Emergency Preparedness and Response

Weather Emergencies Preparation Won’t Wait

The recent brisk temperatures here in New England are chilly reminders that winter is on its way and with it the possibility of damaging snow and ice storms. But weather emergencies can strike anywhere anytime, and if workers aren’t prepared, the results can be catastrophic. Here are some tips for getting your workforce prepared.

OSHA’s emergency action plan standard (29 CFR 1910.38) is not required for all employers, but any workplace would be made safer by adhering to its requirements for emergency plans and employee training. The OSHA Required Training for Supervisors monthly newsletter recommends that you train workers on:

  • Hazards of weather emergencies and natural disasters specific to your area
  • Highlights of your company’s plan
  • Workplace evacuation procedures
  • Preparation for weather emergencies and natural disasters specific to your area
  • Safety precautions

Extreme Weather Hazards

Go over these common hazards:

  • Collapsed walls and buildings
  • Injured or trapped people
  • Impassable bridges and roads
  • Downed power and communication lines
  • Broken windows
  • Water damage
  • Outside items blown or washed away
  • Lightning strikes
  • Downed trees or tree limbs.

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Your Emergency Plan

Cover these precautions with workers:

  • Evacuation routes and procedures
  • Critical plant operations
  • Accounting for evacuees
  • Rescue and medical duties
  • Procedures for reporting emergencies
  • What to do in specific situations, including:

During Earthquakes:

  • Move away from windows and equipment.
  • Take shelter under strong furniture or in a door frame.
  • Evacuate once the earthquake subsides.
  • If outside, move away from buildings, power lines, utility poles, and trees.
  • If in a car, pull over to a clear spot and stay in the car.

During Tornadoes:

  • Get into a solid building.
  • Stay away from doors and windows.
  • Go to the center of the building.
  • Take shelter under furniture or in a closet or bathroom.
  • If outside, lie flat in a ditch and cover your head with your hands.

During Hurricanes:

  • Prepare for high winds and floodwaters.
  • Evacuate if advised.
  • Go to the center of the building.
  • Be wary of the eye of the hurricane.

During Floods:

  • Evacuate the flood zone.
  • Move to high ground away from water.
  • Don’t try to drive across flooded roads.
  • If trapped, go to a higher floor and wait for rescue.

During Thunderstorms:

  • Go inside a sturdy building or vehicle.
  • Stay away from windows, faucets, and electrical items.
  • If outside, crouch on the ground in a low place clear of trees, poles, water, or metal fences or pipes.

During Wildfires:

  • Shut off gas and electricity, and close windows and doors.
  • Water surrounding vegetation.
  • If trapped outside, crouch in a pond or river, or move to an open area.

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Our Safety Training Tips editor adds that if you haven’t done so recently, you should review your organization’s emergency plan with all of your employees. Explain how you will notify employees about plant closings and provide them with other critical information before, during, and after an emergency.

Give employees the opportunity to ask questions about anything that is unclear about the plan or any emergency procedures they don’t understand. Remind them that now is the time to ask questions and resolve uncertainties. There won’t be time to get those answers when a real emergency strikes. Also, be sure all employees understand their emergency duties. Carefully explain any unfamiliar duties they will be expected to assume in a crisis.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the legal, management, and training issues pertaining to weather emergencies.