Emergencies can strike at any time without warning. While most people are well-practiced in emergency evacuations at work, the opposite is true at home. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), only one out of every three American households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
When it comes to emergency planning in the workplace, roles and responsibilities are required to be clearly established. There are people designated to make sure that:
- everyone gets out of the building,
- all the doors are closed upon evacuation,
- 911 is called and there’s a point of contact for emergency services to indicate what type of emergency occurred,
- people with accessibility issues have someone to help them,
- a headcount was conducted, and
- all people from the building are accounted for.
Unlike at work, it’s not mandatory to outline similar roles and responsibilities for an emergency at home and as a result, this crucial step on the emergency planning “to-do” list never gets done (or never even makes it on the list). In order to ensure the safety of every member of the family in an emergency, a practiced escape plan is essential.
It’s important to develop an escape plan specific to your home (a generic plan will not do). Map out each room of the house showing all doors, windows and smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. Include the emergency meeting place outside on the map (choose something familiar like a flag pole or mailbox, and make sure it’s far enough from the house to keep everyone safe). In the case of a fire or suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, a quick evacuation is necessary.
Remember that not all emergencies are fire-related, so it’s necessary to practice different types of emergency procedures. Determine what types of conditions would dictate an emergency evacuation. In the event of a flood, tornado, or an earthquake, you’re not always able to escape and, instead, might have to find a safe place to wait out the storm.
An emergency kit is warranted in these scenarios, so practice becoming familiar with the items in the kit. Find and (if possible) pre-program or write down the details of local radio or television stations for quick access in an emergency to stay informed of any updates.
Put it into action
According to the NFPA, only 47% of people who have an escape plan have also practiced it, but taking a few minutes a couple of times a year doesn’t seem like that much work when you consider that every day, seven people in the U.S. die in home fires.
When practicing an escape plan, it’s important to check all windows and doors to ensure they open, and to clear anything obstructing them. It’s also important to consider multiple scenarios (including conducting both daytime and nighttime drills) and emergencies that require exploring different ways out—for example, planning two ways out of every room.
It’s also important for both colleagues and their family members to know why doors need to be closed on the way out—a closed door will slow the spread of a fire, potentially preventing fire damage and saving lives by giving people more time to escape.
Similar to workplace emergency plans, roles and responsibilities need to be established in the event of an emergency at home. If anyone in the household requires special accommodations, make sure they are not left to fend for themselves.
Children should be taught how to escape on their own and how to call 911 from a cellphone in the event of an emergency. It’s important that they know the address of the house and their parents’ cellphone numbers. Additionally, making a list of emergency numbers accessible and easy to grab on the way out can be extremely helpful.
It’s critical to determine who is in charge during an emergency and assign someone to be their backup. Preparing for different roles is important since someone could be away from home at the time of the emergency or worse, they could be incapacitated. Finally, it’s more tempting to re-enter the home than the workplace, so make everyone aware of how important it is to stay out once evacuated.
Since emergencies require a quick response, preparing and practicing for all outcomes will help ensure a safe outcome. Emergency kits play a big role in these preparations as they are a great way to have all the essential items gathered in one place.
A standard emergency kit should contain enough supplies to last 72 hours. If you can’t get all of the required food for the emergency kit ahead of time (due to budget constraints or fear of food expiring), make sure the pantry or food storage area within the home has all the required items. This will allow the food and water to be better monitored and ensure they are safe for consumption at the time of emergency.
A basic emergency kit should include:
- water (enough for each person for three days)
- non-perishable food items like energy bars, canned food, and dried goods
- manual can opener
- family first-aid kit
- medications (a list is required so that they can be quickly collected) and medical supplies
- personal hygiene items and tissues
- multifunction/multitool knife (Swiss Army knife)
- glow sticks
- charger for communication devices
Typically, when an evacuation is required, there isn’t a lot of time to stop and grab things. An emergency kit that’s kept in the house will serve well in emergencies when evacuation is not required. Keeping an emergency kit in the trunk of a vehicle will ensure that anything required while evacuated can be found there. Water and food are hard to store in a vehicle due to varying temperatures, so having easy access to these items outside of the home would be beneficial in an emergency.
The emergency kit in the vehicle should include:
- blankets and/or sleeping bags
- candle and matches (in a waterproof container)
- flashlight with extra batteries
- personal first aid kit
- car charger for mobile phone
The concept of 24/7 safety may seem a bit challenging at times, but it’s not impossible. Employees cannot be monitored every hour that they’re not at work, but their safety outside the workplace affects their presence there. It’s important to let them know that their lives matter. Communicate this to employees—this act alone can increase engagement substantially. Share tips like these with employees and take your company one step closer to 24/7 safety.