While companies are generally focused on the best-case scenario, managers need to be aware that the worst may happen. Companies need to have strong plans in place to properly deal with injuries, illnesses, accidents, and other more serious issues like fires and evacuations. All stakeholders and staff must be trained to follow these plans. John Daniels, a leader in security, crisis management, and risk management, describes the basics of how to set up crisis management or emergency preparedness plans, naming some pitfalls that may occur along the way.
Preparing for Emergencies
All companies should be prepared for events like fires, floods, tornadoes, or criminal or terrorist activities. The role of the small business in emergency preparedness is particularly important since over 50 percent of all American workers are employed by small businesses. When these businesses can return to normal activities, they can restore the economy of their local area and make sure that their employees retain their paychecks in a difficult time.
An emergency preparedness plan assures that your business will be able to meet its responsibilities and return to normal operations much sooner.
Your company will need to explore all of the possible risks that could happen in your geographic area. By consulting with other business owners, residents, and weather services, you can find out the basic environmental risks in your place of business. You should also consult with your insurance company to find out whether your business is in a flood zone. Lastly, it is a good idea to develop a good relationship with your local fire and police departments. Be thorough in researching your business’s risk profile.
Continuity planning means making sure that your business will be able to function with a slimmed-down staff and equipment. Businesses should review their process flow charts to find which functions are necessary to stay in operation. Deciding which functions are essential can help you decide which employees need to do extra work to help to get ready for an emergency.
It is wise to have emergency payroll, accounting, and financial decision-making planned out. The succession of management needs to be taken into consideration. If one of your managers is unable to work due to being geographically isolated or in case of severe bodily injury or death, there needs to be a chain of command in place. It is smart to have one person in your chain of command be located physically apart from the rest of the business.
Emergency Planning Committee
A committee of workers from all departments and in all business functions is the best way to construct an effective crisis management plan. With a cross-section of company workers in place, you will be able to plan for contingencies that may be surprising. Focus on employees who have vital expertise that supports the daily functioning of your business.
Planning for Customers and Suppliers
During this process, you should list all of your most important clients and customers. You will need to find ways to continue serving their needs in the event of an emergency. If you cannot step up in a difficult time, your most important customers may leave you by the wayside and find another supplier.
At the same time, you need to be conscious of alternatives to your suppliers. It is wise to avoid doing business exclusively with one supplier, because if this supplier shuts down, your business will be devastated.
Your employees need to be well-informed and trained on all of their responsibilities in the event of an emergency. You will need to communicate frequently about your emergency preparedness system. Your employees are the backbone of your business, and if they are not properly supported, your business will be in the difficult position of hiring more workers in a stressful time.
Communications protocols need to be worked out in advance. A central texting or emergency notification system is a good way to start. Employees will appreciate receiving a timely text message that contains the information they need to stay safe. Telephone calling trees, email alerts, and emergency recorded hotlines are other options. It is a good idea to designate a phone number located outside of the city or state where your business is located where employees can register that they are safe in an emergency.
Special Considerations for Disabilities
When you are developing your crisis plan, make sure that you have provisions for co-workers with disabilities. People who have disabilities generally know what kinds of services and accommodations they will need to survive in a disaster.
For example, if your building has a fire and the elevators are out of service, your disabled employees will need help down the stairs in order to evacuate in a timely fashion. Designate caring coworkers to help their friends escape in an emergency situation. You will also need to plan how you will alert employees who may not hear or see an alarm. It is smart to have at least one person with disabilities on your planning committee.
Supplies for an Emergency
In the case of an emergency where coworkers must shelter in place, the workplace should keep a stocked preparedness kit to meet their needs. This kit should focus on the basics of survival: warmth, clean air, food, and fresh water. Everyone should have their own individual kit, including medications they need to take daily. Companies should not be expected to provide all of the supplies for survival, but it is a good idea to have some stock in order to provide for as many employees as possible.
It is smart to have a battery-powered radio, NOAA weather alert radio, and extra batteries. Everyone should have a flashlight. Everyone should have water and food, along with a first aid kit. They should have a whistle to call for help, masks for dust, wet wipes, duct tape, and plastic sheeting.
With these guidelines from John Daniels in mind, your company can build a crisis or emergency preparedness plan that works for everyone. If the worst happens, your company will be ready to recover and continue serving your customers.