Emergency Action Planning

Written by Shirley Parker
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Before putting together an emergency action plan for a workplace, OSHA recommends that employees tasked with that responsibility conduct an assessment of the building(s) and grounds. This will include multi-story and/or underground parking structures in some instances, as well as adjacent parklands or improved/unimproved picnic areas belonging to the company. Open areas will be needed as temporary gathering places for department head counts, in the event an alarm triggers an evacuation. Of course, in a downtown location, employees will likely be spread out over an entire city block or more, with the resultant dangers from vehicular traffic, until emergency personnel can cordon off an area.

The workplace assessment should also include a report on escape routes and whether some building remodeling is needed. As just one example, can an employee in a wheelchair or on crutches get out safely? Is there a special chair he can be lifted into that can easily be carried downstairs by other employees strong enough to lift it? That's assuming the individual isn't also on a respirator that cannot easily be moved to another chair. Remember, elevators cannot be used during a fire.

Other Considerations in Setting Up an Emergency Action Plan

Other assessment items include whether or not the fire detection equipment is adequate and working. Are alarms visual, audible and distinct, and are they located where everyone can hear or see them? There should be no mistaking them for car alarms in the parking structure or anything else.

Does every floor of the building have built-in sprinkler systems in the ceilings? They probably do, or the local fire department will not sign off on the building when they do quarterly safety inspections. Portable fire extinguishers should also be evident throughout. Have employees been told what their responsibilities actually are? Are there safety monitors? Emergency flashlights? The list of safety steps is quite long and should be followed down to the letter.


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