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Many commercial facilities are not prepared to quickly and efficiently respond to a man-made or natural disaster. Smaller commercial businesses are particularly at risk of never re-opening because they may have all their operations concentrated in a single damaged or destroyed location. This is why disaster planning should be a key component of every business’ operational objectives.

Reaction instead of preparation is all too common in commercial and industrial facilities, due in no small part to shrinking personnel numbers, budget cuts, and mounting duties for equipment and maintenance managers. One responsibility that always requires a proactive approach is preparing for a disaster.

Developing an Emergency Plan

A good disaster plan should identify all potential hazards in the facility while identifying exactly who does what, where and when. By utilizing this method of pin-pointing hazards and assigning suitable resources, the plan transforms into an action file. The file should be updated on a regular basis to emergency and staff contact numbers and names accurate.

Active Roles for Staff & Managers

  • It’s vital for department managers and their staff to contribute their insight and department-specific information, as a disaster may affect different departments in different ways.
  • Emergency numbers and building/site plans are important to keep at hand.
  • Another key defense measure is taking note of all main utility shutoffs, gas and water mains and line locations, water hydrant locations, electrical cutoffs and sub-stations, and sewer lines and storm drains in or near every structure at your facility.
  • If your business has off-site facilities or locations, those floor and utility plans should also be readily accessible.
  • The exact locations of fire and smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, annunciators, and fire-sprinkler systems should also be noted.
  • Take note of restricted areas, and locations where high-value equipment and/or hazardous materials are stored.

Create an Immediate Responder Team

Don’t plan to rely solely on first responders for immediate help—it’s not always immediately available. Creating an on-site network of emergency managers at each location or building is essential if emergency personnel are delayed. Identify a central contact point for each department, and assign other personnel to provide additional assistance, whether the situation calls for sheltering in place or evacuation.

Provide appointed emergency managers with continued training in company emergency procedures and policies, emergency first aid (including AED and CPR) training, threat indicators/awareness. Training should include knowing how to handle the current situation and providing support for first responders upon arrival. All responding facility personnel should also be trained to support the emergency plan.

Establish Training Drills & Exercises

Having a disaster plan in place is of little use to new personnel when they don’t understand how to implement it properly. Communications, or a lack thereof, is the biggest factor in the success or failure of such a plan.

Assign emergency managers to work with new personal in their own departments by staging walk-throughs of each potential emergency scenario. All personnel must know which specific duties to perform and when to authorize others to perform other duties.

Drills involve setting up specific situations that require a physical response from personnel. One of the most common drills is pulling the fire alarm in order to watch and time the evacuation. In this case, make sure to notify the fire department in advance—they may even choose to participate.

Choose General Mechanical for Commercial & Industrial HVAC Services

For nearly 100 years, General Mechanical has provided unparalleled mechanical services in Chicagoland. We serve all of your commercial and industrial HVAC and ventilation needs, including custom designed equipment, installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, cooling, and indoor air quality systems. Contact us today.