COVID-19 has been very disruptive in 2020, especially in the commercial real estate space. It has completely altered how business is done.
The need for occupants to feel safe within your facility’s walls has become paramount. While strict disinfecting protocols and guidance by governing facilities like the CDC, EPA, and OSHA are important to occupants, contractor protocols and building rules should not be overlooked.
As you’re reopening responsibly, it's even more important that the building rules and regulations are upheld. Relaxing safety measures could potentially compromise the security of the facility as well as the health and safety of employees.
You’ve probably either managed or participated in dozens of fire safety drills over your lifetime, but most likely, not during a pandemic.
COVID-19 will add an additional layer of confusion that may be a regularly practiced event in your facility.
- Cleary update any changes in emergency exits
- Train personnel in the facility on the different routes that should be taken to ensure social distancing
- Run a fire safety drill to make sure everyone knows what they should do
- Place masks and sanitation stations at each emergency exit
- Update employee guides and safety manuals with changes or added protocols
- If employees are on staggered daily or weekly schedules, and only come into the facility part of the time to reduce spread, make sure:
- Safety floor employees have personnel coverage for each day
- Multiple drills are run to cover occupants for each day
- Virtual training and/or guides are available to employees that are primarily working from home during COVID-19 so they know what to do if they are in the office at the time of a fire
Active Shooter Safety
According to the National Safety Council, every year 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence.
Taking precautions against a potential Active Shooter on your premises is important. Your facility should practice Active Shooter drills annually (at least) and treat them similarly to fire drills, for the safety of your occupants.
- Update training guides, employee guides, and training presentations to discuss Active Shooter Safety
- Run Active Shooter drills within your facility
- Contact law enforcement and the city before you plan to run an Active Shooter drill
- Make sure employees know when to run, where to run, and what exits will make the most sense
- Determine what areas are best for employees to hide and create signage to direct employees to areas to take shelter until they can move
- Clearly define when and how employees can take action
- Include scenarios when employees should fight to survive
- Make sure all training is available to employees that were working from home during the pandemic
- Update procedures after a drill with new findings and adjusted scenarios and treat it as an ever-evolving document
Taking precautions in advance of severe weather, such as developing an emergency plan, learning the warning signs, and monitoring watches and warnings, can help you stay safe if a weather emergency occurs in your area.
However, severe weather events like tornados, floods, or hail usually require employees to retreat to small spaces altogether within the facility. During a time when social distancing is important, the message to retreat to a small area together can seem conflicting.
- Run scenarios and develop occupancy emergency procedures to cut down on crowding
- Install additional safety supplies, such as boxes of masks, extra hand sanitizer, shields, etc. in areas where staff could be in close quarters during a severe weather event
- Explain weather emergency protocols and plan out new routes in a one-way office
- Reroute personnel based on the post-pandemic capacity to reduce the number of employees going to different shelter areas
- Initiate Weather Safety Captains to route employees to the correct area and manage mask and sanitizer disbursement during a weather emergency
- Add emergency capacity language to training and update signs outside the shelter areas
- Sanitize emergency packs and shelter supplies and disinfect shelter areas after a severe weather event
- Run virtual severe weather drills or practice with select employees at certain times so employees can learn their assigned path and area but will not need to crowd together
- Follow all applicable safety practices, referring to existing regulatory requirements, policies, procedures, and risk assessments
These are unprecedented times, but protocols for the safety of your facility and occupants cannot be relaxed.
Even though occupancy is low in buildings and workplaces, you still must provide healthy and safe spaces to protect the well-being of those working in your facilities.