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Disaster Preparedness: What You Need to Know to Prepare an Emergency Response Plan


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Chances are if you’ve been in the construction business long enough, it isn’t a matter of if, but when  disaster will strike. Too often we don’t focus on emergency preparedness until after disaster strikes.  Whether manmade or natural, the impact that a catastrophic event can have on the safety of your employees and health of your business can be devastating.  

Whether manmade or natural, the impact that a catastrophic event can have on the safety of your employees and health of your business can be devastating.   

A number of emergency situations, such as severe weather, fire, or a hurricane  can severely disrupt business operations. If you don’t have an emergency action plan in place to handle unforeseen disasters, you also run the risk of exposing your company to liability and hurting your business reputation. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, one in four businesses never reopen after a natural disaster.

PLAN, DON’T PANIC 

Few individuals can think clearly and logically when crisis hits. Unexpected emergencies can trigger panic, which can lead to confusion, injuries, and even death. Though you can’t protect yourself entirely from a sudden catastrophic event, there are steps you can take to help reduce the damaging impact on your employees and your company.

Despite the complexity and the daily challenges that are unique to the construction industry, it is not  difficult to develop a disaster preparedness plan. No one can predict the magnitude or timing of a disastrous event, however, with adequate preparation you can prevent a serious situation from getting worse.   

OSHA offers guidelines and resources to assist businesses in developing emergency preparedness plans. Please note, this is not a comprehensive guide and only provides an overview.

Here are six steps you can follow to help get you on your way to a solid disaster preparedness plan.

1. Identify Worst-Case Scenarios: 

Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen on your jobsite? Is the region you’re building in prone to earthquakes or fires? Do you have hazardous chemicals on the jobsite that could potentially spill and cause serious injuries? Once you have identified the worst-case scenarios the next step is to plan how you and your employees will respond to every type of unexpected emergency.

2. Prepare an Emergency Plan:

An emergency action plan assigns actions to designated individuals in your company. OSHA suggests that management and employees be included during the planning phase. They could offer valuable insights into what and where potential hazards and emergencies can occur. This is also where the communications and responsibilities plans should be established.  

3. Disaster Preparedness Training:

The more you educate your employees about potential disasters and train them on disaster protocols, from evacuation processes to proper use of emergency equipment, the more equipped they will be to effectively handle an emergency situation. Training should be followed up with practice drills to keep everyone prepared and up to date.

 4. Update Emergency Plan: 

 In the construction industry one thing is always consistent, and that is that workplace changes are a daily occurrence. New hires, the introduction of new materials and equipment, and the constantly-changing layout of a construction site require you to revisit your disaster preparedness plan as needed. It’s important that you do so for every active project you have.

5. Protect Your Data: 

The safety and wellbeing of your employees should always be your top priority. Still, you don’t want to overlook the importance of having a protection plan for your project records. Many construction jobsites house a mountain of documents from specifications and contracts to permits in physical files which can easily be destroyed in the event of a disaster. Electronic records stored on a company’s computers are just as susceptible to damage. You’ll need to look at what vital data is stored on location that could become a potential liability if destroyed. Having a cloud-based solution protects your critical documentation and allows you access to your valuable data from anywhere, at any time.

6. Proper Insurance Coverage:

The $20 million lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles against the developer of a downtown apartment project underscores the need for appropriate insurance coverage and limits. The city claimed the developer’s alleged negligence was responsible for the damage caused by a massive 2014 fire which destroyed the seven-story complex and caused millions of dollars in damage to nearby city properties.

No insurance plan can entirely protect a contractor, but loss prevention is an absolute necessity to ensure that if a loss does happen, the contractor is covered to the maximum extent possible.

By their very nature, disasters are unpredictable. But with proper planning it is possible to recover from such unforeseen events.

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