staff is familiar with and an easy to follow route that must always be clear of obstacles.
- Safe locations for employees to gather outside the emergency zone so that everyone can be accounted for.
- An ability to treat any injuries, search for the missing, and simultaneously contain the emergency.
- An alternate source of medical assistance when the normal facilities may be affected by the emergency.
If you don’t have an emergency plan at your workplace, it’s wise to devise one. If you do have a plan, find out what your role might be in the case of an emergency. At a minimum, know the plan and route so that you can evacuate, help others to do so, and prevent confusion at the last minute.