Do I need an emergency response plan?

DF SafetyHealth and Safety Tips, HSE Compliance, Management and Leadership, Workplace Safety

Do I need an Emergency Response Plan? 

In short, yes! Every organization should have an emergency response plan that suits their needs. Here’s a short story on why it’s so important. 

Many years ago, I put an emergency response plan together for an organization which had an incident. People at the facility noticed a strong natural gas smell in the gym area.  There was a delay in immediate action, as no one knew what to do. Should we investigate? Should we evacuate? Who do we call for this? In the end, they called an organizational leader who was in another Province, he advised them to evacuate. The gas company was called, the natural gas leak was identified, and the supply was shut off and repaired.  

This story has a happy ending, no one was injured, there was no property damage and I put together a comprehensive emergency response plan and trained their people. If another incident were to occur, they’ll be ready to respond! 

Another reason you should have an emergency response plan is due to it being a law under legislation.  That is certainly the case here in Alberta and the legislation is found in Part 7 Emergency Preparedness and Response – Alberta OH&S Code.  The three specific requirements are as follows: 

  • An employer must establish an emergency response plan for responding to an emergency that may require rescue or evacuation.  
  • An employer must involve affected workers in establishing the emergency response plan. 
  • An employer must ensure that an emergency response plan is current. 

Ok, so you need a plan for responding to emergencies or rescues, you must involve affected workers and it needs to be current. Great, now what do I put in it? Happily, The OHS Code also supplies the answer.  Here’s are items you are required to include in it. 

  • the identification of potential emergencies; 
  • procedures for dealing with the identified emergencies; 
  • the identification of, location of and operational procedures for emergency equipment; 
  • the emergency response training requirements; 
  • the location and use of emergency facilities; 
  • the fire protection requirements; 
  • the alarm and emergency communication requirements; 
  • the first aid services required; 
  • procedures for rescue and evacuation; 
  • the designated rescue and evacuation workers. 

Part 7 goes on to talk about the requirements for rescue and evacuations workers in terms of training and equipment. You cannot send your emergency workers into the world untrained! 

So, give some thought to your own organization.  Even the lowest hazard organization might have to prepare for an evacuation due to fire! I have prepared emergency response plans for very diverse organizations, everything from churches to post-secondary education institutions to large and small companies.   

Last pointers:   

  1. In my mind, the best emergency response plan is a simple emergency response plan.  Don’t use 1000 words when 100 will do.  Make it clear and understandable.  flow charts help!  
  1. Use the plan! One of the biggest problems with well-made plans is people consider it mission accomplished when they are signed off.  They go in a filing cabinet and they never get read!  When you have completed your plan, hold a few safety meetings to explain elements of the plan to everyone.  Set up training for your key people, not just about first aid and external training, make sure they understand the plan so they can take quick decisive action when the time comes. 

That’s it for this week, good luck with your Emergency Response Plans! Don’t forget to utilize any internal resources you have. Involve your workers, safety representatives and safety committee. 

Dave Ferro is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional with 25 years of experience in safety and emergency response and is registered as an Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics.