By Esther Gicharu | Saturday Jul 27, 2019

On Nov. 26, 2008, terrorists simultaneously attacked about a dozen locations in Mumbai, India, including one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. During the siege, none of the Taj employees fled the scene. Waiters and busboys, and room cleaners knew the back exits and paths through the hotel and would use their knowledge to guide some of their customers to safety. With the little/the much knowledge they had about the building that was under attack, lives were saved. Any emergency preparedness that they had acquired in their vocation was an asset they would have in the unforeseen event at hand.

Terrorist events are not considered foreseeable workplace emergencies for purposes of OSHA standards. However, OSHA compliance to safety guidelines at workplaces could in a little way help safeguard workers and guests in the event of a terrorist attack. Recent terrorist events in Kenya underscore the importance of workplace emergency planning efforts. 

A workplace evacuation plan, posted prominently on each floor, and reviewed periodically would help in evacuating employees and guests in a terrorist attack.  In the recent Dusit attack in Kenya, one security guard would run from room to room calling out for people who were stranded and then guide them out to safety. He knew the exits of the building. 

Some other measures include design and maintenance of exits. All routes leading to the exits, as well as the areas beyond the exits, if accessible and free from materials or items that would impede individuals, would lead to effective evacuations. Local building code officials can help employers ensure that the design and safety systems are adequate.

Furthermore, employees knowing how to report emergencies would be crucial in an emergency situation like that of a terror attack. A workplace could have internal numbers that can be used for reporting emergencies. If there are, they should be posted on, or near, each phone. Making available an emergency communications system in a workplace is crucial for emergency preparedness.

Appropriate exits, alarms, emergency lighting, communication systems, and sprinkler systems are all critical for employee safety and would come in handy in a terrorist attack. Even though terrorist attacks have unique characteristics and each event could require different and sophisticated methods of coping with it, the basic standards of workplace safety if maintained, could go a long way in safeguarding lives. 

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