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Picture this without an Emergency Action Plan. You are going about your normal duties at work when the high-pitched pulse of the fire alarm goes off. For a few seconds you imagine somebody accidentally set off the alarm. Then, suddenly, you see smoke billowing out of a conference room down the hall. People are yelling, “Fire! Call 911!” You think of the Emergency Planning Folder or Fire Drill binder on the shelf in your office. With your heart racing and fellow workers running down the hall, is it likely you will head for your office, grab the binder and start reading up on what to do during a fire or other emergency?

Not likely. By their very nature, emergencies are unpredictable. They catch us off-guard. There is no time to read a book. Emergencies come in many forms, depending on where you are. In California, emergencies will most often include fires (urban fires and wildfires), earthquakes, and power outages. Sadly, they may also include active shooters or other individuals who pose a threat to your safety.  Under these circumstances most of us become shocked and scared.

So what are we talking about here? Our point is that there is a lot more to an effective emergency action plan than you think.

Emergency Action Plans vary from place to place. For some, the plan is nothing more than an emergency evacuation diagram pinned to the wall and a sign that directs everyone to take the stairs and meet in the parking lot. On the other hand, to their credit, some employers, businesses, non-profits or other organizations have written and adopted a mandated comprehensive Emergency Action Plan (EAP). In fact, their emergency planning or preparedness document may be very impressive with a complex set of organizational maps, charts, policies and procedures. In some cases their plan document may have been given to the organization by their insurance company to help reduce risk to property and people.

The question is, however, how VIABLE is the plan when a real emergency occurs? For Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) to actually save lives, prevent injuries and reduce damage to property, here are a couple of things that need to happen:

You have to have an easy to understand, step by step emergency operations plan. Every employee needs to have an assigned role or responsibility during and after an emergency. This typically involves a team or buddy system. You must be able to take care of yourselves and others until first responders arrive. Then you need a plan to restore operations back to normal after an incident.

You must drill on a regular basis. Most safety experts recommend safety drills or emergency drills on a quarterly basis (four times a year). Why? Because safety skills are perishable. The reality is most people quickly forget what they have been taught. You may argue that quarterly is not realistic. Okay, but we argue an “annual drill” is all but useless.

We at BERT – Workplace Safety Solutions are happy to help you evaluate your existing emergency plan or to recommend steps you can take to develop a viable plan designed specifically to meet the needs of your business or organization.

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