Be prepared: Planning key to emergency response

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

As part of National Emergency Preparedness Month, the Mesa County Health Department spent September working with agencies to encourage residents to plan ahead so that if disaster strikes, our community is ready.

When we talk about emergency planning, you typically think of preparing your home and family.  But what about your business? Would you or your staff know what to do in the event of an emergency? Emergency situations can happen anywhere at any time. From a power outage to a fire or even a snowstorm, it’s important to have a plan in place.

What should a workplace emergency plan include? An emergency plan should cover a variety of situations and will vary based on your type of work and location, but should include a protocol for employee and emergency response notification systems as well as evacuation plans. Make sure the plan considers scenarios where there’s no cellular telephone service. Evacuation plans also should include a designated meeting place away from the building at which staff should report. In addition, an emergency plan should include procedures for lockdowns or shelter-in-place. For resources to assist you in developing your plan, visit

After you’ve developed your plan, it’s important to train your staff. In the event of an emergency, staff must know who’s responsible for calling 911, how to trigger fire alarms, how to notify staff on and off site and — most importantly — what are the safe routes to evacuate the building in a variety of situations. It’s a good idea to schedule practice drills and evacuations to reinforce training.  This is also a good time to test your equipment.  Are there working batteries for flashlights, cell phones and radios? Do fire extinguishers and smoke detectors work?

You have an emergency plan and have trained your staff, but what about customers or clients? How do they factor into your plan?  Think about your ability to quickly and safely evacuate people who might not be familiar with the layout of your building. It’s also important to prepare for situations in which no one can leave the building.  Can you safely accommodate employees and clients for an extended period of time? Do you have an emergency supply of water, first aid kit and other essentials?

Emergencies often present times during when cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid training come in handy. Consider onsite staff training, scheduling staff to attend offsite training or volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps to learn these skills. For more information, visit the website at

In the event of a community wide disaster or emergency, it’s important for businesses to have access to up-to-date information. The Grand Junction Regional Communication Center Emergency and Community Notification System  — — provides essential information quickly for a variety of situations. By signing up, you’ll receive alerts about such emergencies as evacuations, floods and gas leaks as well as other critical public safety information. Additional options include community alerts about accidents, road closures, wildfires, prescribed burns, school closures and power outages.

We all lead busy lives, making it easy to push this topic aside for another day. However, an emergency isn’t an emergency until it becomes one. Disaster could strike at any time. Don’t wait to communicate. Keep your business, staff and community safe by developing and practicing an emergency plan.