Building Awareness and Routines to Create a Safer Work Environment for Your Employees

emergency-preparedness-for-businessesThis summer a tornado touched down in Kentwood, Michigan, ripping up trees, roofs, and anything else in its path. Kathryn Snyder’s dog kennel, the Well Mannered Dog Center, was situated right in its path, and while the building was torn to shreds, her employees and all of the dogs on site were uninjured. Only one dog went missing in the chaos, but was later recovered and returned to its owners. Was this the result of luck, good planning and training, or a combination of both?

Entrepreneurs who have a vision for how they want their business to grow seldom visualize what would happen to their companies in the event of a large scale emergency. Yet we read about these things happening all the time: fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, gas leaks, pipeline breaks, or an at work injury. Do you have a plan for how to navigate these kinds of emergencies, and have you gone over it with your employees? Most businesses will not have to face a tornado head on, but could yours do so – and survive?

Preparing for an emergency is not simple, but there are some basics that must be addressed. Does your business have:

  • A policy in place for how to handle a variety of emergencies from a fire to a robbery?
  • Employees who have been trained and retrained in these measures at periodic intervals so they don’t have to stop and consult a manual when an alarm sounds?
  • A map of exits posted and a clear path to all of them?
  • A clear chain of command that all employees are aware of and comfortable with?

It’s important that the who, what, where, when, and why are firmly implanted in your workers’ heads so that in moments of panic or fear they know where the exit is, how many people work in the building, where they are supposed to reassemble away from the building, who to call to alert, and why all of this knowledge is important: because it can save lives and property.

It’s important to have business insurance. That can be an invaluable tool for replacing damaged items or compensating for lost revenue, but insurance cannot replace people, so your people must be trained in all applicable safety measures. The best way to do this is to make it routine. Repeat information quarterly and go through the drills. Yes, some of your workers may grumble about “pointless exercises.” When they do tell them this: In 2011 Japan experienced a magnitude 9 earthquake and a tsunami that resulted in massive structural damage and flooding as well as a nuclear power plant meltdown. This was one of the worst – and the costliest – natural disaster ever to happen. But because the citizens of northeastern Japan had prepared, trained, and regularly repeated emergency drills, fewer than 25,000 Japanese people were killed, wounded, or went missing.  In contrast, in 2010 a magnitude 7 earthquake occurred in an unprepared Haiti that killed between 100,000 and 160,000 people or more.

Preparation pays off. Be the ant, not the grasshopper.

 

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