Whether you’re preparing for the upcoming El Nino, or just trying to be ready for winter blizzards, earthquakes, or fire, it’s important to have an evacuation plan in place – and to know how to use it.
It’s uncomfortable to think about a disaster – whether natural such as a hurricane or earthquake to a biohazard or outbreak of violence – occurring while you’re at work or at home, but the fact is that they can happen any time, so it’s best to be prepared. Thinking quickly and clearly in the midst of a crisis can be harder than you may think, so practicing while everyone is calm and can pay close attention gives you a safer foundation to work from. It also provides an opportunity to brainstorm as a group: think of possible circumstances that could occur and go through the best ways to respond. It’s a good idea to have more than one option in place.
If you’re practicing your evacuation plan at home, get the whole family involved, not just in the discussion but in active participation. It’s one thing to talk about escape routes in a fire, but if you don’t know how to unlock the window, remove the screen, open the fire escape, etc., it can lead to pain and injury during an actual emergency. Show your children how to do everything themselves, just in case, and answer any questions they may have. You may want to rehearse a couple of times per year, or even seasonally, to keep the plan fresh and account for any new circumstances that may arise.
If you haven’t already received training in emergency evacuation procedure at your job, suggest it! It benefits all the employees equally and makes a safer environment for everyone. Discuss the protocol for reporting or announcing emergencies so that everyone is alerted immediately in the event that one occurs. Go over the floor plans to decide upon the quickest and safest escape routes, and note the safe areas in which people should gather. If someone will need to perform specific duties such as shutting down critical operations, agree on the best person to do so, and have a backup option. It’s also a good idea to discuss communication procedures: how to account for everyone during and after the evacuation as well as how to get in touch with emergency personnel and family.
Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to preventing pain and injury during an emergency evacuation.