Emergency office procedures are critical, whether your office staff consists of a few employees or a few hundred. We may never experience emergency evacuations the magnitude of 9-11, but everyone should be prepared in the event of a catastrophe The U.S. Department of Labor OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) has developed comprehensive manuals containing procedures and policies that your company can institute immediately.
The Most Important Step: 9-1-1
Management and employees alike must call 9-1-1 at the first sign of an emergency. Other emergency contact managers and employees can be notified afterwards. Time is of the essence--make sure the local emergency staff is en route. Instruct each employee to call; never assume that someone else has already called 9-1-1.
Designated Emergency Contact Persons
The designated contact persons should be notified after 9-1-1 has been called, not before. The designated contact person should also call 9-1-1 to make sure the proper information has been given to emergency personnel and first responders. All designated contact persons should have current lists of every employee, along with their emergency contact information. Emergency contact personnel should take a headcount once everyone is together to make certain all staff is accounted for, and there should be a written report documenting the incident.
Evacuation Assembly Point
Management must decide on an evacuation assembly point which will be part of the evacuation procedure. During drills, the employees should be instructed to calmly leave the building and assemble at the evacuation assembly point. The dedicated emergency contact person will meet at the assembly point and make sure all employees are present. One particularly important point covered by OSHA's manual, "How to Plan for Emergency Evacuation Procedures," is to make sure that all handicapped, disabled and non-English speaking individuals are assisted in the event of an evacuation.
Each employee should receive a copy of the emergency office procedures and contact phone numbers. As the plan changes, employees should be kept apprised of these revisions, and drills should be conducted to make certain everyone understands the procedure. A record should be kept of the drill which includes the date, time and manager conducting the drill. A fire drill and fire safety should be covered thoroughly since that is the most common reason for evacuation.
Fire Evacuation Procedures
Call 9-1-1 to make certain emergency vehicles are en route in the event of a fire. Make sure the fire alarm has been activated. Do not attempt to use fire extinguishers on small fires. Make sure the building is evacuated and close doors behind you to contain the fire. Make sure everyone uses the stairs instead of the elevators. Instruct everyone to meet at the evacuation assembly point. Do not go back into the building and do not permit anyone other than emergency personnel to go into the building.
Cover Multiple Scenarios
Include basic procedures for all emergency situations, even if they seem unlikely to occur. Cover earthquakes, floods and tornadoes, even if you haven't had one in the area for many years. Briefly going over procedures will ensure you are covered, regardless of the situation. Create "Emergency Procedure" signs and post them on the walls on each floor and in the restrooms.