Monday, September 21, 2009

Workplace safety: what will your office do during a disaster?

I’m currently reading the book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Although I haven’t yet gotten very far into it, there are many concepts in the book that are very pertinent to workplace (and general) preparedness – which happens to be this week’s theme for National Preparedness Month.

Ripley expounds upon what people’s reactions to disasters are – she suggests there is a usual disaster response arc most will go through when under extreme duress. She recounts a 9/11 survivor’s experience and many of the circumstances that led to survival. A recurring theme throughout the 9/11 survival story is being prepared at work and knowing what to do during a disaster at the office.

Consider this: there are about 168 hours in a week. If you are employed full-time, you spend at least 35 hours of your week at your office (probably more – around 50). If you are not prepared for a disaster at your office, that means you are vulnerable nearly 21 percent of the week. That’s a pretty large window, and we are going to be working this week to close it.

If your office does not already have an emergency action plan, it time to start putting one together. Here is a good resource from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that details how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations. If you get started now and begin to communicate with your coworkers what you will do during a disaster, your plan will be more effective and you will all benefit more from it.

What does your office do to be prepared for a disaster? Do you have regular fire drills and evacuation practices? Let us and everyone else know in the comments below. We’ll post the best tips through our channels later in the week!

Stay tuned this week on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more workplace safety tips!

­--Gentry Lassiter is an intern with the Marketing & Communication Department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

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