Overview: While having an emergency plan in place may be legally required, oftentimes putting that plan into practice (through drills and the like) is not. However, without practice a plan's weaknesses will never be exposed and employees may forget what to do in the event of panic during a true emergency situation.
To encourage safety in the workplace, regular fire and evacuation drills should be conducted to ensure that employees are prepared and that nothing goes wrong during the real event. When a drill takes place, there are several things that HR should look for to determine the success of the response. For example, did everyone hear the alarm? Were the evacuation routes free from hazards and easily accessible for all employees? Did all alarms go off successfully? Was there a system for conducting a headcount?
After a drill, the employer should evaluate the plan to be confident it works, update anything that did not work and conduct a follow-up drill to better guarantee the new plan is a success.
Trends: Employers may want to take advantage of recent initiatives like Fire Prevention Week and National Preparedness Month to test their emergency response systems with appropriate drills.
Ashley Shaw, J.D., Legal Editor
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