Your company wants to ensure everyone is safe from potential hazards in the event of an emergency. Uncertain events can impact a business’s ability to function efficiently. With the uncertainties that can happen within the workplace, many employers must consider if they truly know how to develop an emergency preparedness plan.
Creating this plan may seem challenging when each day could present a new risk, but certain steps can be taken so that, when the unexpected does occur, your company is ready for anything. Everyone on your staff will be able to respond quickly, efficiently, and not run the risk of large errors happening due to confusion.
For industries with employees and clients who speak other languages, it’s crucial to ensure that you have an emergency plan. But, more importantly, that all of those in need will have access to information and materials in their preferred language.
How to Develop a Company Emergency Response Plan
One of the first steps to consider when developing an emergency response plan is to assess the hazards likely to present themselves due to your location, industry, and general concerns that should be addressed across the board. You’ll want to evaluate any potential risks and determine what disasters or hazards could cause a threat to your workplace and the safety of your staff.
This could include natural hazards, such as floods, earthquakes, tornados, and severe storms, as well as health hazards. It can also include any potential human-caused hazards such as a workplace accident. The most common major hazards to consider when crafting a company emergency response plan include:
- Snow, ice, hail, sleet
- Windstorms, hurricanes tornados
- Foodborne illnesses
- Pandemic, infections, and communicable disease
- Hazardous spills
- Improper use or malfunction of machinery
- Explosions or fire
- Building/structural damage or collapse
- Telecommunications failure
- Utility issues (gas, water, HVAC, sewage, etc.)
How to Develop a Company-wide Emergency Plan
The next step is developing your plan. Start by signing up for local warnings and alerts that would send notifications in cases of severe weather or other local area emergencies. Start formulating an effective, tailored plan that organizes employer and workers’ actions during emergencies. Address specific worksite layouts, emergency systems, and structural features.
What Industries Benefit From an Emergency Response Plan?
For some industries, developing an emergency response plan is mandatory through OSHA. It is strongly recommended to have these plans regardless of requirement. These aren’t meant just for industries where there are greater risks, such as manufacturing, healthcare, or utilities.
Emergency response plans are also key for those in government agencies, the legal and judicial industry, as well as travel and hospitality. No matter where you work, there will always be the risk of unforeseen emergencies, and your employees can benefit from having a clear response plan in action.
Accessibility of an Emergency Response Plan
When developing your emergency response plan, it is important to ensure that your plan is clearly communicated to all employees. To ensure this is the case, it is beneficial to offer this information in different translations. Your employees are diverse; odds are, there is someone employed now (or who will be employed in the future) who may speak English but not as their first language. Given the importance of this material, it should be accessible in forms most easily understood by the greatest number of people possible—including alternate first languages, such as Spanish.
Using a translator engine online can be risky and, often, insufficient. It may change the words, but it doesn’t always capture the same meaning. When it comes to emergencies, there should be no doubting what the instructions are trying to communicate. Using a translating service is your best bet for ensuring that your specific plan is written in a way that is understood by everyone. In addition to the written instructions, it is also beneficial to have some form of a phone interpretation service.
Actions for Life Safety
Each potential hazard may require a different response. Hazards within a building, such as a fire or a serious spill, can mean evacuation and the need to relocate. When it comes to severe weather like a tornado, your staff may have to move to the strongest part of the building that is away from glass and hunker down. In cases of potential violence, you may have to “lockdown” while your employees hide/barricade themselves.
Your action plan should always include these four key protective actions: evacuation, sheltering, shelter-in-place, and lockdown.
When it comes to evacuation, you’ll want to ensure that there is a warning system that can be heard throughout the building, such as a fire alarm, a public address system, or even air horns. When practicing drills, use these systems, so employees are familiar with the sounds. You’ll want to make sure that there are sufficient exits, especially in areas that may be more hazardous than others. Take the time to ensure that all exits are marked and that there is sufficient lighting in these areas.
You’ll want to map out the safest and fastest routes for your employees to take, as well as where they should congregate once evacuated. It is beneficial to appoint team leaders and assign roles to employees to help direct the evacuation, as well as aid any employees that may require it. You’ll want to consider keeping a list of employees, as well as a visitor log for your building. This will help to ensure that everyone is accounted for once evacuated.
When forced to take shelter, you’ll want to determine what the strongest part of your building is. Most often, people turn to basements or interior rooms with reinforced construction. Sheltering is often most associated with extreme weather, such as a tornado. It is important to conduct drills to ensure your employees understand where to go, as well as to make sure that the intended space is large enough to hold all of your employees.
Early warning is often key in these situations, which is why it is beneficial to subscribe to weather alerts.
Accidents can be unpredictable and extreme. If there is an explosion, or an accident involving harmful chemicals, there may be a public announcement to shelter-in-place. While this may be rare, it is still important to have a plan in place. You’ll need a way to warn everyone to stay away from windows and to move to the core of the building. If possible, move to the second floor or higher. In these situations, be sure that all exterior doors and windows are closed and that the air handling system is shut down. Everyone will need to remain sheltered until your area has been deemed safe by outside officials.
Acts of violence happen, and you want your staff prepared. They should be trained to react to suspicious noises as a loud pop could be gunfire. Your employees should understand the importance of immediate action. This involves hiding and remaining silent. If possible, they should know how to seek refuge and barricade themselves. Multiple employees should also be trained on how to broadcast a warning and contact authorities from a safe location.
What Should an Effective Plan Have?
When developing your plan, you want it to be clear, precise, and effective for all staff. While plans may differ slightly depending on the industry, effective plans should:
Offer Clear Communication
Your plans should be personnel-focused, as their safety should be your top concern. Communication should be a top priority for what to do during and after an emergency. The primary goal of this plan is to protect lives and property to the best of your capabilities.
Provide Concise Instructions
Be sure to include exact instructions for how to report any emergency or potential hazard. Include a list of important contact numbers accessible to all staff and include any primary languages spoken by your workplace staff.
Keep All Plans Available
Your plan should include evacuation procedures, emergency escape routes, and consider any hazards within the workplace, written and accessible for the entire team. Likewise, train all personnel responsible for communicating emergency plans to all necessary parties.
Develop proactive strategies for life-saving actions (evacuation, sheltering, shelter-in-place, and lockdown) and develop training for such eventualities. Make sure there is a list of procedures available for employees who will need to remain onsite during an event. Consider creating emergency simulation exercises (such as tornado drills or lockdown tests) to be the most prepared.
When developing your plan, consult with local health and safety authorities to ensure that regulations are adhered to, especially when it comes to formulating an emergency plan. All staff must receive training on the emergency preparedness plans specific to the area’s and industry’s needs and best practices.
Drill exercises are a great way to further ensure that employees are engaged and truly understand the procedures in place. Keep all escape routes, evacuation procedures, safety personnel contacts, and emergency contact records are established, effectively communicated, and can be easily found written somewhere onsite.
Inclusivity Is a Top Priority for an Emergency Plan
With each step of your plan, consider putting the proper accommodations in place for all your employees to be able to understand what is required of them. This includes offering all training material, procedure lists, and other necessary materials translated in the different languages of your staff.
Being proactive is key; in the case of an emergency, there won’t be a lot of time to scramble for translation. Each employee should feel confident that they understand the important procedures when dealing with potential workplace hazards.
What matters most is determining the potential hazards of your specific work environment, as well as the hazards that mother nature and human error can create. You’ll want to address each of these issues in a well-thought-out and communicated plan.
Translation services are the perfect tool to help you communicate these crucial plans clearly with all your employees, including non-native English speakers—an often-underserved portion of our workforce.
Find Help Developing Your Company’s Emergency Plan
Emergencies can happen quickly, and clear communication is key. Ensure your plan is clear and accessible to all employees. Include a list of important contacts who can help in case of an emergency.
Click to keep reading and learn more about our 911 Emergency translation and interpretation services and feel free to contact us to discuss your company’s emergency preparedness plan and how language services can be a integrale (and sometimes even required) part of your strategy.
Director of Contracting
Hayley has been with Telelanguage since 2016. She implements language services from contract negotiations through account set-up. Hayley oversees proposal development, business development, and contract management. In addition, Hayley develops content and graphics for Telelanguage’s various web and marketing platforms.