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Shelter-in-Place or Evacuate: Planning for an Emergency

Tech Tips - Jul 19

Shelter-in-Place or Evacuate: Planning for an Emergency

JLG Industries, Inc.
World-leading access equipment manufacturer
McConnellsburg, PA

By their very definition, emergencies occur without warning, meaning people who are affected by them don’t have time to think or to gather basic supplies before they react.

Both man-made hazards, like chemical spills or electrical fires, and natural disasters, like earthquakes and tornadoes, are considered workplace emergencies. Although no one can ever be 100% prepared for an emergency, you can cut down on confusion and minimize danger by putting a solid plan in place long before an emergency happens.

Creating an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

The best way to be prepared in an emergency is to create an emergency action plan, a document that helps guide employees on the best course of action in the event of a workplace emergency. A successful emergency action plan is supplemented with robust training programs, employee drills and clear communication about expectations and responsibilities during an incident. Plus, emergency action plans are required in some circumstances by OSHA. Follow this checklist to create your own emergency action plan.

Evacuation Procedures

When putting together an emergency action plan, it’s important to determine the safest, most efficient way to evacuate an area if it becomes necessary. Disorganized evacuations may lead to injuries, confusion and property damage, so it’s important to think through many different scenarios. An evacuation from a high rise would be different than an evacuation from an outdoor job site. Likewise, an earthquake evacuation would be different than an evacuation from an active shooter situation.

To determine the best evacuation procedures for your workplace, ask yourself:

  • What situations would make evacuating my workplace necessary?
  • What is the correct chain of command, including who is authorized to call for an evacuation?
  • What are the most efficient evacuation routes and exits from each part of the building?
  • Are there any specific people who need to remain in the building to shut down critical systems after most people have been evacuated?
  • How will workers be accounted for after an evacuation?

Shelter-in-Place Procedures

Sometimes, evacuation isn’t the safest course of action. For example, an approaching tornado may require your employees to take shelter in an interior room of the building, or a chemical spill near your building may make it safer to remain inside until the hazard is cleaned up. This process of taking refuge in an interior room with few windows is considered sheltering in place.

If you determine that sheltering in place is your best course of action, you should:

  • Close your workplace and alert employees, clients and visitors to remain inside the building
  • Lock exterior doors, close windows and shut down HVAC systems
  • Identify and stockpile essential disaster supplies, like bottled water and first-aid kits
  • Select an interior room with no windows, preferably with a hardwired telephone available
  • Listen to the radio, watch TV or access the internet to monitor the situation, so you know when it’s safe to leave


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