Workplace evacuation plans aren’t just nice to have in the event of an emergency — in some cases, they’re legally required. Even if your business does not fall into this category, it’s not a bad idea to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations on creating an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), which includes a workplace evacuation strategy.
While some disasters — like earthquakes — involve seeking shelter inside, others — like fires or gas leaks — require your facility to be vacated as quickly as possible. Just as you talk to your family about minimizing disasters at home, you should look to plan ahead at work as well. Making a decision in the heat of the moment can be difficult and put people’s lives in danger.
While we hope you never need to use your workplace evacuation plan, preparing in advance is invaluable. It’s critical to outline your strategy, communicate it to everyone within the company, and conduct practice drills on a regular basis.
Here are some things to consider in your workplace evacuation plan:
1. Determine Potential Emergency Events
What sort of event might necessitate a workplace evacuation? The list of potential circumstances is long, but some examples include: fires, gas leaks, toxic spills, workplace violence, explosions, civil disturbances, or natural disasters like flooding, tornadoes, or hurricanes.
Identify which events or potential scenarios might result in your specific workplace or building requiring an evacuation. You will want to familiarize your employees with these potential scenarios.
2. Appoint a Clear Chain of Command
Create a clear emergency chain of command so that if something happens, everyone knows who to go to or notify. Some roles to consider assigning include:
- A main point of contact or decision maker — this person calls emergency services and decides whether to evacuate
- 1-2 coordinators to complete safety tasks and shut down any dangerous processes at your facility, if applicable
- Someone who will take attendance after the evacuation and make sure all employees are present or accounted for
- A first aid rep who is trained to manage any injuries while waiting for emergency services to arrive
3. Designate a Meeting Place
After an evacuation, employees won’t just head home — they need to meet at a pre-designated spot to ensure everyone makes it out safely and is accounted for. Make sure this space is clearly communicated to your employees and again, run through practice drills so your staff is familiar with the area. Choose a secondary spot to meet in the event the first is compromised or inaccessible.
4. Find Escape Routes
Along with a meeting place, you’ll need to plan an escape route, along with alternate routes in case the main one is closed off or inaccessible for any reason. Try to have two, if not three, escape options: one primary and two backups. Include any logistical instructions in your plan — for example, make sure employees know to use the stairs rather than the elevator when possible. Check on a regular basis to be sure you have the proper emergency equipment for assisting employees with accessibility or mobility issues down the stairs or out of the building via any other routes.
5. Conduct Practice Drills
We’ve mentioned this a couple times already because it’s key to a successful evacuation if one is needed: Practice makes perfect. Once you have identified a chain of command, a meeting place, and any escape routes, physically go through the plan. Once a month or so, host a drill at work and make sure everything goes smoothly. Are leaders responding according to their roles? Are employees clear on where to meet? Hold follow-up discussions to address any barriers or issues that arise during practice.
6. Leave Room for Changes
Your plan will likely change over time. Perhaps you forgot to consider the possibility of having vendors on site during an emergency event. Maybe you realize a natural disaster would block your primary escape route in the building. Do your best to consider the variables you can identify when you start out, but recognize that you’ll have to leave room for the plan to change if it needs to.
7. Keep Business Valuables Safe
In the event of an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is your company’s valuable information. To protect important documents, make sure to invest in a high-quality, fireproof safe. This will give you peace of mind and the ability to focus on what you need to in an emergency event.
Western Safe has been a trusted safe company since 1945 and we’d love to work with you to find a safe that meets your business needs. Reach out to us today.