Do You Have an Emergency Evacuation Plan For Your Business?
Updated: Jun 6
If your business encountered an office fire, workplace violence, chemical spill or extreme weather, would you be well prepared? As an employer, you want to protect your employees. You also have a legal and moral responsibility to do so. That starts with a plan.
The basics of an emergency evacuation plan
Circumventing confusion, panic and turmoil during and after a workplace emergency is key. Your emergency plan should help facilitate and organize the right actions for everyone in the workplace to take. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the plan include:
A method for reporting fires and other emergencies
An official evacuation policy and procedure made accessible to all staff
Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps and safe or refuge areas
Names, titles, departments and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan
Procedures for employees who are to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers or perform other essential services
Rescue and medical duties for any workers who are designated to perform them
How will you make employees aware that there’s an emergency? Text? Loudspeaker? Alarm? Your plan must include clear instruction on how to alert employees, taking particular note of any accommodations or alternative plans needed for disabled workers or non-English speaking employees. Alarms must be recognizable and within easy reach of all staff, with a system in place to notify authorities if an alarm is issued.
Accounting for staff
Your plan must include procedures to account for all employees after the emergency evacuation. It must also instruct how to get injured staff the medical attention they need to help expedite the entire recovery process. Here are tips for ensuring your evacuation procedure is efficient:
Outline at least one evacuation route for employees to safely exit the building. During the emergency, this route may become obstructed and ineffective, so outline a secondary route to account for this, if possible. Evacuation routes should be clearly marked, easily seen, unobstructed at all times and wide enough for the number of staff to move through as they exit the building.
Designate a location where your employees can retreat in the event of an emergency. This is the simplest and most effective way to ensure all employees are accounted for. In the worst-case scenario, you will be able to quickly identify whether any staff are missing or in danger.
Take a head count after meeting at the designated evacuation area. Identify the names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for and immediately relay this information to an official in charge. Also, consider any visitors to the workplace. Establish a method for accounting for any non-employees, such as suppliers and customers.
Also ensure procedures are in place should the emergency worsen and the immediate area becomes unsafe. This may include sending employees home by normal means or providing employees transportation to an offsite location.
Education beforehand is key
While an emergency plan is typically documented in writing, the plan may be communicated orally for small organizations. Ultimately, the most critical step in developing and deploying your organization’s emergency plan is educating your workforce about your procedures. At the very least, ensure all staff can identify and locate evacuation routes and assembly locations. For workplaces where any particular hazards exist, like chemical or mechanical risk exposures, make certain all necessary staff is prepared and aware of their role in alerting authorities and keeping their colleagues safe.
Keep in mind that even with the best-laid plans, emergency procedures should be drilled and practiced repeatedly before an incident occurs. This will help make sure all goes smoothly and that lives are saved in the event of an emergency. Once the incident has passed and you have ensured the welfare of your workforce, speak with an insurance professional, if you haven't already done so, to make sure you’re protected from any post-event consequences.
To speak with an insurance agent who understands business insurance in Connecticut, contact V.F. McNeil Insurance today at (203) 481-2684 with any questions you may have.