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No one wants to think about something like a fire or a flood but having the proper equipment and an emergency plan in place are vital to keeping your office safe. Some great big office buildings have dedicated safety managers or even whole safety departments while smaller ones put that responsibility on the shoulders of their office manager. Whichever way your office assigns responsibility, we wanted to share five tips to help you get your office started on the path to safety. Read on!

1. Teach Employees Good Housekeeping & Reduce Clutter

If you and your fellow employees have to get out in a hurry, the last thing you want to do is navigate an obstacle course. From managing wires to maintaining designated storage areas, make it a priority to keep walkways clear of boxes and debris so that everyone has an open path. That’s especially important near the emergency exit door. Just because you don’t use it very often doesn’t mean it’s a place to stack supplies. Keep your emergency exits clear so that the door can be fully opened and people can get out quickly. If something does happen, be it a fire, an earthquake, a flood, or a tornado, keep your walkways and your emergency exits clear and accessible. Seconds count and sidestepping a box of paper or tripping on a power cable could make all the difference.

2. Have an Adequate Number of Fire Extinguishers & Teach Your Employees How to Use Them

Fire safety regulations dictate the number of fire extinguishers you need to have placed in your office. Make sure you are following these regulations to the letter. Better yet, have one extra. And always be sure that they are serviced and up to date. Go right now and check the expiration date for each fire extinguisher and mark your calendar to remind you when the expiration date is approaching. As that date approaches, take the necessary action. Some local fire departments can help you refill them or recharge them, but you can also find certified fire extinguisher repair and service companies in your local area. They can also help you determine if your fire extinguishers are in the proper location. Once you have enough extinguishers and have verified that they are in working order and in the right place, hold regular training sessions so that employees can use them effectively. Having a staff member trained and prepared to act quickly can prevent a small break room toaster incident from turning into a major disaster.

3. Create & Communicate an Evacuation Plan

When creating an evacuation plan, you need to make several key decisions. Some of the most important decisions include when it’s necessary to evacuate, a chain of command to communicate the need to evacuate, specific routes and exits, a designated gathering place after evacuation, and equipment and procedures for helping employees with mobility issues. The most effective way to deal with an emergency is to have a plan and to practice its application. Hold an evacuation drill every six months so that your leadership feels comfortable with their responsibility and the rest of the employees know who to turn to for leadership and direction. For more detailed information on creating an Evacuation Plan, see the US Department of Labor webpage. httpss://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/evac.html

4. Train Employees in the Use of Kitchen Equipment

Unfortunately, many office fires are caused by simple mistakes like burning food in a toaster oven or misusing a microwave. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use them and remember that an office can provide many distractions. It’s not like cooking at home where you know how quickly your toaster goes from golden brown to charcoal. And it can be all too easy for someone to forget an item while it’s cooking because they’re talking to their co-worker or use equipment improperly because they’re not paying full attention. Hold a regular training session to reminder every one of the proper way to use kitchen equipment to reduce the risk of an incident. It may sound silly, but a 10-minute reminder can save money in the event of a non-serious, but inconvenient small fire, or lives in the event of a disaster.

5. Have Equipment on Hand to Help The Disabled

As part of your Evacuation Plan, make sure you have the necessary equipment on hand to assist those with disabilities. If you’re in a multi-floor building, the elevator will likely be turned off or be used by the fire department. That means everyone has to use the stairs which can create a significant challenge for some. There are a number of things that can create an obstacle to quick, efficient use of stairs, some of which you might not expect. Those who are bound to a wheelchair or using crutches will find it difficult to use the stairs. Older employees or those who are overweight can also struggle. Even pregnant women will need to move more slowly. Whatever the situation may be, carrying someone is dangerous and wheelchairs are not designed to go down stairs. Products like the Evacusafe Excel Chair are specifically designed to help those with mobility issues get down stairs quickly and safely. The strong, durable frame can accommodate weight up to 500 pounds and the innovating gliding track allows it to descend stairs smoothly and quickly. If you don’t have an evacuation chair, check out Evacusafe US and speak with a sales representative about taking your office emergency preparedness to the next level.