Have an Emergency Disaster Plan in Place

Posted on October 5, 2005 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

TAMPA, FLA. – According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, 25% of small businesses that are forced to temporarily close due to fires, floods and other disasters never reopen because they weren’t prepared with even the most basic disaster contingency plan. To protect your business against such a fate, stock up on first-aid essentials, draw up an emergency plan, including phone lists, and publish this to all your associates so they know that their work environment is a safe one.

According to www.SafetyNext.com, you should develop a policy statement on the handling of emergency situations, which may include accidents, fires, unusual weather conditions, etc. The idea is to have a policy listed in the table of contents or the index of an employee handbook or policy manual that a supervisor can turn to for on-the-spot guidance. Most companies actually go into detailed procedures for handling specific types of emergencies, while others simply refer the supervisor to the appropriate sources of help either within or outside the company. Very few policies in this area are actual policy statements as such – most are lists of steps to take, lists of emergency numbers to call and so forth. In other words, the emphasis is more on procedures than on company philosophy or attitudes. And in this case, such an approach makes a great deal of sense. After all, the supervisor probably wouldn't be looking up this particular policy if he or she weren't faced with an emergency and in need of immediate instruction or advice. So it seems quite appropriate to take advantage of the policy–manual format to provide this information.

The content of policies on emergencies varies widely, depending on whether the company wants to group all the different types of emergencies together or treat each one separately. For example, you might have a policy on accidents, another on what to do in case of fire and another on how to administer first aid. The best approach is the one that will help your supervisors the most. Here are some points to cover:

Definition of "emergency" - Specify what is considered an emergency situation for the purposes of your policy statement. Be sure to identify each type clearly on the page if you are trying to cover more than one. A supervisor who is in a hurry should be able to locate the information he or she needs without searching unnecessarily.

Procedures to follow - For each type of emergency situation, state clearly and concisely what the supervisor should do and in what order of priority.

Emergency numbers - You may want to include some useful outside telephone numbers, such as the local hospital, ambulance service and police and fire departments. You may also want to list in-house extensions for people who must be notified, such as the safety manager, human resources department, company doctor or nurse, etc.

First aid - If you don't have a separate policy statement covering first-aid procedures, this would be a good place to include them.

Follow-up - Once the immediate steps have been taken to deal with the emergency, what should the supervisor do? Are there forms that must be completed, people that must be notified, or other follow-up measures that should be taken?

Authorized action - Your policy will need to state who has the authority to make decisions during the particular emergency. For example, if there is a bomb threat, who has the authority to order an evacuation of the building?

Training - Your policy should state how your employees will be trained to handle emergencies. For example, will you require that at all times at least four employees be on duty who are trained in first aid?

Drills - Your policy can state whether, when and how often you will conduct drills. As an example, if you are in a high-rise building, you may want to have a fire drill several times a year.

Emergency supplies - Your policy should set forth what supplies you need to always have on hand and who is responsible to ensure that the supplies are replenished as needed. These lists will vary depending on the emergencies to which you may be subject. For instance, if you live along the East or Gulf Coast, your supply list will need to include supplies for hurricane season. On the other hand, if your facility is located in California, you will need to have supplies available to deal with an earthquake.

Review of policy - As you cannot always anticipate every emergency, your policy should provide for a review of any emergency to determine if you need to make changes to your procedures or include new ones.

Periodic review of policies - If there are not emergencies that prompt you to review your policies, you should require at least an annual review of all of your emergency policies. In this fashion, you can set aside time to anticipate future emergencies. One good source is your local newspaper, which details emergencies that occurred at other businesses.

Media contact - Your policy should indicate what is to occur if there is any media coverage as a result of the emergency.

Continuing service - Your policy should describe how you will seek to continue to serve your customers in the event of an emergency or, if instead, you will simply close down completely.

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