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Planning for Emergencies

Emergency planning has been around for many years, but it's still a vital part of any safety program.

Emergency preparedness means what the name implies... being prepared for emergencies and the goal is to reduce employee injury and property damage in case of an emergency.

Learn more:

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Generally, a written emergency plan should contain the following minimum elements:

1. Emergency escape procedures and emergency escape route assignments.
2. Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform or shut down critical operations before they evacuate.
3. Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has been completed.
4. Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them.
5. The preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies.
6. Names or regular job titles of persons or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

To make the program effective, the emergency action plan should address all potential emergencies that can be expected in the workplace, such as earthquakes, civil unrest, tornados, hurricanes, floods and other similar emergencies. What happens in case of an earthquake or tornado? It's important to consider what emergencies may arise, so you can prepare for them before they occur.

Take an inventory of what hazardous materials are generally at the workplace and make preparations by outlining how they are to be secured or handled in case of an emergency.

Do your supervisors and employees know how to secure or handle these materials? What are the emergency action and first aid procedures? The employer should list in detail, the procedures to be taken by those employees who must remain behind to care for essential  equipment or operations until their evacuation becomes absolutely necessary. Training these personnel is also part of the program, after all, they need information and procedures to put the emergency action plan into action. All employees must be trained in emergency evacuation and the use of floor plans or workplace maps that clearly show routes of evacuation and assembly areas.

A chain of command should be established to minimize confusion so employees will have no doubt about who has authority for making decisions. Responsible individuals should be  elected to coordinate the work the emergency response team. Due to the importance of these positions, adequate backup must be arranged so that trained personnel is always available.

During a major emergency involving a fire or explosion, it may be necessary to evacuate offices and other areas. Normal services, such as telephone, electricity, and water may not be  available, so planning ahead will help reduce these problems. In case of a major emergency, there should be some means of communications, to handle incoming and outgoing calls. A method of communication is needed to alert employees to the evacuation or to take other action as required by the situation and plan.

Preparedness and Survival Gear: Here. Preparedness and Survival Gear: Here.

The warning plan should be in writing and management must ensure that each employee  knows what the signals mean and what action is to be taken. A method of contacting other personnel should be developed, including fire department, police, hospitals, key personnel, the Red Cross and possibly outside contractors for hazardous waste cleanup or damage repairs.

Emergency Response Teams are the first line of defense in emergencies. These are people who have been identified and trained in emergency procedures. They should know the various types of fire extinguishers and how to properly use them. They should be trained in first aid and CPR, as well as how to properly shut down electrical, gas, water and other systems. They must be well acquainted with emergency evacuation routes, assembly areas and roll call procedures.

CERTThe Emergency Response Team should also be trained in chemical spill control procedures, search and rescue procedures and basic fire fighting techniques. Those members assigned for search and rescue may be required to use Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA. Naturally, the scope of emergency action procedures and written plans depends upon the size of the organization and the potential hazards within the workplace.

There are basic training requirements for all employees, so let's take a quick look at some of the training responsibilities...

In addition to the specialized training for Emergency Response Team members, all employees should be trained in the following:

1. Evacuation plans.
2. Alarm Systems.
3. Reporting procedures for personnel.
4. Shutdown procedures for equipment and other processes.
5. Types of potential emergencies.

These training programs should be provided initially, when the plan is developed and for all new employees. Training is required when new equipment, materials or processes are  introduced into the work areas and when procedures have been updated or revised.

Training includes practicing the emergency action plan and when it is determined that  employee performance must be improved, additional training and practice is required. This training must be performed at least annually. These emergency control procedures should be written in concise terms and made available to all employees. A drill must be held randomly, but at least annually. An evaluation of the evacuation performance should be conducted and this evaluation should remain in company files as documentation of the drill. It's always a good idea to coordinate any drills with local police and fire departments, as they may want to participate. They also need effective training to maintain their professional capabilities.

There are a variety of personal protective devices and equipment that may be required during an emergency, particularly when chemicals and hazardous materials are involved.

Personal protective equipment is provided by the employer, however, when it is provided, it's up to you to use it. This equipment can include eye, head, face and hand protection, but there may be a need for respiratory protective equipment. In this case, additional training and written plans and procedures are adopted for these items.

Generally, there are four basic categories of respirators:

1. Air-purifying devices including filters, gas masks and chemical cartridges, which
remove contaminants from the air, but cannot be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
2. Air-supplied respirators including hose masks, air line respirators, which should not be
used in atmospheres that are immediately dangerous to life or health.
3. Self-contained positive-pressure breathing apparatus, which are required for unknown
atmospheres, oxygen- deficient atmospheres, or atmospheres immediately dangerous to
life or health.
4. Escape masks are also part of a respiratory protection program.

In the case of respirator use, the following conditions must be met:

1. A medical evaluation should be made to determine if the employees who wear
respirators are physically able to use the respirator.
2. Written procedures must be prepared covering safe use and proper care of the  equipment and employees must be trained in these procedures and the use and
maintenance of respirators.
3. A fit test must be made to determine a proper match between the facepiece of the
respirator and the face of the wearer. Employee training is required and it should be
tested in a test atmosphere, to ensure a good, safe fit.
4. A regular maintenance program must be instituted, which includes proper cleaning,
inspecting and testing of all respiratory equipment. Respirators used for the emergency
response must be inspected after each use and at least monthly to assure they are in
satisfactory working conditions. A written record of inspection must be maintained.
5. Distribution areas for equipment used in emergencies must be readily accessible to

Quite naturally, in emergencies, medical assistance is of vital importance. In the absence of a clinic or hospital in close proximity to the workplace, persons should be adequately trained to render first aid and adequate medical supplies should be available. Where the eyes or body of any employee may be exposed to injurious chemicals or corrosive materials, eye washes or suitable equipment for quick drenching or flushing must be provided in the work area for immediate emergency use. Employees must be trained in the use of this equipment.

In an emergency, you should plan for security to prevent unauthorized access and to protect vital records and equipment. Don't forget about certain records that have to be preserved, in case of an emergency. These records can be stored in duplicate outside the work area or in protected secure locations.

If you have employees who are hearing impaired or have some type of handicap, your plans must include the alarm notification and proper evacuation procedures for these people. There's a lot to emergency planning, but it really takes an effort to inspect your work areas and develop site specific plans for emergency preparedness. Plan for different types of emergencies and adopt procedures for each emergency. As the work area changes, or new chemicals or processes are introduced into the workplace, then the plans must be modified.

Emergency preparedness saves lives, protects property and gets you back to work more  quickly. There are a great number of cases and past history that demonstrates the benefits of emergency preparedness, so take every effort to plan for your next emergency, whatever it may be.

Are you READY? Are you READY?
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