It’s no surprise that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is a huge supporter of the importance of creating a small business evacuation plan. After all, small business owners, managers, and employees who plan, practice, and review how they’ll exit a building in the event of an emergency are better equipped to evacuate safely than those that don’t have an exit strategy.
A workplace emergency can strike anytime, anywhere, and can affect anyone. It’s not limited to natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes either. Fires, chemical spills, radioactive accidents, biohazards, civil disturbances, and even workplace violence can also threaten customers, employees, or the public, which can disrupt or shut down business operations.
The model way to respond to an emergency situation is to prepare ahead of time. It’s more difficult to think logically, rationally, and clearly in the midst of a crisis, so it’s essential to do so in the forefront.
Creating a small business evacuation plan should include a number of key steps:
- Designate a person of authority that can issue an evacuation order along with a chain of command in case the authorized person is unavailable.
- Assign specific tasks to employees and train replacements in the event that the assigned individual is injured or unavailable. Develop checklists for all assigned duties.
- Make copies of location and building maps with clearly labeled emergency routes.
- Establish evacuation plans for each business location.
- Plan more than one way out of the building.
- Install emergency lighting in case of a power outage.
- Compile supplies for an emergency kit.
- Designate an alternate location where employees can assemble
- Develop a plan for the hearing-impaired and disabled.
- Develop a roster or checklist to account for all employees.
- Make an “in-place shelter” plan in case authorities advise staying put.
- Document and distribute workplace written evacuation plan procedures.
- Keep copies of the building site map and evacuation plan procedures in multiple locations, including an off-site location.
Practice, Test, and Review
Practicing your evacuation plan is perhaps equally as important as creating a small business evacuation plan. On a regular basis, conduct employee practice drills and training exercises so that everyone in the location is well-accustomed to the plan. Warning systems should be testing frequently as well. If your business operates in a location where other people work, such as a high-rise building or strip mall, coordinate practice sessions with these individuals and groups as well. Lastly, regularly review and revise your small business evacuation plan.