Great Utah ShakeOut: If disaster strikes while you're at work

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 9:39 a.m. MDT

A UTA bus carries passengers on State Street in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Editor’s note: This is the ninth of a series of columns to help Utahns get ready for emergencies, disasters and the Great Utah ShakeOut 2013. Read the rest of the articles here.

Face it: If you work outside the home, a third or more of your life is spent at work. That means there’s a decent chance that disaster will strike when you’re not at home.

Most of the time when we talk about emergency preparedness, we tell families how to protect themselves at home, to have emergency kits and supplies there, to have an evacuation plan and to look for hazards at home that can injure them.

But what if you’re at work?

Many of the steps to emergency preparedness at home still work at the office.

Have an emergency kit that can sustain you for at least three days.

Have a plan for communicating to loved ones and co-workers who are in and out of the office.

Be familiar with building evacuation routes and employee meeting areas.

Employers should prepare to house employees at the office for an extended period of time. That means food and water, first aid and sanitation needs.

Run through regular fire drills and earthquake drills, such as the Great Utah ShakeOut on April 17.

Understand who is in charge during an emergency. It may not be the CEO.

Look around to find furniture or office supplies that could fall on you.

Are critical computers or servers kept off the floor and out of basements that can flood?

Be Ready Utah offers training to businesses to help them prepare. The program, called Ready Your Business, takes you through 12 steps of preparedness. Contact BeReadyUtah@utah.gov to schedule the training.

Here’s another question to scare you: What if you’re on the way to work on a bus or a train? Thousands of Utahns don’t even have their own cars with them during the work day. Here are some things you can keep with you during the commute:

Hand warmers and an emergency blanket take up very little space in a purse or briefcase.

Have a hard copy of your family’s contact information with you.

A granola or energy bar can sustain you if you have to walk home.

A bottle of water will keep your thirst down and spirits up.

Know where emergency exits and emergency supplies are.

A small flashlight, dust mask, local map and protective gloves should round out your commuter emergency kit.

A little bit of preparedness goes a long way toward recovering when disaster rears its ugly head, no matter where you are.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and the spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Send your preparedness tips to jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips available at twitter.com/bereadyutah.

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