Prepare for tornado season

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) stresses that tornado preparedness for businesses requires a plan that includes a continuous process of gathering equipment and supplies, training workers, and practicing emergency evacuations. OSHA states that when fire extinguishers are required or provided in a business, and if people will have to evacuate during an emergency or a fire, an emergency action plan (EAP) is required.

To help businesses plan for a tornado, OSHA recommends starting by identifying the safest location for people to gather. A basement or storm shelter provides the best protection during a tornado. If an underground location is not available, workers should plan to take shelter in a small interior room or hallway on the lowest possible floor and avoid cafeterias, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and any room with a flat, wide roof.

Communication is another crucial aspect of emergency planning. Employers can help protect workers by providing 2-way radios and ensuring everyone understands the local tornado warning systems. Implement an internal alarm system to alert workers of tornados and test alarms regularly to make sure they work. Include a way to inform workers who have disabilities or do not speak English.

To account for everyone in the building, employers can implement a constant process for knowing what employees and visitors are present. They can also develop a system to account for those who arrive at the emergency shelter during a tornado, which may include a prepared roster and head counts. 

Assign specific tasks that individuals will be responsible for in an emergency. Create checklists for these individuals to ensure all the critical parts of each task are completed, and select and train alternates for these positions in case the designated worker is absent or injured.

Workplaces can also prepare by equipping shelters with an emergency supplies kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends including the following items in this kit:

•    At least three gallons of water per person
•    At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
•    A NOAA weather radio
•    Flashlights and extra batteries
•    A first aid kit
•    Whistles
•    Dust masks
•    Plastic sheeting
•    Duct tape
•    Moist towelettes
•    Garbage bags and plastic ties
•    Tools
•    A manual can opener
•    Local maps
•    A cell phone with charger

To further prepare for a tornado, OSHA also requires that workplaces provide training and conduct drills to ensure employees know what steps to take in an emergency. These drills will also provide opportunities to adjust the EAP according to what is learned during exercises.

Give workers peace of mind by preparing your workplace for tornados. Start planning, equipping, training, and practicing today.

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