Whether you are a business owner, manager, or employee, it is important to make sure you know how your workplace will respond to emergencies and disasters. Every business should have an emergency plan.
Why are Emergency Plans Important for Businesses?
- An effective plan can save lives and assets by maximizing the potential to survive and recover
- The plan will protect business investments and also support employees, customers, stakeholders, the community, the local economy and the country
- It will help the business to resume normal operations (or re-open) faster
- By facilitating a quicker recovery, the financial impact will be lessened
- The faster a business resumes operations, the less customers will be lost
- An emergency plan may also protect the company’s reputation and shield it from legal or liability issues
Plan to Stay in Business
Employees are busy and it may seem overwhelming to find the time or resources to devote to emergency planning. That is one reason it is important to have buy-in from management and get their firm commitment to follow through on the planning process. Begin with a decision on who is taking the lead, as well as other team members to include – planning is a team effort, not a one man job! The following statistics may help convince business owners on the importance of planning.
- According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40% of businesses never recover after experiencing a major disaster. Of the remaining companies, at least 25% will close within 2 years.
- Small to medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable following a disaster – primarily because they don’t have the resources of a large corporation backing them up
- When planning, consider both small emergencies (those that may happen more frequently but with lower severity) and large scale disasters (those that are less likely to occur but would have higher consequences). Businesses should write their plans broadly so that they address “all-hazards”.
- Put together a continuity of operations plan that includes: chain of command and delegation of authority; prioritized essential functions; critical business partners; alternate sites and vendors; a method for payroll continuity; an emergency planning team; a crisis management team; and maintenance of vital records.
- In the event of a disease outbreak be prepared for high levels of absenteeism as staff stay home ill or to take care of family members
- Facilitate ways for staff to work with minimizing exposure to each other and customers to reduce disease
- Emergency plans should include how to communicate before, during and after an emergency; how to address any functional needs of employees; and the means for updating and practicing plans annually
- Discuss sheltering-in-place versus evacuating
- Prepare for fire safety and medical emergencies
- Include policies for disasters that may result in high employee absenteeism, such as pandemic flu or infectious diseases. Cross training employees and implementing work-from-home policies are potential solutions
Educate and Involve Your Staff
- Involve all levels of employees in the planning process. Develop internal communication and warning systems, setup a way for staff to get emergency information, encourage alternate transportation and maintain up-to-date staff contact information
- Write a crisis communication plan to use during and after a disaster. This should address communicating with employees, management, public, customers, government and other businesses/neighbors.
- Educate employees on their responsibilities during a disaster. Practice the plan through seminars, trainings, tabletop exercises and operational exercises. Maintain employee training records.
- Promote personal and family preparedness to staff. Encourage employees to have personal, vehicle and business emergency kits.
- Support employee health and recovery after a disaster by offering food, rest and recreation. Encourage employees to seek care when needed, reassure them their families will be taken care of, re-establish routines, offer counseling, and limit stress.
Protect Your Business
- Review insurance coverage to clarify what is (not) covered, deductibles, how you will pay creditors and employees, how to provide your own income and what records are needed
- Prepare for utility disruptions by determining what utilities are critical, learning how to turn off utilities, obtaining portable generators, setting up backup communications and internet access and addressing food storage issues
- Ensure facilities are secure by testing fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, marking escape routes, assessing security and fire systems, planning for mail safety, identifying essential equipment and complying with safety codes
- Secure your equipment by attaching it to walls (when possible), putting heavy or breakable items on low shelves, moving workstations away from windows and keeping electrical hazards off of the floor
- Assess building air protection by maintaining your HVAC system, developing HVAC shut-down procedures, securing and limiting access to outdoor intake lines, upgrading the building’s filtration system and installing HEPA filter fan
- Improve cyber security by using anti-virus software, practicing good computer safety, use firewalls, backing-up data, checking security regularly and subscribing to the national cyber alert system
(Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Ready Business)
For Additional Information on Business Preparedness, Please Visit:
- Ready Business (FEMA)
- Prepare Your Workplace (Red Cross)
- Ready Rating (Red Cross)
- Prepare My Business (US Small Business Administration)
- Emergency Preparedness (US Small Business Administration)