Hurricanes, Tornadoes, or Earthquakes—5 Ways to Prepare Employees for Emergency

June 5, 2023 | What's Hot | 6 min read

In honor of National Safety Month, read about best practices to button up your emergency preparedness protocol.

National Safety Month kicks off in June, and with it comes an opportunity to brush up on some of the basic steps your organizations can take to ensure employees’ safety.

This week’s focus is Emergency Preparedness, an essential part of any workplace safety training program that can help your team prepare to handle all types of disasters and emergencies.

This might include catastrophic events like natural disasters, pandemics, chemical spills, an active shooter event or a cyberattack. But it could also include technological failures, at-work injuries, and/or health emergencies.

If you’re just getting started, you can find tools to help you prepare your business for a disaster or emergency at the Department of Homeland Security’s site.

No matter where you are in your journey, the importance of preparedness is crucial. Being prepared can help employees stay calm and focused during a crisis, which can make all the difference in how they respond.

Read on to learn five crucial steps of the preparedness process, including necessary supplies, knowledge, and skills employees should have to survive and how to recover from an emergency.

How to Prepare for Emergency

While OSHA has an entire site devoted to emergency preparedness and response, most organizations agree that the following steps should be a good place to begin your preparation.

1. Create an Emergency Plan

In an office environment, your plan should include emergency evacuation routes and protocol, a shelter-in-place location, emergency contact information for employees’ family members, and a designated meeting place in case employees are separated during an emergency.

Refer to OSHA for design and construction requirements for exit routes.

Leadership should take emergency training seriously, discussing how to prepare and respond, and ensuring employees have a solid understanding of action plans.

When devising an emergency work plan, give members of each team specific responsibilities, and communicate a clear chain of command.

And finally, practice the plan with employees as many times as possible, and confirm they know how to work together during a crisis.

To help your employees prepare for emergencies that occur after work hours, the American Red Cross has a downloadable family disaster plan worksheet, which can easily be tailored to each employee’s family.

2. Assemble a Disaster Kit

An emergency kit should include supplies and equipment that will allow you and your employees to provide first aid and care to the injured, to stay safe during the duration of the event, and to receive and provide updates from the time that the disaster or emergency unfolds until the crisis has stabilized. An emergency kit will include some standard items but will also need to be customized based on a company’s operations, location, property size, number of employees, and identified potential hazards.

Below is a list of items to consider including in your emergency kit:

  • Bottled water for drinking and sanitation – Plan for a minimum three-day supply allotting one gallon of water per employee per day.
  • Food – A minimum three-day supply for each employee of non-perishable food that does not require cooking, along with plates, cups, utensils, and a manual can opener.
  • First Aid Kit and medications – A first aid kit should include the items necessary to address injuries until proper medical evaluation and care is available along with commonly used over the counter medications.
  • Personal hygiene and sanitation supplies - Soap, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, small plastic bags, and larger garbage bags should be placed in the kit.
  • Emergency supplies – Equipment and supplies to protect personnel from the elements, like blankets, ponchos, jackets, and tarps. Also include flashlights, spare batteries, solar battery chargers, emergency whistles, and a portable hand crank radio.
  • Tools – Commonly used tools like hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, multi-purpose knives, scissors, duct tape, plastic ties, and bungee cords should be packed in the kit.
  • Contact list and important documents – To quickly contact the proper authorities during an emergency or disaster, create a contact list for the police, fire, and ambulance services, hospitals, banks, lawyers, accountants, and suppliers. In addition to the contact list, company documentation needed to assist with incident recovery, such as bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, client files, and employee identification information, should be secured in the kit.
  • Miscellaneous supplies – Include local and regional maps, spare office and building keys, petty cash, and any other items that might prove beneficial during an emergency.

Find a storage space in the office that’s easily accessible and assign team members the responsibility for obtaining and replacing certain items.

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Stay Informed

Within your emergency plan, develop a clear understanding of how to receive updates and communicate with others during a crisis. Keep phones and computers charged and refer to local news and radio to stay current with potential emergencies in your area.

Apps like Citizen and local news’ social media accounts can help with real-time updates. Sign up for local alerts and warnings and listen to emergency broadcasts.

Assign a Utilities Point Person

Some emergencies may require a building manager to shut off gas, water, or electricity. Within your emergency plan, assign and train a few workers to handle these tasks. It’s important to know where the main shut-off valves are located and how to turn them off using tools found in your emergency kit.

Training Makes Perfect

Practice is great, but a formal emergency training program is even better. Before you can rehearse any plan, ensure every employee at your organization is properly trained for how to respond.

Within Skillsoft’s Compliance catalog, we offer an extensive list of micro-learning opportunities that cover the topic of disaster preparedness. Shorter than full-length courses, these micro-learning opportunities are a great way to supplement your organization’s annual emergency preparedness training when – and where – employees have time.

A few topics include:

  • Global Safety Short: Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Bomb Threats
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Components of an Emergency Action Plan
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Natural Disasters
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Preparing for Evacuations
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Threats from outside the Workplace
  • Emergencies and Disasters Impact: Workplace Violence

Skillsoft protects more than 1,800 organizations with 500+ risk areas in 33 languages with translation support and cultural adaptation. To explore Skillsoft Compliance Solutions, see our courses.

Emergency Preparedness is a Mindset

In times of crisis, knowing that employees have a clear plan, and the confidence and training to act on that plan, provides peace of mind to employers. Not only will it help your organization meet compliance standards, but it will also help protect your most important company asset: your people.