(Written by Marcia O’Boyle, FEI EAP Services Center Manager)

Many businesses practice evacuation drills for specific emergencies—such as fires, for example—so all employees are familiar with what to do in case of an actual event. This is great, as it builds ‘muscle memory’ people can use to spring into action and take the steps they’ve already learned in prior drills. Drills reduce confusion and the number of decisions an employee must consider in an emergency, allowing for quick, planned action.

What about drills for other reasons? Earthquakes? Floods or snow storms? Confinement for safety, such as in the case of a chemical spill nearby? Certain conditions or weather will be more common in your area than others, and it makes sense to prepare for more likely events while maintaining awareness of others. This awareness can help your organization prepare more comprehensively, since different circumstances call for different preparations.

Here are a few questions to consider when preparing emergency plans and drills:

  • By what means would you learn of an emergency situation in your area?
  • Do you have a backup power supply for computers? How often is it tested?
  • In the event of power failure, what about ventilation, heat and/or cooling?
  • How often is your company’s computer data backed up and where is it stored? How is it accessed?
  • How do you communicate emergency information with employees? With customers?
  • In a flood area, is important equipment located on high shelves or stands?
  • In case of high winds, how can potential danger from broken windows be avoided?

Also, it is important that employees know where emergency supplies are stored. These can include:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kits
  • Tools
  • Food and water for employees and customers to use during a period of unexpected confinement

Some circumstances have specific problems. If you are somewhere that experiences earthquakes, factors to consider can include bolting tall bookcases or display cases to wall studs; making sure heavy or large items are stored on lower shelves; and ensuring drawers have latches in order to prevent them from flying open and dumping contents.

If you are already looking around and thinking about how you can improve your organization’s preparation for some of the above situations, then you have already taken the first step!