Each year, emergencies take their toll on business and industry—in both lives and dollars. But something can be done. You can limit injuries and damages, and return to normal operations more quickly if you have an Emergency Action Plan in place.

Regardless of whether you operate from a high-rise building or an industrial complex, or you rent, own or lease your property, your first priority is to protect the health and safety of everyone in your facility. One common means of protection is through the use of an Emergency Evacuation Plan.

Planning for emergencies is critical in assisting you in assigning responsibilities and procedures when responding to fire, chemical, weather, utility or medical emergencies. A plan will also further assist you in developing preventative actions.

If you already have an evacuation plan, make certain your plan has accommodated any changes. If you don’t have a formal plan, we urge you to develop one. Plans compel you to think through the best course of action in an emergency.

Here are some items that should be included when developing your plan:

  • Determine conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary.
  • Establish a clear chain of command.
  • Designate who has the authority to order an evacuation.
  • Designate specific areas where personnel should gather after evacuating. Take a head count.
  • List the names and last known location of personnel not accounted for. Confusion in the assembly areas can lead to unnecessary and dangerous search and rescue operations.
  • Establish procedures for assisting non-English speaking workers and those with disabilities.
  • Post evacuation procedures and clearly identify primary and secondary escape routes.
  • Conduct training. Failing to practice can undermine even the best plans. Practice increases the likelihood of a confident and orderly evacuation. Coordinate plans with your local emergency management office.

The details involved in evacuation planning range from major to minor, but decisions have to be made, written down, presented and practiced regularly. Employees need to know what to do, and know it so well that they can put the plan into action even when they are rattled. Being prepared for a catastrophe lessens the potential for injury, lost lives and property damage.