If you live in the Southeastern coast of the United States, or have just been following the news over the last few weeks or so, you no doubt know about the devastation Hurricane Florence has caused in North Carolina and South Carolina. As of September 22, at least 42 people had been killed by the storm and its subsequent flooding. Over a million people have lost power. And the rescue efforts are still ongoing.
The hurricane is another painful reminder of the importance of creating Emergency Response Plans at work for natural disasters. When a storm approaches, or when any natural disaster hits, organizations need to be prepared to protect their employees and customers, as well as their technology, information, and resources.
How to Prepare an Emergency Response Plan
Preparing for natural disasters is easier said than done. But there are a few key areas that every Emergency Response Plan should cover:
1. Emergency response leaders
Designate response leaders who will lead evacuation, coordinate communication and a head count, and make sure that disabled employees are safely sheltered or evacuated for each team and office.
2. Shelter/evacuation plan
Make sure that employees know the best response given the nature of the disaster. If they need to shelter in place, you should have designated safe zones. If they need to evacuate, include regularly scheduled drills to the designated assembly point.
3. Emergency response supplies
In case employees do need to shelter in place, have an accessible supply of flashlights, batteries, one gallon of water per employee, non-perishable food, a medical kit, and employees’ emergency contact information.
4. Communication channels
After the emergency: if employees have evacuated or otherwise dispersed, set a clear system for gathering a head count and ensuring everyone’s safety. If employees leave work, set the expectation they are to provide an update as soon as they can.
5. Review/practice schedule
Review and update your response plans as a full organization (or office) annually. This includes redesignating emergency response leaders, and going over evacuation routes and supply storage. Then, set a regular cadence for practicing your response (suggested cadence is every three to six months).
You can learn all about preparing your workplace in case of natural disaster, as well as how to spot risk factors for violence and create a culture the makes safety a priority, through our Workplace Safety Microlearning lessons. And if you can, help the Hurricane Florence disaster recovery efforts by donating to the Red Cross or any number of organizations providing aid to those in need.