Building Evacuation Planning
Nobody expects an emergency or disaster – especially one that affects them, their employees, and their business, yet the simple truth is that emergencies and disasters can strike anyone, anytime, and anywhere.
It is not always necessary to evacuate a building during an emergency; you and your employees may be able to “Shelter-In-Place”. A power outage, for instance, does not necessarily call for evacuation of a building. The overall safety of the building must be evaluated first; you want to consider the lighting, hazardous materials, ventilation systems, and other hazardous operations. If the building can be safely occupied, evacuation is not necessary. If staying in the building is not safe you and your employees will be forced to evacuate the building, here are some simple steps to assist you in developing a “Building Evacuation Plans”.
Create Floor Plans:
Creating floor plans with arrows that designate the exit route assignments will assist you in communicating designated evacuation routes to employees and visitors. Maps should include locations of exits, assembly points, and equipment, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, spill kits, which may be needed in an emergency.
Exit routes should be:
- clearly marked and well lit;
- wide enough to safely accommodate the number of evacuating personnel;
- unlikely to expose evacuating personnel to additional hazards. Unobstructed and clear of debris at all times, and
- prepare drawings that show evacuation routes and exits, post them prominently for all employees to see
Obstacles in hallways may prevent passageways from providing the necessary width to accommodate a safe evacuation
When establishing evacuation procedures consider the following concerns:
- assisting visitors;
- training employees;
- people with disabilities;
- people who do not speak English.
Designating Evacuation Wardens
Many employers designate individuals as evacuation wardens to help move employees and visitors from danger to safe areas during an emergency. Generally, one warden for every 20 employees, or one per floor could be adequate, and the appropriate number of wardens should be available at all times during working hours.
Wardens may be responsible for checking offices, bathrooms, and other spaces before being the last person to exit an area. They might also be tasked with ensuring that fire doors are closed when exiting.
Designated Wardens s should be trained in the complete workplace layout and various alternative escape routes if the primary evacuation route becomes blocked. Employees designated to assist in emergencies should be made aware of employees with special needs, how to use the buddy system, and any hazardous areas to avoid during an emergency evacuation.
Visitors also need be accounted for following an evacuation and may need additional assistance when exiting. Some employers have all visitors and contractors sign in when entering the workplace and use this list when accounting for all persons in the assembly area. The hosts and/or area wardens, if established, are often tasked with helping these individuals safely evacuate.
You also may find it beneficial to coordinate the action plan with other employers when several employers share the worksite.
Each employer must review their operation and determine whether total and immediate evacuation is possible for various types of emergencies. The preferred approach, and the one most often taken by small enterprises, is immediate evacuation of all their employees when the evacuation alarm is sounded.
Certain equipment and processes must be shut down in stages or over time, in some instances it is not possible or practical for equipment or certain process to be shut down. Small enterprises can normally 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).
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 them 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.
Designate “Emergency Assembly Areas”
To ensure the fastest, most accurate accountability of your employees, you may want to consider including these steps in your emergency action plan:
- Designate “Emergency Assembly Areas”, both inside and outside your workplace, where employees should gather after evacuating. Make sure your “Emergency Assembly Areas” have sufficient space to accommodate all of your employees. Exterior “Emergency 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 “Emergency Assembly Areas” so that you will be up-wind of your building from the most common or prevailing wind direction. You may also consider another nearby business that you could go to especially in the winter weather.
- Take a head count 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 minimize) the possibility of employees interfering with rescue operations.
- Establish a method for accounting for non-employees such as suppliers and customers; and
- Establish procedures for further evacuation in case the incident expands. This may consist of sending employees home by normal means or providing them with transportation to an offsite location.
Educate your employees on what to do during a “Building Evacuation” or “Shelter-In-Place” emergency. Go over the floor plans and tell them where the “Emergency Assembly Areas” are located.
Develop “WorkSafe” procedures on conduct and procedure during a “Building Evacuation” or “Shelter-In-Place” emergency, outlining instructions for specialized equipment etc. Talk to employees about procedures to be followed during an emergency, such as:
- stay calm, do not rush, and do not panic;
- safely stop your work;
- gather your personal belongings if it is safe to do so;
- remind them to take prescription medications out with you if at all possible; it may be hours before you are allowed back in the building;
- if safe, close office doors and windows, but do not lock them;
- use the nearest safe stairs and proceed to the nearest exit;
- do not use elevators;
- proceed to the designated “Emergency Assembly Area” and report to your roll taker;
- wait for any instructions from emergency responders;
- do not re-enter the building or work area until you have been instructed to do so by the emergency responders and your supervisor.
- How to assist people with disabilities during an evacuation;
- if the situation is life threatening, call 9-1-1 and let them know the situation;
- attempt a rescue evacuation ONLY if you have had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance;
- always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance;
- ask how he or she can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person in particular, be aware when assisting someone with a disability
- the individual with the disability is the best expert in his or her disability, so ask that individual for advice before lifting or moving that person;
- take extra time when communicating with people who are deaf, hearing impaired, or speech impaired.
- never separate a disabled person from his or her assistive aids such as wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, medications, special diet food, urinary supplies, etc. unless the equipment is not working after the disaster;
- a service animal, usually a dog, is an assistive aid used by some blind, deaf and mobility impaired people, a disaster may temporarily confuse service animals and they may not be able to help their owners as effectively as before the disaster;
- some individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities may be too unsettled to respond appropriately to instructions and directions, such as a public address announcement to evacuate a building;
- some disabled individuals may need to be in a quiet place for a while to regain their composure after the evacuation;
- some disable individuals may try to hide from rescue workers;
- Individuals with significant mental or learning disabilities might not understand the significance of "Keep Out" signs and barricade tape.
Regularly conduct drills throughout the year for “Building Evacuation” and “Shelter-In-Place”. After the drills meet with employees and get their feedback on how the process worked and how you could improve the plan. Consider joining the ShakeOut BC exercise each year.
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Having the right insurance is essential to surviving and thriving in a world that is full of opportunity, but also full of risk. The right type and amount of insurance will provide some financial peace of mind to organizations navigating their way through the sometimes-complex world of business. Business insurance is an important component of managing risk and makes good business sense.
Effective risk management strategies provides the opportunity for better pricing on your insurance premiums, saves you out-of-pocket costs like deductibles, and ensures a safe and stable environment for your employees, volunteers, and customers. Risk management programs also help to be prepared for the risks your business faces before losses occur. Preparation can mean the difference between an organization that thrives and one that fails.
No matter how you choose to manage your risk and reduce or eliminate potential losses, it is important to document the steps you take. A risk management plan without proof is of no use to an insurer.
The Risk Management STEPS
STEP 1: Identify Potential Exposures To Loss
Every activity of an organization poses a risk, before an organization can control its risks and decide what to do (if anything), it must identify the risks.
Some risks are generic and inherent to many organizations – for example, the possibility of someone slipping on a wet floor, embezzling the organization’s funds, or a allegations of violation of rights. Other risks are unique to your organization and based upon the services you provide. If it can happen in your organization, you should list it during this step of the risk management process.
- List your business’ objectives (key practices that must be in place so the business will not fail), activities, assets and key stakeholders. Then determine the associated risks.
- You can also consult other sources to get a picture of your risk, including:
- your experience and your business’ experience;
- past losses/claims (your agent or broker may be able to help);
- the experience of similar businesses or those in a similar industry;
- past accidents and incidents;
- industry associations;
- employee and/or volunteer feedback;
- complaints and/or suggestions of customers, the public and other stakeholders;
- WorkSafe BC, and;
STEP 2: Evaluate the Risk
Look at the possible number and severity of claims, identify the exposure and assess the probability of each risk, then estimate the possible effects and costs to the organization.
For example, if you have a home-based business and most of your interaction with customers is over the phone or via e-mail, you would probably have a lower chance of many or expensive claims. You may still have losses; consider the courier who is delivering business papers to your home and trips and falls on your sidewalk. This would be in contrast to a lumber transport company where there is a greater chance of incurring a higher number of claims.
Of the exposures identified in step 1, determine:
- which are most likely to cause a claim or incident?
- which will have the greatest impact on the organization, if they occur?
STEP 3: Examine Options
Select and implement the appropriate risk management techniques. There are ways to manage an organization’s risks. Select the techniques that work the best for your organization. The five major risk management techniques are:
- Can your organization eliminate a service or an activity it considers too risky?
- Prevention or modification:
- What steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of losses occurring?
- Can you change the activity so that the chance of harm occurring and impact of potential damage are within acceptable limits?
- Consider establishing policies and procedures.
- What steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of losses occurring?
- What steps can be taken to reduce the impact of losses should they occur?
- Accept the risk as is, some risk is inherent in the activities of your operation; your organization can retain all or a portion of the financial consequences of a risk.
- Deductibles are a form of retention.
- Another form of retention is deciding not to purchase an insurance policy for a specific exposure.
- Transfer (sharing):
- Your organization may transfer either the actual risk or the financial consequences of a loss to another party. For example, you may decide to hire a delivery company to transport your product to your clients instead of using agency vehicles.
- Insurance is a form of transfer where you pass the risk of financial loss to the insurance company.
- There are aspects of risks that cannot be fully transferred such as damage to your reputation or goodwill. As a result, most examples of risk transfer actually involve sharing the risk with another party.
STEP 4: Decide Which Option to Use
After reviewing all the possible options and looking at your risks, decide which of the possible risk management techniques best strikes a balance between effectiveness and affordability.
STEP 5: Implement the chosen options
- 1.Create the risk management plan.
- Address in real, practical terms how you are going to make the option you choose work for your organization, this may involve creating a risk management committee.
- Ensure that there is buy-in from senior management, staff, customers, volunteers and other stakeholders, which may involve a campaign that isn’t as much about training as it is about letting them know that changes are going to happen.
- Ensure that staff are trained and informed about the plan, they need to understand:
- the policies and procedures resulting from the risk review;
- their role in the policies and procedures;
- that they should be risk sensitive;
- that are consequences to the increased cost of risk, and
- how to complete the appropriate forms and reports.
- Staff should also be updated on accidents and claims frequency and cost.
STEP 6: Monitor Results
In this day and age, change is the only constant. The dynamic nature of your organization requires that your risks and risk management plan be reviewed at least once a year.
Here are some steps to follow:
- 1.evaluate the plan to determine if it is working;
- 2.look at whether your risks changed during the course of the year, and if changes to the plan are required;
- 3.changes in your operation must be reviewed to ensure that the risk management program continues to be relevant, comprehensive and effective;
- 4.in the annual review of your operation, you may find that you are over- insured (e.g., if you have discontinued a service) and can drop the additional coverage, and
- 5.if your operation has expanded, you can see where you may require additional coverage to ensure that you and your organization are fully protected.
Keep accurate records of how the plan has changed and the results of the annual reviews. It shows your insurer that you are committed to risk management and have a history of implementing thoughtful and adaptive plans.
Risk management is a pragmatic process with real-world implications. An organization cannot craft a plan and then put it on the shelf. Risk management is a way of thinking that must permeate the whole organization – from the most senior board member to the newest employee. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure risk management becomes an integral part of an organization.
Risk management seeks to preserve an organization’s continued ability to perform its mission, grow, maintain good health, and preserve its social responsibility to the entire community.
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