How to draw up an Evacuation Plan and an Emergency Plan
The evacuation plan must include a way to alert employees, including disable workers, to evacuate or take other action, and it must describe how to report emergencies. Among the steps the employer must take are the following:
Make sure alarms are distinctive and recognised by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform actions identified in your emergency plan.
Make available an emergency communications system such as a public-address system, portable radio unit, or other means to notify employees of the emergency and to contact local law enforcement, the fire department, and others.
Stipulate that alarms must be able to be heard, seen, or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace.
A disorganised evacuation can result in confusion, injury, and property damage. That is why when developing the emergency plan, it is important to determine the following:
Conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary;
A clear chain of command and designation of the person in the business authorised to order an evacuation or shutdown. The employer may want to designate an evacuation warden to assist others in an evacuation and to account for personnel;
Specific evacuation safety procedures,including routes and exits. These procedures must be posted where they are easily accessible to all employees;
Safety procedures for assisting people with disabilities or who do not speak English;
Designation of what, if any, employees will continue or shut down critical operations during an evacuation. These people must be capable of recognising when to abandon the operation and evacuate themselves; and
A system for accounting for personnel following an evacuation.
Consider employees’ transportation needs for community-wide evacuations.
Evacuation Plan routes and exits
Designate the primary first choice and secondary second choice evacuation routes and exits. To the extent possible under the conditions, an employer must ensure that evacuation routes and emergency exits meet the following conditions:
Clearly marked and well lit;
Wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel;
Unobstructed and clear of debris at all times; and
Unlikely to expose evacuating personnel to additional hazards.
Signage is important. Look out for typical signage or drawings of evacuation exits.
The employer may wish to select a responsible individual to lead and coordinate the emergency plan and evacuation plan. It is critical that employees know who the coordinator is and understand that person has the authority to make decisions during emergencies.
The Safety Officer should be responsible for the following:
Assessing the situation to determine whether an emergency exists requiring activation of your emergency preparedness procedure.
Supervising all efforts in the area, including evacuation personnel.
Coordinating outside emergency services, such as medical aid, first aid and local fire departments, if there is a fire for example, and ensuring that they are available and notified when necessary; and directing the shutdown of operations when required.
In addition to the coordinator, you may want to designate employees who attended the fire fighting course.
Accounting for employees after an evacuation
To ensure the fastest, most accurate accountability of your employees, you may want to consider including these steps in your emergency plan:
Designate assembly areas or areas, both inside and outside your workplace, where employees should gather after evacuating. Assembly locations within the building are often referred to as äreas of refuge”. Make sure your assembly area has sufficient space to accommodate all of your employees. Exterior assembly areas, used when the building must be partially or completely evacuated, are typically located in parking lots or other open areas away from busy streets. Try and designate assembly areas so that you will be up-wind of your building from the most common or prevailing wind direction.
Take a headcount after the evacuation. Identify the names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for and pass them to the official in charge. Accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. Confusion in the assembly areas can lead to delays in rescuing anyone trapped in the building, or unnecessary and dangerous search-and-rescue operations. When designating an assembly area, consider and try to minimise the possibility of employees interfering with rescue operations.
Establish a method for accounting for non-employees such as suppliers and customers.
Establish procedures for further evacuation in case the incident expands. This may consist of sending employees home by normal means or providing the with transportation to an offsite location.
Employees who may remain to shut down critical operations before evacuating
Certain equipment and processes must be shut down in stages or over time. In other instances, it is not possible or practical for equipment or certain processes to be shut down under certain emergency situations. This condition, which is not unusual for certain large manufacturers operating complex processes, is not typical of small enterprises that normally can turn off equipment or utilities if necessary and evacuate. However, some small enterprises may require designated employees remain behind briefly to operate fire extinguishers or shut down gas and/or electrical systems and other special equipment that could be damaged if left operating or create additional hazards to emergency responders such as releasing hazardous materials.
Each employer must review their operation and determine whether total and immediate evacuation is possible for various types of emergencies. This preferred approach, and the one most often taken by small enterprises, is immediate evacuation of all their employees when the evacuation alarm is sounded.
If any employees will stay behind, the plan must describe in detail the procedures to be followed by these employees. All employees remaining behind must be capable of recognizing when to abandon the operation or task and evacuate themselves before their egress path is blocked.
In small establishments, it is common to include in your plan locations where utilities, such as electrical and gas, can be shut down for all or part of the facility either by your own employees or by emergency response personnel.
All names of those who are remaining behind must be recorded.
Importance of adhering to symbolic signs
The proper use of symbolic safety signs is a compulsory requirement for all businesses, commercial organisations and public access buildings. Legislation is in place to enforce the proper use of these signs. The enforcement of this legislation is within the remit of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It is compulsory for all employees to follow the instructions of each sign displayed. Symbolic Safety Signs are essentially signs that depict either a warning or some other safety feature by means of a symbol. Sings can be displayed in a building, outside the building, labels placed on your machinery etc. It is there for a purpose and the purpose is to ensure your safety at all times.
If an employee does not adhere to the symbolic safety signs he or she can be disciplined by an employer for not adhering to the safety policy. The consequences can lead to dismissal if the employee is not willing to cooperate. Furthermore, it can also lead to injury or even death of other peers.
If an employer does not adhere to the symbolic safety signs by training and implementing measures to address the requirements as specified by the Occupational Health and Safety Act he or she will then pay a fine or can even face imprisonment.
Although most of us quickly move away from the hazardous environments created during emergency situations, a group of dedicated and well-trained professional emergency responders and medical service personnel are tasked with containing and mitigating these incidents, reusing individuals at risk, and providing medical assistance to the injured.
Unless you are a large employer handling hazardous materials and processes or have employees regularly working in hazardous situations, you will probably choose to rely on local public resources to provide these specialized services. If you choose to use external departments or agencies, such as the local fire and police departments, medical clinics or hospitals, and ambulance services, make sure they are prepared to respond as outlined in your plan.
The following people can be contacted in case of an emergency situation where an incident or accident occurred, depending on the requirements of the incident.
Some large stores / businesses utilise a safety associate whose job it is to maintain hazardous spills, check fire extinguishers and keep emergency exits and escape routes clear of obstruction. Specialised training is sometimes given on reading and understanding Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and Material Safety Data Sheets.
Health and Safety Representatives
Health and Safety representatives with day to day experience of a particular work process are a valuable source of information and can advise on situations with the potential to cause injury or illness. These employees can also offer ideas on how the hazards can be best addressed.
Health and Safety Representatives are involved in the following activities:
Any proposed changes in the workplace or to the materials, equipment or procedures used that may affect the health and safety of staff;
Risk assessment of new and existing materials, equipment or procedures that may affect the health and safety of staff;
The development of occupational health and safety policies and procedures;
Occupational health and safety hazard and incident investigation;
The provision of occupational health and safety information, instruction and training.
The role of the First Aider is to be responsible for first aid facilities in the workplace; to administer first aid to employees where necessary and to maintain records of workplace illness and injury. If the injury or accident is serious, the first aider will contact an ambulance and the paramedics.
Paramedics are the senior ambulance service healthcare professionals at an accident or a medical emergency. Working on their own or with an emergency care assistant or ambulance technician, they assess the patient’s condition and then give essential treatment.
Nurses in store
Some businesses employ a full time or part time nurse to assist with various medical functions. They can also be contacted in case of an emergency. It all depends on the organisational policies and procedures.
A fire department or fire brigade, also known as a fire and rescue service or simply fire service, is a public or private organisation that provides predominantly emergency fire fighting rescue services for a certain jurisdiction, which is typically a municipality county, or fire protection district. A fire department usually contains one or more fire stations within its boundaries.
A fire department may also provide fire protection or fire prevention services, whereby fire fighters visit workplaces and give fire safety advice and fit smoke alarms for members of the public. In many countries fire protection or prevention is seen as an important role for the fire service, as preventing a fire from occurring in the first place can save lives and property.
It takes more than just willing hands to save lives. Untrained individuals may endanger themselves and those they are trying to rescue. For this reason, it is generally wise to leave rescue work to those who are trained, equipped, and certified to conduct rescues. If the employer’s operations that take place in permit-required confined spaces, they may want the emergency action plan to include rescue procedures that specifically address entry into each confined space.
It is very important to monitor the patient as the condition of the patient can change very rapidly. It is often very useful to provide the paramedics with a record of the patient’s condition. It is for these reasons that the following signs and symptoms be monitored regularly, approximately every 5 minutes:
Level of consciousness
It is important to recognise that the exchange of emergency information does not and cannot occur in isolation of other response and recovery activities. For this reason, an Emergency Plan is drawn up.
The Emergency Information Response Plan expands upon the basic information provided in the organisation’s Emergency Plan and provides specific communication information, systems/protocols and resources in support of the Information Officer’s duties within the Emergency Operations Centre, at an Incident Command Post or at other related sites (i.e. ESS Reception Centre). However, the Emergency Plan does not address or respond to the day-to-day communication needs or other crisis communication needs that the local authority may face. Existing policies, safety procedures or protocols should be in place to address these other crisis communication issues.
The employer must implement and communicate a communication plan for emergencies. In order to deliver emergency care, a good communication system is a necessity. Communication between members of the emergency team is paramount both prior to the emergency and while providing care. Every emergency team member should know what his or her role is during an emergency, and you should have a designated backup for critical duties.
Securing a working telephone should be done prior to any athletic activity. A backup communication system should be in place in the event the primary communication system is not in proper working order. If using a cell phone, especially in a rural area.
Communicating effective alerts and warning allows people to take actions that save lives, reduce damage and human suffering, and speed recovery. Rapid reporting about what is happening during a major emergency can also be very effective in protecting people, reducing damage, and improving response. Departments need to develop a capability to warn those at risk in a timely manner.
While many informal channels are used to communicate business related information every day, widespread emergency communication depends on disseminating alerts, warnings and follow-up information through as many channels as possible, very rapidly.
The employer must notify employees and work out how to communicate the emergency plan. This includes:
- How the department intends to receive and pass on both emergency alert and follow
up instructions/information to its employees during the normal business day.
- How the department intends to make employees who work after hours aware of
emergencies or critical issues.
- How the department intends to make key employees aware of an emergency
affecting their operations when they are away from the work premises.
- How the department will communicate routine messages to its employees.
- How the department will communicate with both the building and zone coordinators
when the programme is instituted.
First Aid Reports
Reports on the actions taken should be clear and promote effective further treatment by emergency support and trained professionals. The first aider should ensure that he/she writes down every detail in the report so that the emergency support and trained professionals can act quickly with the information the first aider provides them. In respecting an employee's privacy, the regulatory requirements in the Occupation Health and Safety Act limit access to first aid records and may prevent employers to use notebooks like in the past. The only exception of bound record books is if the first aider is the only one who is entitled to these records.
It is essential that first aiders complete the reports accurately and concisely. Adhering to the following guidelines will help ensure accurate casualty documentation:
- Complete thorough documentation during and immediately following the intervention;
- Be concise and specific, using lay terms and avoiding short forms if possible;
- Indicate clearly on the form if informed consent was obtained;
- Record to whom responsibility of care is turned over, including the time and the
patient’s status at that time;
- All patients must be advised to seek further treatment from a physician, either
immediately or at some time in the future.
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