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Prepare for medical emergencies at your nonprofit

One of your employees is using a lift to move boxes around your warehouse, and they seriously injure themself when the lift malfunctions. Someone is participating in one of your programs, and they suddenly go into cardiac arrest. A volunteer who is working in your kitchen spills boiling water all over their legs.

Each of these situations is a medical emergency and requires a certain level of preparedness. Of course, you can’t be prepared for every single accident or health problem that might occur, but you can take steps to make sure you don’t waste any time when responding. Here are five ways you can prepare for medical emergencies at your facility:

  1. Create an emergency response team. Even the smallest nonprofit should establish a chain of command and specific people who will handle a medical emergency. Emergency response team members should have knowledge about bloodborne pathogens, hazardous materials and chemical spill protocols. They should also know how to use fire extinguishers and medical devices such as an automated external defibrillator (AED), and the contents of your organization’s first aid kit. Your first step in a medical emergency is to call 911, but your emergency response team will be able to help the victim during those precious minutes when you’re waiting for the ambulance.
  2. Acquire an AED. If someone at your facility goes into cardiac arrest (the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness), an AED can help restore a normal rhythm to their heart. It is easy for a layperson to use, and it can save someone’s life. If you purchase an AED, make sure the members of your emergency response team know where it is and how to use it.
  3. Keep a fully stocked first aid kit. Your first aid kit should be easily accessible and including the following items:
    • A first-aid manual.
    • Different sized sterile gauze pads.
    • Adhesive tape.
    • Band-Aids in several sizes.
    • Elastic bandage (like an Ace wrap).
    • Antiseptic wipes.
    • Antibiotic ointment.
    • Antiseptic solution (like hydrogen peroxide).
    • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
    • Tweezers.
    • Scissors.
    • Disposable instant cold packs.
    • Alcohol wipes.
    • Plastic non-latex gloves.
    • Flashlight with extra batteries.
    • A blanket.
    • Mouthpiece for administering CPR (can be purchased at the drugstore).
    • Calamine lotion.
    • A splint.
    • Thermometer.
  1. Invest in training. It is important that several people at your organization are trained in using first aid, an AED and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Consider offering an annual certification class for staff, volunteers and others who are involved in your nonprofit.
  2. Collect allergy information from those who are regularly at your facility. Whether someone is a staff member, volunteer or participant in one of your programs, you should be prepared to respond to allergic reactions and other urgent medical conditions, such as epilepsy. Establish a program that allows those who will be at your facility to confidentially share information on medical conditions and make sure that such sensitive personal information is securely stored and protected.

If you take these five steps, you will be better prepared for many different types of medical emergencies at your facility.

For more safety information for nonprofits, visit our safety resources page.