Whether you are prepared or not, emergencies happen. According to dictionary.com, the very definition of the word is “a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action,” The keyword here is unexpected.
When an emergency hits, people in your facility are in danger. Lives are at stake. You may not be able to predict an emergency, but you can still prepare for one. What’s that old saying…hope for the best, but prepare for the worst?
A fire can start in nearly any part of your facility and spread quickly. It only takes seconds for a flame to grow and spread and start producing black, lung-choking smoke. Once a fire starts, it’s too late to figure out what to do. It would be best if you had a plan in place before it happens.
The first step is to ensure that you have enough smoke alarms and that they are working correctly. Periodic testing is essential. Replace the batteries at least once per year and replace all alarms every 8 – 10 years.
Ensure all fire alarms and exits are marked so that they can be found even through dense smoke. There should also be at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your facility.
Establish escape routes and have maps showing them throughout the facility. Practice using these routes with periodic fire drills.
Tornadoes can hit anywhere at any time and bring lethal winds over 200 miles per hour. Even with modern alert systems, a tornado can strike with little to no warning.
The best protection from a tornado is an interior room with no windows. Identify the best areas in your facility to serve as tornado shelters and create a map, so every person knows where their nearest shelter area is and how to get to it quickly. Do practice runs occasionally to help the people in your facility commit the emergency procedures to memory. Speed is essential.
Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes don’t usually come unannounced. However, the intensity of the storm can fluctuate. Even a category three hurricane can bring winds of up to 129 miles per hour. A full-blown category five hurricane tops 157 miles per hour of devastating wind. These winds come with pounding rain and can tear buildings apart and hurl debris for miles.
The time to start planning for a hurricane is before the season begins, or at least before one is heading your way. If possible, keep as many people out of the building as you can.
- Protect windows from flying debris by covering them with plywood or hurricane shutters.
- Remove or secure any loose items outside the facility, including tables, chairs, and garbage cans.
- Move essential items up as high as possible. Flooding is a common issue with hurricanes.
Have a plan similar to your tornado plan for anyone who must be at the facility. Designate interior areas that have no windows where people can ride out the storm safely. Please make sure these areas and all routes to them are marked.
Keep emergency hurricane supplies on hand, including drinking water, non-perishable food, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, and a power generator. Store these items close to the emergency shelter area, with enough supplies for at least three days.
It’s sad that as of the end of July, there have been 339 mass shootings (defined as four or more people shot in one incident) in the United States. Schools, businesses, concert venues, and even churches are targets if only for the fact that people gather there.
Sign up for active shooter training with your local law enforcement if you can. Make sure everyone at your facility knows the three essential actions for dealing with an active shooter:
- Run and escape if at all possible.
- Hide if escape is not possible.
- Fight or attack the shooter as a last resort.
Have all exits identified so people can find them quickly, even in a panic? Make sure that doors can be locked.
Keep all first aid kits and AED units in good working order and easy to find.
Run periodic active shooter drills that include what to do during AND after the threat is on site.
If you never thought about being prepared for a pandemic, you know better now. The COVID-19 epidemic has made it painfully clear that every facility needs to have a plan to cope with a rampant virus.
When it’s not possible to keep everyone out of your facility, some necessary steps can help to minimize the danger to everyone.
- Move seating around to establish social distancing as much as possible.
- Use partitions such as plexiglass to separate individuals.
- Have a plan for foot traffic or lines that is one direction only. Use floor tape and signage to mark all routes.
- Designate a room as a quarantine area for anyone showing signs of illness while on site.
- Establish stations for hand washing or hand sanitizer throughout the facility.
Every Second Counts
When an emergency hits, every second is precious and can mean the difference between life and death. National Preparedness Month is the perfect time to give your facility a checkup and create a plan for any emergency that may come your way.
Ensure your entire workforce knows where to go during an emergency, evacuate safely, and remain safe – even when the lights go out with evacuation maps and assembly signs.
View our other blog posts related to educational safety content. This article republished with permission from Accuform.