Emergency Preparedness and Response

Emergencies can create a variety of hazards for workers in the impacted area. Preparing before an incident plays a vital role in ensuring that employers and workers have the necessary equipment, know where to go, and know how to keep themselves safe when an emergency occurs. In our region, we need to be prepared for extreme weather events: hail, snow, flooding, and tornados.

Adequate preparedness for medical emergencies and possible workplace violence threats should be considered as well. According to the FBI, the likelihood of any company enduring a workplace shooting is low; however, employers must be prepared to protect their employees should it happen.

General Preparedness and Response

Inform and Protect

  • Post emergency numbers in multiple locations throughout the workplace. These numbers should include the fire department, other appropriate emergency responders, and the ownership/management.
  • Develop a plan regarding how all employees will be informed of the initial event as well as obtain regular updates.
    • Consider updating your onsite alarm system with a unique alarm that can be heard throughout the entire property. Establish procedures and training so all employees know what the unique alarm indicates and what appropriate precautions they should take to ensure their safety.
    • A unique alarm is usually associated with a loud audible sound; however, that is not always sufficient. A visual alarm should be incorporated as well so the alarm is perceived by all workers onsite, including those that are hearing impaired.
    • During a prolonged event where the business may be closed for an extended period, incorporating something as simple as updating your after-hours voicemail with information specific to your employees is an effective way to communicate and update your employees.
    • Identify critical versus non-critical staff. This is helpful during an extreme weather event so employees know if they should venture out or shelter in place.

Safety Equipment Education & Training

  • Only trained workers should use a portable fire extinguisher, so train your entire staff. In the event of a fire, you will be glad you had a trained employee to respond.
  • Establish safe exist routes for people and vehicles.
  • Ensure that routes for emergency vehicles and paths for emergency responders are clear.
  • Identify the key personnel that should communicate to the emergency responders with a description of the situation and status of individuals.
  • Obviously, there may be chemicals on site that would be considered hazardous. Make sure the first responders are advised prior to entering the site.
Emergency preparedness is essential, and implementing a comprehensive plan that includes training is critical. Additional resources are available at osha.gov.