Emergency Preparedness Week is all about making sure you aren’t caught off guard when disaster strikes. While it was created to help families prepare for all kinds of disasters, it’s equally important for businesses to do the same.

A perfect example of an emergency every business should be prepared for is a fire — they rarely occur but their effects can be devastating. Being ready for one involves more than just having fire extinguishers around (although, that’s a good start). Here are some other things you can do to prepare – for a fire-related emergency.

  1. Work together: The first people to contact when creating a fire evacuation plan is your local fire department. Chances are they already have some sort of plan or guidelines in place which you can build on.
  2. Choose evacuation points and routes carefully: Evacuation points and routes vary greatly based on building size, number of employees and your building’s location. That said, these general guidelines are a good starting point:
    • Make sure there a multiple routes to relieve congestion
    • Assembly points shouldn’t be in high traffic areas (like busy intersections)
    • Make sure assembly points are far enough from the building (depends on building height.)
  3. Put up signs: Every exit should have a sign showing the evacuation route for that particular area.
  4. Let employees know: Whenever you update your fire evacuation routes or before you host a mock fire drill, make sure employees are informed
  5. Assign fire wardens: These are employees who have been trained on building protocol and evacuation procedures. Your local fire department can recommend how many you should have. Most importantly, they’re intended to be knowledgeable helpers not people who should risk their lives in the event of an actual fire.
  6. Fire extinguishers: Though unrelated to evacuations, they can be great means of fire prevention. Make sure there are enough in your building, especially in kitchens or areas with lots of electronics.
  7. Make a list: Make a note of all employees who are pregnant, have recently been operated on or have disabilities. Update it at least every six months and provide a copy to the fire department.
  8. Special events: If there are special events going on in your business’ area which close streets or increase foot traffic, be sure to re-evaluate assembly points and evacuation procedures.

The best way to protect your business and employees from unforeseen emergencies is by preparing for them in advance. The tips above, along with your local fire department, and newly-appointed fire wardens will help you do just that during and after Emergency Preparedness Week.