Fact Sheet

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency situations can arise due to causes such as natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, fires, workplace violence, terrorism or crime. Planning for an emergency has a number of benefits. Staff and volunteers know what to do in the event of an emergency. They can assist clients and visitors in evacuating the building and they can be of assistance to emergency personnel when they arrive on the scene. At the very least, they should know to evacuate the building and stay outside until the ?all clear? is signaled.

Emergency Evacuation Planning

Emergency action plans are required to describe the routes to use and procedures to be followed by employees. Also procedures for accounting for all evacuated employees must be part of the plan. The written plan must be available for employee review. Where needed, special procedures for helping physically impaired employees (and service recipients must be addressed in the plan; also, the plan must include procedures for those employees who must remain behind temporarily to shut down critical plant equipment before they evacuate.

The preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency must be part of the plan and an employee alarm system must be available throughout the workplace complex and must be used for emergency alerting for evacuation. The alarm system may be voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles or horns. Employees must recognize and respond to the evacuation signal.

Should evacuation be necessary, staff members should know to go to the nearest exit or stairway and proceed to an area of refuge outside the building. Most stairways are fire resistant and present barriers to smoke if the doors are kept closed.

Do not use elevators.

Should the fire involve the control panel of the elevator or the electrical system of the building, power in the building may be cut and you could be trapped between floors. Also, the elevator shaft can become a flue, lending itself to the passage and accumulation of hot gases and smoke generated by the fire.

Training

Training of all employees in what is to be done in an emergency is required. Supervisors must review the plan with newly assigned employees so they know correct actions in an emergency and with all employees when the plan is changed.

Evacuation Checklist

Where required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), organizations with more than 10 employees must have a written emergency action plan; smaller organizations may communicate their plans orally. (See 29 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 1910.38(a) for further information.) Essential to an effective emergency action plan are top management support and commitment and the involvement of all employees.

Management should review plans with employees initially and whenever the plan itself, or employees responsibilities under it, change. Plans should be re-evaluated and updated periodically.

Emergency procedures, including the handling of any toxic chemicals, should include:

Emergency Response Teams

Members of emergency response teams should be thoroughly trained for potential emergencies and physically capable of carrying out their duties; know about toxic hazards in the workplace and be able to judge when to evacuate personnel or depend on outside help (e.g. when a fire is too large for them to handle). One or more teams must be trained in:

Nose Counts

A system should be established for accounting for personnel once workers have been evacuated with a person in the control center responsible for notifying police or emergency response team members of persons believed missing.

Duplicate Records

Effective security procedures, such as cordoned off areas, can prevent unauthorized access and protect vital records and equipment. Duplicate records for essential accounting files, legal documents and lists of employees? relatives to be notified in case of emergency can be kept in off-site locations.

Training

Every employee needs to know details of the emergency action plan, including evacuation plans, alarm systems, reporting procedures for personnel, shutdown procedures, and types of potential emergencies. Drills should be held at random intervals, at least annually, and include, if possible, outside police and fire authorities.

Training must be conducted initially, when new employees are hired, and at least annually. Additional training is needed when new equipment, materials, or processes are introduced, when procedures have been updated or revised, or when exercises show that employee performance is inadequate.

It is essential that first aid supplies are available to the trained medical personnel, that emergency phone numbers are placed in conspicuous places near or on telephones, and prearranged ambulance services for any emergency are available.

Resources

Emergency Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Labor Program Highlights Fact Sheet No. OSHA 92-19

Herman, Melanie L. and Barbara B. Oliver, Vital Signs: Anticipating, Preventing and Surviving a Crisis in a Nonprofit, Nonprofit Risk Management Center, Washington, DC, 2001

Oliver, Barbara B., Managing Facility Risks: 10 Steps to Safety, Nonprofit Risk Management Center, Washington, DC, 2004

Emergency Preparedness Checklist