It is difficult to plan for a crisis, but facility professionals can be prepared. For example, workplace violence is a hazard that is hard to recognize, but it must be incorporated into emergency plans. Managers must not overlook any possible emergency scenario.

Most often, a fire is the main cause for a facility evacuation. For that reason, OSHA has incorporated Fire Prevention Plans along with Emergency Action Plans. These fire plans must also be in writing and made available to all employees for their review.

In addition to planning for the evacuation after a fire, it’s important for facility professionals to plan for fire prevention. For example, take a close look at the department’s chemical inventory and thoroughly review the safety data sheets (SDS), which must be on hand and accessible for all chemicals.

The SDSs will outline whether any chemicals are flammable and/or combustible (laws are in place requiring employers to notify workers of these fire hazards or chemical exposures). They will also list proper storage requirements of chemicals, as to eliminate any ignition points within the storage or handling areas.

And finally, the safety data sheets will list acceptable extinguishing techniques, should a hazard occur. Managers are advised to always have appropriate equipment on hand and accessible for eliminating a potential chemical fire.

The emergency/fire plan will not only outline a course of action, should the above occur, it will also identify safeguards to help prevention. For example, in areas where extinguishers are required for fire prevention, the plan should list a schedule outlining necessary maintenance of the extinguisher and the requirement of written records documenting necessary recharging. It will also identify the persons responsible for this maintenance and inspections of all flammable and combustible threats.

Departments can follow OSHA regulations for developing the perfect Emergency Preparedness Plan, but without proper and thorough training, even the best plans can be ineffective. It’s important to keep in mind that people remember the drills better than they remember training. That’s why it is best to train all employees on the regulations, but also conduct evacuation drills throughout the year. Do not take evacuations lightly.

Review the needs of the facility regularly and don’t let safety be an invisible component of facility operations. Get safety out into the open and talk about it. To be successful, management must support, and employees must engage in safety practices and procedures. Encourage everyone to participate in safety discussions.

As mentioned earlier, no one goes to work expecting to be faced with a life or death situation. It just happens and facility managers need to be prepared to save lives.  

JOHN M. POOLE, JR. has 40 years of experience in the industry. A trainer and consultant, he is a Master Registered Executive Housekeeper with the International Executive Housekeepers Association, a Registered Building Services Manager-Life designee with Building Service Contractors Association International, an ISSA I.C.E., a CIMS assessor and a senior consultant at American Institute for Cleaning Services. He is also a member of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration, an NFSI Certified Safety Walkway Auditor with the National Floor Safety Institute and authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer.

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Ten Tips For Developing An Emergency Plan