Creating an Office Emergency Plan

Here at the Pacific Coast Chapter in Santa Barbara, we’ve had a lot of changes lately! We’ve gotten a brand new name, hired several new staff members, and have undergone a thorough spring cleaning of the building. Part of all these updates (and part of my job as Business Operations Coordinator), has been to revise our office emergency plan. It’s important to us, as an organization that promotes and teaches disaster preparedness, to make sure we ourselves are prepared and up-to-date!

Melissa Durand, Business Operations Coordinator, pointing out our pre-designated gathering spot to volunteers Gayle Robinson and Timmy Kriedman, as well as Major Gifts Officer Kimberley Coley
Melissa Durand, Business Operations Coordinator, pointing out our pre-designated gathering spot to volunteers Gayle Robinson and Timmy Kriedman, as well as Major Gifts Officer Kimberley Coley

For this blog post, I’d like to share with you what we did to implement our plan and conduct an office earthquake drill.  I hope this may help you determine what steps you can take in your own workplace to be prepared!

Steps to Office Preparedness:

1. Remind all staff and volunteers to update their emergency contact information. Here at the Red Cross, all of our staff is required to provide emergency contact information to HR. Likewise, all of our volunteers must provide emergency contact information on our volunteer management site, Volunteer Connection. I reminded both staff and volunteers to make sure their emergency contact information is current, and will send out reminders periodically to ensure everyone stays up-to-date.

2. Develop a system to keep track of who is on premise. The Red Cross is comprised of about 90% volunteers! This means we have volunteers and visitors coming in and out of the office all the time. If an emergency occurs during business hours, it will be assumed that all staff was on-premise at the time. However, we will still need to account for any volunteers or visitors. For this purpose, we have a visitor sign-in sheet at the front desk. We ask that all volunteers and visitors sign in when they arrive, and sign out again when they leave. This way, in the event of an emergency, we have a list of who was in the building at the time and can make sure everyone is accounted for.

3. Create an office evacuation plan, including pre-designated gathering points. I used OSHA’s helpful e-tool to create a written Emergency Action Plan for our office. This plan lists the location of fire extinguishers, exit routes, and first aid kits, as well as where our pre-designated gathering point is. It also details the names of employees who have volunteered to assist in an emergency and what duties they will conduct (e.g. taking roll call after an evacuation). This document was sent out to all staff members for their reference and will be kept on file.

4. Create a plan for responding to internal medical emergencies. Included in our Emergency Action Plan are procedures for internal medical emergencies, including documentation and follow-up procedures. We also identified and listed staff who are trained in and willing to offer first aid and/or CPR in the event of an internal medical emergency.

5. Maintain office emergency preparedness supplies. When putting together our Emergency Action Plan, I went through the office and figured out what supplies we needed to purchase, repair, or update. For instance, I checked the tags on our fire extinguishers and noted when we need to have them serviced or replaced. I also updated our emergency exit route signs (making sure they are visible throughout the office), and checked to see if we needed to replenish our first aid kit supplies. This is something I will continue to do periodically.

6. Create a timeline for conducting regular drills. Last week, we held our first office earthquake drill! We practiced evacuating the building and meeting in our pre-designated gathering point for roll call. I also briefly went over our Emergency Action Plan, making sure everyone is clear on our procedures and answering any questions or concerns. Again, this is something that should be done on a regular basis, and I created a timeline for our office to conduct a drill every 6 months.

I hope that reading about the simple steps we’ve taken to prepare our office for emergencies has given you some ideas for implementing preparedness measures at your own workplace. After all, the average American spends about 1/3 of their time at work (!), so we want to make sure we’re just as prepared at our workplaces as we are in our homes.

Melissa Durand
Business Operations Coordinator
Pacific Coast Chapter, American Red Cross

One thought on “Creating an Office Emergency Plan

  1. Melissa – I love this and appreciate you approaching what can sometimes be seen as an overwhelming process with practical, simple steps. I also like the approach you took in incorporate our team in the process – hence creating ownership. Well done!


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