Does your organization have Evacuation Plan and Procedure?Having a specific Evacuation Plan and Procedure in place for crisis is a substantial part of the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S program). In fact, it’s mandatory and yet very few companies have a program in place. This is due partly to the fact it’s an enormous undertaking for most companies, and many believe they have inadequate tools to execute a practical Evacuation Plan and Procedure. In this article, we will examine what some of the challenges are and showcase what one large global company did to improve their Evacuation Plan and Procedure with our Emergency Evacuation Notification System. Some interesting facts :
- 60 percent of Americans have not participated in a disaster drill or a preparedness exercise at work
- only 39 percent of respondents have developed an emergency plan. (FEMA)
- only about 50 percent of employees consider their workplace as ready for a severe emergency. (shrm.org)
What are the elements that you need for an effective Evacuation Plan and Procedure? OSHA lists them on their website, they are as follows:
- Conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary.
- Conditions under which it may be better to shelter-in-place.
- A clear chain of command and designation of the person in your business authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown.
- Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits.
- Specific evacuation procedures for high-rise buildings.
- For Employers
- For Employees
- Procedures for assisting visitors and employees to evacuate, particularly those with disabilities or who do not speak English.
- Designation of which, if any, employees will remain after the evacuation alarm to shut down critical operations or perform other duties before evacuating.
- A means of accounting for employees after evacuation.
- Special equipment for employees.
- Appropriate respirators.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider on the above points. One of our clients is a global leader in manufacturing and has been in business for over 90 years. They had similar challenges. A few years ago, we were working with them on our Visitor Management System called My-lobby.com. A the time it had a straightforward evacuation button that alerted all the employees to evacuate the building with the email and text( SMS) messages.
The client was curious about MyLobby’s evacuation feature if it could be developed further into a full-fledged emergency Notification System for their employees and visitors to address some of their deficiencies. Our development team rolled up their sleeves got very granular and educated with their Environmental Health and Safety Committee. Some of those challenges mentioned on the above OSAH list of requirements. As a result, our Emergency Evacuation Notification System was developed for the folks that sit on the Environmental Health and Safety Committee. Although, we did recognize that each company would have its own set of requirements. Therefore, we developed the solution with the ability to be customizable for each organization’s specific emergencies and messages.
Also, one of the specific challenges our client had was the ability to communicate with two different channels of personnel. The first channel was all employees, on the second channel would be the team or department leaders of the organization. We manage to develop the channels further to:
- All employees
- Crisis leaders (department managers)
- First responders
For example, they required messages to Crisis Leaders, to quickly distribute the message to various department supervisors to shut off the main gas valve. Or another such example, a situation that may require turning off the main water valve.
Another situation the team presented was the ability to communicate to individuals that were trained in first-Aid. If there is an individual in the cafeteria that is unconscious due to a heart attack or choking, there are designated individuals in the organization that half the first aid training required, and they do not want to disrupt all the employees. By distributing the selected individuals, a specific message via email and text, they were able to respond appropriately to the situation. Communication is critical during a crisis, furthermore having the ability to communicate to specific directions or instructions is vital. One of the biggest concerns the client had was the chemical spill, they wanted to ensure that no employees would evacuate through the warehouse in this event. They develop the message that was titled: CHEMICAL SPILL. The body that message: Evacuate the building immediately, avoid the warehouse exits. Moreover, having the ability to distribute that message from anywhere instead of having to run back to pull the trigger to a mechanical alarm is essential especially when you are in a large facility.
How the Mass Emergency Notification System Work
The best way to show you how it works is to actually demonstrate. This first video will show you how to set up an emergency message in the MyLobby portal. This second video shows you how to bookmark the emergency notification link on your computer or phone. The third video demonstrates how to set up different groups of respondents for specific emergency messages. Finally, this final video willl show you how to activate and deactivate the emergency notification system. In addition, as humans under pressure of an emergency situation, we are not always thinking clearly and difficult to recall the proper procedures of each specific emergency. Within the body, the message organizations could attach a hyperlink to a website that clearly provides all the instructions for that specific emergency. In this post-9/11 world, concerns of mass shooting have been a hot topic for most facilities these days, being able to communicate a lockdown situation is vital. Informing specifics of lockdown can direct your employees to safety within seconds.
Another requirement that is listed in the OSHA is means to be able to account for all employees and visitors on-site. Another challenge they presented us with the ability to account for all visitors. Like most facilities, their visitor sign-in sheet was at front reception. The committee presented another what-if scenario; if the situation originated from the front lobby where the visitor sign-in book is located it would be difficult to retrieve the sign-in sheets. The MyLobby Visitor Management System has a tracking capability for all visitors that are still in the building. The data is stored on the cloud which can be accessed by any web browser. It also can track; which employees are currently in the building.
I think we can all agree to have a successful emergency plan is to have a useful communication tool that can communicate with multiple channels instantly. MyLobby is a tool that can address multiple challenges in developing an effective Emergency Evacuation Plan.
Our goal is to help organizations to expand their Emergency Preparedness. Having said that, the solution is always evolving, therefore we invite Environmental Health and Safety, and other facility professionals to start a dialogue so that we can educate our development team further to understand some of your unique challenges. These insights will assist us in delivering an even stronger emergency messaging Notification system for your Evacuation Plan and Procedure.