Lance Blair, Director of Facilities and Operations at Science Inc., says it all started when one of Science’s founders asked him to purchase a defibrillator for their office. The purchase was easy enough, but Lance realized after a little research that there was much more to owning the device—he had to register it with the county, apply for insurance, and conduct monthly checks to verify that it’s in clean and working order and get CPR/AED certified. Reading about codes, policies, and procedures led him to wonder if his office space was missing any other safety-related protocol that could be beneficial—or even lifesaving.
Lance decided to create an Emergency Action Plan for Science Inc. The plan, made for the roughly 150 employees at his company, included company-wide protocol for emergency situations like: fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, active shootings, and random transients on the premises. He even thought out what would happen in the event that the power was down and no one could use their phone, laptop, or any other technology.
Although workplace emergencies may seem abstract, the reality is that an unforeseen situation can occur at your office at any time. The best way to protect yourself and your coworkers is through a developed, thoughtful, and practiced action plan to guide you when a crisis arises.
Here is a list of best practices for creating an emergency action plan for your office and a downloadable template to help you get started.
- Think about your workplace and brainstorm the kinds of potential emergencies that could occur. Conduct a hazard assessment to determine what and if there are any physical or chemical hazards in your workplace.
- Include a way to alert your employees and take into account disabled coworkers: what would an evacuation look like in practice?
- Locate all exits/entrances from the typical to the emergency. Speak with your building manager/landlord about any protocols they may already have in place—it’s important to be cognizant of rules already made to avoid confusion or panic.
- If your space is large (or if you have multiple buildings), you may want to draft drawings that depict emergency and evacuation exit routes and post them clearly throughout the office(s).
- Check that all exits are clearly marked and think about any non-English speaking employees who would benefit from directives written in a different language.
- Locate all alarms and make sure they are distinctive and recognized by everyone as a signal to evacuate. You may need to think about other tactile devices to alert employees who may not be able to recognize an audible of visual alarm.
- Read through your office/building lease to understand what your company is responsible for in case of an emergency.
- Identify coworkers who have any type of emergency or safety training and ask if they will volunteer as point people in case of emergency. You shouldn’t be the only person at the office, especially if the office is large, who has in-depth knowledge of emergency protocol.
- Lead a training session for all managers and/or heads of departments and schedule training refresher courses every 6 months (or at a more frequent cadence if your team is growing or changing quickly).
- Hold a company wide training session to review the emergency action plan with all employees. Fold the key points of the plan into the onboarding strategy for new hires.
- Ask yourself what you/your company would do if the power went out and the use of technology was cut off. Consider alternative communication like a portable radio.
- Ask your company to sponsor you and/or another coworker to become CPR trained and certified. The Red Cross offers a variety of types and levels of certification.
Safety in emergency situations at the office ultimately depends on the preparedness of the each individual. Crafting an emergency action plan for your workplace and thinking through the realities of the potential hazards of your office is a huge step to ensuring the safety of you, your coworkers, and your company.