Emergency Response Planning

Whether it's fire, severe weather, a bomb threat or just a power outage, it is important to know what to do.

Plan and Prepare
For many, emergency preparedness or "disaster" planning is not a high priority, usually because they believe emergencies always happen somewhere else. There are also those who believe major emergencies or disasters are beyond human control, so there is not much anyone can do.

While no amount of planning can prepare us for every contingency or eliminate all the risks associated with an emergency situation, we can reduce the impact and speed the return to normal operations. The better we plan, the better we will respond when a disaster actually strikes.

The specific purpose of this pamphlet is to provide you with general guidelines for preparing a plan for your department or building. The procedures you develop do not need to be elaborate, they should reflect what will actually be done in your department.

This publication has been prepared by the Department of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) in cooperation with the UAB Emergency Preparedness Committee (EPC). All departmental or building plans should be submitted for review by EPC in order to maintain consistency with campus wide plans (OH&S, CH 19, Rm. 445, 2041).

The guidelines presented in this pamphlet apply to UAB campus areas and are not intended to replace the specific disaster plans already in place at University Hospital nor do they replace the existing policy regarding the snow and ice emergency plan.

Defining an Emergency
An emergency or disaster is defined as an event that has the potential to cause property damage, personal injury or loss of life that creates demands the institution can not handle in a routine manner.

Planning Objective
To provide a timely response by coordinating resources to protect lives, mitigate damages and provide a rapid return to normal operations.

These definitions can also be applied at the department level. Small emergencies may occur that will take the department or even a building out of the normal operation. Departmental plans should reflect this contingency. Even in a campus-wide disaster, buildings and departments should be prepared for little or no outside assistance for some period of time. This pamphlet is intended to provide basic guidelines for a departmental or building internal disaster plan.

These guidelines are identical to those used in planning the campus-wide response plan. The only variations will be allowances for hazards or sensitive areas within a given department or building. For example, the evacuation plan for the Arena will differ from the evacuation plan for the Humanities Building.

Since it is impossible to plan precise responses for each possible scenario, plans must be flexible in order to enhance decision making, help establish priorities and assist in managing available information. Remember emergency planning usually takes place in an atmosphere of apathy and economic restraint. In order to gain the most cooperation during the planning process, it is very helpful to focus on the most likely events first, for example, power outages, communication failure, severe weather and fire.

Notification
Because UAB is such a large, diverse campus, a uniform method of notifying all areas is simply impossible. You may learn about an emergency situation any number of ways: fire alarm, weather radio, emergency sirens, messenger, commercial radio or television. Certain emergencies may be self evident: for example, you don't need a messenger to tell you the power went out when your sitting in the dark.

Each building and/or department should develop a method of spreading the word about an emergency situation. Buildings composed of classrooms should develop a messenger system to let instructors in class know of emergencies such as severe weather and bomb threats.

Because there is at least a 75% chance that disaster will strike during non-business hours, certain departments on campus have developed recall rosters or notifications call lists such as Maintenance, Animal Services, OH&S and others. If your department develops such a recall list, it should be updated at least quarterly.

Handling of Damaged Areas
All damaged areas should be evacuated and kept clear by UAB Police until it is determined that the area is safe to re-enter. Building Services will be responsible for cleaning the damaged area after it is declared safe. Facilities Management will be responsible for cleaning the damaged area after is is declared safe. Facilities Management will be responsible for repairs which will return the area to normal or as close to normal operations as possible.

Fire Safety
All departments and/or buildings should develop local evacuation routes and signs locating fire extinguishers. The Department of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) can help you develop these plans. It is very important that corridors and exits remain clear of any obstructions. It is common on campus for copiers, tables, bookshelves and all kinds of other material to be placed in corridors. This is a violation of the fire code.

General Instructions for All Areas
If fire of smoke is detected, no matter how minor it may appear to be, do this at once:

  • Stay calm. Visitors and students will depend on your actions.
  • Close all doors to confine the fire. As you leave the room where the fire is located, close the door to the room, fire doors located in the corridors, at elevator lobbies and stairs.
  • Activate the fire alarm.
  • Report the fire, dial 4-3535. Identify yourself and tell police the exact location of the fire and what is burning.
  • Evacuate the building.
Contact OH&S for more information and a pamphlet on fire safety.

Evacuation
Evacuation should take place in a calm and orderly manner. Again, be sure corridors and exits are unobstructed and clearly marked. Staff members should be very familiar with two evacuation routes and be prepared to assist students and visitors who may not be familiar with the building.

Identify a point outside and away from the building where members of your department know to gather. This provides a quick and easy way to account for all personnel.

Fire Drills
In elementary school, fire drills helped you remember automatically what to do in a fire. It also helped teachers move a lot of little people to safety quickly and calmly. The same holds true now. In an actual fire, there will be a great deal of excitement and confusion. This will be compounded by thick smoke and toxic gases. A normally well-marked exit route may appear unfamiliar and disorienting. It is essential that fire response procedures be practiced on a regular basis. Each person must know exactly what to do and must have enough practice to be able to perform quickly and efficiently - and help students and visitors. Contact OH&S for help organizing a building or department fire drill.

Provisions for Individuals With Disabilities
The landings inside or adjacent to stairwells and protected elevator lobbies are considered areas of refuge for individuals with disabilities. It is routine procedure for emergency personnel to check these areas for individuals with disabilities and/or injured persons. In the event the building must be evacuated, individuals with disabilities located above or below the ground floor should proceed to their designated area of refuge and remain until emergency personnel arrive. Any required assistance for individuals accessing the area of refuge should be coordinated in advance by their departments. The Floor Captain or designee must immediately report the location of disabled or injured individuals to emergency personnel.

Bomb Threat
It is the responsibility of the UAB Police Department to investigate all suspected bombs and reports of bombs being placed on UAB property and coordinate evacuation, searches, and removal of suspected explosive devices. This shall be accomplished in cooperation with UAB staff, Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service, and other agencies which may be called to assist.

A separate publication is available from the OH&S office with detailed instructions on how to handle a bomb threat in your building.

Loss of Electrical Power
Many areas of campus are equipped with emergency power should they loose electrical service. However, most people don't realize what that means. Usually, emergency service is minimal and is designed to operate only critical equipment. Ask yourself two basic questions: Does my building have emergency power? If yes, which outlets are emergency outlets? Even with emergency power, many things that are taken for granted, such as phones (other than single line), most lights, except for egress lighting in corridors and stairs, and elevators do not operate.

All areas have at least a battery backup system to operate egress lighting and exit signs. Even so, this is very little light. Again, practice your evacuation routes and keep corridors clear of obstructions.

Students in class should be instructed to remain in their seats until information is available on how long the outage will last or if evacuation is required.

Severe Weather
Someone in your building should be responsible for monitoring the weather for changes that may require an upgrade in preparedness.
Heavy Rain and Flooding
a. Campus Maintenance will be prepared to handle sewer back-up and other problems associated with flooding.
b. Building Services will be responsible for monitoring floors in traffic areas and keeping them clean, dry and serviceable.
Severe Lighting/Electrical Storms
While it is unlikely that such storms will result in serious damage to the University buildings as a result of electrical activity, it is advisable to curtail certain activities that may present certain risks, such as outdoor or rooftop activities, or the use of any equipment that could cause injury or be damaged by interruptions in the power supply.
Tornado Watch
A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes or very intense straight-line winds capable of causing severe damage. The watch will be issued by the National Weather Service for a specified period of time. No specific action should be taken during a watch except to stay alert to weather conditions and updates.
Tornado Warning
A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in or near Jefferson County. Personnel must stay alert to any sudden changes in weather conditions or weather announcements and be prepared to seek shelter immediately in the lower level and/or along the interior walls. Personnel should stay away from the windows as much as possible.
Communications
When the primary telephone system goes down, the most important action for all departments to take is to avoid using the phones. Our phone system has a type of "memory" and attempts to use the phone will slow recovery. One individual in an area should be designated to check the phone lines from time to time. Special phone lines that are independent of the UAB system are available for a nominal fee from UAB Communications; call extension 4-0000 for more information.

The Department of Occupational Health and Safety 205-934-2487