Emergency response: Planning and practice key to preparing for workplace crisis

Daniel Estes
Daniel Estes

It’s an unfortunate truth that bad things sometimes happen. These occurrences are often completely unpredictable and can occur  in a split second. Whether they occur at home, work or somewhere in between, it’s important to have a plan in place to handle emergencies.

In a workplace setting, it’s crucial employees are aware of and ready to implement emergency procedures. Whether it’s a natural disaster or some other threat, emergency preparedness saves lives.

So what makes an effective emergency strategy? For starters, a companywide understanding of procedures and the importance of procedures — along with regular practice — combine to create an environment where people are prepared in the event of an actual emergency. Although it’s unrealistic to practice emergency procedures all the time, conducting drills or walkthroughs throughout the year fosters a better understanding of what must be done.

What these practice sessions offer is a sense of knowing what to do within a workplace, which in turn lessens the panic that’s bound to take place in the event of a real crisis. People need to know where to go, what escape routes are available, how to account for all employees and who’s responsible for rescue and medical responses.

Another important resource to maintain is up-to-date documentation of emergency contacts so loved ones can be notified in the case of injury.

The best way to prepare a plan of action is to discuss proper procedures with emergency professionals, whether that’s a fire chief, police chief or safety director. These professionals can help formulate an emergency plan of action that can then be relayed to employees.

Most plans will include several variations depending on the emergency. Workers throughout a business will have diverse roles. Some people will be responsible for head counts, while others will be in charge of medical supplies. Businesses also should develop some type of lockdown procedure that puts employees in the safest places throughout the building. That means someone must be responsible for making sure everyone knows where to go in the event of a lockdown.

Preparations should include an emergency response kit. This kit should includes such things as first aid materials, water, nonperishable food, flashlights and other small tools. Having a general knowledge of this kit and its whereabouts will add to the sense of safety within a workplace.

Another effective resource for emergency preparedness is the Red Cross Ready Rating program. This free program works as a checklist for businesses interested in becoming more emergency ready. Businesses go through a checklist of readiness principles at their own pace all the while learning important emergency procedural tips. It is easy for businesses to get involved. Visit the Web site at www.readyrating.org to find out how to get started.

If emergencies were preventable or predictable, there’d be no need for vigilant preparedness. But in an unpredictable world in which new and unforeseen crisis occur regularly, it’s crucial to prepare an emergency plan of action that promotes safety in the workplace.

The most important thing to remember is that emergency preparedness isn’t hard. It just takes practice and vigilance. Employers must clear about the details of the emergency procedure plan so employees understand what to do and where to go. Delegating the various roles in the case of an emergency is crucial, too. There also must be regularly scheduled drills throughout the year.

Employees will feel much safer if they know there’s an adequate and practiced plan in place.