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Emergency EAP Communications: Do You Know What to Do?

By Darcy Cook, Safety Trainers

In any emergency, if you have a plan and a way to effectively communicate, the outcome of the emergency will always be better than if we had no plan.

If a disaster strikes, are you prepared to react? How do you plan to keep communication lines open if cell phone lines become overburdened, or Internet goes down? Are there areas in your building, town, or on the property where your cell phone does not work? Have you ever been in a situation when your cell phone battery is about to die when its critical to make a call or complete a call? Access to effective communication along with practicing emergency drills can be the difference between life and death.

Have you ever considered implementing a communication plan that included the use of two way radios. As long as they are not damaged and you have extra batteries on hand, a well-planned two-way radio system has distinct advantages over a cellphone in an emergency.

Instant Communication to the Right People

  • Simple one touch button communication
  • No delays in finding numbers, dialing numbers, and getting no answer
  • Did You Know? The average wait time to initiate a cellphone call is 10 to 25 seconds.
  • Less mistakes dialing wrong numbers when in "fight or flight" response and you do not need to worry about bad cell reception or no one answering because phone is on silence or vibration

Radio Network Independence

  • Even if everything goes down, you can still communicate

All, Group, and Individual Call functionality

  • Options include call everyone on the system with an ALL CALL. You can create a GROUP CALL and call just the maintenance staff or security personal or the emergency response team at their facility. An INDIVIDUAL CALL can be made to the plant manager or the school principal or head of security. These calling features give the radio user flexible tools to talk to many different departments at the touch of a button.

Interoperation Capabilities

  • Some facilities like chemical plants, schools, and other industrial settings need to be able to communicate with Public Safety Organizations like Police, Fire, and EMS during an emergency event. Two-Way radio systems can give you the ability to interoperate with these agencies by design.  If planned for strategically planned ahead of time, interoperation communication provides high levels of flexibility into the system. With a turn of the radio dial, you could be communicating with the Public Safety organizations at the scene. We can even tie in a smartphone and computer device to talk on your radio system too, in emergencies.

Emergency features built in the device. Some options include;

  • Traveling up to 300 miles
  • GPS tracking in them
  • Designed to be durable, water resistant up to 30 feet and they can float
  • Some offer emergency alert buttons, man down alerts/switches, if an employee is horizontal for say 120 seconds or longer, and lone workers where you set a time period and if the worker does not deactivate, an alarm is triggered.
  • Hands free operation button
  • If it has an LCD Screen you can visually display the user who activated the alarm

Now, think about your Emergency Action Plan [EAP]. Should you be budgeting for a high quality two way radio system. 

An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document required by the OSHA Standard [20 CFR 1910.38 (a)]. The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Please note; for businesses with less than 10 employees they may communicate the plan orally versus written to employees.

1910.38(c)
Minimum elements of an emergency action plan. An emergency action plan must include at a minimum:

1910.38(c)(1)

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency; How are you going to communicate an emergency other than a fire? The fire is obvious pull the fire alarm but for everything else need a different form of communication to employees in the building(s), traveling to the building and personnel in the hierarchy of communication who need to be notified of the emergency.

1910.38(c)(2)

  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;

1910.38(c)(3)

  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate; While this is happening, how are you going to be communicating with your team? Some will be in building, outside building, with emergency services, on their way to incident, etc.

1910.38(c)(4)

  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation; Once everyone is out of the building, how do you communicate with multiple "muster stations" around the building?

1910.38(c)(5)

  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and Should a muster location require or need additional support for a first aid emergency, how would they communicate to trained first aid responders?

1910.38(c)(6)

  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.

To read the full OSHA standard click here.  29 CFR 1910.38

Resources
The Role of Communications in Implementing a FEMA Emergency Response

Evacuation Drills are not required by OSHA but in their word, "Once you have reviewed your emergency action plan with your employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared.  Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it."

Darcy Cook, CHSO, SHS, PTA, is President of Safety Trainers, a division of Cook Professional Resources, Inc. (Worcester, MA). She can be reached at (508) 799-2857 or at darcy@safetytrainers.com or www.safetytrainers.com

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