HR Management

9/11’s Lesson for Business: Have an Emergency Response Plan That Works

The 5th anniversary of that tragic September morning reiterates how important it is to plan for emergencies. Here are some of the basics.

With the 5th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, there’s again discussion about whether anything could have lessened the extreme loss of life on that terrible day.

Although the terrorists are ultimately to blame, investigations have revealed serious flaws in emergency planning that may also have cost lives. Communications were uncoordinated, responsibilities confused, and conflicting instructions issued. The occupants of one doomed tower were told to leave the building, then told moments later, by the same authorities, to stay.

Hopefully, nothing like 9/11 will ever happen again but the experience does point out the importance of every organization having a solid, tested emergency response plan. Here are a few pointers toward creating such a program, derived from our combined CD-ROM and reproducible Emergency Procedures Handbook program, called Emergency Response Plan.

Appoint a Floor Monitor. This person is charged with carrying out your emergency plan for his or her floor or work area. Monitors should know the layout, the number and location of workers, the designated exits and refuge areas, and the special needs of disabled workers. Your Floor Monitor is also the official source employees should look to for information and communication.

Cover All the Hazards: Unfortunately, we live in an age of many hazards. As many as possible should be planned for. A partial list of what the BLR program covers:

  • Fire
  • Natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes)
  • Water damage (flooding)
  • Power failure
  • Bomb threats
  • Civil disturbances
  • Hazardous materials release
  • Violence in the workplace

Know What To Do: Employees, and especially floor monitors, need detailed instructions for each type of emergency. Some pointers from the program: Split up the workforce beforehand so no one exit is overcrowded; never attempt to fight a fire that takes more than one standard extinguisher to put out; and have a detailed checklist of information to gather for police in a bomb threat or violence incident.

Have the Proper Recordkeeping: An appendix section in the BLR Plan provides both accident investigation forms for after an incident and workplace inspection forms to hopefully, prevent that incident from happening. Proper recordkeeping will be vital in any legal action that follows an incident.

And finally,

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! The BLR program suggests holding appropriate drills every six months.

Whether you use a prewritten program like ours or not, the takeaway is this: Emergencies will happen. Have a plan in place!

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