Don't Let Faulty Assumptions Sink You in an Emergency
You've written what you believe to be a wonderful emergency preparedness plan. It seems detailed and complete and contains all of the basic elements an emergency preparedness plan should. But will it actually work?
Whether an emergency preparedness plan will work often depends heavily on the assumptions you've made. While you can't plan for every possibility, here are some common assumptions you may want to reconsider.
- Electricity: : Many people realize that power will be lost during an emergency, but they only go as far as planning for the lack of lights. To make sure your emergency plan works effectively, you need to consider other systems that a lack of power will affect. Phones, automatic gates or locks, alarms, key-card entry, and process interlocks are just a few of the systems that could be affected by a power outage. Evaluate the impact these shutdowns will have on your emergency response activities and address them.
- Communications: You've gone to the trouble to develop and maintain a current emergency response personnel phone list. But will you have telephone service? Land lines may work when cell service does not, and vice versa. For this reason, your list should include both cell phone and land line numbers for personnel.
- Personnel: Your plan assigns people or positions to handle your emergency response activities, but the number of employees available for response may be far fewer than you'd planned because of injuries, communication issues, or lack of transportation. In a small facility, that may be of little consequence. But in large facilities, it is prudent to determine which minimum activities must be accomplished in the response, assuming a skeleton crew. (This is why all members of your organization need to be fluent in your emergency response plan—your “official” responders may not be reachable). You should also determine if there is a point when too few responders actually presents a significant danger to the responders and what then should be done (for example, abandon the facility).
- The neighbors: Have you written your plan without taking into account your neighbors? If your neighbor is an office building, that perspective is probably fine. But if your neighbor is some sort of storage or manufacturing facility, hazards like a fire, explosion, or drift from a chemical release at a neighboring facility could also affect your facility. Check on your neighbors and know who they are, what they do, and whether you need to account for their impact in your emergency preparedness plan.
You need to be ready not only to deal with the immediate aftermath of a crisis, such as protecting employees and responding to multiple government agencies, but also the fallout—whether it's damage to your reputation among customers and the public; extensive damage to a facility, operations, and communications; disruption of the supply chain; workers in need of counseling and reassurance; or the need to lawfully set up remote and telecommuting worksites.
On April 11, Emergency Management at Work Bootcamp will provide you the tools you need to evaluate your organization's operations and develop a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan so you're not left asking what you could have, should have, and would have done if only you had been prepared.
This five-part bootcamp includes:
- Emergency Management: HR Policies and Preparedness
- Designing an Effective Emergency Plan: The People and Resources That Must Be Included
- Dealing with the Media Before, During, and After an Event
- Getting Prepared: Exercises and Drills
- How to Keep Your Employees Informed and Calm in the Event of Crisis
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