Skip to main content

Work safety

Work safety

Preventing workplace emergencies

Creating a safe work environment for employees is a top priority for Safety and Claims. Below are helpful guidelines for emergency situations that can arise while on the job.

If a person calls and makes a bomb threat, stay calm and pay close attention to what the caller is saying. Do not hang up. Write down as much of the following as possible:
  • Time of call
  • Exact words used, accent and tone of voice
  • Time the bomb is supposed to explode
  • What kind of bomb it is and what it looks like
  • Try to find out where the bomb is located and why it was put there
  • Try to determine what you can about the caller from the way the caller talks, the dialect and any speech patterns
  • Any unusual noise or sound in the background
Employees in the courthouse complex should report the bomb threat immediately to the Emergency Dispatch Center at 206-296-5000. All others should call 9-1-1.

Further instructions will come from your manager or other appropriate authorities.

During an earthquake, keep calm. Do not run or panic.
  • Follow the familiar rules - DROP low, COVER your head and HOLD. Remain where you are. If indoors, take shelter under your desk, table, doorway or stairwell. Stay away from windows, outside doors or other potential trouble spots.
  • If outdoors, do not attempt to enter any buildings until authorities say they are safe. Stay away from overhead electric wires, power poles or other potential hazards.
  • After the initial earthquake, be prepared for aftershocks. Usually these are weaker than the main quake. However, they may cause great damage because of structures, poles or trees weakened by the main quake.
Authorities will provide instructions and status as soon as possible. When deemed safe, an "all clear" will be given.
  • After an earthquake, use extreme caution entering buildings or work areas.
  • Do not use open flame or sparking devices until advised that there are no gas leaks.
  • Stay away from fallen or damaged electrical wires.
  • Keep telephone lines clear, except to report an emergency.
  • Do not use elevators during or immediately after an earthquake. Elevators will be locked off and will not be turned on again until appropriate authorities declare the emergency is over.
  • If you are trapped in a stuck elevator, keep calm and do not panic. Emergency help has likely been notified. The structure of the elevator will be checked before the elevator is turned back on.
  • Do not try to pull the elevator doors open unless instructed by the appropriate authorities.
In a major emergency, you may be required to evacuate your building. The emergency public address system will be the primary means of notification in any emergency situation. If your building is not equipped with a public address system or if your emergency system is not working, the following methods will be used:
  • Your immediate supervisor, or another supervisor on your floor, will pass on instructions received either by telephone or messenger
  • Security personnel will relay instructions to you
  • Seattle police or fire departments may direct you to evacuate


If you observe a fire before the fire alarm sounds, evacuate the area of the fire and call 9-1-1. Report the fire, giving the building name and address. Note the following:

  • Floor number and room number where fire was found
  • Nature of fire, i.e. wastebasket, electrical, etc.

If you work in the courthouse call the Emergency Dispatch Center at 206-296-5000 to report the same information and let the dispatcher know that 9-1-1 has been called. Alarms can be pulled at locations indicated on evacuation plans. Shut, but do not lock the doors when the last person leaves the effected area. Floor wardens will assist non-ambulatory individuals. Follow evacuation plan route to exit; do not use elevators. Exit the building and gather at the designated meeting location.

In the event a fire breaks out in some other area of the building:

  • Remain where you are.
  • Close, but do not lock, all doors and windows.
  • Await instructions, which will come from your supervisors or from Facilities security.

Fire drill

Building staff and occupants of high-rise buildings are required to participate in fire drills periodically. The drills involve the evacuation of some or all of the building. Drills will be supervised and evaluated by the Fire Safety Director Notification system. Fire drills begin with horns sounding from the buildings' fire alarm panel. Fire drills may be pre-announced or unannounced. The horns sound continuously until the drill is over, except when the emergency paging system is being used. Directions and information during the drill will be announced over this system.

Drill response

  • Close any open windows in your area.
  • If in an office, close but do not lock your office door as you leave.
  • Unless you are directed to do otherwise by your supervisor, leave your work area and proceed down the closest stairwell as shown on the posted floor evacuation plan.

Do not use the elevators for a fire drill. Non-ambulatory individuals (personnel in wheelchairs, for example) will be assisted by the designated floor warden.

  • You should help and advise any visitors in your area.
  • Return to your work area when drill is over.
If you have a medical emergency or you need help, call 911. Give the dispatcher the building name and address. Note the following:
  • Floor number and room number.
  • Type of injury or brief description of the problem.

If you work in the courthouse complex, report the emergency to the Emergency Dispatch Center at 206-296-5000 after calling 9-1-1. Personnel will make sure that an elevator is held for the emergency response team.

The following information should be given to the security officer as soon as possible for reporting purposes:

  • Name, address and home phone number of victim.
  • Where victim was taken and by whom.

Most downtown buildings and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent have emergency power generators. The emergency power is used for limited lighting, elevators, and for essential services, such as fire alarms, burglar alarms and electric doors.

If there's a power failure because of some other emergency, such as a fire or a bomb, refer to the previous appropriate section for further instructions. If a power failure occurs as a result of mechanical failure and appears to be no threat to employees or property, stay in your work area and wait for instructions from the appropriate authorities.

In the event of a civil disturbance such as a riot or violent demonstration, all personnel should remain in their work areas unless directed to do otherwise by appropriate authorities.

For your protection, stay away from windows and glass doors. If necessary for the protection of personnel in the buildings, exterior doors may be locked and elevators taken out of service.

Personnel should not leave the building unless specifically directed or authorized to do so by appropriate authorities.

If you are trapped in a stuck elevator, take the following actions:
  • Call for help. If the elevator has an emergency telephone, pick up the receiver. You will be in contact with someone tuned to help you. Certain elevators may have intercom systems instead of phones. If you are in one of these elevators, push the button marked "Emergency Alarm" or "Emergency Bell." This will alert the staff person on duty who will then contact you via the intercom.
  • Remain calm. You will receive information and instructions from staff members trained to help you. Do not attempt to force open the elevator doors. At no time is there any danger to you while the elevator is temporarily out of service.

The elevator's mechanical safety brakes, which operate automatically, will keep the elevator locked in position until help arrives or the elevator begins normal operation again.

If you know of a stuck elevator and you work in the courthouse complex, report the problem during work hours to security at 206-296-0135, or call the 24-hour Emergency Dispatch Center at 206-296-5000. Other county employees call their internal building maintenance.

Keep calls brief and your message concise.

Occasionally a workplace theft occurs. Unauthorized people may slip in and take valuables when employees are not around or are not paying attention. If you see someone in a staff area who does not look familiar, or apparently does not have an appointment, ask politely if you can help.

If the person has no good reason to be there or if the situation is suspicious, call your supervisor for advice or phone building security at 206-296-5000 if you work in the courthouse complex. Other county employees call 9-1-1.

If there is a theft, call 9-1-1 and report it immediately. The sooner you involve the police, the less likely the thief will strike again. 

Security escorts

If you work after regular business hours and feel unsafe about walking to your vehicle or to other transportation, you may call the 24-hour Emergency Dispatch Center at 206-296-5000 and ask that a security guard accompany you.

Home Free Guarantee

The Home Free Guarantee program provides free taxi services in cases of emergency or unscheduled overtime for employees who rode the bus, carpooled, vanpooled, bicycled or walked to work. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 206-263-4575 and select the option for Home Free Guarantee. More information is available on the Home Free Guarantee website.

Safety and Claims offers classes in workplace violence prevention that look at the roles of management and employees in preventing violent or inappropriate aggressive behavior in the workplace. The course focuses on policy development, administration of field work procedures and facility security. It defines workplace violence, steps to prevent the violence and personal safety.

To learn when the next class will be offered, view the safety training class calendar.

Here are more resources for reporting and preventing workplace violence: