How To Deal with Emergencies in the Workplace

Emergencies happen when you least expect them. That's why they're emergencies. And so when things happen out of the blue, you should know what to do. These occurrences include force majeure, which means acts that are uncontrollable by humans, like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. There are also other accidents like fires, falls and even acts of violence by other people. And then there are the minor emergencies like power outages and health emergencies.

In the workplace, dealing with emergencies would often involve instituting a plan for safety and evacuation, given different scenarios.

Practice - The first step to being prepared for emergencies is practice. Fire department usually schedule fire and earthquake drills for office buildings, to give workers a familiarity with the fire exits, stairwells, fire hoses and axes, and alarm switches. You should consult with your building administrator, so you can participate. In some areas, participation in evacuation drills is stipulated by law.

Prevention - The next step should be to prepare your workplace for any eventuality. You should design your office to be as earthquake- and fire-proof as possible. Use fire-retardant materials, and keep your important files and documents in a fire-retardant safe. As for earthquake protection, avoid keeping heavy objects such as file folders and vases in high areas. Identify strong beams, door jambs and tables where you and your colleagues can hide under in case of an earthquake.

During an emergency - If an earthquake starts remain calm and stay under a sturdy support structure, in case the ceiling collapses or objects fall from high places. After the initial tremors, everyone in the office building should calmly exit into the streets in a calm, orderly fashion. Do not use the elevators, but rather just use the stairs.

If a fire breaks out, also exit the office building in an orderly way, going down the stairs instead of the elevator. Before opening doors, take a feel of the doorknob first, to see if it's hot. If it's burning hot, most probably the other room is in fire, and the rush of air might let the flames into the room you are currently in. Try another exit. Keep low near the floor, because smoke usually rises up to the ceiling.

In case of hurricane and flooding, it's best to stay at the lower floors of a building: low enough to avoid falling off windows in case the wind breaks glass or crashes debris into the building, but high enough to avoid the flood waters.

Evacuation - After an emergency event, everyone in an office building should file out towards an open area, as far away as possible from the building. If you are in a hurricane or flooded area, meanwhile, then the best thing to do is stay indoors until the wind and/or waters subside, and help comes.

After an emergency - After an earthquake or fire, it is assumed that everyone is already outside of the office building, in a clear space, where no buildings or structures can fall on people. The best thing to do is wait for authorities to assess the situation before anyone could return inside the building, because it might not yet be safe.


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