Direction and Control
Top management support is critical. Trying to do an Emergency Plan without top management’s clear commitment does not work effectively. Gaining management support and commitment can be accomplished by requesting management’s support and commitment, documenting findings, such as from a risk assessment or business impact analysis, and presenting the findings to management.
The first step in preparing to plan for any emergency is to carefully select members of a Planning Team (referred to as a Disaster Response Team, Business Recovery Team, or Emergency Operations Team) from your group of employees. A Planning Team Coordinator should be named who will be responsible for coordinating all emergency efforts. Appoint a second in command. If the person normally in charge is injured in the emergency or not available, the second in command should be named in the plan, and delegated full authority in this situation. If you can’t name someone, you have already pinpointed one of your greatest vulnerabilities. The Planning Team should have regular meetings. These meetings should compile the information necessary to recover from an emergency or disaster.
You may also want to consider assigning Recovery Team Leaders for each department within your business. These leaders consist of people who are responsible for performing tasks required to recover vital business functions and processes. These leaders should be comprised of knowledgeable people from the business functions that will be recovered. These functions may include: Information Systems, Customer Service, Accounts Payable and Receivable and Personnel. Of course, your business can create Recovery Team Leaders where you may have specific needs. The duties of the Recovery Team Leaders should include assisting the Planning Coordinator in the development and implementation of your businesses Emergency Plan and creating an Evacuation Plan and Plan of Action for their respective departments. The number of Recovery Team Leaders will depend on the size of your business. If your business is relatively small, the Planning Coordinator can develop your recovery plan for all departments.
A chain of command must be established to minimize confusion, so that employees will have no doubt about who has authority for making decisions. Responsible individuals should be selected as team members. Because of the importance of their functions, adequate backup must be arranged so that trained personnel are always available. The duties of the Planning Team Coordinator should include the following:
• coordinate and manage all of the events required to develop an Emergency Plan.
• serve as a liaison between management, recovery teams and internal and external resources.
• establish a budget and timeline.
• evaluate emergency vulnerabilities on a continuing basis, revise plans and resources appropriately.
• assess the situation and determine whether or not an emergency exists that requires activating emergency procedures.
• direct all efforts in the area, including any necessary evacuation of personnel.
• ensure outside emergency services such as medical aid and local fire departments are called in when necessary.
• direct the shutdown of business operations when necessary.
You may consider adding these duties to employee job descriptions.
Business Impact Analysis
Find out which disasters are typical for your community or business. This small investment of time will go a long way toward averting serious damage to your business and minimizing the disruption a crisis can cause.
Large corporations often hire risk managers or consultants with experience in disaster planning and recovery to handle this task, but small businesses can do the analysis and planning on their own.
A Business Impact Analysis determines which business functions and processes are required for the organization to continue to function and fulfill its mission in the event of an emergency. For example, with an Accounting Department, the Accounts Payable function may be less critical to the survival of the organization than the Accounts Receivable function. Identify which functions are vital to the organization to continue to exist within a very short period after an emergency. Determine the consequences that would be encountered as a result of a disruption to each vital business process and information application. Understand the tangible and intangible losses your business would suffer as a result of a serious disruption to those operations.
Where do you stand right now? The following chart will help your company recognize and understand hazards and help determine recovery planning priorities. A security review, by a local security company or engineering firm, can help identify your facility security vulnerabilities. Identify the federal, state and local codes and regulations such as Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), fire codes and environmental codes. Consider the financial impact if your business shuts down as a result of a disaster. What would the impact be for a day, a week or an entire revenue period?
When listing the types of emergencies, think about what can happen within your facility, in your community or at other facilities. Think about your geographic location. Keep in mind the proximity to nuclear facilities or businesses that produce hazardous materials. Think about emergencies from a technical standpoint such as computer failure or those emergencies caused by human error such as substance abuse or poor training. In the probability column, estimate the likelihood of each emergency happening. What is the human impact of each emergency? What is the possibility of death or serious injury? Consider the property impact. What are the costs associated with damaged equipment or complete losses? What is the business impact? Assess the impact of business interruption such as product distribution or critical supplies. Internal resources include personnel, back-up systems and equipment such as emergency supplies. External resources include relationships with fire and police departments, local emergency management agencies, hospitals and community service organizations.
The Planning Team should consider communications with employees and family, emergency responders, media, clients and neighboring businesses.
What if your employees are forced to evacuate? During an emergency involving a fire, flood or explosion, it may be necessary to evacuate the entire building. Normal services, such as electricity, water, and telephones may be nonexistent. Under these conditions, it is necessary to have an alternate facility or headquarters to which employees can report or act as a focal point for incoming and outgoing calls. Since time is an essential element for adequate response, the Planning Team Coordinator should select an alternate facility or headquarters for employees to report to such as a hotel, school, employees’ home or space from a neighboring business.
Emergency communications equipment such as amateur radio systems, public address systems or portable radio units should be readily available for notifying employees of the emergency and for contacting local authorities, such as law enforcement officials, private sector charitable organizations and the fire department.
Take care of your own people first. In an emergency, your employees will need to know whether their families are okay. Taking care of one’s loved ones is always a first priority. Make plans for communicating with employees’ families in an emergency. Encourage your employees to consider how they would communicate with family members in case they are separated from one another or injured in an emergency. Ask your employees to arrange for an out-of-town contact for all family members to call and to designate a place to meet family members in case they cannot get home in an emergency. Ensuring your employees and their families has necessary medical care, housing, food and other necessities are important. If these things are not considered, your employees will not be able to assist with your businesses recovery efforts.
It is very important to establish a procedure for employees to report in an emergency. Inform each and every employee of the procedure and train personnel who are assigned specific notification tasks.
Your company should prepare a list of Planning Team members to include their names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and areas of responsibilities. Identify and list all other employees by department, their duties if an emergency occurs, equipment and supplies needed to work, their phone numbers and the order in which they should be called back to work. This can be done by the Recovery Team Leaders. If destruction of your business occurs, it is important to have those employees available to assist with immediate needs and operations of the business. ALL employees should fill out an Employee Profile Form that includes their name, address, phone numbers, email, emergency contact, immediate family, written directions to their home and a drawn map to their home.
Maintain an updated list of addresses, phone numbers and emails of key personnel from outside the facility like police and fire departments, American Red Cross and your local Emergency Management Agency. It may be necessary to notify other key personnel should an emergency occur during off-duty hours. An updated, written list of key personnel, in order of priority, should be included as part of the Emergency Plan.
Know where to get help! Listen for tornado, hurricane, and other severe weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Determine government agencies’ notification requirements in advance. Notification must be made immediately to local government agencies when an emergency has the potential to affect public health and safety.
In an emergency, the media are a key link to the public. Designate a trained spokesperson and an alternate spokesperson. You may also consider setting up a media briefing area. Consider establishing procedures for ensuring that information released is accurate and approved for public release. Your company should maintain a list of the forms of media, such as newspaper, radio and TV, in your area including the contact names, addresses, phone numbers and emails.
Prepare announcements that can be made over public address systems. The following is a sample announcement.
Special Notice to our Staff/Clients/Public: (Business Name)
Announces that they are now temporarily located at ___________________________(address). They can be reached at ___________________. Information regarding (your business name) will be released through the local media as soon as it becomes available.
A reliable means of communications is needed to alert employees to any evacuation or other action that may be required. Alarms must be audible or seen by all people in the building, and should have an auxiliary power supply in the event that electricity is affected. Alarms must be distinctive in sound, and a recognizable signal to evacuate the work area or perform actions designated under the Business Emergency Plan. The employer must explain to each employee the means for reporting emergencies, such as manual pull box alarms, public address systems, or telephones. Emergency telephone numbers should be posted on or near telephones, on employee bulletin boards, or in other conspicuous locations.
Make plans for warning persons with disabilities. For instance, a flashing strobe light can be used to warn hearing-impaired individuals. You should consider utilizing a “buddy system” for persons with disabilities. Under this system, persons with disabilities would be assisted by one or more employees in his/her department.
Familiarize all employees with procedures for responding when the warning system is activated. Establish procedures for warning customers, contractors, visitors and others who may not be familiar with the facility’s warning system.
You should consider contacting your neighboring businesses to let them know about your Emergency Plan. They may be able to assist your business in the event of an emergency.
TEST YOUR FACILITY’S WARNING SYSTEM AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH!
During a disaster or emergency situation, the first priority is to ensure the safety of employees and other individuals who are in the facility at the time. In the case of a fire, an immediate evacuation may be necessary.
To protect your employees and others in your facility, a detailed evacuation plan should:
• identify who has the authority to order an evacuation and under what conditions an evacuation will be ordered.
• designate primary and secondary evacuation routes. Be sure that the routes can accommodate all personnel and are not likely to expose your employees to additional hazards. Evacuation routes and maps, which should be reviewed with all employees, should be posted in conspicuous places in each facility.
• recognize that some emergencies will require that employees seek shelter, whether in the workplace or outside the workplace. Procedures should be in place which outline when shelter should be sought, where shelter is located and what items will be maintained there.
• system for providing transportation for employees in the event an evacuation occurs.
• procedures for notifying the appropriate authorities like fire, police, ambulance, etc.
• system of accounting for employees and other individuals in the building once the evacuation occurs. Remember to also consider the needs of persons with disabilities. The Planning Team should be notified of anyone who cannot be accounted for, including names and last known location.
• listing of assignments of personnel required to continue necessary business operations or to shut down operations. Make sure personnel know when to abandon the operation and evacuate.
• list of those designated to establish return to work schedules.
• training in evacuation and shelter procedures for all individuals. Training should be conducted for all new hires, and at least annually for current staff or whenever procedures have been revised or updated. More intensive training should be provided to the Planning Team, including: possible emergencies and emergency actions and clear instructions on when to intervene and when it is not safe to intervene e.g., small fire vs. large fire. Planning Team members should not intervene if there is a possibility of receiving fatal or incapacitating injuries.
• drills to be conducted at least annually and should include other businesses that are housed in your building.
An Emergency Plan should provide procedures that will help protect facilities, equipment, records and documents.
Protecting the facility – What can you do to protect your building?
• Clear procedures should be developed which outline how this phase of the plan should work.
• Designate employees in advance to perform these tasks to prevent confusion and damage.
• Review the need for systems which will prevent disasters by detecting abnormal situations and providing a warning e.g., fire detection systems, lightning protection, water level monitors, overflow detection, emergency power systems and shutoffs.
• Establish procedures which spell out when a facility should be shut down.
• Include in your plan a listing of all sections of the facility and grounds to be shut down and provide a list of things to be done. This may vary depending upon the type of emergency (flood vs. hurricane vs. freezing or bursting pipes). Examples: Floods – close and barricade doors and windows; Hurricanes – fasten down or store away all loose objects; Freezing or Bursting Pipes – seal all openings with caulking or insulation where cold air can get unprotected water pipes.
• Obtain items to carry out protection procedures (such as fire extinguishers) and include a listing and location of these items in your Plan. Make sure all employees are trained to use these items.
Disaster-resistant construction practices can help control your risk of serious damage for most sites.
Protecting Equipment – What equipment is essential?
In some situations, there may be enough time and opportunity to protect the equipment in your facility. Designating employees in advance to perform these tasks will prevent confusion and damage. Procedures should be developed that outline how this phase of the plan should work. Areas to consider, based upon the specific situation, include:
? shutting down equipment
? covering and securing equipment
? moving equipment to a safe location
? ensuring equipment is tagged by department and individual
? instructions on what to do if equipment cannot be moved
Protecting Records/Documents – What records do you need?
During an emergency, it is often necessary to secure an area which
contains vital documents and records. As with equipment, designate
employees who will be responsible for this action. Each specific
emergency may require a separate set of procedures. Your plan should
specify which documents are vital to your business (financial records,
personnel files, employee databases, formulas, trade secrets, etc.).
Each department should review its records to determine what would be
needed to keep the business running, what would be needed to perform
essential functions and what equipment would be needed to access this
A procedure must be identified in your plan for determining when records should be removed (in case of flood for example) or when the area must be secured (if there were chemical fumes for instance).
In this section of your plan, you should address:
• labeling of records
• computer system backups (maintain them off-site)
• storage of tapes and disks (insulated containers, off-site storage)
• location for storing records in the event they are removed during an evacuation
• backup systems and power
• hard copy of inventory lists
• hard copy of insurance policies and hardware and software licenses in a secure location off-site
An Emergency Plan will involve other organizations and personnel in the community. Emergencies or disasters which affect the entire community will need a different response than an emergency which affects your facility alone. Both situations will demand a dialogue with the community.
A situation that involves your facility alone will require that you have interactions with community resources. For example, if your facility potentially could experience a chemical spill:
• regular meetings should take place, where emergency plans and procedures are reviewed
• prevention procedures should be discussed with community resources
• community response groups should tour your facility to become familiar with the layout
• drills should be conducted, in cooperation with community resources like the fire and police departments
In the event your facility is responsible for an emergency or incident, you must be prepared to provide information to appropriate community resources regarding the following:
• nature of the incident
• potential for the community’s safety being at risk
• actions being taken to resolve the problem
• prevention procedures in place at the time of the incident
It is your responsibility to determine what audiences will be affected by your incident, and what their information needs are.
Recovery and Restoration
When an emergency strikes and it involves your facility and business, every consideration must be given to keeping the business running, or resuming business operations as quickly as possible. This not only keeps the business intact, but also keeps people employed. Your plan should include:
• Consider contractual arrangements with vendors for post-emergency services such as temporary staffing, equipment replacing or repair, records preservation, cleanup or engineering.
• Determine critical business functions and make plans for restoring them either on-site or at an alternate facility/headquarters.
Continuity of Management
• Assume key personnel are not readily available following a disaster.
• Procedures for ensuring each essential business function be restored must be in place.
• Consult your legal advisor and corporate by-laws to guarantee continuity.
• A chain of command should be in place.
• An alternate facility/headquarters should be in place to resume business functions and/or communications.
Is your company properly insured? Unfortunately, many companies discover that they are not properly insured until they suffered from a loss. Here are some questions you should be asking your insurance carrier:
• How will my Emergency Plan affect my rates?
• What causes of loss does my policy cover?
• What are my deductibles?
• What types of records and documentation will you want to see in the event of a loss? You will want to keep these records in a safe place.
• What does my policy require me to do in the event of a loss?
• Am I covered for loss income in the event of a loss? How long?
• Do I have enough coverage?
In the aftermath of any crisis situation, business owners find themselves in the difficult position of having to put their own thoughts and feelings on the back burner to do what they can to assist their employees. This can be a difficult and confusing time in the workplace. Many of your employees will need support during and after an emergency or disaster. What can you do to assist your employees? Your company should consider providing cash advances, salary continuation, care packages and day care. Here are a few other suggestions:
Communications: The most important step is to allow your employees to communicate their feelings. Speak with your employees as soon as possible, especially about safety and health issues.
Counseling: Consider contracting a professional grief counselor to come into your business and be available to your employees. Employee Assistance Programs exist just for this purpose and can be very helpful while protecting privacy.
Patience: Give your employees time to work through their grief
and anxiety. Appreciate that employees may experience a short-term
reduction in focus and productivity. Consider reduced work hours or
flexible work hours for employees to resume their work. The supervisor
should not attempt to “whip everyone into shape.”
Educate: Provide educational material about what has happened, what to expect and how individuals can help. Educate managers and supervisors on signs of emotional distress and how to provide support and help.
Immediately after an emergency, your company should be prepared to resume operations. Here are some things to consider:
• Activate your Recovery Team leaders and establish priorities for resuming operations.
• Secure property for safety and security purposes.
• Conduct an investigation including appropriate agencies.
• Obtain necessary supplies.
• Assess remaining hazards.
• Conduct employee briefings to inform them of the status of business operations.
• Take inventory of damaged properties and/or goods. Assess the value of the damage. Take photos of the damage.
• Record all damages. Keep these records on hand until your insurance carrier has had an opportunity to visit the facility.
• Determine what can be salvaged. Protect undamaged goods.
• Remove smoke, water and/or debris and restore power.
• Establish a method for maintaining communications with families, clients, vendors and suppliers.
Administration and Logistics
Actions taken before an emergency, such as maintaining and securing accurate records, will ensure a more efficient response and recovery. For example, your insurance carrier may require certain documents that may prove to be invaluable in the case of legal action after an incident.
In terms of Administration Actions, put your Emergency Plan in writing, maintain training records, document testing dates and exercises, maintain incidents reports, record injuries and follow-ups, maintain news releases, document calls and requests from media and maintain a listing of emergency telephone numbers.
In terms of Logistics, stockpile supplies, arrange for an alternate facility/headquarters and/or shelter and storage space, establish mutual aid agreements, arrange for backup power and communications, provide maps to emergency responders like fire and police departments and arrange for medical support, food and transportation.