A good disaster plan will include all the numbers of vendors, contractors and service providers that may be needed in case of emergency. The list should include everything from the police and fire departments to disaster clean-up teams. Periodically double-check phone numbers and contact info to make sure everything is up-to-date; the last thing you want is to find out at the worst possible time that a number is no longer in service.
Preparing staff for emergencies should go beyond basic fire drills and handing them a disaster response packet at orientation; it should also include training the staff most likely to encounter a perpetrator, like a receptionist or security guard. Role play different situations with these individuals. How would they handle someone threatening them with a knife or a gun? How do they protect themselves and alert someone of the situation? Talk to them about different scenarios and ways they can respond to them.
Good communication is important to smooth disaster handling. For example, depending on the circumstances, occupants may need to evacuate or take refuge in the building. Or, they may need to be split into groups where one evacuates and the other takes refuges. Therefore, it’s important that they know exactly what is expected of them. To avoid confusion, remember to communicate the situation in clear terms. For example, FacilitiesNet writes that in some cases, the term “active shooter” is used literally, meaning that there is person with a gun on the premises. In other cases, however, it’s used whenever there’s a violent situation occurring. Help occupants stay safe and informed by avoiding ambiguity and remembering that what is a familiar term to you may be unknown to them.
In addition to training and role playing, staff should also be prepared for crises by knowing the safest routes for exiting the building. You can use OfficeSpace Software to plan out emergency routes, print out route maps for staff or locate emergency items like fire extinguishers. Having that visual guidance will be helpful when there’s a crisis going on.
Emergency supplies are not immune from danger themselves. So just like you should double-check the contact information for your contractors, you should also periodically check on your emergency supplies. Just ask the assistant vice president of FM Global, John Wheeler. “In one case, a client’s flood barriers had been stolen and sold for scrap years before the theft was noticed,” Wheeler tells FacilitiesNet. “In another, a stockpile of plywood was safely locked up, but had been completely ruined by carpenter ants.”
According to Wheeler, when you ask members of the maintenance team whether they would stay in an emergency, you can expect about half to say yes. If the emergency will require them to be on-site for several long hours, be sure you have a plan for accommodating them that includes food, supplies and a place to sleep.
It sounds like simple advice, but staying calm is critical when emergencies happen. Why? Panicking can have a domino effect. If you’re panicking while you’re at the site of the emergency, that panic may spread to others, such as staff members, or your colleagues who are helping you handle the emergency. When that happens, the turmoil can result in poor decision-making Prepare yourself by taking the precautions listed above, and you’ll be better able to be calm in the face of the storm.
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