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How to Prepare an Emergency Response Plan for Your Organization

By Julia Tasiopoulos, Rave Mobile Safety:

Businesses must create and implement a comprehensive emergency response plan in the event of an emergency in the workplace. No matter what industry your company is in and no matter what kind of work you do, having such a plan can prevent lasting physical and financial damage. Most importantly, an emergency response plan can protect the precious lives of your employees and customers.

Having an emergency response plan means your company is prepared to respond to any emergency, whether it is a natural disaster event, severe weather, pandemic, facility emergency like fires, workplace violence or civil disturbances.

Emergency response plans can be beneficial for non-hazardous situations as well. From IT events like unplanned outages and security breaches to power outages, travel advisories and equipment malfunctions, the following will provide you with the steps to crafting an emergency response plan that works for your organization and the people you employ.

What defines an emergency response plan?
An emergency response plan is a company-wide action plan with documented policies and procedures that employers will take during an emergency to preserve the safety of their employees and guests, and to maintain operations.

Because it is the employer’s responsibility to keep their employees safe on the job, they must take every precaution to ensure safety during a variety of emergencies such as natural disasters, severe weather, chemical spills, pandemics, viral outbreaks, active assailants, mental health crises and more.

Emergency response plans should detail the necessary steps required from each key stakeholder for a timely response specific to each emergency.

To be more specific, emergency response plans should include:

  • Who employees should contact, along with their contact information
  • Evacuation routes
  • Steps to minimize risk for employees, operations and facilities
  • Detailed communication plans for post-emergency preparedness

However, the specifics of such a plan vary greatly in the event of an emergency. Employers should be equipped with plans that encompass a variety of scenarios.

Creating a response plan
Because every organization is unique, emergency response plans will be unique, too. Some organizations may need a more extensive plan than others, but it all comes down to focusing on protecting the safety and well-being of employees.

Creating an efficient emergency response plan requires the involvement of all key stakeholders, including leadership positions, PIOs, and department leads. Essentially, everyone must know their role and what their responsibilities are in any given scenario.

Risk assessments
Risk assessments are necessary for employers to identify the types of emergencies they are most likely to face. These risks include emergencies that could occur near the place of work, where employees live or risks that could jeopardize business operations.

Risks vary by location, industry and event the company itself, but the following are the three stages each risk assessment should include:

  • Hazard identification: Consider which hazards are most likely to affect your company, which include any natural disasters or man-made emergencies.
  • Vulnerability assessment: Consider which assets are at risk from each potential hazard. This includes the most valuable (employees) along with supply chain interruptions and possibly company reputation, depending on the emergency.
  • Impact analysis: This is the time to get clear on the damage that may result from the emergency.

Identifying these risks helps emergency managers determine a business’ strengths and weaknesses in creating a more comprehensive response plan.

Have contact information readily available
The first call made during any emergency should be to emergency responders. Following this, employers should have contact information for the fire department, local law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS) and emergency or crisis managers at the company.

Employees should also provide their contact information so that they may be contacted and accounted for during an emergency.

Does your company have the right resources?
Part of emergency preparedness is making sure your businesses have the proper resources and tools such as up-to-date fire extinguishers, alarm systems and first aid kits.

Per OSHA guidelines, employers must provide medical and first aid supplies in line with the hazards in the workplace.

Evacuation procedures and escape routes
Does your company know where to go if they need to leave the area? Emergency plans should include a primary and secondary evacuation/escape route.

Escape routes should be clearly marked, free of obstacles like furniture, and cater to the needs of individuals with disabilities who may require assistance. Evacuation routes should also include where to go once they have securely exited the building so everyone can easily be accounted for and receive updates.

Your company should also be prepared for shelter-in-place or lockdown emergencies to protect employees from emergencies such as tornadoes, chemical spills, or violence in the area.

Communication is key
Communication during an emergency is a must. Employees and visitors must be informed of potential emergencies and what to do in the event they happen. Communication should be a top priority when creating an emergency response plan.

Strategizing communication efforts means including how critical information will be sent out by employers, how it will be received by employees and/or visitors, and what communication channels will be used to achieve this.

A mass notification system that bridges the gaps in communication and emergency preparedness can help protect employees from various hazards. This system would allow employers to communicate with their employees before a disaster ever happens, during emergencies and in the aftermath.

Communication is necessary for preparing for emergencies and delegating the next steps for the expected and unexpected events, providing information when seconds count.

How technology can improve emergency response plans
With the proper technology, it is easier than ever to ensure employees are accounted for and protected during an emergency. A mass communications system would help employers deliver timely warnings and clear instructions before, during and after emergencies.

Regardless of company size, every organization across all industries can benefit from preparing for emergencies.

Rave Alert can leverage notifications from the National Weather Service (NWS) Storm-Based Warnings to alert employees whose addresses fall within the zone of notifications. This ensures that no matter where employees are, whether they are at home, on the road or at the job site, they are aware of the weather unfolding around them.

They can also help emergency managers and crisis managers delegate use and list management more easily. They can set the administrator’s scope, which controls the group of users that the admin can access with the system for sending alerts, building location-specific lists or managing user information with important contact details.

With Rave 911 Suite, users can access two-way communications through the Chat Smartlet to contact emergency operators, know if there are any unread messages and indicate if messages fail to send.

To find out how Rave Mobile can help your cooperation stay prepared for any type of emergency, click here.

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