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What YOU do in an emergency at work and what does everyone else DO!

Terry Penney
Emergencies happen every day in a variety of workplace, some events are large others are small but all are deemed by someone based upon the events in front of them to be an EMERGENCY.  So what is your training, how good was  it, when was is last tested or applied and how did YOU DO? At some point, most people will either witness or be involved in an emergency. Knowing what to do next and who to call can potentially save lives. Most of your safety training teaches you how to do your job safely on a day-to-day basis.  But what about those rare times when something goes seriously wrong?  Would you know how to respond?

Emergency preparedness is an important part of your job safety training.

I once witness a great example of not only compassion in an emergency but inner strength and knowledge by your HR person.  It was a real fire drill unknown to anyone including safety.  Well the alarms went, the wardens did their jobs and gathered up all the staff and sent them down the emergency stair wells except our HR Lady and One Employee that couldn’t do the stairs, ( and yes safety offered to stay)   Her response was nope Ive got this Ill stay and just send up the emergency crews to get us ( even with the lady now having a panic attack that couldn’t make the flight of stairs (we were on the 18 floor).  Now that confidence in training and in your team that you cannot buy or have develop overnight, but due to her training and knowledge our HR lady knew that our teams descending with the masses would not faultier or forget they need help based upon the building plans.  And yes the fire crews did come up and yes it was drill but in life we had no idea, the whole event was REAL, just like an emergency!

An emergency situation is any situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property, or environment. Knowing how to assess the signs that make up an emergency will help you know how to handle it. In addition, being well-prepared for an emergency will pay off when it’s time to handle any emergency situation.

Remain calm. Although emergencies require rapid action, the most important factor in effectively handling the situation is to keep calm. If you find yourself becoming confused or anxious, stop what you’re doing. Take a deep breath. Remember that to be calm in a stressful situation you must deliberately adjust your behavior. The reason you feel panicked in an emergency is the result of your body’s automatic overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol. The cortisol goes to the brain and slows down the pre-frontal cortex, which is the region responsible for planning complex action.

Determine the nature of the emergency. What signs indicate that there is an emergency? Is this a medical emergency, or is there a threat to the property/building that may result in human injury? Behavioral emergencies are best met by remaining calm, and encouraging the person in crisis to stay calm as well.

Know that sudden changes can be emergencies. Chemical spills, fires, breaking water pipes, electrical outages, natural disasters such as floods or fires are all examples of potential workplace emergencies. If you have advance warning of the possibility of an emergency, such the warning of flood, heavy snow, tornado, etc., you may be better prepared. However, the nature of an emergency is to be unexpected. When assessing emergency situations, be aware that the situation may be volatile. It may change rapidly.

Be alert for human-caused emergencies. Assaults or threats of violence at a workplace or home are emergencies that call for rapid response. In most cases, there is no predictable pattern or method to these emergencies. These situations tend to be unpredictable, and they change quickly.

Assess the immediate threat. For example, if one person appears injured, are you or anyone else in danger of also being injured? For example, if one person is caught in a machine, is the machine turned off? If there has been a chemical spill, is the spill spreading towards anyone else?

Remove yourself from danger. If you, or others, are at risk of being harmed, leave the situation immediately. If you have an evacuation plan, follow it. Go to an area where you will be safe.

· In a situation where you cannot leave, find the safest possible location within your given area. For example, hiding beneath a solid surface, such as a desk or table, may help if there is a chance of being hit by falling debris.

Help others leave a hazardous area. If you can safely assist someone else in leaving a dangerous situation, do so. If returning to the emergency situation is risky, a trained rescue person may be better equipped to retrieve anyone in harm’s way. Offering verbal reassurance to an injured person if he is conscious will help another person, even if you can’t move him.

Seek additional help. Like calling  911 or what ever agency you have

Determine if you can do anything to help. The most important thing you can do is to remain calm, and stay in control of the situation. Sometimes there is nothing that you can do, and that’s fine. Don’t be worried about admitting that there’s nothing you can do to help.

Take time to think before acting. Being in an emergency situation can result in panicked thinking and actions. Instead of reacting to a situation, take time to calm down. Breathe deeply before you take any action.

Get the first aid kit. A first aid kit should have constructive tools for taking care of many medical emergencies. Any first aid kit should contain bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, disinfectant, and other useful items.

The best response in an emergency situation is to follow the emergency plan of your home or workplace. Certain people may be identified as emergency leaders, with special training. In an emergency, you will save necessary time and energy by following the plan. Your emergency plan should have an assembly place to gather once you’ve evacuated the home or building.

· Keep emergency phone numbers posted near the phone.

· Important medical data should be stored in your phone or your wallet.

· Know your physical address. You’ll need to know your location in order to tell any emergency dispatcher where to send help. While it may be easy to know the address of your home, it’s also important to memorize the address of your workplace. Get into the habit of checking the address wherever you are.

Identify your closest exits. Always be aware of the exits to any building you’re in, whether they’re home, office, or commercial locations. Identify at least 2 exits, in case one is blocked. In a workplace or public location, exits should be clearly marked. Choose two places where you can regather with your family or coworkers. One location should be outside the home or workplace. The other location should be outside the immediate vicinity, in case the neighborhood is unsafe. Emergency exits are essential to escape from:

· Fires, either inside the building or in the surrounding area.

· Explosions caused by gas leaks or chemical reactions.

· Power outages caused by natural disasters or internal electrical problems.

· Building collapse or major structural failure.

· Release of toxic substances or spills of flammable liquids.

· Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tornados.

Several of these events may happen in a sequence as one triggers another.  An explosion may start a fire and cause structural damage in one part of a building.  The fire may also cause a loss of electrical power, plunging your work area into darkness.  Bearing this in mind, emergency exits probably seem a lot more important to you now.

Emergencies can occur at any time for a variety of reasons. The first priority is always your safety. Be prepared to respond independently, particularly if working after-hours. When to call 9-1-1 or 999 or whatever system you use (where available)

· Report a fire

· Report a crime

· Save a life

In case of a major emergency

· Follow your emergency plan

· Get your emergency kit

· Make sure you are safe before assisting others.

· Listen to the radio or television for information from local officials and follow their instructions.

· Stay put until all is safe or until you are ordered to evacuate.

Shelter-in-place

You may be instructed to “shelter-in-place” if chemical, biological or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. This means you must remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. The following steps will help maximize your protection:

· Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.

· Turn off all fans, heating and air-conditioning systems to avoid drawing in air from the outside.

· Close the fireplace damper.

· Get your emergency kit and make sure the radio is working.

· Go to an interior room that’s above ground level (if possible, one without windows). In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.

· Using duct or other wide tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.

· Continue to monitor your radio or television until you are told all is safe or are advised to evacuate.

Evacuation orders

Authorities will not ask you to leave your home unless they have reason to believe you are in danger.

If you are ordered to evacuate, take:

· your emergency kit

· your emergency plan

· essential medications and copies of prescriptions

· a cellular phone (if you have one)

If and ONLY IF you have time:

· Call or e-mail your out-of-town contact. Tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive. (Once you are safe, let them know. Tell them if any family members have become separated.)

· Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.

· Things to Remember

· Remain calm, use common sense, and provide aid. Take time to think before acting.

· Always evacuate the building immediately when you hear an audible alarm or see a visible alarm, when directed by authorities, or when the building becomes life-threatening, e.g., smelling natural gas.

· Proceed to the emergency gathering point for further instructions.

· Do not use the telephone for reasons other than emergency purposes.

· Do not enter elevators during an emergency. If stuck in an elevator do not attempt to force open stalled elevator doors, use the emergency phone to contact Public Safety.

· Keep a flashlight handy if you are in an area that does not have emergency lighting or natural lighting.

· Know the location of all marked exits from your working area.

What to do in your company plan or building plan if:

· During an avalanche

· During an earthquake

· During a flood

· During a hurricane

· During a landslide

· During a severe storm

· During a storm surge

· During a tornadoes

· During a tsunamis

· During a wildfire

· During a power outages

Knowing what to do in case of an emergency can help prevent panic and it can save lives. Learn your part in emergency procedures.

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