What Is An Emergency Response Plan?
UPDATED: April 14, 2020
Every business owner should implement an emergency response plan.
First, imagine a few nightmare scenarios:
A tornado has touched down mere miles from your warehouse or manufacturing plant.
A train has derailed nearby, releasing a toxic cloud of chemicals into the air.
An armed and dangerous suspect has hidden somewhere in the area, and police have ordered a lockdown of all homes and businesses.
A delivery driver accidentally drives through the corner of your building, creating extensive damage and structural instability – not to mention a gaping, unsecured hole in the side of your facility.
Now answer these questions: Are you and your employees prepared for any of these situations? How many nightmare scenarios can you imagine? Are you prepared for those?
An Ounce of Prevention
Preparing for these events and keeping your employees safe while they unfold requires preparation. Emergency plans, including emergency evacuation plans and the formation of emergency response teams, can help ensure everyone’s safety and minimize damage.
Make no mistake: In the event of an emergency that affects businesses and residents, the bulk of the responsibility for protecting lives and property belongs to crisis professionals, emergency services, and emergency responders. The fire department, medical services, police department and other law enforcement agencies, plus the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a section of the Department of Homeland Security, all have their roles to play.
But so do we as business owners. The old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is apt. Think of an emergency response plan as your ounce of prevention.
Risk management can help us all avoid emergency situations. Emergency plans can include evacuation drills, fire extinguishers, evacuation shelters, and other tools. These are informed by response plans recommended by the FEMA, DHS, and, where applicable, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. But it’s up to leadership and facility management to make sure there are posted emergency signs and emergency procedures in place to protect people and to help ensure business continuity in the aftermath of an emergency event.
For more information regarding labor rules and regulations for when an emergency occurs, take a look at Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. (It’s sometimes referred to as 29 CFR.)
Some of the hypotheticals at the top of this piece may appear far-fetched — but they are absolutely within the realm of possibility, no matter how unlikely they may seem. It will only make matters worse if, as a business or property owner, you don’t realize you’re ill-prepared for an emergency situation until you’re already smack-dab in the middle of it.
With no emergency response plan in place, business owners will be forced to rely on untrained and unprepared employees to improvise in the midst of emergency while remaining calm and collected through it all.
That’s not just unrealistic — it’s a recipe for disaster.
An emergency response plan will allow you some peace of mind. You’ll know that, should there ever be an actual emergency, you’ve prepared yourself and your employees to act methodically and efficiently. This protects your business, those same employees, and the facility itself.
If you’re not sure where to begin, consider adopting a template laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can find it here. This can be helpful if you’re a small business without the resources to put together a plan of your own
The CDC’s “Emergency Action Plan” includes sections where business owners can fill in the blanks for emergency personnel names phone numbers. It provides space for emergency evacuation routes and an overview of what to do when faced with a list of emergencies. These emergencies include but are not limited to medical, fire, severe weather, bomb threats, and chemical spills.
It also provides some information that may help you protect the lives and wellbeing of your employees until medical assistance arrives on the scene.
In the modern United States, there are other situations that would require the implementation of an emergency response plan. These include active shooter situations and threats posed by pandemics, such as the coronavirus.
For the latter, a person may become deathly ill while at work and require medical attention — but there’s more to it than that. To avoid the spread of contagion, a business will have to take additional steps to protect the people who work there who may have been exposed. This is especially true when facing the possibility of aggressive viruses like coronavirus.
“The actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical,” reads the intro to a robust and informative “Emergency Response Plan” page at Ready.gov.
Many of our neighbors and fellow citizens train for years to be able to handle themselves professionally in emergency situations. The idea that we, as mere untrained mortals — that is to say, we who are not first responders — will be able to think of things on the fly during a truly serious emergency is, to put it bluntly, foolish. A business without an emergency response plan puts everyone at risk — employees, contractors, guests, passersby.
Consider for a moment how many things can go wrong in an emergency. There are so many moving parts and heavy equipment in a manufacturing facility. There are doors and windows susceptible to damage. Production lines or conveyor systems that could be thrown off track.
These are just a few examples of things that can pose threats to life and limb — not to mention the facility itself.
The U.S. Departmen of Labor has excellent resources for those looking for information on emergency response plans. One paragraph in particular is worth quoting in full, since it lays out all the ways in which a business may be impacted by unforeseen problems.
“A workplace emergency,” they write, “is a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage. Emergencies may be natural or man-made, and may include hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, winter weather, chemical spills or releases, disease outbreaks, releases of biological agents, explosions involving nuclear or radiological sources, and many other hazards. Many types of emergencies can be anticipated in the planning process, which can help employers and workers plan for other unpredictable situations.”
An emergency response plan is the best way to prepare for these unforeseen situations. With awareness, training and practice, it will provide a guideline for you and your employees, as well as a backbone of operations for even the most tumultuous events.
We’ll go into more detail on how to construct an adequate emergency response plan in a future blog post — but for now, it’s probably a good idea to review the recommendations at Ready.gov.
Other Valuable Resources For An Emergency Reponse Plan
Before we wrap things up here, we wanted to provide a few additional resources that will help fill in some blanks of our own. That is to say, the following websites contain a wealth of information that you can use to begin constructing your own emergency response plan. Don’t delay. Get your plan together before you need one.
- SafetySkills.com: Lofs of relevant info here, including information on alarm systems, calling 911 and helping someone who is choking. They also go over serious injuries, such as severe burns, for less serious ones, such as sprains. All in all, a good site to start your research.
- Boston University Emergency Management: This information from Boston University is comprehensive. It can be used as a template for your own plans. Simply replace the university-specific location information with that of your own business, and you’re off to a good start with a professional emergency response plan. It wouldn’t hurt to have any plan you come up with reviewed by a professional, though, so you know you’re fully prepared for a potential emergency.
- FEMA: “A 10-page document to help Businesses Identify the goals and objectives for the emergency response plan. Define what your emergency response team is expected to do during an emergency (e.g., evacuate employees and visitors, provide first aid, etc.), Identify any regulations covered by your plan (e.g., OSHA, fire code, etc.).” That about sums it up!
For decades, Storee Construction of Springfield, Missouri, has provided industrial solutions and facilities contractor services for many large companies. Our ability to provide the widest range of services — and to remain on-site to manage any issues that may arise, is unmatched in the industry.
To take advantage of our expert custom services, including custom product applications and strategic planning, please contact Storee. Better yet, partner with us today by contacting us for a consultation!