Planning for Emergencies

Mar 01, 2016

While no one likes to think about an emergency situation occurring in their organization, turning a blind eye to it often results in not making any plans.  Having a well-defined and documented emergency plan in advance, and ensuring that all stakeholders, including your suppliers and contractors are made aware of it, can prevent small scale emergency situations escalating into large scale disasters.

Natural disasters like cyclones, earthquakes, or tornadoes are just one possible emergency that can arise in any workplace. There are risks of: fire, flood, collapse of structure, injury or sudden illness, robbery, drug use, unauthorized access, data breach, and risks from hazardous substances. A comprehensive risk assessment should be conducted at your premises to identify all potential emergency situations, including the impact from neighbouring premises. Then, control measures and emergency plans can be developed and made available to all personnel including suppliers and contractors.

Your emergency plan should include a list of the local emergency authorities, such as local police, fire, and ambulance in the area and nearby. In addition, it will be useful to have directions or a map to the nearest hospital or medical center that can deal with injuries or illnesses. A floor plan of the building or premises that has the correct evacuation routes out will assist visitors or contractors in an emergency, points should also be marked so that personnel know where to meet and be accounted for. The location of emergency equipment should also be marked on the floor plan and should include items like first aid kits, fire extinguishers, hose reels, and spill kits. Another important element to any emergency plan is the identification of any physical, hearing, or sight impaired persons that may require assistance.

It’s also important to understand whom is in charge of the evacuation and emergency situation once it is in motion. This will be identified by the formation of an Emergency Control Organization and will generally include a Chief, Area Wardens, Wardens, Medical Officer, and Communications Officer.

Your suppliers and contractors should be included in the planning process, and this is where your supplier or contractor management system is important. Not only for identification of suppliers, contractors, and visitors that may be on site at the time of an emergency, but also for supplying the emergency equipment or provision of additional services.

Relationships should be developed as part of the emergency planning process with suppliers of fire protection equipment, such as fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, alarm systems, and signage. Other equipment suppliers may include first aid providers, personnel protection equipment, and communication devices like megaphones or two-way radios.

Your planning process should also include various consultants that can greatly assist your emergency plan development. Consultants can provide expert advice in evacuation route planning, development of floor plans, and writing of emergency plans and manuals. Other suppliers/consultants can include training providers that can provide professional instruction in emergency planning, conduct evacuation exercises, and firefighting instruction.

There is more involved in planning for emergencies than simply having a fire drill every couple of years. Engage with your employees, contractors, and suppliers to assist in the development of your emergency plan. Make sure that all persons are aware of the plan, include it in your contractor management system, and have it available around the workplace. And remember practice makes perfect.

The final part of planning is realizing where your current emergency action plan is and where you want it to be. Follow the BROWZ 3 step action plan below to audit your current plan, identify deficiencies, and improve safety in your overall program.