Extreme weather, bomb threats, combustible dust explosions: all events that require companies to switch on emergency gear. Since these situations invariably cause panic, having a solid emergency evacuation plan in place is the best way to handle them. OSHA has identified some crucial elements that should be included in every business’s emergency evacuation plan, and in this post, we’ve adapted them to include any visitors or guests you might have on your premises. To help you in your planning, here’s an additional Emergency Response Plan checklist from the Department of Homeland Security.
What You Need in an Office Emergency Evacuation Plan
1. Conditions requiring an evacuation
Many conditions can create an emergency situation. But not all of them would require an evacuation. Whether or not you need to evacuate depends on several factors. These include the type of emergency and the characteristics of the building (e.g., how many stories, the construction material). Your plan should specify the exact conditions that require an evacuation of all office employees and staff.
2. When to shelter-in-place rather than evacuate
In some situations, it would be safer to stay indoors. This could be in the case of extreme weather, or dangerous chemicals in the outside environment. In these circumstances, you should have a designated interior room (preferably with no windows) where employees and visitors can gather.
3. A clear chain of command
Who is responsible for assessing the situation and deciding if an evacuation is necessary? Who will take charge on each floor of a high-rise building? What about notifying emergency services? Make sure everyone knows exactly what their role is and has been properly trained to perform it.
4. Specific emergency evacuation plan procedures
Mark the locations of all emergency equipment, routes, and exits, and ensure they are kept clear of obstructions at all times. If your building has many interior spaces, such as stairwells without windows, consider painting arrows and marking exits with photoluminescent paint that glows in the dark.
5. Specific evacuation procedures for high-rise buildings
High-rise buildings pose special evacuation challenges, and OSHA identifies special responsibilities for both employers and employees. Posting evacuation plans on each floor, identifying and training personnel on each floor who will be responsible for getting people out, and making sure everyone is accounted for, are chief among those responsibilities. A digital visitor management system can assist here by providing an easily accessible visitor log. This log will help you account for any non-employees who were in the building and check them off as you locate them.
6. Procedures for assisting visitors and employees to evacuate
A good rule of thumb is to have one “evacuation warden” for every 20 employees or visitors. The evacuation warden checks offices, closes fire doors, and so on. The warden should also consult the visitor log to make sure all visitors, who might not be familiar with the building evacuation routes and exits, get to safety.
7. Designation of who will remain after the evacuation alarm to shut down critical operations or perform other duties
In the case of evacuation, sometimes it isn’t always feasible to shut down everything at once. This is especially true for places like manufacturing facilities. Certain employees may need to stay behind to monitor or turn off crucial machines and utilities. If you have people filling this role, be sure they also know when the critical time to evacuate for their own safety comes.
8. A way to account for all visitors and employees after an evacuation
This is where a visitor management system will really come in handy! OSHA recommends designating assembly areas and taking headcounts of all employees and guests in the case of evacuation. However, these procedures won’t necessarily account for everybody. For example, the evacuation warden for floor 20 might know that 34 people work on that floor. But without a visitor log on hand, they wouldn’t know that there were three visitors in the building when the alarm sounded. A visitor management system provides a cloud-based digital visitor log that your evacuation wardens can access on their phone or tablet to make sure everyone‚not just the employees—is safely out.
9. Special equipment
In some emergency situations, you may be required to supply personal protective equipment (PPE). These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Safety glasses, goggles, or face shields
- Hard hats and safety shoes
- Chemical suits, gloves, hoods, and boots
- Special body protection for abnormal environmental conditions
Make sure you have any required emergency equipment on-hand and well-stocked, and clearly mark storage locations of that equipment in your emergency evacuation plan.
10. Appropriate respirators
Respirators are different from other PPE because they must be selected specifically for the hazards that are present. There are four categories of respirators for use in different conditions. For more information, view the applicable standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, as well as this compliance guide from OSHA.
Would you like to learn more about how a digital Visitor Management System like The Receptionist can help expedite the evacuation process and ensure that you know everyone who is currently in your office in the case of an emergency? Check out our Features page!
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