9 ways to boost workplace emergency preparedness

9 ways to boost workplace emergency preparedness

Emergency preparedness in the workplace allows us to take control of a situation. Some steps to take before a natural disaster or emergency occurs while you are at work are:

  1. Have an evacuation plan

    Know various ways out of your office building.

    • Evacuation routes – Know where emergency evacuation routes and marked emergency exits are located in your office building. These exits may be different from how you normally enter the building. Be aware that some coworkers may need extra help, so make sure this is part of the at-work emergency evacuation discussion.
    • Have a map in your car – If you need to leave work during an emergency you may need to take an alternate route home or to a safe area. If GPS is not working, a road map will guide you to alternate routes.
  2. Be informed

    Be familiar with tools that can help you in an emergency.

    • Use social media effectively – Be aware that organizations such as FEMA and the CDC often use social media to relay important information during emergencies.
    • Fire extinguishers – Know if the office has installed fire extinguishers and where they are located in case of a fire.  Watch a video of how to correctly use a fire extinguisher.
    • Shut off valves for gas and water – If possible, know where the water and gas shut-off valves are located, ensure that they are tagged or marked, and learn how to turn them off. Know  who is responsible for shutting them off in an emergency and where a wrench is located in case you or a coworker needs to shut them off.
  3. Prepare for the possibilities

    Plan for various types of emergencies.

  4. Coordinate with others

    Involve others in your emergency plan.

    • Children/elderly parents/pets – Who would pick up your children from school or daycare if there were an emergency? Who would look in on your elderly parent during an emergency? Who would take care of your pet if you had a pet at home while an emergency occurred?
    • Include others – Talk with coworkers, neighbors, friends and family members about your personal emergency plan. For instance, make sure a friend or family member has a key to your home.
    • Emergency phone numbers –  A small notebook or an index card with emergency phone numbers placed at your desk keeps you connected should your mobile phone lose power. Have a list of family members and friends who you might need to contact before or during an emergency.
    • Social media – Survivors of natural disasters have used social media productively to reach out for help during a natural disaster when 911 lines were busy. Social media is a good tool to let others know how you are doing should a natural disaster occur.
  5. Power outage essentials

    Be sure to have these things handy as power outages are common during natural disasters.

    • Flashlight and batteries – Have a  battery operated flashlight with an FM radio at your desk. Also include extra batteries.
    • Phone charger – Have a battery operated power bank on hand so that you can charge your mobile phone.
    • Surge protectors  – Turn off or disconnect computers, printers, refrigerators and other electronics to prevent a power surge. Buy and install surge protectors before the power outage occurs.
    • Cash – Carrying cash isn’t as common as it was a few decades ago. If there is a major power outage, cash will become vital. Keep some cash hidden in your car or at your desk in a secure container.
  6. First-aid and emergency kits

    Create a first-aid and an emergency kit.

    • First-aid kitA good first aid kit will offer anti-bacterial accessories and items to heal minor injuries.
    • Emergency kit – Offers a variety of items for a wider range of emergency scenarios. The best bet is putting together your own. This way you can ensure you have the appropriate equipment for whatever emergency has the potential to strike your particular region.
    • First aid/CPR class – Consider completing a first aid and CPR course.
    • Car emergency kit – keep jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge and inflator, reflective triangles and a properly inflated spare tire in your car.
  7. Water, non-perishable food and medications

    Remember to keep some food and water in your office.

    • Non-perishable food – Unsalted nuts, granola bars, whole wheat crackers, peanut butter and dried fruits are packed with energy. Low-sodium canned soup and chili do not require preparation. Make sure to have a can opener or Swiss army knife.
    • Water – Store water in containers that make sense for your work space. Some people might have space for gallon jugs of water. If you don’t have room, keep a water bottle or thermos in your desk with water purification tablets.
    • Medications – if you take medication, always keep a few pills in a pill box in a temperature safe location such as your purse, bag or jacket pocket.
    • Contact lenses – if you wear contact lenses, keep a small bottle of contact lens solution, a contact lens case or an extra pair of lenses on hand.
  8. Tool kit and hygiene

    Be sure to have a basic tool kit and hygiene items on hand.

    • Tool kitTool kits allow for the construction of new shelter (a tarp held up with nails), dismantling items (with a screwdriver), or added security (boarding up windows). There are mini tool kits that are less bulky than the traditional ones.
    • Personal hygiene – Include hand sanitizer gel, cleansing wet wipes, soap, toilet paper, and a toothbrush.  Face masks allow for cleaner breathing should there be smoke or other pollutants.
  9. Stay focused and calm

    Keep cool and calm.

    • Stay calm – Remember to breathe.
    • Think logically – See the situation for what it really is rather than an exaggerated version.

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