Due to the rise in work-from-home, the last few years have seen a serious degradation in organizations’ emergency planning and response capability. In today’s post, we’ll look at why it’s important to have a solid emergency response plan and explain how to create one.
Related on BCMMETRICS: “This Is an Emergency”: Why You Should Consider an Emergency Notification System
A Victim of Neglect
The emergency response plan—the plan that guides employees on what to do in the immediate aftermath of an emergency’s being detected—is something that has been unwisely neglected in recent years.
This type of plan, whose goal is protecting life safety and which addresses such matters as evacuation, sheltering, and lockdown, was thought by many executives to be not worth bothering about in a period when few employees were working at the office.
As a result, updates, testing, and distribution ceased and many companies’ plans gathered dust and became obsolescent.
The initial neglect was perhaps understandable in a period when everyone was trying to figure out COVID and work-from-home. However, the logic behind it was always faulty (just because fewer people are in the office doesn’t mean you can be careless with their safety). And with more people going back to work, even the previous slim justification for not having an up-to-date emergency response plan has evaporated.
Creating an Emergency Response Plan
Every organization needs to develop, implement, communicate, and test an emergency response plan to protect its employees in the event of an emergency such as a fire, flood, tornado, structural collapse, or active shooter incident.
OSHA will expect no less. And if something happens and they investigate and find less, the organization can be open to massive liability.
Creating or updating an emergency response plan is straightforward. The process can be divided into the following four steps:
- Create a team to create the plan. The first step is to identify the people who will take the lead in developing or updating your plan. It’s important to get the right SMEs (subject matter experts) involved. Look for knowledgeable, effective people from the corporate security, business continuity, human resources, and communications departments, among others. Eventually, you might also form a team of employee volunteers to act as floor wardens or fire wardens.
- Look at the threats facing each facility. For each facility, the team should make a list of the potential threats, then identify the five to seven threats that are most likely to occur. For organizations with multiple facilities, each needs a custom-tailored plan. Threats differ widely based on location. Threats to consider might include: tornado, earthquake, hurricane, fire, flood, snowstorm, strike, chemical spill from a neighboring plant, incident of workplace violence, or incident of political unrest.
- Develop and write the emergency response plan. Once the team has identified the most likely threats to a facility, it can set about devising the actions that will be taken in the event of each threat occurring. The plan should answer the question, “How are we going to deal with each of these events?” and cover detection, notification, evacuation, and relocation. Plans should be in checklist form, avoiding lengthy explanations. OSHA, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security all have excellent resources to help with writing an emergency response plan.
- Communicate, train on, and test the plan. The last step involves sharing the plan with the people who will need to use it, training them on it, and testing it. Keep your plan simple. A one-page checklist is best. It should say, “Here’s what you should do and who you should call if something happens.” The plan should be exercised twice a year using a different scenario each time. Such exercises might involve a partial or full evacuation of the facility.
Following these steps will leave your organization with an up-to-date, widely known, and proven emergency response plan for each of its facilities.
Protecting Employees’ Health and Safety
The rise of work-of-home brought about by the COVID pandemic had the unfortunate effect of causing companies to neglect their emergency response plans. It’s high time for organizations to create or update a solid emergency response plan for every one of their facilities.
Creating such a plan is a straightforward matter of following the steps laid out above. Having one will go a long way toward protecting the health and safety of the employees in the event of an emergency.
For more information on emergency response planning and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:
- Practice Makes Perfect: How to Be Ready to Handle an Emergency
- After the Smoke Clears: 7 Things to Do Once an Emergency Is Over
- The 6 Tasks Every Emergency Plan Should Address
- “This Is an Emergency”: Why You Should Consider an Emergency Notification System
- Don’t Give Up the Ship: Demonstrating the Benefits of Rigorous Crisis Management Training