As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, emergencies can take all shapes and sizes: natural, man-made, viral, etc. Now more than ever, it is a good time to review your preparations for keeping your employees safe during any kind of emergency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you take these steps:
- Communicate: Review how you will connect with employees in emergency situations — before, during and after a disaster. Whether via email, phone trees or a password-protected portal on your company website, make sure employees understand where they can get information — and where they can share information, including ways to communicate to you that they are safe. These plans should also include accommodations for employees with disabilities. Make sure you ask in advance the best way to communicate with them in an emergency. For on-site emergencies, have plans in place to assist employees with mobility, vision or hearing limitations.
- Stock Up: Have a ready supply of fresh water and non-perishable food on hand should you need to shelter-in-place. Make sure your office has a battery-powered commercial radio and a NOAA weather radio with an alert function and extra batteries. In addition to flashlights and a first aid kit, make sure you have dust or filter masks, plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand to “seal the room” should it become necessary.
- Store It: Keep copies of important records including insurance policies, employee contact and identification information, bank account records, supplier and shipping contact lists, computer backups, and other priority documents in a waterproof, fireproof portable container.
- Have-and Practice-Your Evacuation Plan: If you need to vacate your space quickly, make sure you have a plan to evacuate workers, customers and visitors safely and quickly. Plan two exit paths and post maps that show how to reach those exits from every space within your office. Designate an assembly site near your facility and another in the general area in case you have to move farther away. Practice the evacuation plan regularly and designate an employee(s) who is responsible for accounting for all workers, visitors and customers.
- Coordinate with Neighbors: Speak to other businesses in your building or industrial complex and conduct evacuation drills and other emergency exercises together. This will help eliminate confusion and assist first responders when they arrive on site.
You can view FEMA’s “Every Business Should Have a Plan” booklet here. Local businesses should also consider enrolling in the U.P. Police Department’s free Public Safety Classes, which include a session called “Three Days and Beyond.” This class provides practical, valuable and life-saving tips on how to be prepared for a lengthy public emergency. Watch the City’s website for updates on when Public Safety Classes will resume.