Building Emergency Plans

Building Emergency Plans

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Join HSI Chief Safety Officer Jill James as she visits environmental health and safety professionals in their workplaces to explore important workplace safety topics. This video covers what a building emergency plan is, how they are used, and how often they need to be updated.

Video Transcript:

Hi, I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with HSI. I'm a former OSHA inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards. For this series, we're at the University of Louisville in beautiful Kentucky to show you no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone

Each building where people work is unique, as is the building we are standing in right now at the university of Louisville. And with me I have Dennis Sullivan who is the assistant director of environmental health and safety. And a certified emergency manager Dennis has spent the better part of his career helping build and building emergency plans and training people about them

Welcome Dennis and thank you for being with us, Dennis can you define for us what a building emergency plan is?

No matter where someone works, there has to be a plan to protect that employee during an emergency -uh- in school when you were young they'd do a fire drill, you know where you were supposed to go. But in industry we don't do that, we tell the employees, here’s what you do for these types of emergencies. -uh- it’s important that they understand what to do to protect themselves because they're capitol, if you lose an employee because they don't know what emergency actions to take, it can affect your whole operation

Yes, of course. So when someone is building their first -um- building plan, can you share with us what are some typical actions that are in a building emergency plan

Well the first thing is, you want to do a risk assessment to decide what types of risks that your industry, your educational institution might have. -uh- it could be a laboratory, -uh- incident where there's chemicals it could be severe weather, it just depends on what you've had happen in your institution before and what other institutions have had as well. Once you have an idea of the pla- the types of emergencies that you may have to work through then you plan for the appropriate actions for employees to take to protect themselves and your institution during those first few minutes of the emergency.

What are some typical mistakes people make when they are building a plan?

Well a lot of times people build a plan and they build it from their perspective. One person writes a plan, he doesn’t gather input and you need to have -a- a look at a building from every different perspective. What a faculty member sees, what a student sees, what a staff member sees, -the- the physical plan operator, what they see. You have to pool all that together in the plan.

And the second biggest problem I see in plans, is you don't write the plan for the people that are in the building. If you have people that are in the building that have English as a second language, you have to make concerted effort -that you- that you train those people appropriately because they don't understand -uh- necessarily how you want to respond to the emergency. And there may be some language barrier that goes along with that. If you have employees or faculty or staff, students that are in the building that have any type of ADA issue or other impairment, either -uh- vision problems or hearing problems you want to make sure your plan addresses those. Those two categories of people get left out of the plan -awful- an awful many times. And then you have to go back after the fact and try to build it back into the plan which you should be thinking about those from the very beginning.

Dennis, could you share with us how do you let people know about the plan or how do you do training once you have it together

Well once you building has their plan complete -and- and our office reviews their plan, goes over it with them. Then what we do is we try to set up a training for them, and we will either conduct training or their building emergency coordinator will conduct training. -uh- We'll tell them what's in their plan, we'll provide them a copy of the plan and we'll tell them that once a year they are going to have an exercise. Now of course they have an annual fire drill, we do a tornado drill, so we look for something else for that drill exercise to be different from a fire or tornado

So maybe like a violent incident, and what you do with that

A violent incident, a chemical spill in a facility, a flooding in a facility, it just depends on what the greatest risk is and then we'll try to march through those risks over the years

And so that would be part of testing the plan, right.

Because once you find a problem when you're conducting your exercise you have to go back and rewrite the plan to meet -that- that -uh- the mistake or that issue that you identified and that way your plan will be more -uh- better prepared for the next people to come along, the new employees, the new students.

And so you said it's important that the plan be -um- retrained on an annual basis are there other update frequencies that people would need to consider?

Well the plans need to be updated annually, that’s in the OSHA regulation so we want to make sure that they're rewriting their plan on an annual basis and their conducting their plan on an annual basis so it's two different things that go on but they are intertwined

Sure, and then if there's changes to the building or construction or somethings been reconfigured you'd want to do retraining as well

Right, or you have new employees that -don't- that aren't equipped you know with the knowledge of the plan, you want to go ahead and redo their safety training.

There's 180 buildings on this campus, that’s 180 unique building plans, did you do it all by yourself or did you have help?

The way we did it is we created a framework and had a committee that worked throughout the campus and give them instructions of how to fill in -the- the meat onto the skeleton that we provided and they would go ahead and they would write their sections in the plan and once they did that we'd review it again and we'd decide rather or not additional changes would be required. And its been a successful program -with- we haven't had much problem with it

And so building emergency plans don't happen in a vacuum its something that needs to be Addressed as -um- as a holistic group -in- in your facilities and something that you can all work on together. Dennis thank you for sharing your information with us today this is valuable I appreciate your time

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