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Emergency Preparedness at the Office


Emergency PreparednessMany of us wonder just how we would respond in the event of a true emergency or disaster.  Would we panic?  Could we think clearly?  Would we even remember the emergency preparedness plan?

Where emergencies strike

Emergencies and disasters can strike anywhere.  No place is immune.  Of course certain locations are more prone to certain types of emergencies.  Emergencies in the workplace can range from extreme threats such as active shooters and acts of terrorism to the more common fires, earth quakes, floods. Disastrous weather incidents such as blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes also create emergency situations.

What does it mean to be prepared?

All businesses (should) have an emergency preparedness plan.  However preparedness is more than just writing a soon-to-be-forgotten plan.  Planning should be a continuous and ongoing effort.  It should include walking through the plan regularly and collectively.  Additionally, it should prepare individuals to understand how people react in an emergency.  The better armed you are as a business and as individuals, the better your chances during an emergency.

How we react to emergencies: The Survival Arc

You’d be surprised to learn that panic is not the most common reaction in an emergency.  Most people go through a series of phases defined as the Survival Arc.  The phases are denial, deliberation and decisive movement.

Each phase is exactly as described.  In the denial phase a person may move very slowly or procrastinate, not ready to accept what’s happened.  Some people never leave this phase, surprisingly.  Once a person moves out of this phase into the deliberation phase, their bodies begin to respond and they begin to consider action.  After this phase decisive movement kicks in and they begin to take action.  How people move through the survival arc varies widely.  Some people run toward an emergency to help, while others run away, and still others freeze, unable to move.

The sooner a person can move through the phases of the survival arc, especially the denial phase, the higher likelihood of survival in an emergency.  Regular preparedness planning may enhance a person’s ability to move through these phases.  It also keeps the plan top of mind and gives them the tools they need to react.

What should be in your company’s emergency preparedness plan? 

Every business is different.  Therefore plan specifics will depend on the most common vulnerabilities your company may face.  Following is a general guideline of what a plan should cover. (Contact us for a customized threat assessment.)

Disaster Plan

  1. Procure emergency supplies and equipment
  2. Establish emergency communications procedures
  3. Create and disseminate an evacuation plan and a shelter-in-place plan
  4. Reduce risk and hazard exposure
  5. Regularly conduct staff training and drills
  1. Outline basic response steps for various emergencies
  2. Determine a plan for assisting people with disabilities
  3. Outline steps for implementing evacuations
  1. Assess impact on personnel
  2. Disseminate list of support services if appropriate
  3. Assess condition of your assets
  4. Outline moving forward plan

How should we prepare as individuals?

Emergency ExitDuring an emergency every individual is making his or her own decisions, sometimes alone and sometimes working together with others.  Below are measures each of us can take to help better prepare ourselves.

  1. Know where the emergency supplies are and review the contents. If you want to take it a step further, also take a course in first aid, such as this one offered by American Red Cross.
  2. Be aware of what types of emergencies are most likely in your area. Get connected to relevant emergency alert systems.  Many jurisdictions often have their own emergency dissemination systems via email, text and telephone.
  3. Know your evacuation routes. *TIP: Once a week take a different entrance or exit into your office space to familiarize yourself with all the routes.
  4. Regularly review your company’s emergency preparedness plan.

By its very nature an emergency is unexpected, rapid and unpredictable. While emergency preparedness can’t prevent the outcomes of a disaster, it can better prepare our response,  and hopefully minimize the damage.

Contact us today for an emergency preparedness consultation or to schedule a training.


Sources:  FEMA, Red Cross

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