Chemical, medical, and security emergencies can have a serious impact on your business, especially if you don't have the right kind of plan in place. Establishing an evacuation plan well before an emergency will help you avoid a number of safety issues and steep costs.

This article will give you advice on how to set up an evacuation plan so you won't be caught unprepared during an emergency.

Not Planning Ahead Is Costly

Unless you've properly prepared for emergency situations, your employees won't have a clear procedure to follow in during an evacuation. Without a clear procedure, hazard controls can go out the window entirely, especially if the evacuees start to panic. This puts workers at an even greater risk than they already were.

Poorly planned evacuations can also impose some serious costs on your company. Not taking adequate measures to protect your employees' health and wellbeing can lead to lawsuits and regulatory violations. Not only is this expensive, but it can also tarnish the company's reputation (find out How to Look After Your Business' Safety Reputation).

And even if you're fortunate and no emergency takes place, there is still a price to pay for being unprepared. Insurance companies expect their clients to run a safe facility that is fully prepared for all manner of emergencies. A disorganized or non-existent emergency preparedness program could lead to higher premiums and waste valuable time dealing with audits and red tape.

Three Basic Evacuation Planning Questions

Thankfully, with enough knowledge, preparation, and diligence, you can avoid these pitfalls. Improving the quality of your emergency response program starts with asking the right questions:

  • Do my employees know where to go?
  • Are my employees able to find their way?
  • Can my employees protect themselves?

Maybe these questions seem overly simplistic, but far too many companies don't properly address them in their emergency preparedness plans. Starting with these straightforward basics ensures that your company takes proactive steps toward having a facility that is prepared for anything.

Do My Employees Know Where to Go?

The first step to an effective emergency plan is designating a safe, secure destination for evacuees: a muster point. Larger facilities might need multiple muster points to decrease the chances of crowding and reduce the distance between workers and their safe zone.

Ideal muster points are:

  • Easily accessible
  • Free of hazards
  • Able to accommodate a sufficient number of people
  • Clearly marked

All workers should be aware of your facility's muster points and which one is nearest to their workstation. As an employer, you can assist them by clearly marking your muster point’s location with proper, industry-approved signage (learn more in Muster Points: How to Keep Your Team Safe During an Emergency).

Directing workers away from hazards is equally crucial to effective emergency evacuation. High-visibility tapes and barricades that delineate dangers like chemical spills and structural damages protect employees from injury or death, while safeguarding your company from liability issues.

Are My Employees Able to Find Their Way?

Every facility is unique, and that includes its exit routes and the hazards along them. Employees should be able to safely and efficiently navigate them while escaping to safety.

Wayfinding, is essential to an emergency response plan. From an employee standpoint, safe, efficient wayfinding during an emergency requires a spatial awareness of a facility, including decision points, access ways, and potential interferences.

Empower your employees by following OSHA’s standards for exit routes. Make sure they are:

  • Free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings
  • Directed away from hazards
  • Unobstructed by equipment, locked doors, and dead-ends
  • Equipped with directional indicators

Customized maps, glow-in-the-dark holders, and high-visibility information centers are just a few ways you can create safe, navigable exit routes for your employees.

Best practices suggest placing directional signs no higher than knee-height so that they remain visible in the event of fire emergencies. Exit signs can be mounted higher, usually at 60 inches and higher to maximize visibility.

Directional tape and floor markings are a great way to account for low visibility situations like crowding, power outages, or smoke accumulation.

Can My Employees Protect Themselves?

Medical and first-aid emergencies are some of the most frequent issues cited by OSHA—and it's the companies, not the individuals, that are penalized. While it is up to workers to actively manage a medical or first-aid situation, it is your responsibility to provide the tools that allow them to do so effectively (see First Aid Kits: The Essential List to find out what to keep on hand).

OSHA requires that first aid kits be readily available—no more than three to four minutes away—and adequate for small worksites of approximately two to three employees. Where applicable, emergency eyewash and shower stations must be present in work areas for immediate use.

However, first-aid tools and personal protective equipment are only effective if they are easy to find during emergencies. Highly visible signage and labeling are essential for enabling workers to protect themselves and manage individual emergencies during crisis situations. Information centers in high-traffic work areas and near potential hazards can also cut down decision-making time during emergencies and empower employees to make safe decisions.

Your Emergency Management Starts Now

Preparing for an emergency requires a strategic, intentional awareness of what employees need in order to manage worst-case-scenario situations. Strategic, customized visual communication allows you to create an emergency-prepared facility that will keep your workers safer and keep your penalties, premiums, and costs lower.

Accuform is prepared to help. Visit this page to get started, or give us a call at 1-800-237-1001.