EHS Management

Business Saving Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Ensure Hazardous Materials Safety

Proper storage of hazardous materials is essential both for your day-to-day business activities and for emergency planning. In the event of a disaster or emergency, leaks or spills of hazardous products can be dangerous and costly and can multiply your recovery problems.

Your facility walk-through should cover storage areas, checking for safe storage of hazardous materials. Large drums or bags of chemicals should be kept on pallets, off the floor. Make sure that containers are still sound and that they are not in danger of being knocked off shelves. A lip on a shelf can prevent this. Buildings containing stored liquid chemicals should have a solid floor and a containment area to take care of accidental spills.

Ensure that underground storage tanks (USTs) at your facility have been installed correctly and are operated and maintained properly to avoid leaks. Be familiar with state and federal regulations for USTs, which dictate safe methods of maintaining underground storage. Underground tanks are required to have spill buckets or catchment basins to contain any spilled materials. They also should have automatic shutoff devices, overfill alarms, or ball float valves to prevent overfilling. USTs should be monitored monthly for spills or leaks. Check gauges and piping as well. These are the standard requirements, not solely for emergency planning, but they become critical when there is a disaster.

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Prepare for Utility Disruptions

There are steps you can take to minimize disruption of your business, even in the case of power outages. Consult with your service providers about possible alternative power sources. Consider buying a backup generator to keep your business in operation during an extended power outage. Generators produce deadly carbon monoxide and should never be operated indoors or next to open windows.

Learn how to turn off your utilities. If you turn off the gas, you need to call your local gas company to turn it back on. Do not turn it back on yourself.

If food storage or refrigeration is essential in your business, locate a vendor who can provide ice and dry ice in case you lose power. This may give you a margin of time to arrange for and set up alternate sources of power.

And you should have cell phones or walkie-talkies that do not use electricity to ensure that you can communicate with employees, vendors, and clients during any power outage.

Set Up an Employee Communication Plan

During any emergency, communication with your employees is important. A communications plan must be set up before any event occurs. Emergency preparedness information should be published in a company newsletter, employee e-mails, or intranet. Some employers establish an out-of-town phone number where employees can leave a message to report their status after a disaster. Department managers can set up telephone trees to call their staff to keep them informed about the status of the business following an emergency.

It is also recommended that employees be trained in evacuation procedures for exiting your building at the time of a disaster such as a fire. Key personnel should also be trained in first aid and CPR.

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Shore Up Emergency Supplies

Sometimes a disaster hits while everyone is at work. You need to prepare for the contingency that you and your employees may not be able to return home right away. The recommended basic supply kit contains water and food for each person for at least 3 days, a can opener, a battery-powered radio and a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a whistle, moist towelettes, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, and garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation. DHS also suggests that you keep plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal rooms, if necessary.

NOAA weather radios can alert you when an emergency watch or warning is issued. A standard battery-powered radio can be used to tune into news reports. Both are recommended for your safety.

At there is information on preparedness for terrorist-caused disasters, as well as natural events. The Be Informed section has lifesaving information on what to do when an emergency occurs. The site has some documents that will help your company prepare an emergency plan.

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