When we think about emergency responders, we tend to assume they will arrive and take care of emergencies for us. We don’t often think about the safety of these police officers, firefighters and paramedics, though. If an emergency occurs at your business, these people will need to quickly enter your facility, find their way to the problem and perform their jobs.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for these workers to be injured in the line of duty. Burning buildings, chemical spills, robberies and confined space rescues are all dangerous situations. Ideally, you do not want your facility itself to contribute to a dangerous situation by being difficult to navigate. To help emergency responders perform their jobs safely, take these five steps.
5 Tips for Aiding Emergency Responders
Keep Walkways Clear
It’s important to keep walkways, aisles, hallways and other areas where people need to walk clear to prevent slips, trips and falls among your workers. Doing so will help emergency responders, too. If these people need to slow down and navigate around clutter and other obstacles, that means a fire could grow or someone in need of medical attention will have to wait.
Clutter may not seem like it could cause that much of a problem, but imagine if paramedics needed to wheel in medical equipment; that clutter could really get in the way.
Post Way Signage
Your facility is required to post way signage such as emergency exit routes and directions to fire-fighting equipment, so you should already have a fair amount of way signage in place. (If you need assistance making sure you have all the signs you need, read Rules for Exit Routes – OSHA Standards 1910.36 and 1910.37).
Additional signs pointing workers and visitors toward pertinent locations will help emergency responders, too. Signs that help people find the warehouse, break room and restrooms might all point someone in the right direction, depending on the type of emergency. Exit signs will also help responders quickly find their way out of the building once they’ve finished their work. If paramedics are trying to get an injured worker to an ambulance, for example, these signs will be critical.
If you want to go one step further and create clear aisles to help people navigate your workplace, you can also use floor marking tape to designate walkways.
Post Hazard Signs
Hazard signs warning workers of dangerous machinery, hazardous chemicals, loud noises and other risks in the workplace will be useful for emergency responders, too, in some instances. For example, if a hazardous chemical leak occurred, posted labels could quickly communicate to responders what substances they’re dealing with.
It’s true that in some situations there might be people on hand to tell this information directly to responders, but you can’t assume that will always be the case. Making your workplace a visual one with signs and labels will increase emergency responders’ ability to deal with a situation quickly.
You might be wondering how labeling pipes is relevant to an emergency situation, but if an accident involving a pipe and its contents occurs, pipe labels can be the difference between a situation getting resolved quickly and a serious problem. When emergency responders don’t know what’s in a pipe that breaks or leaks, they may have to stop what they’re doing and figure out what substance they’re dealing with. If a pipe contains something dangerous, they could also be exposed to that substance without realizing it.
In a larger-scale accident such as a fire or earthquake, it’s possible many pipes will be damaged and emergency responders will need to determine if anything dangerous is leaking.
Pipe labels allow for quick communication of pipe contents, and implementing a pipe marking system will make life easier for your workers, too. (Not to mention, industry standards require you to mark those pipes.) Take a look at this SlideShare for more information about pipe marking:
Safeguard Holes, Openings and Edges
When people are hurrying through your facility, it’s possible they won’t notice obstacles such as openings and edges. Putting up guardrails, toe boards and other physical barriers around or next to these hazards will help protect visitors (and your workers!).
While you’re at it, consider making the walking surface safer, too, by making it less slippery. Ramps, loading docks and stairs can all pose slipping and tripping hazards, and applying anti-slip tape to the floor can help prevent an additional accident.
Plan and Communicate with Emergency Responders
You may have noticed most of the things you can do to assist emergency responders are things you should already be doing to protect your own workers. It’s worth thinking about these things with emergency responders in mind, though. A worker already has knowledge of your facility, but an emergency responder may not; that means you should think about walkways, signage and hazards from the perspective of a person who is new to your facility.
In addition to taking the above steps to make your facility easier for emergency responders to navigate, you can go one step further and communicate with local emergency response services ahead of time about your workplace. Passing important information about your business’ emergency plans to police and fire departments can make things go more smoothly during an emergency. If you workplace handles dangerous materials that could lead to spills and explosions or has many confined spaces where a worker could get trapped, it’s a good idea to share this information so responders will already have a sense of the type of situation they will be dealing with.
Learn more about emergency preparedness during natural disasters in our recent podcast.