Creating an Office Emergency Plan

Here at the Pacific Coast Chapter in Santa Barbara, we’ve had a lot of changes lately! We’ve gotten a brand new name, hired several new staff members, and have undergone a thorough spring cleaning of the building. Part of all these updates (and part of my job as Business Operations Coordinator), has been to revise our office emergency plan. It’s important to us, as an organization that promotes and teaches disaster preparedness, to make sure we ourselves are prepared and up-to-date!

Melissa Durand, Business Operations Coordinator, pointing out our pre-designated gathering spot to volunteers Gayle Robinson and Timmy Kriedman, as well as Major Gifts Officer Kimberley Coley
Melissa Durand, Business Operations Coordinator, pointing out our pre-designated gathering spot to volunteers Gayle Robinson and Timmy Kriedman, as well as Major Gifts Officer Kimberley Coley

For this blog post, I’d like to share with you what we did to implement our plan and conduct an office earthquake drill.  I hope this may help you determine what steps you can take in your own workplace to be prepared!

Steps to Office Preparedness:

1. Remind all staff and volunteers to update their emergency contact information. Here at the Red Cross, all of our staff is required to provide emergency contact information to HR. Likewise, all of our volunteers must provide emergency contact information on our volunteer management site, Volunteer Connection. I reminded both staff and volunteers to make sure their emergency contact information is current, and will send out reminders periodically to ensure everyone stays up-to-date.

2. Develop a system to keep track of who is on premise. The Red Cross is comprised of about 90% volunteers! This means we have volunteers and visitors coming in and out of the office all the time. If an emergency occurs during business hours, it will be assumed that all staff was on-premise at the time. However, we will still need to account for any volunteers or visitors. For this purpose, we have a visitor sign-in sheet at the front desk. We ask that all volunteers and visitors sign in when they arrive, and sign out again when they leave. This way, in the event of an emergency, we have a list of who was in the building at the time and can make sure everyone is accounted for.

3. Create an office evacuation plan, including pre-designated gathering points. I used OSHA’s helpful e-tool to create a written Emergency Action Plan for our office. This plan lists the location of fire extinguishers, exit routes, and first aid kits, as well as where our pre-designated gathering point is. It also details the names of employees who have volunteered to assist in an emergency and what duties they will conduct (e.g. taking roll call after an evacuation). This document was sent out to all staff members for their reference and will be kept on file.

4. Create a plan for responding to internal medical emergencies. Included in our Emergency Action Plan are procedures for internal medical emergencies, including documentation and follow-up procedures. We also identified and listed staff who are trained in and willing to offer first aid and/or CPR in the event of an internal medical emergency.

5. Maintain office emergency preparedness supplies. When putting together our Emergency Action Plan, I went through the office and figured out what supplies we needed to purchase, repair, or update. For instance, I checked the tags on our fire extinguishers and noted when we need to have them serviced or replaced. I also updated our emergency exit route signs (making sure they are visible throughout the office), and checked to see if we needed to replenish our first aid kit supplies. This is something I will continue to do periodically.

6. Create a timeline for conducting regular drills. Last week, we held our first office earthquake drill! We practiced evacuating the building and meeting in our pre-designated gathering point for roll call. I also briefly went over our Emergency Action Plan, making sure everyone is clear on our procedures and answering any questions or concerns. Again, this is something that should be done on a regular basis, and I created a timeline for our office to conduct a drill every 6 months.

I hope that reading about the simple steps we’ve taken to prepare our office for emergencies has given you some ideas for implementing preparedness measures at your own workplace. After all, the average American spends about 1/3 of their time at work (!), so we want to make sure we’re just as prepared at our workplaces as we are in our homes.

Melissa Durand
Business Operations Coordinator
Pacific Coast Chapter, American Red Cross

Pets Are Family Too: Preparing Everyone for Disaster

One of my favorite past times is binge-watching Netflix. I remember a few years ago I watched a movie that had me bawling in tears. No, it wasn’t Titanic or Steel Magnolias (although I do make sure I have a box of tissues with me whenever I watch these films). It was a documentary called MINE. The film follows Louisiana residents who became separated from their pets when they were forced to evacuate their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

Pets are a part of your family. As a dog-owner, I find this statement to be extremely true and I bet sixty percent of Americans who are pet-owners feel the same way. Pets enrich our lives and help us feel safe. However, they also depend on us for safety. During a disaster, they depend on us even more. So how can we stay prepared to take care of man’s best friend? Here are a few ways to help ensure your pet is safe in times of a disaster:

pet emergency kit
Sample Pet Emergency Kit

1.) Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit
Similar to an emergency kit for your family, make sure you create a separate emergency kit for you pets as well. Include three days worth of food and water, an animal first aid kit, a leash, dishes for food, a pet carrier, toys, and any medicine your pet may take. Also include sanitation items for your pet such as plastic garbage bags, paper towels, and a litter box. Your emergency kit should also include copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean waterproof bag. Lastly, include photos of you and your pet in your pet emergency kit. For any reason you and your pet are separated during a disaster, photos will help you document ownership and help others identify your pet.

2.) Arrange a Safe Haven
If you must evacuate your home during a disaster, evacuate with your pet. Never leave them at home alone. If your home isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet. Because of health and safety reasons many shelters, including Red Cross shelters, do not allow pets. It’s crucial to determine where to bring your pets during a disaster ahead of time. Find out which motels and hotels in your area allow pets. Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred pet hotels or other boarding facilities. Reach out to your local animal shelter to see if they provide emergency shelter for pets during a disaster. Keep a list of these facilities and their phone numbers in your emergency kit. Also, designate a caregiver for your pet by asking friends, neighbors, and relatives in your area if they would be willing to take care of your pet during a disaster.

Volunteer Liz Lepey’s dog Wheezer modeling a Be Red Cross Ready t-shirt

3.) Learn Pet First Aid
Learn how to properly care for and protect your pet when they are injured. The Red Cross has developed a Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid class. Click here to look up these courses in your area.

For more information on Pet and Disaster Safety, click here.

Aissa Fernandez
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Disaster Program Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Are You All In?

American Red Cross Giving Day kicked off early this morning and we’re asking everyone: Are you all in?


The local Red Cross works hard everyday throughout Central California. Whether it’s helping residents affected by home fire or getting a service member home to see their loved ones, the Red Cross is there to help.

Last year the Red Cross Central California Region:

  • responded to over 500 home fires
  • mobilized nearly 2,000 volunteers
  • provided over 25,000 services in our community
  • and trained almost 50,000 people in CPR, First Aid, AED, and other life-saving skills.

Now is your chance to help! Join the movement:


So… are you all in?

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communciations