Emergency preparedness in the workplace should be held in high priority. Faced with unique challenges due to daily operations, special needs of staff, infrastructure, and other possible barriers, preparedness in the workplace can help keep staff as well as others safe. Emergencies in the workplace can be happen at any given time and arise from various types of circumstances. There are man-made or natural disasters that can disrupt the office. Yet, consider other emergencies like a coworker having a heart attack or someone injuring themselves and needs medical attention. No matter the emergency, it is essential to have a plan established beforehand in order to help mitigation the effects of the disaster.
One of the first things an organization should do is to complete a risk assessment. Organizations should make a list of what their potential risks are based on what can affect them. This allows the organization to know exactly how an emergency or disaster could affect the staff, possible clients, and the workplace building itself. For example, if a fire alarm went off on the fifth floor and one employee is wheelchair bound, how would they escape? If the building had to be put on lockdown, does everyone know where to shelter at, including visitors? These scenarios and more are perfect reasons to start making a plan.
Any business owner or manager is going to be concerned with getting the business running as soon as possible. There are several steps that can be taken once the threat has passed in order to keep the business functional. If the building itself loses power for several days, are staff able to work from home safely and securely? If the building is accessible but the staff member who normally opens up the facility is snowed in at home, how will other begin work on time? Consider the essential functions of the business and plan ahead in order to have a smooth transition.
In any type of emergency or disaster, communication is absolutely critical. Managers and essential staff should create a communication plan that will allow all employees to be reached. It has to be taken into consideration that customers, clients, visitors, and even delivery drivers should be aware of what is happening. A nurse who worked at hospital in Massachusetts was stabbed by a patient which then prompted a change in security measures at the facility. One of those included changing security measures and communicating those changes to all staff during training sessions. It is important to keep in mind that when changes are made that they are communicated to everyone in a timely manner.
It is easy to think of disaster and emergencies lasting for a short period of time but be sure to make a plan that will include not being able to resume services for days, weeks and even months. If a town is hit by a tornado, wildfire, or hurricane, the recovery process can take years. According to FEMA, about 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster. Organizations need to have a business continuity plan that will provide them with the best tools and resources to bounce back after a disaster.
Insurance and the storage of documents is another necessary part of planning for a disaster. Insurance will help cover the cost of recovering from the damage. However, be sure you know your insurance plan inside and out so that you know not only what is covered but also under what circumstances. Specialized insurance, like flood insurance can be purchased to help secure the future of your facility. You may need to take pictures of what’s inside so ensure a smoother process during recovery. For organizations that keep paper copies of client’s records or other materials, a plan should be made to store that information on some type of software or cloud-based system.
Lastly, don’t forget that people make businesses run and therefore personal preparedness is another component to focus on. Staff need to be prepared at home not just so they can come to work but so that they can also function properly without worrying about their families. Make it a part of your plan to host a safety employee fair that brings resources to them. Offer incentives for employees who build their own emergency kit. Invite experts from local agencies such as the police and fire departments to come in and teach a class on how to be prepared for active violent intruders or practice building evacuation. At the end of the day, the more individuals who are prepared, the more our community is prepared which in turn makes our communities more disaster resilient.