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Preparing employees for emergency situations

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Do your employees know what to do in the event of a fire or a tornado? What about a nearby chemical spill or a gunman in the building? Ready.gov, a FEMA website aimed at educating people about preparing and responding to emergencies, urges all employers to train workers on evacuation, sheltering and lockdown procedures.

Evacuation plan

In the event of an evacuation, it is critical that employees can clearly hear instructions. Ready.gov recommends regularly testing your building’s communication system to ensure messages can be heard. If no system exists, have a backup plan in place, such as speaking through a bullhorn to relay information. Other tips from the campaign include:

  • Ensure every floor of the building has two exits that are kept clear.
  • Assign specific evacuation roles to employees, including a team leader to tally workers and “floor wardens” in charge of directing co-workers to safety.
  • Contact your local fire department to create a plan for evacuating workers with disabilities.

Taking shelter

If severe weather, such as a tornado, is a threat, Ready.gov advises sounding a distinct warning and moving workers to the strongest part of the building or structure. Conduct a drill when all employees are present to make sure the building’s safe areas provide enough room for everyone.

In some cases, such as a nearby chemical release, explosion or act of terrorism, a “shelter-in-place” order may be given by public emergency officials. According to Ready.gov, aspects of a shelter-in-place plan should include:

  • Warning employees to move away from all windows and gather near the center of the building
  • Directing workers to move to the second floor or higher, and avoid the basement
  • Closing all doors and windows and shutting down the building’s ventilation system
  • Instructing employees to stay sheltered until public officials say the area is safe

Lockdown situation

According to the 2014 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts,” intentional injury by another person resulted in 468 deaths in private industry in 2011.

Because workplace violence can happen without warning, Ready.gov recommends that when gunfire is suspected, employees should find a hiding place and stay quiet. If possible, workers should hide in a room (preferably under a desk and away from doors and windows) and lock and barricade the door.

Visit Ready.gov for additional information and resources.