Guide to developing emergency response plan

Any recent emergency event reminds us how necessary it is to have emergency management plans.

We do have legislation to make sure we have response plans for some emergencies like fire, but we need to create our own plans for many emergencies.

Whether it’s a corporate office or a hostel, it is crucial to assess our level of preparedness and understand the necessary steps to take during emergency events, such as fires or earthquakes. Having an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is the first step towards preventing, or responding to future incidents.

A well-designed ERP encompasses potential hazards to look for in a workplace, evacuation procedures to follow during emergency, steps on drills and testing. Involving employees and workers in the process of designing and testing is crucial to familiarise them with the process, consider their inputs and prepare them for emergency situations. Once that’s in place, test, review, and update the plan regularly.

Identify potential hazards & risks

While working out an ERP, it is essential to consider the potential emergency scenarios that your workplace may encounter. For instance, know if the workplace location is an earthquake or tsunami prone zone. Within the workplace, look out for fire or gas leak, hazardous equipment or machinery that is explosive. It is important to tailor your emergency plans based on the specific type of work and workplace.

In low-risk environments, emergency plans may not need to be lengthy or intricate. However, workplaces with a higher risk of accidents demand more comprehensive plans to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Engage your employees

Getting employees involved in the creating an emergency plan could improve preparedness during emergencies and is a crucial part of creating a robust emergency plan.

Leaders must promote open discussions with employees about any special hazards that may be present onsite, such as flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources, or water-reactive substances. By raising awareness of these hazards, leaders can ensure that appropriate precautions are taken to mitigate risks. Leaders should seek employees’ inputs while drafting an emergency plan.

To guarantee a comprehensive understanding of an emergency plan, it is essential that all employees are familiar with the evacuation steps. This includes knowledge of the various types of emergencies that may arise, the correct reporting procedures to follow, the operation of alarm systems, evacuation plans, and shutdown procedures.

It is crucial to assign dedicated individuals to be in charge during evacuation process and keep the employees informed about it. Have their names, contact details printed and placed in easily accessible spaces of the office. By doing so, a clear chain of communication is established and keeps employees informed about whom to contact in the event of emergency.

Emergency evacuation steps

Regardless of the nature of the emergency, there are generic steps that one should adhere to when conducting an evacuation. We share some of the steps below:

  • Stay calm and assess the situation. It is important to be vigilant and determine the safest course of action based on the information available. Alert the local fire emergency personnel.
  • Activate the fire alarm and promptly inform your colleagues. Follow the emergency announcements and assist coworkers, if required.
  • Always use staircase during an emergency evacuation unless instructed otherwise by emergency personnel. Never use elevators as they may malfunction or lead to hazardous areas.
  • Follow the established evacuation procedures or routes. These may include exit signs, designated escape routes, or evacuation plans specific to your location. If there are no predefined procedures, use your best judgment to find the safest exit.
  • Once you have evacuated the building or immediate danger zone, proceed to the designated assembly point or a safe location at a reasonable distance. Stay there until authorities give the all-clear signal or provide further instructions.

Test and update

After creating an initial plan with evacuation steps, conduct drills and simulations to test the plan. This is also a great way for employees to familiarize themselves with their roles and responsibilities. It helps them identify any areas that need improvement and allows for necessary adjustments to be made. Kiwi Leaders could also consider consulting with Fire Emergency New Zealand for feedback. Make sure to review and update the ERP from time to time.

We dedicated an entire blog post to share insights on reporting about incidents and hazards. You can also report incidents and hazards using our simple and flexible cloud-based system called GOSH that is accessible via the intranet or mobile phones. Book a demo with us to learn more about the GOSH online health and safety system.  

Contact us by email here.

For more information, refer to this guide by Civil Defence NZ.

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