Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist
Whether it is sub-freezing temperatures in the dead of winter, extreme heat during the midst of summer, or the occasional severe weather that occurs anywhere in between, you should always be prepared for whatever weather might come. In the Midwest, we have an array of things we have to worry about– tornados (seldom in most areas) and high winds, heavy rains and lightning, hail, extreme heat and cold, and of course, snow and ice storms. While earthquakes are considered geological events, they can still bring similar effects as severe weather and should also be considered when becoming prepared for natural disasters and weather emergencies. Regardless of the weather, there are 3 main steps you need to take to ensure you and your employees’ safety: plan, prepare, and improve.
Take the time now to plan for any type of emergency weather and the long-term effects it may bring. This means creating an extensive plan that goes over what you need to do in order to prepare for known incoming severe weather, who all should be notified, where shelter should be taken (if applicable), procedures for accounting for everyone (both employees, guests, and visitors) once the event is over, and what actions may need to be taken if there is significant damage or injury. Using a tornado event as an example: Establish who notifies all employees that there is a tornado warning in the area and everyone should seek shelter (identify how you will notify employees, such as a “call-‘em-all” app, and where they should seek shelter at); after the tornado warning has lifted or the tornado has passed, determine how supervisors or managers are going to identify any injuries or damage and how that gets reported; and lastly, if there is any damage, determine what needs to be done in the interim: do you need to establish a back-up area where work can continue to commence if your building has been damaged? All of this should be figured out and written into procedure as soon as possible, as storms may come without warning and you don’t want to wait until it is too late!
Believe it or not, planning for a weather emergency is probably one of the easiest steps in being prepared. The hardest step is being prepared. Being prepared for any kind of emergency is not just a “do once and you’re done” type of task – it requires continual training, checking on supplies, and conducting drills to test knowledge. At the very minimum, all companies should conduct new-hire orientation training that includes your own procedures in what to do in the event of severe weather, perform annual drills, and conduct inspections or checks on all emergency equipment, quarterly or annually (such as batteries in flashlights, expiration dates on emergency food and first aid materials, and to ensure all items are still accounted for). There is a saying that “people do not rise to the occasion of an emergency but rather fall to the level of training”. Keeping up on training and preparedness with drills and inspections ensures that your employees are always prepared for whatever emergency may occur.
The last step you should be taking to be prepared for weather emergencies is to always update and improve your procedures, polices, drills, and training. With global climate change slowly increasing the frequency and severity of severe weather emergencies, and new information coming out every few years on how to best prepare for events, we must stay one step ahead of the worst-case event. At the very minimum, you should do an annual review of your policy to check for accuracy and ensure that all emergencies are covered. Information such as contact numbers should be checked as well. Going over your listed shelter locations and ensuring that it is still the best location should also be done annually. There is always room for improvement with everything and your emergency procedures are no exception! There are several outlets to get more information on emergency weather, such as government websites like ready.gov or emergency.cdc.gov, or you can reach out to me with any questions at email@example.com or by call me at 734-309-3456.