Emergency preparedness is incredibly important. By its basic definition, it is how we plan to make sure we are safe during an emergency event or natural disaster. These plans can literally be the difference between life and death in some cases. In others, they could prevent large amounts of property damage. It can mean many different things in many different scenarios, but in every instance, it is important.
There are many different types of scenarios that may call for emergency preparedness. Just recently, our state (Florida) saw a great natural disaster that caused large amounts of property damage, injuries, and death in the worst of cases. Other types of emergencies may include man-made disasters such as industrial accidents or, in the worst of cases, terrorism. Health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, can also occur.
Assessing the risk
Being prepared for an emergency involves quite a bit of risk assessment. The risks you face will be different depending on your location and circumstances, so it is best to acknowledge these things when you are new to an area or workplace. Here are some ways you can assess potential risks that are specific to you.
1. Identify your local hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and winter storms. Take a look at the historical data to see how often these things occur.
2. Review your local government’s emergency response plans so you can be aware of what actions they may take to protect you and your family.
3. Check the community resources available to you in an emergency situation. This may include where to shelter, what routes to take for evacuation, and any medical facilities near by.
4. Signing up for emergency alerts and notifications from your local authorities can also help you assess any incoming risks that you may not be aware of. This way, you can get an idea of what the trends are and when you may have to put emergency plans into action.
5. Whatever property you’re staying at should be inspected for any vulnerabilities. Securing heavy objects before a storm, checking the roof for any potential leaks, and trimming trees to avoid wildfires or damage from fallen tree limbs are some ways you can stay on top of this.
6. Once you have an idea of what potential risks may be common, review your insurance policies. It’s important to have the appropriate insurance in place to help cover any potential property damage that may occur.
7. Be sure to continuously assess your potential risks. Conditions change over time, so it is important to stay on top of those changes to prepare yourself appropriately.
Now that we have some ideas of what risks to look for and how we can look for them, let’s go into detail on how we can put some plans in place.
Emergency Preparedness Planning
Creating an emergency preparedness plan for your workplace or your home can seem a bit daunting to undertake, but its importance cannot be understated. There are a lot of key factors to keep in mind, so it is best to lay them all out in a clear, concise manner to ensure everyone can understand and know what their responsibilities are. In order to make this easier for you to accomplish, let’s break down what key information should be included in your emergency plan based on who the plan is for.
Family Emergency Plan
1. Emergency contacts: One of the first things to do is create an emergency contact list. Be sure to include friends, family, and neighbors that live near by, as well as a list of family and friends that live out of state. The more emergency contacts, the better. Arrange them in order of importance so your family members know who to try to contact first.
2. Communication Strategy: Decide how you will communicate within your family if an emergency takes place. At this time, we have many different ways to communicate, so decide which ones you think will be best and be sure to outline which ones will work best in certain scenarios. Some examples include phone calls, emails, text messages, and social media.
3. Meeting Locations: Choose a few different locations to meet in case of an emergency. Be sure to outline which ones will be best for certain scenarios. Consider printing maps or directions to these locations if your family isn’t familiar with them.
4. Evacuation Plan: Develop a plan of where your family will go and how you will get there. It may be best to have a few different locations in mind, depending on the type of emergency and how long it may take to get there. This includes evacuating your home if a fire were to take place, so be sure to practice the drills with your family so they can be informed.
5. Emergency Kit: Put together and maintain a kit that may include food, water, flashlights, batteries, fuel, first aid materials, portable phone chargers, and important documents. Make sure everyone is aware of where this is stored.
6. Special family Considerations: You may have someone in your family who has special needs or specific medical care they require regularly. Keep these things in mind when planning, and be sure to include the appropriate documentation and medical care in your emergency kit. Children and pets may also need to be with a caregiver at the time, so make sure they also know what your emergency plan is so you can pick them up or meet them if need be. It will be a good idea to keep pet supplies in your emergency kit as well.
7. Utilities and safety measures: Learn how to shut off the gas, water, and electric in your home safely and teach family members the appropriate way to do so as well.
8. School and Workplace Plans: Have a plan of what should happen if an emergency occurs during work or school hours. Make sure there is a plan for how to reunite with the children. Have directions or maps from school or work to your meeting locations ready for them should they have to meet you somewhere they’ve never been.
9. Transportation: Make sure you designate which vehicle will be used in an emergency situation. Keep some emergency supplies in said vehicle and have it regularly checked to ensure it runs safely.
10. Local Emergency Services: Stay informed on what emergency services are available to you locally. Learn where the closest shelters are and keep track of the closest medical facilities.
Be sure to review your plan every 6 months or so to make sure it is up-to-date.
Work Emergency Plan
1. Emergency Contacts: Compile a list of emergency contact numbers, including those of local emergency services, medical facilities, fire departments, law enforcement, and employees’ emergency contacts.
2. Chain of Command: Have a clear chain of command established to ensure everyone knows who is in charge should an emergency take place. This way, everyone knows who they should be individually reporting to.
3. Evacuation routes: Clearly mark where employees should go if an emergency should occur, and practice your evacuation drills every so often so everyone knows what the procedure is. Be sure to include primary and secondary routes.
4. Assembly Points: Have designated safe spaces in place for employees to gather in when an emergency occurs. Make sure it is clearly marked and everyone knows where it is.
5. Emergency alarms and notifications: Fire alarms and other alarm systems should be installed and maintained regularly to clearly alert employees to emergencies. Other methods of notifying them may be via text message, intercom systems, or PSAs.
6. Emergency Service Access: Emergency services will need a clear path of entry should they have to come assist you in the workplace. Provide the necessary contacts with where the clearest roads and entry ways are so they know where to go when the time comes.
7. Emergency equipment and supplies: Maintain all emergency supplies and equipment. Things such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, AEDs, and emergency lighting should be inspected and replaced if needed.
8. Emergency Procedures: Create standard procedures based on the types of emergencies that may be common in your workplace as well as the types that are common in every workplace.
9. Communication Plan: Put together a communication plan to inform employees of any potential emergencies.
10. Medical Assistance: Assign trained personnel to first aid and CPR duties for when an emergency may take place. Inform them where the needed supplies will be. Try to have more than one trained person.
11. Shutdown procedures: Develop appropriate procedures for what should happen if the workplace needs to be shut down due to an emergency.
12. Business continuity procedure: An equally important plan to have in place is what to do when you return to work after an emergency. There may be specific responsibilities in place to help get the business back on track as soon as possible in a safe and timely manner.
13. Documentation and Record-keeping: Keep accurate recordings of when you conduct emergency drills and presentations, as well as any emergency incidents that have taken place. These can be used to improve your emergency plan.
14. Employee responsibilities: Be sure to clearly assign responsibilities to employees so they can know exactly what they need to do when an emergency arises.
Review your plan every 6 months or so to ensure it is up-to-date.
With this information, you now have the guidelines needed to develop your own emergency preparedness plans for both the workplace and home. This can help ease any anxieties you may have concerning potential emergency situations, as well as give direction to those who may experience them with you.
It’s important to keep in mind that emergencies can happen unexpectedly and may have huge emotional and psychological impacts on yourself or those around you. Discuss these things with your family or fellow employees, and try to give them ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that may come with it. In these types of situations, it is important to work as a team to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being and to remember that we are all humans. I hope this article was helpful to you and your family or workplace. Stay prepared and stay safe!