Are Your Emergency Procedures Up to Par?

Building an emergency plan is a key step for any cultural institution. This workbook offers a step-by-step guide for developing relevant procedures for sites, collections, and regions.

Evacuation plans help to warn building occupants of hazards and dangers and prepare them to exit the structure safely. Review the performance objectives and hazard/threat scenarios your risk assessment identifies.

1. Evacuation Procedures

When the time comes to evacuate your building, having procedures in place will make all the difference. Evacuation plans aren’t just about shutting down critical machinery and closing fire doors; they should also cover who is responsible for each level of the building, what areas are most at risk of a threat, and the best methods for getting everyone to safety.

Evacuation procedures should include a chain of command, the designation of the person in your business authorized to order evacuation or shutdown, and specific evacuation routes and exits, including those for high-rise buildings and assembly points. They should also address what, if any, employees will stay behind to monitor or turn off machines or utilities and procedures for assisting persons with disabilities or those who do not speak English.

You can’t assume people will know what to do during a disaster, so evacuation plans must be clear and simple. Post a visual map of your evacuation routes in common areas throughout your facility, such as break rooms and frequently used hallways. Use arrows and photoluminescent paint to mark stairwells, exits, and areas of refuge. It’s also a good idea to create post-emergency evacuation maps using your specific floor plan so that occupants can quickly familiarize themselves with the evacuation route for their area of the building.

It’s also important to establish the minimum evacuation times for your building based on your hazards and the conditions at that time. This is often determined through past disasters, evacuation drills, and simulations. Once you have your benchmark, it’s essential to test your evacuation procedures by holding surprise evacuation drills. This will help your staff get comfortable with the procedure and ensure that if an actual emergency occurs, they can respond appropriately without panicking.

If an evacuation becomes impeded by an unavoidable circumstance, such as smoke or flames blocking a chosen exit route, consider re-entering the building and directing occupants to alternate evacuation routes. It’s important to keep in mind that it may be safer and faster to shelter in place rather than evacuate, depending on the situation.

2. Communications

Regardless of how well your emergency procedures are written, they’re rendered futile if the information can’t be communicated to those affected by them. That’s why a strong communications plan is equally important to your emergency response plans.

An effective communications plan (EC) outlines how and by whom information will be communicated during all phases of an emergency situation. It defines roles and responsibilities and includes backup people for each role. It also explains how status updates will be tracked and shared among employees. It identifies meeting points outside the building where employees will assemble and specifies how occupants can be notified that they must evacuate or stay in place. It should also include a system for notifying the media, local law enforcement, and other community stakeholders of your institution’s actions.

It’s not uncommon for cellular networks to become overwhelmed or jammed in a crisis. This can make communication through voice difficult or impossible. That’s why having a backup communication plan is important, such as using a radio network, prerecorded messages on your phone system, or even an old-fashioned telephone tree.

These guidelines and templates are a great starting point for developing your communication plan. However, it is important to remember that this section should be read after you’ve finished the earlier sections of this manual and have identified your key stakeholder groups. Once you’ve done that, you can customize the materials in this section to address your specific communication needs.

Once the initial phase of an emergency is over, your communication needs and work will escalate. This is where having a clear chain of command and making your communication process as transparent as possible will help you avoid confusion and misinformation.

Parents, the media, your board, and other local leaders will want to know what happened, why it happened, what steps you’re taking to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and much more. Your communication efforts in this phase can feel like an endless and exhausting task, especially if you’ve experienced serious injuries, property damage, compromises to computer security, or widespread school closures.

3. First Aid

First aid is a set of simple, often life-saving techniques that people can learn to use without formal medical training. It focuses on giving support to a person who has been injured and may help them survive until professional medical care is available. It can include anything from treating a minor burn, cut, or insect sting to administering CPR.

It is important for everyone to know basic first aid procedures, as they can save lives during an emergency situation. People often acquire first aid skills through life experiences, but taking a first aid course and gaining practical experience is possible. Having a good understanding of first aid can be useful in preventing an accident from becoming more serious and help you keep calm during a stressful event.

Before you begin performing first aid, it is important to assess the situation. Look for any hazards that could be dangerous, such as fire, falling debris, or violent people. Remove yourself from the scene if you think your safety is at risk, and check whether staying with the sick or injured person is safe. If the situation is not safe, call for help immediately.

Once you have found a safe place to perform first aid, ensure the casualty is in a comfortable position and covered with a blanket. Check their breathing and circulation regularly. If a person is unconscious or unresponsive, the first priority is to clear their airway, get them breathing, and then revive the heart rate through chest compressions.

During this process, wash your hands frequently and use a disinfectant hand rub, which you should have in your first aid kit. If necessary, you should also wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and safety glasses. If you are dealing with a potentially dangerous substance, it is also advisable to dispose of any clothing or bandages that have become contaminated.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a sick or injured person is to remain calm and act quickly. You should also be aware of the risks involved in moving a patient, which can cause complications to their underlying condition. Only move a patient if it is absolutely necessary, and only use a blanket lift for which you have the correct PPE and sufficient preparation time.

4. Recovery

Recovery procedures include actions taken to restore a normal operating environment after the emergency has ended. This includes cleaning up the site and getting staff back to work. These steps ensure the safety of everyone involved and can reduce financial burdens on a disaster recovery fund.

The procedures used during an emergency can differ depending on the nature of the incident, its extent, and the level of risk posed to university community members. With the proper procedures, all events can be safely managed during an emergency. These safety procedures should be proportionate to the level of risks onsite and include contingencies for things as varied as an entertainment act canceling at short notice, sudden weather, and structural failures.

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