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Bombings and explosions: Does your company have a comprehensive emergency plan?

April 24, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Michael J. Burns

The bombings and criminal manhunt in Boston and the massive explosion in the town of West, Texas compel employers to consider the physical crises that can hit their facilities and the impact they can have on the organization and the lives of its employees.

In both Boston and West, people’s lives and livings were horribly disrupted in an instant by circumstances completely out of their control. Workers on the job in West hopefully knew what they were supposed to do when the fire hit; workers on the job in downtown Boston that day were initially unsure where to go, perhaps unable to get home even. Later they were unable to get to their jobs. In both places the workplace became inaccessible, perhaps only for a day but perhaps for days or weeks or longer.

For any organization, getting itself back into operation as soon as possible is paramount once the emergency is brought under control and the safety of its people and property are ensured. This is where having an effective business disaster or emergency plan already in place can protect lives and provide an effective response to many crises.

In Boston there were explosions in a public gathering place surrounded by workplaces; in West there was a fire and subsequent explosion inside a workplace. But an effective emergency plan will take into account crises of many different natures: extreme weather events, pandemic illness and floods, to name just a few.

Many employers, especially small ones, may not know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules require any employer with over ten employees to have a formal emergency evacuation and action plan in place. What does the basic OSHA recommended emergency evacuation plan address?

  • The means for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • An appropriate alarm system with distinctive signals for different types of emergency situations
  • Designating and training a sufficient number of persons to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to take care of critical plant functions before they evacuate
  • Procedures to account for all employees after the evacuation is completed
  • Designated rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them
  • Names or job titles of persons or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan

For many companies, meeting OSHA’s base requirements should only be a start. The more comprehensive company emergency/disaster plan addresses much more than just getting people safely away from where they work in an emergency.   

The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) Human Resource Library provides a good emergency plan overview. What follows is taken directly from BNA:

A workplace disaster and business continuity plan can help an organization and its employees survive a potentially catastrophic event by:

  • Providing management and employees with known procedures for the safe evacuation of all employees, including employees who may require special assistance because of medical conditions or disabilities
  • Creating a roster of essential employees who will either stay at or report to work when the organization is closed due to an emergency
  • Making arrangements to have offices and buildings inspected for damage and unsafe work conditions after an evacuation or business shutdown
  • Arranging for the continuity of critical information and business operations, even if this means establishing a temporary, off-site command center
  • Communicating and arranging contingency plans with key stakeholders and players, including employees, customers, suppliers, investors, and government agencies
  • Being sensitive to the needs of all employees and their families, especially those personally affected by the disaster

In the coming weeks, the everythingpeople.™ This Week!  will provide more information about emergency plan development and content.

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