An emergency and disaster preparedness plan and program is an important aspect for an organization due to its significance in promoting workplace safety. The preparedness program helps in enhancing safety in the workplace through inclusion of initiatives for lessening injuries and loss of lives, minimizing insurance claims, lessening property damage, and improving employee morale. While emergencies still happen despite of measures to prevent them, an organization's preparedness plan is critical in preventing the frequency of their occurrences, minimizing injury and property damage, and establishing ways for mitigating their impacts. This is largely because the plan consists of basic procedures to handle emergencies in the workplace. In most cases, organizations use preparedness plans and programs to protect workers from fire incidents and other emergencies.
Threats and Vulnerabilities in the Workplace:
Since an organization's workplace involves several employees, threats and vulnerabilities are likely to occur both from within and outside the working environment. Some of these emergencies include natural disasters like floods and tornadoes as well as other threats like chemical spills, fires, accidental releases of toxic materials, and physical harm and trauma resulting from violence in the workplace. The other potential threats and vulnerabilities that can be expected in an organization's working environment include earthquakes and windstorms. Notably, these emergencies and disasters can take place anywhere and anytime since many workers spend huge working hours every week.
One of the most common emergencies that happen in the workplace is fire incidents that result in severe damages of property and may even contribute to loss of lives. Actually, fire incidents represent a huge proportion of emergencies that take place in various working environments across various organizations. Fire incidents usually occur in the working environment due to smoking, gas explosions, and electricity faults. In certain cases, the incidents happen because of improper handling of equipments in the workplace by employees.
As a result, developing a preparedness plan to deal with them in the workplace becomes an issue of life and death rather than a mere legal obligation. As part of handling workplace emergencies, it's the responsibility of the organization's management to design a plan and program to implement and update and review frequently. The development and implementation process for handling workplace emergencies, especially fire, requires the input and support of all employees in order to promote its effectiveness.
Materials for Dealing with Fire Emergencies:
While external agencies are important in handling fire emergencies, an organization's preparedness plan consist of an in-house program with necessary equipments and materials as well as team members to help in dealing with them. The team members should be trained to use several types of fire extinguishers, first aid, search and emergency rescue procedures, shutdown and evaluation procedures, self-contained breathing apparatus, chemical spill control procedures, and incipient and advanced stage fire fighting. Some of the available materials for handling fire emergencies in an organization include & #8230;.
Portable Fire Extinguishers:
Portable fire extinguishers are an important part of the organization's fire prevention plan because they help in minimizing the level of damage caused by the fire incidents. These fire extinguishers help in saving lives and property through helping in controlling a fire until extra help arrives. As a result, these extinguishers are vital materials for mitigating fires and explosions in the working environment (Ball, 2001).
Fixed Extinguishing Systems:
The fixed fire extinguishing or suppression systems are used to safeguard areas with critical or valuable equipments like telecommunication switches, data processing rooms, and process control rooms. These systems are mainly used to quickly turn off a developing fire and alert other employees before huge damages occur in the organization.
Fire Detection Systems:
In addition to other materials of emergency and rescue plan, automatic fire detection systems can significantly minimize property damage, individual injuries, and loss of life in the workplace. The fire detection systems are not only used to alert the occupants of the workplace but they are also used to inform emergency response personnel to help in lessening the damages. These automatic systems accomplish their tasks through the use of electronic sensors to identify heat, smoke, or flames and providing early warning.
Employee Alarm Systems:
Alarm systems are helpful in alerting occupants of a building about any fire or explosions if used and operated properly. The employee alarm systems standard is for the purpose of lessening the severity of accidents and injuries in the workplace through establishment of proper alerting procedures. Some of the most commonly used employee fire alarms include voice alarm multiplex audio system, digital communicators, heat and smoke detectors, horn or strobe devices, pull stations, battery back-up power supply, and addressable fire alarm control panel.
Exit routes are necessary parts of emergency planning as they include exit stairways, discharges, locked exit route doors, and exit doors. These routes also consist of fire retardant paints, employee alarm systems, and lighting and marking.
These systems are used in extinguishing fires to help in minimizing the impact of the incidents on property and people's lives. The available sprinkler systems in the organization's workplace include fire pump, standpipe and hose, and wet pipe sprinkler system.
Important Steps in the Preparedness Plan:
An effective preparedness plan to address fire emergencies should include all the vital steps in the preparedness model. The plan helps in achieving several benefits include lessening injuries and loss of life and minimizing property damage that contribute to improved employee morale. Some of the steps in this preparedness plan are:
Planning or Preparing to Prevent and Respond:
The level of planning and training performed is critical since it determines the effectiveness of response to such incidents. Consequently, the organization's management must demonstrate its support for the importance of this planning process and for safety programs. When the management of the organization doesn't provide the necessary support in protecting workers and lessening property loss, the promotion of a safe workplace is difficult. On the other hand, the support and input of all workers is also vital to ensure the effectiveness of the plan as the management implements and frequently reviews and updates the program. Some of the most important process in planning include & #8230;
Developing an Emergency Action Plan:
An employee action plan deals with issues that are specific to the organization's working environment based on the findings of workplace evaluation and explaining how workers will respond to various kinds of emergencies. The plan consists of specific worksite layout, emergency systems, and structural features of the organization (Geigle, 2012).
An effective emergency action plan should contain several components such the ways for employees to report fire incidents and other emergencies, emergency escape routes, rescue measures, ways to account for all workers after evacuation initiatives are complete. In addition, the plan should contain medical and evacuation duties to be performed and entities to be contacted for additional information and explanation of duties. In certain cases, an emergency action plan also incorporates a description of the available notification systems like alarm systems, distinctive descriptions of the different actions of alarm system, alternative assembly and communications system, storage location for important documents.
For the organization, the emergency action plan provides necessary procedures for instant evacuation and seeking professional firefighting services for extra support to promote quick response. In the occurrence of a fire incident, the organization's employees will be involved in immediate extinguishing and rescue efforts to give other workers time to escape, prevent the spread of the fire, and lessen its immediate impacts. These components will be established after a critical evaluation of the working environment and the available materials.
In the development of the emergency action plan vital communication channels, reporting methods, and ways of alerting employees are important considerations. The personal and medical information of the organization's workers will be stored in an accessible location. On the other hand, each of these workers will be provided with internal numbers that are connected to intercom systems to promote the reporting of fires and other emergencies. Employees will also be alerted through public address systems and other emergency communications system.
While the plan helps in handling all potential fire emergencies in the workplace, its development will include conducting a hazard audit to identify potentially dangerous conditions ("Responding to Workplace Emergencies," n.d.). Rescue efforts in case of fire emergencies include the use of workplace maps and floor plans that clearly show the escape routes and safe or refuge areas. The workers will be informed the respective actions during a fire incident in the workplace including a designated assembly point for evacuation.
Conducting Employee Training:
After the development of the emergency action plan, employee training should be conducted to notify the workers of their responsibilities during an emergency and their actions towards lessening the impacts of the incidents. First, each of the employees will be notified of their duty to report potential fire hazards to their supervisors and Safety Manager. As part of enabling them to report probable fire hazards, every department in the organization should conduct a fire hazard inspection every quarter for safety…