Train and Drill

The best way to ensure that your plan survives the initial outbreak of any crisis is to train staff and perform regular drills.

Seek out volunteers and assign responsible employees for tasks like leading department evacuations, confirming head counts, communicating with employees and management, monitoring public information, or securing certain property. When possible, train volunteers to help in a medical crisis by performing CPR or responding properly to an accident.

Training boosts specific employees’ skill and confidence in handling an emergency. But drills help everyone develop the habit of following written emergency procedures without hesitation. It also identifies weak spots in your plan.

Know your risks

The first step to planning for any risk is to recognize that it exists and how it might affect you. Every region faces certain universal risks. What does your local area face? Start with the most likely and then move down the list to the unlikely.

The risk assessment should be based on an all-hazards approach for those hazards affecting the facility. A risk matrix can help identify the areas where an investment is most needed.

Make critical information quickly accessible

When it comes time to write a plan, the thinking is sometimes that, the bigger the document, the better.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Plans need to be concise as to the threat, the risk, and then what to do. Long, drawn out supporting documentation that may assist somewhere in the plan as an appendix or supplement is fine, but when users want to know what the emergency is and what to do in that emergency, they want information to be quickly read and easily accessible. Many facilities create a hard copy, full length emergency plan, and then use small “flipcharts” or spiral-bound, hand-size, notepad-type inserts that outline each potential risk or emergency, and then show who to call, with numbers and what occupants should do for their own safety and safety of others.

State required actions in the event of an emergency.

Develop protective, threat-specific emergency procedures for occupants, staff and visitors of your facility to follow in a disaster situation.

This portion of your emergency response plan will detail life safety protocols, including evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place and lock down actions. You’ll also want to determine the required actions that occupants should take during an emergency to protect themselves

Test and revise your emergency response plan.

Creating a comprehensive plan for handling emergencies is a major step toward preventing and recovering from disasters. However, it can be difficult to predict all situations that could occur until the plan is tested.

To put your plan into action, conduct exercises and drills to practice critical portions of the plan. This could involve sending test messages via your emergency notification systems, or practicing an evacuation or lock down. These tests will highlight areas of improvement before a disaster actually occurs.

When shortcomings become apparent, review and revise your plan. Revisit it at least once a year and note any changes to building infrastructure, processes, materials, resources and key personnel.