Emergency Preparedness Overview
April 2, 2021
It may seem like it is too late to get started on emergency preparedness in the wake of 2 major hurricanes, but it is never too late to get started. Those who were prepared for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma know the value of preparedness. According to the Insurance Information Institute, ”about 40% of all businesses affected by a natural or human caused disaster never reopen." By preparing in advance you can be one of the 60% that does.
According to “Ready.gov”, there are five (5) steps in the emergency preparedness process. They are:
- Program Management
- Testing and Exercises
- Program Improvement
Remember that not all emergencies come with warnings like hurricanes, thunderstorms, and in some cases, tornados. Things like sinkholes, mudslides, earthquakes, explosions from gas leaks, and terrorism events have little or no warning. So being prepared now makes dealing with those events easier.
Step 1. Program management – Start with a written policy and program which states the goals and responsibilities. Having defined achievable goals, such as protecting employees and visitors, protecting facilities and physical assets, maintaining customer service, and protecting the company’s reputation and brand are excellent goals. Then define who is responsible for specific actions and the time frame in which they must achieve these. But in order to define these roles, it is important to identify risks which is part of step 2.
Step 2. Planning – A good risk analysis is important to identify areas of potential loss. This can be accomplished in many ways but start with what is necessary to keep the business running. For example, what real property needs to be maintained or replaced? Can employees work remotely? How will employees, and customers, be communicated with and how will they communicate with management? What records, physical and electronic will need to be available or be accessed? Can this be done remotely if the building(s) are unusable? Answering questions like these will lead to the development of responsibilities and employees can then be assigned to those roles.
Step 3. Implementation – This is the step where everything is written down and a system is developed to manage incidents and train employees. Topics to include are:
- Resource Management
- Emergency Response
- Crisis Communication Plan
- Business Continuity Plan
- Information Technology Plan
- Employees Assistance and Support
- Incidence Management
Step 4. Testing and exercises – Here is where the plan is tested to see how well it works. By running simulations or mock trials, you can see if any deficiencies exist and develop a plan to correct them. This will also reveal if employee training was adequate or if additional training is needed.
Step 5. Program Improvement – After the tests are conducted and any deficiencies and opportunities identified the written program can be changed to incorporate these changes. It is also a good idea to review the program at least annually to incorporate any personnel changes or business operation changes.
These are the 5 steps in emergency preparedness and while they are simple on the surface a significant amount of time and energy can go into each step. So start today if you don’t already have a program and if you do review it to make sure it is still adequate. For additional information please check out www.ready.gov and www.fema.gov.