Emergency Planning Checklist

March 25, 2001
Not since the Y2K scare has there been a serious global dialogue about officedisaster preparedness. Yet recent earthquakes in India and El Salvador, rollingblackouts on the U.S. West Coast and immobilizing snowstorms on the East Coast,again remind us about the importance of safety and emergency planning.

    On one hand, it's irrational to overreact to news reports of disasters. Evenwhen there is not a major earthquake to report, network news is likely to coverisolated fires, floods, accidents and random workplace violence that wreak havocat individual offices. If it bleeds, it leads!

    On the other hand, if we merely prepare on the basis of U.S. Labor Statisticsfor top causes of worker fatalities and injuries, our emergency office planningmight be reduced to highway traffic safety and ergonomics training. We would notbe prepared for the rare but damaging office emergency. However unpredictablesuch an event may be, what could be more important for HR professionals than theresponsibility of health and safety of their workforce?

    To develop a comprehensive Office Emergency Plan, you need to consider a"worse case" scenario based on potential hazards within your workenvironment, realistic security risks, and possible natural disasters in yourlocale.

Planning can be broken up into projects:

  • Emergency Response Team
  • First Aid
  • Safety Equipment
  • 72-hour Supplies
  • Facility training
  • Personnel Issues

Identify key people for an Emergency Response Team. Select them based ontheir frequent presence, ability to remain calm during a crisis, specialemergency skills they may possess, and their understanding and acceptance ofthis important role.

Make sure you have a well-stocked First Aid Kit. Worker's CompensationCarriers, OSHA, the American Red Cross or nurse consultants can providedirection on specific requirements. Basics include bandages, sterile gauze,cotton, alcohol, eyewash, antibacterial cream, scissors, tweezers, aspirin andnon-aspirin.

Conduct an inventory of the existing emergency supplies, equipment andinformation. Gather the items to a central storage area or document theirlocations. Check the dates of any items that are subject to expiration,including medicine and fire extinguishers. Verify that batteries work andback-up power supply is operational.

Make sure you have sufficient supplies for emergencies that requireconfinement to the building for 72 hours.

  • Have enough water on hand, which is the most frequently overlookedemergency item. Figure 1 gallon per person per day. Food is helpful butwater is essential.

  • Store blankets (for shock or extreme weather).

  • Make sure staff with daily medicine needs have emergency supplies on hand.

  • During an emergency, collect battery-operated radios and cell phones.

  • Keep a camera (loaded with film) handy to document office damage.

  • Distribute flashlights throughout the facility.

  • Store plastic sheets or large trash bags in desk drawers to be used toprotect equipment from water damage, including from fire sprinklers.

Survey your facility with an eye toward what might cause a problem during anemergency situation.

  • Are there heavy objects that may become dislodged and fall?

  • Are there boxes, equipment or other obstructions to hallways and fireexits?

  • Are rooms locked for which you do not have keys?

  • Are breakaway glass windows clearly marked in multiple story buildings?

  • Are fire extinguishers the correct type for the room and in adequatesupply?

  • Are surge protectors being used?

  • Do you know which equipment operates on the back-up power system and whichwill become inoperable if power is down?

  • Do you know where the most structurally sound and most ventilated area isfor people to gather? Is this area away from glass and heavy loose items?

Consider what training is necessary for key safety personnel and then expandemergency training to everyone else.

  • Train key personnel in fire and earthquake response, first aid and CPR.

  • Make sure key staff can be identified in an emergency (for example, useneon T-shirts or hats)

  • Have all staff provide emergency contact information to be kept inpersonnel files (update at least annually).

  • Know who may require special assistance to exit the floor during anemergency.

  • Train all staff in politely escorting unknown guests from secured areas ofthe floor.

  • Develop and train on a plan in the event of a dangerous intruder. This caninclude a map of all lockable doors and escape routes, as well as anagreed-upon term to broadcast over the paging system to alert staff toeminent danger.

  • Know who is the best person in your organization to communicate with anagitated customer or staff member.

  • Add the building security number to telephone speed dials.

  • Consider hiring a security guard where there is a known risk of anintruder.

  • Require participation at safety meetings and drills.

  • Make available optional safety training materials and videos (available inmost public libraries).

  • Invite Community Police to do a presentation on neighborhood and officesafety.