Most office administrators understand that an emergency evacuation plan is a legal requirement for their office.
Many offices already host fire drills as local code requires, and they may even host additional emergency drills specific to any potential local threats.
But will you be prepared if you find your staff locked down or sheltering in place for an extended period of time?
Having the right supplies can be crucial for employees’ safety and wellbeing during an emergency. They can also help ensure things like continuity of service and emergency communications, and limit a disaster’s repercussions.
Basic Emergency Supplies
According to Ready.gov, employees should be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Plan accordingly with an office emergency kit complete with these supplies.
- Food – Keep a supply of non-perishable food that’s enough for the whole staff for a day, and don’t forget to include a can opener if the food is canned. You might also want to pack utensils, plates, cups, and paper towels.
- Water – Emergency plans stipulate a gallon of water per person per day to use for both drinking and sanitation purposes. (So make sure that you have a gallon per employee in the office. This might be an easier feat if you use a traditional water cooler system.)
- A flashlight – Having a flashlight (and extra batteries) on hand is always a best practice for emergency situations.
- Medicine and personal supplies – In general, your employees should be in charge of keeping their own medications on hand. (Storing them on their behalf could be a major privacy violation and open you up to plenty of lawsuits). But if you’re an executive assistant, you may be able to get permission to store some medications on your boss’ behalf. You may also opt to store non-essential medication, such as pain relievers or antacids. Certain employees may also need to consider personal supplies, such as contact lenses and solution, or considerations for other medical conditions or devices.
- First aid kit – Invest in a full first aid kit, complete with antiseptic wipes, adhesive bandages, gauze, and more. (To see a full list of what to include, check out this list of resources from The Red Cross.
- Comfortable, weather-appropriate apparel – We all know that many work shoes and even clothes aren’t ideal for making a quick getaway or navigating dangerous emergency situations. Plus, many people don’t come to work dressed to spend much time in outdoor temperatures. Smart employees will keep a sturdy pair of shoes on hand. If your office is located in a cold climate, consider keeping some blankets in your emergency kit.
- Hygiene supplies – Keep some moist towelettes, feminine products, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation in case restroom facilities aren’t working or accessible during an emergency event.
- Site-specific emergency procedures and resources – Keep a hard copy of any relevant equipment shutoff procedures. Don’t forget to include the related tools in the kit (for example, you might need a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities or machines). Directions related to on-site emergency equipment (such as fire extinguishers) can also be helpful.
Other Emergency Supplies
Here are more supplies to consider adding to your office emergency kit if you have the resources to do so. They are typically recommended for residential / home emergency supplies, but can also be helpful during an office emergency.
- Dust masks to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Local maps
- A whistle to signal for help
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert (and extra batteries)
Emergency Communications Supplies
Beyond supplies that address the basic health and wellbeing of your employees, your emergency kit should include supplies that will facilitate communication during an emergency. These can help you get help as quickly as possible. In the case of less-threatening emergencies, they can help to keep operations running smoothly.
Here are a few communications supplies to consider adding to your office emergency kit:
- Spare chargers for personal devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops)
- Your crisis communications plan, which should have a designated spokesperson and communications chain (For more on this topic, read the full post: How to Develop a Crisis Communications Plan for Your Office)
- Reliable, updated contact information for key contacts, including local emergency departments, clients and vendors, and key decision makers and stakeholders
- Important files, such as those for crucial projects
In an emergency, your entire staff might find itself working remotely and without power or full resources for an extended period of time. They will only be able to do that with the right equipment.
Other Tips for Your Office Emergency Kit
Your emergency kit certainly won’t be as helpful if it isn’t updated regularly.
Food can spoil, battery-powered devices can lose their charges, emergency contact information can change and become obsolete, and on-site procedures and infrastructure can warrant changes in emergency plans. You’ll also need to adjust the supplies in the kit to account for a changing number of employees.
It’s a good idea to designate someone on your staff to take ownership of emergency kit maintenance. Your front desk staff is often ideal for the role. Adding emergency planning to their job descriptions can give them more credit for the unique role they play as office gatekeeper.
Finally, the employees in charge of the emergency kit should store the most essential supplies in something that’s easy to grab and carry — just in case they need to take it with them in a hurry.
A Note About Important Documents
Modern offices usually store their most important and up-to-date information online. Backing information up regularly online makes it more reliable, easier to find, and harder to lose or damage.
Unless a crisis completely disrupts the local cellular phone service and your local router, you should be able to access up-to-the-minute records via the cloud with as little as a charged smartphone or tablet.Backing information up regularly online makes it more reliable, easier to find, and harder to lose or damage. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
One emergency-related document that administrators must always have on-hand is an updated list of all on-site visitors. An updated list will help ensure that the entire building has been evacuated in the case of an emergency.
Visitor check-in apps like The Receptionist make it easy for administrators to keep this information handy. The system stores the visitor records digitally and securely so they can be accessed via any internet-connected device.
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