Picture this: A building inspection officer shows up at your office and wants to know about your emergency plans—evacuation, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and the like. What do you tell him? Would everyone in the office be able to explain where those things were and how to use them?
Well, if you don’t know the answers to those questions, perhaps it’s time to find out.
As with other types of emergency preparedness, preparedness at the office constitutes having an emergency evacuation/lockdown plan and being prepared with emergency supplies. Office personnel should be educated on how to implement these plans and know where to find the emergency supplies and how to use them, if possible.
Know where the exit is to your office building? Good—that’s a start, but “mass stampede to the door” does not constitute a very thorough evacuation plan. Even if you are a very small company in a tiny office, it’s a good idea to think through procedures for what you would do in case of emergency. After the attacks on 9/11, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people successfully evacuated the World Trade Centers, and it is thought that this can be attributed to improved evacuation plans after the 1993 fire. Don’t wait for the aftermath of an emergency to get prepared—while your evacuation plan may not be to such a large scale, you should know at the very least who should go to what exit in order t get everyone out quickly and safely and how to shut off gas, water, and electricity.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a step-by-step guide (www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3088.pdf) on how to develop an emergency action plan for your workplace. According to the OSHA, not every business is required to have a plan, but emergencies can strike regardless of whether you’re required to have a plan or not, so every business would do well to have a plan to protect its personnel.
Basic office emergency supplies include a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and a defibrillator, along with other supplies specific to your workplace (such as an eyewash station if you work with harmful chemicals, for instance). It’s also a good idea to be prepared for long-term emergency situations where employees may be trapped in the workspace for an extended period of time—Year Zero Survival Gear provides a full range of emergency kits that include food, lighting, hygiene supplies and more to sustain groups of people in these kinds of situations.
Unfortunately, emergencies don’t wait until after 5:00 to strike. Employ good preparedness principles and have peace of mind at home, at work, and at play.