Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace: Do You Know Where Your Employees Are?

When it comes to emergency preparedness in the workplace, organizations often turn to their real estate and facilities teams for information and resources to plan scenarios aimed at increasing employee safety and maintaining business continuity.

Questions that quickly arise include:

  • Where are all of my employees located?
  • What is the headcount of each of my locations?
  • Which locations are in areas currently affected by a situation?
  • What are the business operations and business units housed at each location?

After 20 years of assisting clients with managing their space and occupancy data, we have first hand experience with the value it brings for emergency preparedness during multiple types of disasters and situations.

Immediate access to space and occupancy data is helping organizations prepare in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Identifying the business units and headcounts in high risk areas
  • Prioritizing efforts
  • Developing plans specific to teams
  • Determining which departments are or are not set up to work remotely
  • Indicating the location of life safety equipment on floor plans with icons
  • Publishing floor plans and evacuation routes for employees

Emergency preparedness can be enhanced with space management software. Wisp has been used by clients to strengthen business continuity during recent natural disasters Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Sandy.

During Hurricane Harvey, a company’s headquarters was flooded. They leased temporary office space for employees to continue to work out of. Using Wisp, they were able to quickly plan the departmental adjacencies and seating assignments for 325 employees who were displaced due to the storm—minimizing the disruption to workflow.

A client experienced a similar situation during Hurricane Sandy:

“Wisp proved to be a valuable tool during Hurricane Sandy. The weekend prior to the storm, Facilities staff requested a report on the number of employees at each of the 21 locations in New York and New Jersey in order to determine the number that would be affected if a site was closed due to weather. We also reviewed vacancy reports for Northern New Jersey buildings to see which locations would be able to house the most associates until affected locations were back up and running.”

– CBRE, Client Account Representative

Here are five ways that Wisp can increase efficiency, safety and communication in the workplace:

  1. Prepare for multiple scenarios:
    Different disasters and emergencies have varying protocols. Creating individual plans for all possible circumstances doesn’t just give facility managers and occupants peace of mind—it can also save lives. Use icons to indicate shelters, evacuation routes, safety rooms, and sprinkler systems. Providing these plans to the fire department and police officers can speed up resolution if a situation arises.

2. Publish emergency action plans to staff:
Well developed and communicated emergency action plans should result in increased safety  during emergencies. Sharing digital plans with staff through the intranet, or printing and displaying them in elevators, near exits and other high visibility locations makes them easily accessible to everyone. As floor plans change over time, having a simple process to maintain these plans for accuracy is crucial.

3. Share plans with the local fire department:
When a local fire department approached a national Fortune 500 company to provide a life safety and emergency preparedness floor plan, the client, a longtime user of Wisp, arrived at a solution fairly quickly. By leveraging the drag and drop icons in Wisp, the client was able to indicate emergency exits, stairwells, fire extinguishers and more on interactive floor plans, which were then printed for the fire department and distributed electronically among staff.

4. Display the location of life safety equipment:
Publishing the location of life safety equipment such as first aid kits, AED’s (Automated External Defibrillators), fire extinguishers and evacuation routes is often a workplace requirement. Safety equipment requirements vary depending on space type, so be sure to review industry codes and regulations to ensure you are properly communicating the location of life safety equipment to staff. Publishing life safety icons on a shared floor plan creates one source of record and reduces the likelihood that duplicate efforts are taking place within an organization.

5. Map out mechanicals:
Help facilities managers, contractors and service providers visualize and locate mechanical units such as boilers, chillers or rooftop units by placing representative icons on an interactive floor plan. This will be especially helpful if a major system goes out. Simply print and distribute the floor plan to easily communicate the location of units. Assigning unique attributes to icons makes it easy to record warranty, year purchased, last service date and more.

If you’re concerned about emergency preparedness in the workplace and need to gain access to baseline data about space and occupancy, we can help.

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