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Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace
Halifax Workshop

This past April, a large group gathered at the Delta Barrington in Halifax to discuss a topic that, while extremely important, may not be perceived as a priority for most Canadians. However, the subject matter struck home with Haligonians who have experienced three weather-related natural disasters in the past 15 months.

No one likes to think about the worst happening, but sometimes things like major blackouts, ice storms or massive blizzards put our comfortable sense of security to the test. What happens to your organization if power goes out, transportation is impossible or if half your staff are out sick because of an outbreak of illness?

Mike Myette, Deputy Director of Nova Scotia’s Emergency Measures organization kicked things off with this quote: ““An emergency has already determined that you’re a loser – how bad a loser you become depends entirely on how prepared you are” While weather and power outages are two situations that commonly come to mind when thinking about Emergency Preparedness, situations for which employers should have contingency plans include bomb threats, workplace violence, fires, spills and critical injuries.

The presentation was extremely well received; attendees appreciated the relevant examples provided by Mr. Myette, as well as the referrals to websites and government agencies, which are able to assist. The statistics presented (i.e. over 450 natural disasters were reported in year 2000), were startling; and helped reinforce that the risk of being affected by a disaster is greater than one would think.

The session was particularly useful in terms of advising how organizations can get started in developing an Emergency Preparedness Plan. As a first step, reaching out to other organizations in your community can be useful in that often they are willing to share information on their plans so that it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel.

Mr. Myette told those in attendance not to be overwhelmed with trying to plan for all types of emergencies. He advised that organizations start with those most likely to happen in their area, and those that would have the greatest impact on the type of business they run. The key points include:

  • Prevention – reduce or eliminate risk of occurrence ( the easiest emergency to manage is the one that never happens)
  • Preparedness – prepare to respond to the situations you can’t prevent
  • Response – identify who does what & when
  • Recovery – every business needs to be able to “get back to business” promptly

    As with most things, the key to any successful EP plan is that it be revised and updated regularly. No matter how great or detailed a plan is, if the contact names have all changed, the plan will not succeed. He also stressed that the plan should be easily accessible to all employees, not locked away where no one can find it.

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