Most people do not go to work thinking, “Today is the day a tragedy will happen.” However, there is always a chance crisis will happen.
Critical elements of a Workplace Crisis Plan:
- Select someone who is calm under pressure and has thorough knowledge of the building and evacuation procedures to lead the emergency response team.
- Understanding how people typically respond to disasters helps ensure accuracy in planning.
- Develop and practice a specific plan to evacuate disabled workers. Do not leave them in the building to wait for help to arrive.
The potential for a natural disaster (tornado), fire, bomb threat, power outage, gas leak, chemical spill or even terrorist attack is always present. How employees react to such threats could mean the difference between life and death.
The majority of workplaces have never actually formally developed a safety plan. If organizations have developed safety plans, the plans have been created in a vacuum and the most of the staff have not been trained.
Fundamentals of a Plan
OSHA requires the emergency action plan to include:
- A means of reporting fires and other emergencies
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
- Directions for employees who stay to operate critical operations
- A procedure to account for all employees after emergency evacuation
- Rescue and medical duties for employees
- Names or job titles of employees to be contacted for information on the plan
Employers also should maintain an alarm system to notify employees, designate and train people to assist during an evacuation, and review the plan with each employee. Other key issues to consider are visitors and population density.
Along with an exit plan, draft a plan for staying put. One of the mistakes that is often made is we’re very quick to evacuate when sheltering in place may be a better option.
Understanding the human response
Planners often assume people will follow directions in a crisis, but research suggests that may not always be the case.
The worst case happens when fear is at such a high level that it provokes panic. This is more likely when there is a perception of limited opportunity for escape and limited availability of supplies.
Drills provide learning opportunity Experts agree that lack of rehearsal is one of the biggest barriers to a successful workplace evacuation. OSHA recommends conducting an evacuation drill at least once a year. Try different situations, such as blocking a stairwell and directing people to use a different one.
Many employees often hear a fire alarm and continue to work at their desks. They must be taught to treat drills like real emergencies, which means not locking doors or taking personal items.
In the world we live in, it is no longer a choice to implement a Crisis Management Plan in the workplace, it is an imperative.