Emergencies Don’t Have a Plan, but You Should

By Brian Ayers

Brian Ayers
Brian K. Ayers, Senior Safety Engineer

Emergencies and disasters can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. A workplace emergency can threaten employees, customers, or the public, and disrupt or shut down operations. It can also cause physical or environmental damage.

There are three main emergencies that require every employee to take action:

  1. A fire or other immediate danger, which requires evacuation.
  2. External incident, such as a radiological accident or civil disturbance that requires shelter in place.
  3. An active shooter. These incidents are unpredictable and evolve quickly.

The best response – no matter the emergency – is to prepare for it before it happens. Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so it is important to prepare in advance when you have time to be thorough.

Organizations that focus on implementing comprehensive emergency action plans (EAPs) are better prepared for the unexpected. They reach a level of performance where the impact of an unplanned event is controlled and minimized by design.

Health and safety programs at Xerox

Environment, health, safety and sustainability at Xerox: Learn how we align our goals for the environment, health and safety in five key areas to make an impact across our value chain worldwide.

Health and safety is a value demonstrated through programs, emergency preparedness and maintaining strict standards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it best: “Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training will result in fewer and less-severe employee injuries, and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies.”

At Xerox, every facility with 10 or more employees has a site-specific EAPs.  Each plan contains specific procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.

Get up and get out

To prepare for an emergency requiring a building evacuation, know the location of the two nearest emergency exits. Your building’s emergency map will show you the location of all the exits out of your building, the location of fire alarm pull stations, and the location of your outside assembly area.

If you are the person who first identifies an emergency requiring evacuation, initiate the evacuation alarm by pulling the fire alarm pull station – typically located near a building exit – then exit the building. Once outside, call your local emergency number and request assistance.

All other employees should:

  • Remain calm and move quickly; do not take time to collect your belongings.
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Walk to the nearest exit, assist those with special needs, if possible, and close doors behind you.
  • Wait at your outside assembly area for an all-clear, and report anyone who is missing.

Shelter-in-place (SIP)

Sheltering-in-place is a precaution designed for those emergencies in which it is safer to remain in the building than to evacuate. Generally, shelter-in-place means taking refuge in an interior room to await further instructions, or until the emergency passes.

Situations that may require sheltering-in-place include severe weather, a chemical release outside of the building, or an act of violence outside of the building.

To prepare for a SIP emergency, refer to your building’s emergency map, and note the location of your building’s safe zone(s), which will always be on the interior of the building, away from outside walls and windows.

If you hear your building’s SIP alarm or notification:

  • Close chemical containers and all exterior dock doors before going to the safe zone, as long as it can be done quickly and poses no risk.
  • Walk calmly. If possible, bring personal items such as emergency phone numbers and medications.
  • Do not exit the building.
  • Report to your manager or supervisor upon arrival at the safe zone.
  • Follow the instructions of those managing the emergency. Re-enter your work area only when directed to do so.

Active shooter: What can you do?

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in harming or attempting to harm people in a confined and populated area. In most cases, active shooters have no pattern or method to their selection of victims.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.

Because active shooter situations are often over quickly, even before law enforcement arrives on the scene, you should always be mentally and physically prepared to deal with an active shooter situation — above all, stay calm and chose one of three options.

  1. If there is an accessible escape path, leave your belongings behind and get out, helping others if possible. Once outside, prevent anyone from entering the building. When you are safe, call 911. Always keep your hands visible and follow the instructions of emergency personnel.
  2. If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you, and where you won’t be trapped in case you are found. Lock and blockade the door with heavy furniture, if it is available. Hide behind large objects, silence your electronic device(s) and remain quiet. If neither evacuation nor hiding is possible, dial 911 if you are able to alert police to the shooter’s location. If speaking aloud will put you in danger, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
  3. As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by acting as aggressively as possible. Throw or use anything you can find as a weapon; yell and create chaos. If possible, call 911 and leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen.

What to do at home

Many of the emergencies that happen in the workplace can also happen at home. Make sure your family is prepared:

  • Create and practice a home evacuation plan (EDITH – Exit Drill In The Home).
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car and at least three days of food and water at home. Don’t forget food and supplies for your pets.
  • Store important documents in a fire-proof safe or safe deposit box — or scan them.
  • Learn first aid and CPR.
  • Know how to shut off your utilities.
  • Memorize family members’ phone numbers.
  • Practice your emergency plan regularly.

Emergencies and disasters are unpredictable and strike without warning. Preparation is key to your ability to respond to an emergency at work or at home.

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One Comment

  1. Carmaleta Wesley June 7, 2018 -

    Nice article Brian. Thanks.

Comments are closed.