March 14, 2011

Create an Emergency Response Plan

Natural disasters appear in the news just about every day; earthquakes in California, tornados in Kansas, hurricanes in New Orleans, flooding in New Jersey. Although natural disasters may change by location, every business may face various risk factors. In addition to natural disasters there are human disasters such as blackouts, theft, workplace violence, explosions, etc. It is important therefore that organizations create a cross functional team to develop an emergency response plan. By making the team cross functional, you can be assured of a diversity of viewpoint on how to protect your business and how to get your business functional again after a disaster strikes.
  • Start by brainstorming a list of the probability of natural disasters in your area. Develop a rating system from virtually certain probability to improbable for each.
  • Repeat by potential human type disasters.
  • Then create a plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed list of resources that will assist you.
What about your employees during times of natural disasters? What would you do if:
1) Your business is closed due to damage?
2) Your employees cannot get to work due to local conditions?
3) Employees are unable to come to work because they are dealing with their own circumstances as a result of the disaster?
Your plan should include decisions for if your business is closed permanently and temporarily. It is essential that you keep communication channels open with employees during disasters. A major concern will be “do I still have a job?” and they will also have questions on how and if they will be paid and if their benefits are still available. Here are a few items to consider:
  • Examine where critical information is stored, both physically and electronically to prevent irreparable physical damage from crippling the company’s ability to communicate.
  • Keep an accurate emergency contact list to be able to reach employees.
  • Establish and publicize communication methods (e.g., web site, telephone chain, recorded announcement) to keep employees current on the disaster status.
  • Create a process for payroll and benefits processing if you need to administer off site.
In 'Treatises of Fistula' (c. 1425) by J. Arderne said "Forewarned is forearmed. Knowledge of imminent danger can prepare us to overcome it.”   Chances are your business will never sustain a natural or human disaster, but it is reassuring to have a plan to immediately put into place if it faces such as situation in the future.

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