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On the long list of your Human Resource responsibilities lies the issue of safety and security for employees. Unless your industry requires specific federal guidelines, most corporations generally vary widely on what emergency readiness plans, safety products and evacuation plans are available to employees.
Unfortunately, being prepared today requires more than a first aid kit and regular fire drills. Beyond the potential threat of a terror strike, there are always fires, storms, power outages and other emergencies that can strike at any minute. What if a massive black-out similar to one that hit the East Coast this past summer were to hit your city? Are you located in a high rise building? Are you confident your employees can evacuate promptly?
We talked with several leading HR executives as well as leading safety product manufacturers to create a checklist on what you need to prepare for safe evacuation.
These suggestions are meant solely as a general guideline to help you build your safety solutions. Your location, company industry and number of employees all factor in to make yours a specific case. We suggest you consult the Emergency Management Program available for businesses at FEMA´s website: http://www.fema.gov/library/bizindex.shtm
Updating Evacuation Plans in your Emergency Management Program.
First and foremost, you need an updated Emergency Management Program that clearly outlines your evacuation strategies. While this is just a small part of your overall Emergency Management Program, it is perhaps, one of the most critical, and one that falls most often on the Human Resources Management team.
The Emergency Management Program should be reviewed and updated on a yearly basis. Key members of your Emergency Management team need to keep current on safety issues and evacuations plans. Your Evacuation Plan must be re-tested; emergency supplies should also be checked every six to nine months, to ensure that no items have expired and updated training should occur as necessary.
Why Evacuation Drills Are Important
Every company does them, often amidst the rumblings of put-out employees pulled from their respective jobs. But this drill can be critical to ensure the proper procedure for any future emergency. Critical situations can involve factors not reproduced in drills like the presence of thick smoke or total darkness due to power outages. Your employees must be able to easily access safety products and intuitively know the exact location of emergency exits. Many companies are moving to individual employee safety kits located at the employee´s immediate work area.
Tools for Evacuation.
In addition to a well-designed evacuation plan and proper training, no company should be without a few basic items that can profoundly make a difference in a safe evacuation. While each company´s needs vary based on your size, industry and location - both geographically and building layout, there are several items that every company should stock.
1. Evacuation Smoke Hoods
New technology has helped develop a variety of smoke hoods and respirators that can protect employees against smoke inhalation, hazard and gases. EVAC-U8TM Emergency Escape Smoke Hood is a unique "pop-can sized" fire safety product designed to improve an individual''s chance to get out alive in the event of fire.
If your company is based in a high rise building, your employees may find it more difficult to quickly escape the threat of smoke during a fire.
The EVAC-U8 is compact, light-weight, self-contained, low-cost and easy to use. The canister contains a see-through, hear-through protective hood made of a heat and flame resistant space-age material called Kapton ®. Kapton ® is manufactured by DuPont. The hood is an integral part of the EVAC-U8 and is attached to a multi-stage air-cleansing chemical catalytic filter. Inside the hood is a valved mouthpiece with an attached nose clip. A draw tape enables the user to close the hood snugly around the neck. The user breathes in a normal manner through the mouthpiece, drawing air through the filter section.
The EVAC-U8 is intended to provide emergency breathing assistance to allow you to escape from a fire. Depending on the density of smoke and the breathing rate of the user, EVAC-U8 will provide breathable air for 15 minutes.
At the office, place a ready supply of EVAC-U8TM in dedicated cabinets close to escape routes or immediate work area, meeting rooms, machinery spaces, control rooms, corridors, etc.
2. Individual Light sources.
Several options include inexpensive Ultra Hi-Intensity Lightsticks that offer instant dependable light to create a clearly-lighted path. LED high intensity flashlights offer extended illumination, shelf life and bright visibility.
During your drills, make sure your supply of individual light sticks and LED flashlights are easily accessible in case of power loss. No one wants to be searching the back of a supply closet for these items when the need arises.
3. First Aid Kit
First Aid solutions for the workspace range from dedicated cabinets to individual kits. Common components include: sterile bandages, antiseptics, antibiotic ointments, cold packs, water packets, alcohol wipes, disposable gloves and basic first aid instructional material.
4. Portable Communication System
With the ubiquitous availabilty of cell phones, the need for dedicated communications systems has diminished greatly. Specialized situations and locations may require custom emergency communications solutions.
By no means is this a comprehensive checklist for a safe evacuation plan, but merely to serve as a reminder that the first step to safety is preparedness. There are also many new safety products that should be part of every office. You can find excellent resources on many safety features including The Red Cross, FEMA and even on HR.com. Start the New Year with an updated Evacuation Plan as part of your overall Emergency Management Program. There are software programs available to keep the information relevant and there are various sources available online.
The first step to a safe evacuation for your employees is to review your plan, train, drill and be prepared.
Safety matters. Be prepared.