Emergency Management – Part III of A Safety Program in Facility Management

Emergency management is the proactive planning and management of unscheduled events or natural disasters that can impact occupants, operations, or the facilities you manage.  This article is Part III in a three-part series of creating a safety program within facility management.  So, let’s get started.

The goal of emergency management is to reduce the facility’s vulnerability to hazards and increase its ability to cope with disaster.  Emergency management will never eliminate all threats, but it will increase disaster response effectiveness.  Potential emergency threats include fire, natural disasters (earthquakes, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), active shooters, sabotage, terrorism, industrial accidents, etc.

Similar to managing safety and risk, the first step in emergency management is to identify the potential emergencies that could occur and impact your facilities directly.  I do not have a plan to react to a hurricane in Oklahoma, but I definitely have a plan for tornadoes.

Where to Begin?

Next, the facility uses this information to create an emergency action plan (EAP).  An EAP is a document required by OSHA standards and is written in 29 CFR 1910.38(a).  The purpose of the EAP is to outline what employer and employee responsibilities are during workplace emergencies.  According to OSHA, putting together a comprehensive emergency action plan that deals with those issues specific to your worksite is not difficult.  It involves taking what was learned from your workplace evaluation and describing how employees will respond to different types of emergencies, taking into account your specific worksite layout, structural features, and emergency systems.[1]

At a minimum, OSHA mandates that the EAP must include the following:

  • Means of reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
  • Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
  • Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted[2]

You should ensure that any other facility-specific details are included in the EAP as required.  An example of this might be the location of shut-offs to utilities that might be required in the event of an emergency.  You also could consider including alarm panel locations and instructions needed by someone who responds to that panel.  Our facility’s EAP has building diagrams with egress routes to employee gathering locations where attendance can be taken by their direct supervisors and reported up to management.  Make copies and don’t store them all in the same location.  A digital backup of the EAP is also recommended.

As you’ve learned in the previous two articles, organizations must have written plans specific to their facilities.  Think of these as general administrative controls covering the entire organization.  These plans include an emergency action plan, hazard communication, LOTO, PPE, bloodborne pathogens, use of respirators, confined space entry, etc.  If you don’t already have a Safety Manual created in your organization and don’t know where to start, I encourage you to download My Free Safety Manual.  It took me quite a bit of time to create and can be customized to your facilities fairly simply.  One of the first things you will notice in my Safety Manual is the EAP.

In Summary

This is the last of a three-part series on a safety program within facilities management.  Maintaining and executing a safety program is essential in facilities, whether that falls to the responsibility of the FM or not.  Learning emergency management is an important part of safety and is required by law to be considered.

Thanks so much for reading!  As always, please feel free to leave any comments.  If you have a question, I’d be happy to answer it.  Just shoot me an email at dan@learningfm.com.

[1] “Emergency Action Plan.” OSHA. 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/min_requirements.html.

[2] Ibid.

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