Going to work is probably a pretty routine event for you. You roll out of bed, grab a shower, chug some coffee and stumble out to the car or down the street to the bus or train. When you arrive at work you likely sling your briefcase or laptop bag onto your desk, turn on your office machine and log in, then head to the kitchenette for another cup of coffee before settling in on your work for the day.
But what would happen if disaster struck?
Disaster can take many different forms. In this day and age, we usually think of disaster in terms of a terrorist attack or other destructive and even cataclysmic event. In these scenarios, common means of communication would likely be cut off, and you would probably be unable to reach loved ones via IM, cell phone or even a landline or text.
It is important to think ahead of time about what your work environment and responses would be like if disaster struck and develop a plan with family and with co-workers that will help insure that you stay as safe and organized as possible in the event of a disaster, natural or otherwise. Review this checklist and make sure that you have an answer for each issue so that you can deal with disaster in the workplace as safely and effectively as possible.
Where will you go?
In the event of a disaster, you and your family should have a safe place determined ahead of time where you can meet. You may want to establish several safe places: one might be a local church, while another might be farther away in case the surrounding area is not safe to stay in. Once you have picked your safe places, then you should determine several different routes that you can take to get there from your workplace.
Additionally, if you work in a hurricane area that has the potential to be evacuated, you should be familiar with evacuation routes and have selected an additional meeting point for your family that is outside of the danger zone. For example, if you run the risk of being evacuated far inland, you might pick a town or a relative's house that lives outside of the danger zone.
How will you get there?
Of course, you probably will hope to get to your disaster destination by car. However, you should also know your walking and biking options in case roads are blocked or they are too packed with traffic to make traveling via road or railway an option.
What are your workplace responsibilities?
In many workplaces, there is a disaster plan in place, but no one is particularly familiar with the plan. Find out what you need to do. Are you responsible for helping any handicapped colleagues out of the building? Do you need to alert another co-worker to the event before exiting the building? Who should you check in with to let them know that you are safe, and how will emergency workers know that you are trapped inside if you are unable to leave the building? Generally there is a chain of communication for this process, but it cannot work if the links in the chain are not aware of the order of actions that they need to take.
What will you do if you are trapped?
Think ahead to what might happen if you are trapped in the building. Do you have a supply of food or access to drinking water? Many employers keep some rations around in case of emergency. You should know where they are located. How will you make your presence known? Are there first aid kits or defibrillators accessible in your office area? Do you know how to use them?
Of course, we all want to hope for the best. It is not reasonable or healthy to spend all of your time worrying about disasters. However, it is your responsibility to be aware of your options for dealing with disasters in the workplace, should they strike. Your knowledge and foresight could not only keep you safe, but it could also help others who have not planned ahead.
Once you have established an emergency plan, review and update it once every few months to make sure that it is still a viable plan and that locations, travel and transport options and emergency action plans are still implementable. Staying on top of potential disaster will, hopefully, never pay off for you. However, in the event that there is a disaster in your workplace, you and your colleagues will greatly benefit from your dedication and preparation.