For many laboratory directors, hazardous emergency safety likely is not at the forefront of everyday operations. Yet when taken for granted, the lack of a comprehensive and clearly communicated action plan detailing an emergency response to an event such as a fire, large chemical spill, or other emergency, can be disastrous.
In a recent article in Medical Lab Management, Deb Hagen-Moe, Education Program Coordinator, Amy Seegmiller, M.S., Education Specialist, and Pat Hlavka, Safety Coordinator, provide an overview of Mayo Clinic's management strategies for fire safety awareness. At Mayo Clinic, a significant challenge was posed by the need to develop a robust emergency reaction plan and provide fire and emergency safety training to approximately 2,000 occupants of an 11-story laboratory building located within a major downtown medical center. To add to the complexity, the building contains hazardous chemicals, infectious agents and, most important, numerous employees, patients, and visitors.
The article identifies the necessary steps to create a comprehensive plan, which include the following:
- Evaluating existing fire safety training and assessing current employee understanding of fire safety.
- Create education materials to highlight appropriate fire preparedness and response actions such as R.A.C.E. and P.A.S.S.
- Identify multiple volunteers to become fire awareness representatives to ensure the training and awareness tools were used properly.
- Implement supplemented education activities. In this case, Mayo Clinic invited Rochester's fire marshal to speak about fire safety.
- Conduct fire drills to test the plan's effectiveness.
- Determine knowledge gaps and create educational tools that addressed those deficits.
In addition to providing valuable knowledge on management strategies for fire safety awareness, the article also discusses what lessons were learned, including: Engage local employees (ie, floor representatives and observers) to generate buy-in and create local champions for the project
- Take the time to identify knowledge and ability gaps for all employees.
- Incorporate a variety of educational methods to meet different learning preferences and the unique needs of multiple work areas/shifts.
- Make learning fun, engaging, and relevant to audience(s) in order to increase retention.
Read the full article for more tips on strategies for fire safety awareness.