September Is National Preparedness Month

By Sharee Lopez, EHS Specialist at NV5

Since its inception in 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security has designated September as National Preparedness Month, a time to focus on providing communities across the country with the necessary tools to help prevent and/or mitigate the impact of high risks such as natural disasters, disease pandemics, chemical spills, and man-made hazards, to name a few. Moreover, climate change has presented additional risks for vulnerable communities and businesses for. It is important that employers are prepared before an emergency incident occurs so that workers can keep themselves and their coworkers  . Does your business have an up-to-date Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan?

Employers with more than 10 employees in California are required to adhere to the requirements of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CAL/OSHA), Title 8, Emergency Action Plan, Section 3220 (8 CCR §3220) and in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, Emergency Action Plans, Section 1910.38 (29 CFR §1910.38) to provide a written Emergency Action Plan to employees in the event of an emergency. For those with less than 10 employees, an oral plan will suffice. As shown by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there is a demand for up-to-date emergency response plans that are tailored to each industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list with links of information pertaining to General Preparedness and Response, Natural Disasters and Weather, CBRNE Incidents, Disease Agents and Toxins and other related resources that can assist employers with up-to-date hazards.

Employers can prepare for emergencies in the following ways:

  1. Up To Date Emergency Action Plan. Verify that your company’s current Emergency Action Plan addresses risk management pertinent to your location, type of work, city, state, and federal regulations. A current risk assessment along with risk analysis will facilitate this to ensure that your business is up to date in responding to emergencies common to your industry.
  2. Emergency Management Responsibilities. How does your company define each of the roles during an emergency? Is your facility equipped for an emergency? There must be a clear understanding of the priorities of each of those with a role when responding to incidents. To facilitate this, a map of EOC positions (i.e. Emergency Director, EOC Coordinator, Safety Officer, Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics and Finance) with direct responsibilities allows to easily facilitate tasks to always be prepared. Employees who have an emergency management role should be recently trained on their responsibilities in case of an emergency.
  3. Employee Training. Business operations may be disrupted during emergencies. Training employees will prevent disruptions in the workplace and give the employees the confidence to act during an emergency. Injuries and illnesses due to catastrophic incidents may be prevented if workers are trained during an emergency. The Emergency Management Institute provides independent study courses online that are free of charge (IS course list) and some courses are also available in Spanish and other languages as needed. Also, in-person courses (course schedule list) are also available.

Please encourage your employees to complete the following trainings:

CPR and First Aid: All employees must be trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid in case of a medical emergency. On-site experience with using an AED and performing CPR can help keep a worker alive until medical personnel arrive. More information can be found in the American Red Cross Training Services website.

Active Shooter: All employees must be trained in the case of an active shooter incident in the workplace. Knowing what to look for and how to react could save many lives. In addition, by planning for this training, a vulnerability assessment will allow employees to search for vulnerable points and identify effective hiding places. The American Red Cross recommends to: PLAN-TRAIN-EXERCISE and more information can be found on their Active Shooter Incident Preparedness website.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER): This type of training may only be practical for those facilities who store chemicals. HAZWOPER training will allow your employees to be prepared in the case of a hazardous waste spill. Make sure to identify your spill prone areas and that your emergency action plan is based on the nature of those hazards. Who will respond to the spill? Will outside fully trained personnel respond to the chemical emergency and your employees evacuate the facility or will some of your employees be tasked to respond?

Bloodborne Pathogens: Employees who can be anticipated to be exposed to bloodborne pathogens should be trained to be protected against infectious diseases. Awareness training will allow employees to be more observant in their surroundings and perform their job duties with caution. Additionally, training in bloodborne pathogens and the procedures to take if they are exposed can significantly make a difference and save their lives.

  1. Emergency Preparedness Drills. Now that your employees are trained, everyone should practice, practice, practice! By exposing workers to drills and exercises to these unexpected emergencies, workers will be more confident in their ability to respond. Drill practice will provide safety awareness among your workers and facilitate a recent discussion on escape routes, meeting places, emergency lighting and signage, flow of traffic, coordination of emergency teams, and the use of emergency equipment. Above all, participation among your employees allows workers to practice specific duties. Depending on the type of work in your business, the frequency of drill practice varies and must be documented and followed based on your company’s Emergency Action Plan.

Types of drills that are helpful to exercise:

  • Earthquake Drill
  • Fire Drill
  • Active Shooter Drill

This year’s theme for National Preparedness Month is “A Lasting Legacy”. Protect the legacy of your company, plan for the unplanned and review your current business contingency plan. If you need help with reviewing your Emergency Action Plan contact us at 833.522.1685 or