In the aftermath of
the recent tornadoes that devastated several areas of Oklahoma, this may be an
opportune time to review our emergency and disaster response preparedness at
our institutions. The importance of an effective workplace emergency and
disaster preparedness program cannot be over-emphasized.
There are many benefits from such a program including reduced injuries
and loss of life, a reduction in property damage, improved employee morale,
and reduced insurance claims. Emergencies
still occur in spite of efforts to prevent them.
Consequently, proper planning for emergencies is necessary to minimize
employee injury and property damage. In
this newsletter we’ll discuss the basic steps to handle emergencies in the
workplace. These emergencies
include natural disasters such as tornadoes and floods, fires, explosions,
chemical spills, accidental releases of toxic gases, and bodily harm and
trauma caused by workplace violence.
The effectiveness of response during emergencies
depends on the amount of planning and training performed.
Management must show its support for safety programs and the importance
of emergency planning. Little can be done to promote a safe workplace if
management is not truly interested in employee protection and in minimizing
property loss. It is management’s responsibility to see that a program is
instituted and that it is frequently reviewed and updated.
The input and support of all employees must be obtained to ensure an
effective program. The emergency
response plan should be developed locally and should be comprehensive enough
to deal with all types of emergencies specific to that site.
When emergency action plans are required by a particular OSHA standard
the plan must be in writing. The plan
must include, as a minimum, the following elements:
Emergency escape procedures and emergency escape route assignments,
Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform (or shut
down) critical facility operations before the facility is evacuated,
Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has
Rescue and medical duties for those employees who may perform them,
The preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies, and
Names or regular job titles of persons or departments to be contacted
for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
emergency action plan should address all potential emergencies that can be
expected in the workplace. It
will be necessary to perform a hazard audit to determine toxic materials in
the workplace, hazards, and potentially dangerous conditions.
The institution must list in detail the procedures to be taken by those
employees who must remain behind to care for essential facility operations
until their evacuation becomes absolutely necessary.
This may include monitoring plant power supplies, water supplies, and
other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm,
and use of fire extinguishers.
emergency evacuation, the use of floor plans or workplace maps that clearly
show the emergency escape routes and safe or refuge areas should be included
in the plan. All employees must
be told what actions they are to take in emergency situations that may occur
in the workplace, such as a designated meeting location after evacuation.
plan must be reviewed with employees initially when the plan is developed,
whenever the employee’s responsibilities under the plan change, and whenever
the plan is changed. A copy
should be kept where employees can refer to it at convenient times.
In fact, to go a step further, the college could provide the employees
with a copy of the plan, particularly all new employees.
emergency response coordinator and a back-up coordinator must be designated.
The coordinator may be responsible for facility-wide operations,
public information and ensuring that outside aid is called in.
A back-up coordinator ensures that a trained person is always
available. Duties of the
what emergencies may occur and seeing that emergency procedures are developed
to address them.
all emergency activities including evacuation of personnel.
that outside emergency services such as medical aid and local fire departments
are called when necessary.
the shutdown of facility operations when necessary.
emergency communication is vital. During
a major emergency involving a fire or explosion it may be necessary to
accomplish a complete evacuation. Normal
services, such as electricity, water, and telephones, may be non-existent.
Under these conditions, it may be necessary to have an alternate area
to which employees can report or that can act as a focal point for incoming
and outgoing calls. Since time is
an essential element for adequate response, the person designated as being in
charge should make this the alternate headquarters so that they can be easily
reached. The college must provide
emergency alarms and ensure that employees know how to report emergencies.
An updated list of key personnel and off-duty telephone numbers should
be maintained. Emergency communications equipment such as amateur radio
systems, public address systems, or portable radio units should be present for notifying employees of
the emergency and for contacting local authorities such as law enforcement
officials, the fire department, and private sector charitable groups.
method of communication also is needed to alert employees to the evacuation or
to take other action as required in the plan.
Alarms must be audible or able to be seen by all personnel and have an
auxiliary power supply in the event electricity is affected.
The alarm must be distinctive and recognizable as a signal to evacuate
the work area or perform actions designated under the emergency action plan.
The college must explain to each employee the means for reporting
emergencies, such as manual pull box alarms, public address systems, or
telephones. Emergency telephone
numbers should be posted on or near telephones, on employees’ notice boards,
or in other conspicuous locations. The
warning plan should be in writing and management must be sure each employee
knows what it means and what action is to be taken.
system should be established for accounting for personnel once workers have
been evacuated with a person in the control center responsible for notifying
police or emergency response team members of persons believed missing.
security procedures, such as cordoned off areas, can prevent unauthorized
access and protect vital records and equipment. Duplicate records can be kept in off-site locations for
essential accounting files, legal documents and lists of employees’
relatives to be notified in case of emergency.
Every employee needs to know details of the emergency action plan,
including evacuation plans, alarm systems, reporting procedures for personnel,
shutdown procedures, and types of potential emergencies.
Drills should be held at random intervals, at least annually, and
include if possible, outside police and fire authorities.
exposed to accidental chemical splashes, falling objects, flying particles,
unknown atmospheres with inadequate oxygen or toxic gases, fires, live
electrical wiring, or similar emergencies need personal protective equipment,
glasses, goggles, or face shields for eye protection.
hats and safety shoes
selected and fitted respirators
body coverings, gloves, hoods, and boots.
protection for abnormal environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures.
is important to the effectiveness of an emergency plan.
Before implementing an emergency action plan, a sufficient number of
persons must be trained to assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of
employees. Training for each type
of disaster response is necessary so that employees know what actions are
required. All employees should be
trained in the following:
Reporting procedures for personnel,
Shutdown procedures, and
Types of potential emergencies.
These training programs must be provided as follows:
Initially when the plan is developed,
For all new employees,
When new equipment, materials, or processes are introduced,
When procedures have been updated or revised,
When exercises show that employee performance must be improved, and
At least annually.
As an employee of the State of
Oklahoma, you must respond to emergency situations on your campus.
Your actions may be as simple as calling 911 (or the local equivalent)
for help, using a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire, or making sure
that everyone in your office has evacuated after an alarm has sounded.
Your institution’s responsibility is not to train you in
first aid or emergency care, but to train you in the proper procedures to
follow when an emergency or disaster occurs.
In a major emergency, time is a critical factor in minimizing injuries. Institutions not near an infirmary, clinic, or hospital should have someone on-site trained in first aid, have medical personnel readily available for advice and consultation, and develop written emergency medical procedures. Giving emergency medical care is not normally a responsibility of a higher education institution. In particular, your obligation as an individual employee to an injured person extends only to obtaining the proper assistance, such as an ambulance or EMT. Only if you have been fully certified in first aid or emergency medical care, may you then give medical assistance to any injured person.
The institution must ensure the ready avail-ability of medical personnel for advice and consultation on matters of employees’ health. This does not mean that health care must be provided, but rather, if health problems develop in the work-place, medical help will be available to resolve them.
It is essential that first aid supplies are available for emergency use. Sufficient ambulance service should be available to handle any emergency. This requires advance contact with ambulance services to ensure they become familiar with facility locations, access routes, and hospital locations.
If the fire alarm or tornado siren
sounded right this very minute while you were reading this newsletter, what
would you do? Is your institution
prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster occurring that could have
devastating and far-reaching effects?
Emergency Preparedness Checklist
____ Does the college have an Emergency Preparedness Plan that addresses
all potential emergencies that can be expected in the workplace?
____ Is the Emergency Preparedness Plan reviewed and updated annually?
____ Are all employees trained on emergency escape procedures and
emergency escape route assignments?
____ Are floor plans or workplace maps that clearly show the emergency
escape routes and safe or refuge areas included in the plan?
____ Are procedures in place to account for all employees after emergency
evacuation has been completed?
____ Are procedures established for employees who remain to perform (or
shut down) critical plant operations before those operations are evacuated?
____ Are the preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies
included in the plan?
____ Has a hazard audit been performed to determine toxic materials in
the workplace, hazards, and potentially dangerous conditions?
____ Does the plan identify the names or regular job titles of persons or
departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties
under the plan?
____ Does the plan identify rescue and medical duties for those employees
who may perform them?
____ Are emergency communications equipment available?
____ Are emergency alarms audible or able to be seen by all personnel?