How to plan for an evacuation

Evacuations are useful for many emergencies, and companies without a plan could be putting themselves at risk, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Once a plan is in place for emergencies, employees can practice evacuation monthly – or however often is deemed necessary by a company emergency preparedness team.

What OSHA requires
In terms of emergency preparation, OSHA has several requirements for companies:

  • Employers are urged to have emergency and fire prevention plans in place, and communicate that information to all employees.
  • A means of egress for leaving the building safely should be available; the number of emergency exits a building must have depends on its size.
  • Companies also should have a medical first aid kit, along with employees trained to use the tools to help injured workers.
  • Fire suppression equipment, such as fire extinguishers, should be available, along with working alarm systems.

Setting up an emergency exit plan
In addition to taking the safety measures required by OSHA, employers may want to consider forming a team of employees who are in charge of different components of emergency preparedness and evacuation. Once employee could be responsible for posting emergency exit plans so staff know the closest exits and most efficient ways to leave the building.

Another emergency role employers may consider is a coordinator for overall emergency preparation, which means reporting a potential or actual emergency to the authorities. He or she also would be responsible for ensuring emergency procedures are carried out. An evacuation plan also may include searchers, as well as employees in charge of certain areas like stairwells, specific building floors and elevators. It may also be a good idea to designate someone as a disabled-person aid. Ready.gov and the Arizona Division of Emergency Management are great resources for employers who may want more ideas for creating evacuation plans.

No matter what strategy is taken during an emergency situation, emergency first responders are the professionals who are best prepared to direct employees to safety.

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