4 tips on emergency planning
1. How to Plan for Emergency Events
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor - Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is effectively planning for emergencies.
Whether preparing for capital improvements or preventive maintenance activities, effective planning is the cornerstone of success for maintenance and engineering managers. Planning for emergencies is no different. A written emergency plan is less important than the process of developing that plan. An emergency plan boils down to five areas:
• defining possible emergencies
• ensuring proper buy-in and budgeting
• identifying staff roles and duties
• procuring equipment and materials
• ensuring training and communication.
Based on history and location, most emergencies managers need to consider are fairly easy to predict. Hurricanes are normal occurrences on the East Coast, earthquakes are more prevalent on the West Coast, and it is not uncommon to see tornados in the Midwest.
While not every emergency is predictable, managers can cover their bases for unusual events by having a plan in place that addresses predictable events, such as fires, chemical spills, and power outages.
A successful emergency plan requires support from the organization's highest levels. But too often, good intentions related to emergency planning fail due to a lack of support from top executives. One strategy to get executives on board is to promote the effort as a business continuity program, or BCP, which speaks more to the loss of revenue from an emergency. It forces executives to realize the risk of not preparing properly.
Conducting a business impact analysis is a standard process for determining the financial impact of lost business. The website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, provides a template and instructions for conducting a BIA.
2. Emergency Planning: Protecting Front-Line Workers
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is protecting second responders during an emergency.
First responders tend to get more attention for their efforts in responding to emergencies because they have to react in real time. Events on Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated the dangerous nature the work first responders perform.
But the work of second responders is no less dangerous. There are many potential hazards for second responders, and the pressure to quickly repair the building and its equipment and restore operations magnifies these hazards. Couple this pressure with the emotional stress of the emergency event, and major problems can occur.
Here is a list of the most common hazards second responders face when working to restore a facility and its operations:
• Confined spaces. Responding after an emergency event is no time to ignore proper procedures related to air monitoring and entry.
• Electrical hazards. De-energizing of equipment using proper lockout/tagout procedures is essential at all times, including after an emergency.
• Lack of proper hydration and sun protection.
• Air quality.
• Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Real problems can occur if a department does not have enough PPE available or if users do not understand the limitations of the PPE.
• Hazardous driving conditions.
• Slips and falls. These incidents are perhaps the most common hazard after an emergency.
• Exhaustion. In their zeal to help facilities and occupants return to normalcy, second responders often work extended shifts and overwork themselves.
• Falls from elevated locations. Working from roofs, towers and other elevated locations can result in serious injuries without proper fall protection.
• And, finally, exposure to chemical spills. An emergency might cause chemical spills and even dangerous chemical mixtures.
3. Accessibility: Planning for Emergencies
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is accessibility.
Maintenance and engineering managers and others involved in emergency preparations understand life safety must come first. Unfortunately, planners often spend too little time developing strategies to get people out of the building, particularly people who cannot use the stairs to evacuate. Too few planners talk about ways to prepare for evacuations when not everyone is able to use stairs to leave a facility quickly.
One essential step for managers in this planning process is understanding the emergency components a building will support, including:
• areas of rescue assistance, not just a room down the hall or a place on the stairwell landing
• emergency-communication systems that meet the needs of persons with hearing disabilities
• visual alarms where required
• identification of assistive equipment, such as evacuation chairs
• and, an emergency-response team with floor wardens.
Now comes the touchy part. Planners often believe they have to ask, "Do you have a disability that I have to accommodate under the ADA?"
That question is not necessary to get the needed information to protect a facility and its occupants. Instead, planners can ask, "Would you need assistance in evacuating the building if the elevators were shut down?" That question does not intrude into anyone's personal disability or business, but it begins the dialogue.
Managers should preface that question with a great deal of education and outreach about the efforts building owners and managers are making to ensure the safety of occupants.
Finally, managers planning for the needs of visitors to a facility need to consider the case of a security staff, which can change often. One solution is a simple script of questions that includes asking about the kind of assistance a visitor would need, such as an evacuation chair or freight elevator, as well as a notation on the sign-in sheet of that particular person's needs.
4. Emergency Planning and ADA
Most facility managers would agree that nothing is more critical than being prepared for an emergency. Most institutional and commercial organizations focus their preparations on business continuity, meaning records, equipment and property.
Although managers and others involved in emergency preparations understand life safety must come first, they often spend too little time considering strategies to get people out of buildings, particularly people who cannot use the stairs to evacuate.
Managers should consider two key questions regarding their emergency planning:
* Do you know everyone who comes in and out and spends time in your buildings everyday?
* Do you know whether all of these people could safely evacuate the building without using stairs in an emergency?
Not counting individuals with obvious physical disabilities, managers and others involved in emergency planning also need to consider individuals with a heart condition, a respiratory condition, a panic disorder, or a hearing loss
To incorporate these issues into emergency planning, managers can take some important preliminary steps related to both the facility and the people who travel in and out and occupy it every day.
First, gathering information about a facility's current provisions for universal accessibility will tell managers what they must add to meet the needs of those who cannot use stairs to safely evacuate the building.
Second, it's critical that managers gather information about emergency-alarm systems and emergency-communications systems. For example, can people with hearing disabilities receive information at the same time as everyone else?
Augmenting the built environment with the right kind of equipment suited to the needs of the building and its occupants, such as evacuation chairs, is an important step. But managers shouldn't jump to order renovations and new equipment without first understanding the needs and locations of occupants.
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