In addition to creating a crisis management team and preparing your employees, your emergency preparedness plan should address your electrical equipment when preparing for a power outage. This includes backing up all of your electronic files, ensuring that you have backup batteries for cell phones or laptops, and purchasing back-up power generators (if you don't have them already). Even if you already have back-up generators, it's important to research how these generators work, including what they are prepared to power when an outage occurs - and for how long. For instance, some generators may turn on automatically during a blackout, but others may need to be physically turned on.
Additionally, when preparing for a power outage, stay in contact with your property management team and property engineers so that you understand exactly what will happen when a blackout occurs. Will your back-up generators power only the emergency lighting or critical services? If so, you need to consider other pressing emergency preparedness issues, including food safety, power servers that may requiring cooling before overheating, problems with security systems and alarms, and especially communication.
Shelter, Food, Water and Extreme Temperatures
Because your environment may be affected by severe weather, you may have to use the office as a shelter for an extended period of time. If this is the case, your emergency preparedness plan should address food supplies and safe drinking water. Many municipal water systems may not be able to decontaminate drinking water for extended periods of time - so if you and your employees are relying on tap water, it may not be safe to use for cooking, drinking or brushing teeth during an extended power outage.
When preparing for a power outage, particularly an extended blackout, be sure that your business has stocked all of the emergency preparedness supplies that your employees may need during an extended stay, including but not limited to water, food rations, flashlights, first aid kits, prescription medicine, blankets and lanterns.
Additionally, even in the short term, extreme heat or cold can affect the building and your employees. In the case of extreme heat, if your air conditioning is off, you need to do everything you can to reduce this effect on your employees. Make sure that your emergency preparedness plan addresses storing safe drinking water on site so that they don't suffer from heat illness, heat stroke, dehydration or heat exhaustion. Limit the amount of manual labor that your employees are performing, as you want to try to keep everyone cool. If they can't stay cool, heat may affect the way that your employees may think - watch out for disturbances and mental friction that often occurs due to hot temperatures.
If the blackout occurs during the winter, your emergency preparedness plan should address exposure to extreme cold for prolonged periods of time, which may cause your employees to panic. Keep your employees as warm as possible by gathering people together and making sure that everyone is wearing enough clothing or can use emergency blankets. Look out for symptoms of hypothermia, frost bite and any sort of shock - and never use alcohol to warm the body, as it decreases the body's ability to thermo-regulate.
When preparing for a power outage, it is important to be cautious about the creation of carbon monoxide, particularly carbon monoxide caused by back-up generators. For instance, if you and your employees are snowed in during a blackout and are relying on indoor back-up generators, take care that these generators are not placed near a ventilation system, as this could cause carbon monoxide to spread throughout the building. Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, with slow-acting, lethal symptoms - therefore, there is no real warning that your employees are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you're using generators or space heaters to heat the building when preparing for a power outage, make sure that you are properly ventilating the generators. Often, smaller companies purchase back-up generators without knowing where to place them safely. Your emergency preparedness plan should include protecting your employees from exposure to carbon monoxide - research how to use the generators or space heaters in your building, because the consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning are lethal. Additionally, never use outdoor grills for heating inside of a building, because the fumes can also be hazardous to your health.