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Emergency Preparedness Essentials
 

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Emergency Response Plan

The first response in an emergency is critical. Lives can be saved by promptly warning the employees to shelter, evacuate, or lockdown. Giving accurate information when calling the public emergency services for help can aid the dispatcher in sending the correct responders and the right equipment. Employees who can administer first aid or who can perform CPR can save lives. Employees with knowledge of process systems and the building can act to help control leaks or minimize facility damage and environmental damage.

A risk assessment that identifies the potential emergency scenarios is the first thing that must be done when you develop an emergency response plan. A good understanding of what could happen is essential in helping you determine the resource requirements for your business as well as developing the plans and procedures for preparing the business. Your emergency plan must be consistent with the performance objectives of the business.

If nothing else, every facility needs to develop and implement emergency plans for protecting visitors, employees, contractors, and others who might be in the facility. In the emergency plan this is called “protective actions for life safety” and will include the sheltering from severe storms, building evacuations (fire drills), “shelter-in-place” from an airborne hazard outside like a chemical release, and lockdown. Lockdown is a protective action when there is violence.

Life safety is always the first priority when an emergency happens. The next priority will be the incident stabilization. Several actions can be done to stabilize an incident and therefore minimize any potential damage. Trained employees in CPR and first aid can save lives. Fire extinguishers use by trained employees can extinguish small fires. Containing small chemical spills and supervising building systems and utilities can help minimize the damage to a building as well as help to prevent any environmental damage.

In some cases, severe weather can be forecast long before the storm actually arrives thereby providing enough time to protect a building. To prepare a facility, a plan should be made along with resources either on hand or available quickly. The plan should include a process for assessing damage, protecting undamaged property, salvaging, and cleaning up after an incident. These processes that minimize more damage and minimize more business disruption are types of property conservation.

Ensuring Life Safety

Hazards in a building, such as chemical spills or fires, require that people in the building should evacuate and/or relocate to safety. Evacuation may also be necessary if there are receipts of suspicious packages or bomb threats. In the event of a tornado warning, people will need to move to the strongest portion of the building that is away from outside glass. “Shelter-in-place” may be necessary if chemical clouds become released, such as by a nearby highway accident. “Lockdown” may be required to protect employees from acts of violence. Lockdown should be broadcast to everyone so they can hide or be able to barricade themselves away from the perpetrator.

Life safety protective actions include:
  • Sheltering
  • Evacuation
  • Lockdown
  • Shelter-in-place
These protective actions should be included in your emergency plan. The building manager of a multi-tenanted building will need to coordinate with those that live in the building.

Evacuation

A warning system that everyone in the building can hear is essential for employee evacuation. Make sure all employees can hear the fire alarm system. If you don’t have a fire alarm system, use air horns, a public address system, or other means to communicate to everyone that they need to evacuate. Use the evacuation sound during drills so the employees can familiarize themselves with it.

Be sure there are always enough exits.
  • Every floor needs at least two exits. Building or fire codes might require more exits in larger buildings.
  • Walk around the building and check to see that all exits are well-lit, marked, and have nothing blocking it. Remove anything that blocks an exit.
  • Go through each stairwell and walk down the stairs opening the exit door to the outside. Keep walking until a safe place is reached that is apart from the building. Determine if this place should be used for evacuees.
An evacuation team leader should be appointed along with employees assigned to direct building evacuations. At least one person should be assigned to each floor as a “floor warden” directing employees to the closest safety exits. If the floor is large or the original is unavailable a backup will be needed. Find out from employees if they need special assistance in evacuating or moving to a shelter. If so, assign someone to assist, during an emergency, those with disabilities. Have the fire department help develop a plan to help persons with disabilities evacuate.

Keep lists of employees, visitor logs from the front desk, etc. Once the building is evacuated an assigned employee will need to have the lists in the assembly area. This list can then be used to account for everyone and inform the fire department if someone is missing. Once employees have been evacuated, OSHA regulations require an account of everyone to ensure that all made it out safely. A chemical spill, fire, or other hazard could have blocked an exit so it is important to be sure the evacuation team can help employees to another exit.

Shelter

In the event of a tornado, a tornado warning should be broadcast. This warning should be a distinct warning signaling everyone to move to the strongest part of the building for shelter. The basement or an interior room with some reinforced masonry construction can be good shelters. Consider all potential shelters and then do a drill to see if the shelter is big enough for everybody. Early warning is important in case of a tornado because there probably won’t be a lot of time to shelter once the tornado approaches. In case of a big thunderstorm, watch the news in case a tornado warning gets broadcast. You might want an Emergency Alert System radio which you can get at a lot of electronic stores. Tune in to local radio or television stations for weather warning broadcasts. You can subscribe to free email and text warnings, available from many weather and news resources on the internet.

Shelter-In-Place

Imagine a tanker truck has crashed on a highway nearby releasing chemical clouds. Or, big black smoke is rising in the air from a fire at a nearby manufacturing plant. If, as part of this, an act of terrorism or an explosion has occurred, the public emergency officials might order everyone in the area to “shelter-in-place.” You need to develop a plan for sheltering-in-place. This plan needs to include the way to warn everybody to move away from any windows and move to the center of the building. Warn those outside to immediately come inside. In a multistory building, move everybody to the second or higher floors. Try not to occupy the basement. Shut all outside doors and windows and shut down the air handling system in the building. Keep everyone sheltered until the public officials broadcast that it is ok for everyone to evacuate the building.

Lockdown

Violent action at a workplace can happen at any time. If ever there are loud “pops” being heard and there is gunfire suspected, every employee needs to know to both hide and keep quiet. Refuge should be sought in a room where you can close and lock the door. If it can quickly get done, barricade the door. The employee should be trained to hide in the corner of the room, under a desk, and away from windows and doors. Several people should get trained to give a lockdown warning from somewhere safe.

Incident Stabilization

The first response in an emergency is critical. Lives can be saved by promptly warning the employees to shelter, evacuate, or lockdown. Giving accurate information when calling the public emergency services for help can aid the dispatcher in sending the correct responders and the right equipment. Employees who can administer first aid or who can perform CPR can save lives. Employees with knowledge of process systems and the building can act to help control leaks or minimize facility damage and environmental damage.

A risk assessment that identifies the potential emergency scenarios is the first thing that must be done when you develop an emergency response plan. A good understanding of what could happen is essential in helping you determine the resource requirements for your business as well as developing the plans and procedures for preparing the business. Your emergency plan must be consistent with the performance objectives of the business. If nothing else, every facility needs to develop and implement emergency plans for protecting visitors, employees, contractors, and others who might be in the facility.

How To Develop An Emergency Plan

To create an emergency plan you will need to understand what can happen. Review the risk assessment. Review the performance objectives for your preparedness program and determine if you want to allocate more resources toward planning beyond what is required for your industry.

Find out what resources can be made available for any incident stabilization. Consider the internal resources and external resources which include the contractors and public emergency services. Some of the public emergency services include the fire department. They will provide rescues, removal of hazardous materials, and additionally they will provide emergency medical services. Another department, private contractor, or agency may provide these services if the fire department does not. For any security related threats, go to local law enforcement for planning how to respond.

Write down available resources. Figure out if outside resources contain the information needed to handle emergencies. If they don’t, find out what information is needed and remember to document the information into your plan.

Prepare the procedures for emergencies for any foreseeable threats and hazards. Look at the list of hazards that are brought up at the bottom of the page. Develop threat and hazard specific procedures by using guidance from the resources links found at the bottom of the page.

Notifications, Warnings, and Communications

Each plan must figure out what is the most appropriate protective action for every hazard in order to ensure the safety of those within the building and the employees. Figure out how you will warn people in the building to take action to protect themselves. Develop procedures and protocols to notify first responders including trained employees, management, public emergency services, etc. Determine how you can communicate with management and employees both during and after an emergency.

Building Owner and Facility Manager Responsibilities

Assign staff to control access to the scenes of emergency and to keep people away from dangerous areas. Everybody should become familiar with the places and functions for controls for life safety, building utility, and protection systems. These systems include electrical, sanitary systems, ventilation, water systems, emergency power supplies, communication systems, detection, warning systems, alarms, fire suppression systems, containment systems, pollution control, surveillance systems, and security systems. Staff should get assigned to supervise or operate these different systems as they are directed by public emergency services (if they are there on site.)

Facility Plans and Information

Your facility and its hazards are not well-known to public emergency services. Because of this, it is imperative to document your facility’s information. This information is critical to ensuring that emergency responders can safely make an incident stable if it occurs. The documentation of the building systems will also be valuable in the event of a utility system failure—like when a water pipe suddenly breaks and nobody knows how to get the water shut off.

Create plans for every floor of the building and site-plans. These plans need to show layouts of parking areas, access roads, building entrances, buildings on the property, locations of controls for the building utility and/or protection systems, and the locations of the emergency equipment. Emergency responders should have access to the instructions for operating the equipment and all systems.

Public emergency services responding to your facility, and those who are responsible for building security and management, need to have a copy of the plan provided to them. Keep the plan along with the other emergency planning information like the chemical Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and others that are also required by the Hazard Communication (“right to know”) regulations.

Personnel and Employee Training

Train personnel so they become familiar with alarm, detection, communications, protection systems, and warning systems. Have staff review plans to make sure they are familiar with what they need to do to carry out their assignments. Conduct sheltering, evaluation, sheltering-in-place, and lockdown drills so that the employees can recognize the warning sound and will know how to respond. Facilitate exercises in order to have the plan practiced, the personnel familiarized with the plan, and have any deficiencies or gaps in the plan identified.

Protecting Your Business Property

Damage can be prevented if action is taken before a forecast event. Further damage and/or business disruption can be minimized by promptly assessing damage and cleaning up following the storm. This is considered “property conservation”—which is a critical part of your emergency response plan. A lot of the guidance that follows is directed to facility managers and building owners. However, it is important for tenants to also develop plans coordinating with building managers and owners and public authorities. PREPARING A BUILDING FOR A FORESEABLE EVENT Body copy: actions done in order to prepare a facility for a foreseeable event, and the potential impacts from hazards surrounding the event. Perform a risk assessment in order to identify the severe weather hazards such as arctic freeze, winter storms, hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, severe thunderstorm, storm surge, high winds, and tornados. In addition you will want to consider non-traditional hazards like a planned event with a large crowd.

The actions for property conservation should focus on the protection of valuable machinery, the building, materials, and equipment inside. Potential damage could be prevented or lessened by inspecting these systems, building features, and equipment:
  • Roof covering, flashing, and drainage
  • Windows and doors
  • Exterior signs
  • Air intakes
  • Mechanical equipment, satellite dishes and antennas on top of roofs
  • High value machinery
  • Outside storage, equipment and tanks
  • Sensitive electronic equipment such as process controllers and information technology
Opportunities for longer-term strategies for mitigation may be identified by reviewing building components.

Property conservation actions for specific foreseeable events can include:

Winter storm – Keep emergency exits and building entrances clear; monitor building heat; make sure there’s enough fuel for emergency power supplies and heating; monitor windows and doors to prevent localized freezing; clear roof drains and monitor snow loading.

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms – Pre-cut and stockpile plywood to board up the doors and windows (or install some hurricane shutters); inspect roof flashing and coverings; make sure there is adequate tools, labor, and fasteners available; check portable and sump pumps; relocate any valuable inventory to a safe place away from where the storm is headed; and backup any electronic data and any vital records off-site.

Flooding – Figure out flooding potential and make plans to relocate materials, goods, and equipment to higher ground or a higher floor. Check the sump and portable pumps and clear any storm drains. Raise machinery and stock off of the floor. Prepare a plan where you can use sandbags as prevention methods for any water entry from secure floor drains and doors.

How To Prevent Further Damage Following A Disaster

Salvage includes separating water-soaked goods from undamaged goods. Property conservation includes cleaning up water, covering holes found in a roof, or ventilating a building. Your property conservation plan needs to identify resources that are needed in order to salvage the undamaged materials and goods; clean up smoke, water, and humidity; make any temporary repairs on a building; and prepare the critical equipment needed for restarting.

Property conservation resources include:
  • Fans to remove humidity and smoke
  • Tools and water vacuums for removing water
  • Plastic sheeting for covering sensitive equipment
  • Tarpaulins and/or plywood for covering damaged windows or roofs
Make a list of all the available tools, equipment, and supplies and include the inventory with the emergency response plan. Identify any precautions for the equipment that becomes exposed to high humidity or water and identify procedures for the restarting of equipment and machinery.

Identify any contractors you can contact to help with cleaning and property conservation. Be aware that the competition for labor, contractors, supplies, and materials both before and after a disaster could be intense. Secure resources and contractors ahead of time.

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