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Tips for Developing the Best Emergency Plan for Your Warehouse

This is part two in a two-part series. You can read part one here

In part one of this two-part series, we discussed the importance of having an emergency plan for your warehouse, but we didn’t get into the particulars of putting together one that would be effective. We’ll discuss that in this second blog post so that you’ll be able to hit the ground running.

Developing the right emergency plan for your warehousing and distribution facility requires a deep understanding of the many hazards facing your facility at any given time. You want to consider what you know about your own facility and community, as well as what OSHA requires for the safety of your workers.

These tips should get you started:

  • Start with a list of potential hazards. It doesn’t make sense to simply copy the emergency plan of another warehouse, especially if it’s located in a different geographical area. Your building is faced with unique natural hazards, as well as cultural ones, that you need to be aware of at all times.If tornadoes are common, then you’ll need a plan for tornadoes. If local sports fans tend to riot after a team loss (and your team loses a lot!), then plan for riots. Other hazards to consider might come from things stored within your warehouse, like flammable or volatile merchandise.
  • Determine a chain of command. It’s important to know who’s in charge of what during an emergency, so decide that now.Instead of designating Harry in charge of head counts and Mary in charge of ensuring someone has called emergency services, it’s better to attach this to a job title so you don’t have to constantly update procedures. Your VP of Finance can count all the heads and your receptionist can call for help. Be sure to make logical choices and ensure that everyone knows their own jobs.
  • Establish evacuation routes. Your people need to know how to get out of the building quickly, so light the way. Besides posting maps showing the evacuation routes, marking the routes with tape or paint can make it extra easy for them to find their way out. Make sure these designed evacuation routes are kept clear at all times, you never know when you might need them.
  • Practice your plan regularly. OSHA recommends a yearly training on evacuation procedures, but if you want to run a really tight evacuation ship, you should take time to practice more often than that. You may waste a half hour a month and never need it, but what if you don’t practice, confusion sets in when a disaster strikes and you end up with an employee trapped in your building? Follow the Boy Scouts’ motto and always be prepared.

Although an emergency plan is pretty far away from the day-to-day functioning of a warehouse and distribution center, it’s important to have one in place. Think of it like hiring an accountant or having your forklifts serviced—a good emergency plan is vital to your bottom line, even if it doesn’t make money directly.

January 12, 2017
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