Life can change fast, so fast you may not even notice when it happens. That’s why it is important to always have a plan.
Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home. A beautiful little house built in the early 1900s, with hardwood floors and clawfoot tubs, my wife fell in love with the place the moment she saw it.
One morning, about two weeks after moving in, I was taking a shower when I heard what sounded like the familiar “beep, beep” of construction equipment. Still half asleep, I muttered to myself, “Sounds like the neighbor must be at it early today.” Suddenly, the bathroom door burst open, and my 50-pound dog jumped into the bathtub with me, pulling down the shower curtain on both of us. Water started pouring on the floor as I untangled us. When I stood up to shut off the water, I noticed the beeping had gotten much louder, “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”
Recognizing the distinct smell of smoke, I realized what was happening. “Fire!” I yelled as I picked up the dog and ran out of the bathroom. Moving as fast as I could while sliding on wet hardwood floors and smashing into walls on my way to the master bedroom, I shouted, “Honey! Wake up! Fire!” After waking in a panic from seeing me soaking wet with the dog in my arms and hearing me screaming about a fire, my incredibly patient and loving wife quickly came to her senses and shot out of bed. After grabbing a blanket, she headed to the bedroom door as we ran down the stairs and into the backyard.
It turned out my sister-in-law had thrown a load of laundry in the dryer before leaving for work. Unbeknownst to us, the lint trap was full, which caused the dryer vent to smoke. Luckily, there was no fire, and we were all safe. Looking back, I realized that neither my loved ones nor I were prepared for an emergency since we had not developed a plan for emergencies.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a house fire occurs every 89 seconds in the United States. Sadly, fires are not the only emergency that may occur in daily life. There are also earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, active shooter events, and extreme temperatures, to name a few. In fact, over the last year, approximately 1,000 Americans died from extreme weather events, an increase of almost 40 percent since 2017. Whether at work or at home, it is important to know how to respond during an emergency. So, how can we ensure we are ready for whatever life may throw at us? Follow the three Ps: Plan, Prepare, and Practice!
At work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to have an emergency action plan in place. Also known as an EAP, this document outlines emergencies that could potentially occur in the workplace and how to respond to them. In homes, however, it is the owner’s responsibility to implement a similar plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready program, launched in 2003, provides resources and guidance on emergency preparedness to the public. There are forms, outlines, and other resources to help people develop a written plan for emergencies. A great one to start with is the Family Emergency Communication Plan, which takes only minutes to create.
To be ready when a disaster happens, it is important to have an easily accessible, well-stocked emergency kit prepared with supplies such as:
- Water (one gallon per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (enough nonperishable food for several days)
- First aid kit
- Cell phone with backup charging system
- Prescription and nonprescription medications (Approximately half of all Americans take prescription medicine every day, so it’s especially important to organize and protect all prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins as part of your emergency preparations since an emergency can make it difficult to refill prescriptions or to find an open pharmacy.)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape, in the event of a natural disaster that requires sheltering in place
- Important family documents including copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records should be saved electronically or in a portable, waterproof container
- Masks (for everyone ages two and older), soap, hand sanitizer, wipes to disinfect surfaces, plastic ties, garbage bags, and nitrile gloves (for sanitization)
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothes and sturdy footwear appropriate for the climate
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils.
Now that a plan has been developed and the supplies that may be needed have been gathered, the final step is to practice! Here are some tips to ensure you can be prepared for various types of emergencies:
- Set up evacuation or shelter-in-place drills at least twice a year to ensure everyone knows what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency.
- Be sure all loved ones are included in the action plan, and they know where all emergency supplies are stored. Reevaluate the emergency plan and update supply kits every year.
- Practice the disaster plans, take advantage of existing alert and warning systems, and explore ways to serve the surrounding communities.
- Be sure to regularly inspect emergency detection equipment, such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and security systems.
Not sure if your workplace is prepared for an emergency? RETTEW offers a variety of courses and services to ensure organizations and businesses are prepared for emergencies, including hazardous material response, confined space rescue/retrieval, active shooter training, and various industry-specific programs.
Ed Kauffman, Safety Training Manager
Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600-plus services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and are known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.