Loss Control Insights
4 Steps to Putting an Evacuation Plan Into Action
“Hope for the best but plan for the worst” are wise words that may prove invaluable if your company gets hit with an emergency requiring evacuation. Events requiring planned action range from natural disasters (tornado, hurricane or flood) to emergencies such as fire, chemical spill or an active shooter.
Although planning for such a wide range of possible occurrences may seem mind-boggling, there is a solution. A well-developed emergency plan will prep your employees so that any and all crises are manageable. One of the keys is to focus less on the event and more on the actions employees are trained to take automatically in response to a need to flee.
If you don’t yet have a plan, check out these resources to get started:
- Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Template is a customizable emergency action plan that walks you through the steps of setting up contact lists and command operations, outlines the specifics of coping with various dangers and provides guidance for selecting evacuation routes, shelters and more
- Preparing for Emergency Drills and Exercises lists the 10 responses that cover 99% of the emergencies your organization may face
- OSHA Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool is worth reviewing for OSHA requirements on Emergency Action Plans (EAPs), as well as developing and implementing an EAP
After the Plan Is Written
There’s far more to an EAP than just committing the words to paper. If your EAP is not a part of your company culture, the stress of the emergency may cause employees to lose their cool. If their planned response becomes second nature, they’ll be more apt to remember procedures and be able to carry on under duress.
Follow these steps to develop and carry out a plan that works for your company:
1. Make sure security details are up-to-date.
Review what you have in place and research additional options that may help solve any potential problems. Are your alarms and sprinkler systems working correctly? Would a safe room be a wise investment? Is there a way to close off a part of the building where a chemical spill could be a hazard? Are your current emergency routes still the best way out of the building for your employees, and are signs posted to show the way?
2. Review written documents at least annually.
If your document is gathering dust on a shelf, it won’t be helpful when you most need it. Has any remodeling or restructuring occurred that may impact your plans? Are there employees who haven’t been trained? Are the emergency contact lists up to date? Check in with the employees assigned to particular tasks: Are they still with the company and capable of performing the assigned tasks?
3. Provide training and retraining.
At least once a year, everyone needs to review the procedures, revisit their role and walk through the steps they’ll take. Who needs to be notified? Does machinery need to be shut down? And of course, as new employees start, they need to receive initial training on the process.
4. Practice the plan.
Conducting tests of possible emergencies allows you to see if your plan has holes, and also lets employees learn and memorize the procedures. Involve all employees, test one procedure at a time and control the drills. As you plan for drills and exercises, review―and then avoid―the 9 common exercise mistakes found in EMC’s Preparing for Emergency Drills and Exercises. After each drill, you can revise your plan, patch any weaknesses (e.g., if the alarm or PA system did not work properly, if employees could not easily block off the chemical storage area or any other glitches) and ensure alterations are made.