Picture how you would react at work one day if an employee were to black out (or faint, as we say in Liberia) and you hadn’t the faintest clue what could be wrong with this employee or who to contact about his or her condition. Imagine running to the Human Resource office to obtain a point of contact information from that person’s file only to be told there is none available.
Or maybe that person is heading home after work (yeah, fighting, elbowing for car on broad street) and collapses. Concerned by standers try to help and would like to contact a relative and decide to search that person’s pocket for any relevant information, but find none. Well, this is often the case for many in Liberia.
Emergency contact information is very important for every organization, yet it is something that is easily overlooked and forgotten by many- both employees and managers. Emergency contact information is basically just names and contact numbers of people you would like to be contacted on your behalf in situations of emergencies when you cannot speak for yourself and any other key relevant information you would like management to know about in situations of an emergency.
It is important to ensure each employee’s personnel file has a form that provides contact information for at least three persons that can be reached in cases of emergencies, direction to your home (since we do not have mailing addresses in Liberia for now), blood type, name of doctor (if you have a specific one) and any allergies or illnesses you wish management to be aware of (like diabetes or high blood pressure, etc.). From experience, it is also advisable that this information be validated every six months to a year since a lot of people tend tochange their numbers quite frequently. Of course, the HR team would be fully aware that the information provided is to be held in the strictest of confidence.
The importance of ensuring each employee’s emergency contact information is up-to-date was reinforced to me about five years back when an employee fainted right just as he was about to get into his car after work one day. We rushed him to a nearby clinic and because he had one of these fancy phones that had a screen lock on it, we weren’t able to access his contacts to call a relative."
"So, I ran back into the office and opened his personnel file to see if there was information on any family member we could contact. To my outmost dismay, there was none. Well, there was, but it was apparent that the information was useless because he had telephone numbers that we now call “old numbers” in Liberia. Numbers that go like 226-370. Luckily, another employee informed us that he and the guy lived in the same community, and that he would rush home to inform the man’s family of his condition. The ill employee recovered in due time, but for me, that was a rude awakening, a wake-up call.
The HR team could also go a step further by providing each employee with a small card (the size of a regular identification card) that provides basic information that staff could keep in their pockets, wallets or handbags daily. If you are an employee and reading this and not quite sure if you have given an emergency contact to your HR team, please make time this week to ask them and provide one if you haven’t and update, if necessary, if you have.
For managers, please make this a part of your standard orientation program for each new employee and ensure your HR team regularly remind employees to notify them if there are changes to the names they provided, as it would be very unhelpful to have names of people as emergency contacts who are either deceased or who have changed their number, etc.
As a Chinese proverb says, “Better a thousand times careful, than once dead”, so please do what you need to do to be safe, rather than sorry.
Brenda B. Moore is a U.S. State Department trained Human Resource professional with several years’ working experience in the HR field and currently resides in Monrovia and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org