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National Preparedness Month 2015

By Jordy Byrd

Wildfires rage across the Western United States, devastating communities from California to Washington, to Idaho and Alaska. Homes and businesses are left charred in the wake.

This year, Chelan Fruit lost a major fruit-packing warehouse to the flames. The Chelan, WA wildfire ripped through the warehouse which contained 1.8 million pounds of apples and employed about 800 people. Luckily no one was hurt.

September is National Preparedness Month (NPM), an awareness campaign which encourages communities and families to create emergency communication plans in the face of disaster. President Barack Obama designated the national event, with celebrations cumulating on September 30 during the National PrepareAthon! Day - an effort lead by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While the campaign is targeted toward families and communities, emergency preparedness is an integral component to building a safe culture at work.

“Every September, we celebrate our nation's spirit of resilience by rededicating ourselves to the important task of being prepared in the face of any crisis.”

Creating an Emergency Communication Plan

Creating an emergency communication plan can be achieved in three steps:

  1. Collect - Create a paper copy of the contact information for your company and emergency contacts, such as medical facilities, transportation, and service providers.
  2. Share - Ensure that employees carry a copy of the plan or that the information is posted in a central location on the jobsite.
  3. Practice - Review and practice your plan at safety meetings, during new hire training, and during annual safety courses.

Emergency communication plans can be used as preventative measures, and incorporated into larger a hazard analysis, which creates a systematic approach to identifying and assessing hazards in the workplace. The OSHA 1926 standard offers a list of acceptable methods for evaluating hazards including:

  • What-if,
  • Checklist,
  • What-if/checklist,
  • Hazard and operability study (HAZOP),
  • Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA),
  • Fault tree analysis, or
  • An appropriate equivalent methodology

Once a hazard analysis is complete, facilities can work to eliminate threats through operating procedures and training designated in a comprehensive safety risk management plan. Effective communication plans incorporate signs, labels, and floormaking that help illuminate exits in lights-out situations and more. Emergency communication plans can save lives in the threat of danger or flames like those faced by Chelan Fruit.