What Is An Emergency?
An emergency is any unplanned event that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, threaten your businesses’ financial standing or image, or even cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, clients or the public. Emergencies and disasters can strike anytime and anywhere and often when you least expect it. The events of September 11 underscore the need for having an Emergency Plan for all businesses. So, where do you begin? How do you protect your employees and your business? Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so the best way is to plan in advance – brainstorm the worst-case scenarios and ask yourself what you would do if the worst happened. This “brainstorming” process is best accomplished working with your businesses’ employees during department or group meetings. It serves the dual role of building awareness of emergency planning, as well as surfacing potential risk areas about which management may not have been aware.
About This Guide
This guide is designed to provide general information on preparing an Emergency Plan for your business. It can be used by any type of large or small business.
This guide will assist your business in preparing an Emergency Plan that will help you to:
• ensure staff and client safety to the best of your ability, should an emergency occur.
• protect your business from the adverse effects of a large or small emergency.
• ensure the continuance of service during and immediately following an emergency to minimize disruption of service to clients.
• increase the probability of continued existence of your business as a viable entity after an emergency or business interruption disables one or more of your facilities.
• reduce the exposure of your business to financial loss as a result of an emergency or business interruption.
Your business faces some sort of risk from natural disasters no matter where you live in the United States.
Is your business prepared to deal with the following crises?
Natural Disaster – Human-Caused Disaster – Fires – Floods – Terrorism – Loss of Essential – Public Utilities such as Electricity and Water – Toxic Gas Release – Severe Winter Storms – Bomb Threats – Chemical Spills – Workplace Violence – Civil Disturbances – Tornadoes – Hurricanes – Radiological Accidents – Explosions – Computer Failure (possibly from Viruses or from Hackers) – Nuclear Facility Accidents – Riots
If you answered no to any of these crises, your business, clients and employees are at risk. It is critical that you develop a Business Emergency Plan. No plan can guarantee business survival; however a clear, well thought-out plan can greatly enhance the chances for survival while minimizing the disruption to your business, clients and staff. Businesses that prepare fare better in a real crisis – and, in fact may avoid some crises.
Effective planning will:
• safeguard your investment and critical resources (human resources/physical resources/business continuity).
• help to determine your business vulnerabilities.
• provide a logical sequence of events and tasks.
• shorten the time to effect a recovery.
• minimize the costs of the recovery.
• avoid confusion and reduce exposure to error in the recovery process.
• avoid duplication of efforts during the recovery process.
Purpose of an Emergency Plan
The purpose of an Emergency Plan is to document the recovery strategies, essential resources, and procedures necessary to implement a recovery process.
What about Costs?
A business owner is always mindful of the costs. Therefore, your first step in this process should be to identify costs associated with developing and implementing an Emergency Plan. Prepare a worksheet and identify the items that are NO COST, UNDER $500 and MORE THAN $500. For example:
Ex. Ask your insurance company or agent about policy coverage and prices.
Ex. Purchase an Emergency Preparedness Kit
MORE THAN $500
Ex. Send the Emergency Management Planning Team to several days of training or conferences
The cost to prepare and implement an Emergency Plan is very little. A business disruption without an Emergency Plan is often very costly. The bottom line is – it is much better to pay now to reduce your risks then to pay later.
The Emergency Plan should be in writing. You may want to assign each
member of your Emergency Management Planning Team a section to write.
It should include, but not limited to:
• an introduction to the Plan,
• defining the Planning Team roles and responsibilities,
• recovery strategies and procedures, and
• essential resources.
The Emergency Plan should be readily available to all members of the Planning Team. The Plan should be designed so that recovery team members, and others involved in the recovery process can quickly pick up the Plan and find useful information to guide the recovery process. Key personnel should have a copy of this documentation at work and at home. Remember, an Emergency Plan is never a fixed finished document. It evolves and gets better as time goes on. Therefore, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you do it. The important thing is to get started on it!
Review Test Train and Maintain
After completion, the Emergency Plan needs to be reviewed with all employees on a regular basis.
With respect to training, the basic rule of thumb is that when an emergency occurs, employees should know who is in charge, what they are responsible for, what they are not responsible for, where they should go and what types of potential emergencies exist and corresponding emergency procedures. Employees should at least know where the fire extinguishers are and have seen a demonstration on how to use them.
Employees should be trained in safety and first-aid as well as CPR. Cross-training should be considered to allow employees to replace a missing co-worker. Research has shown that people generally respond to an emergency in the way they have been trained.
With respect to testing, a full-blown test may not be feasible. However, tests like unplanned evacuations should be treated and evaluated as tests of your recovery ability. At a minimum, a full test should occur once a year.
Your Emergency Plan should be routinely reviewed and updated. For example, schedule maintenance for information that is critical to a successful recovery like major changes to technology infrastructure, new business processes and personnel changes. A plan that is not maintained may be dangerous and worse than no plan at all. The cost to review, train, test and maintain is very little, yet yield immediate benefits of:
• improving communications within the organization.
• highlighting vulnerable points in the organization’s operations.
• ensuring that the organization has its best possible chances of surviving.
Meet with outside organizations such as the fire and police departments so they are aware of your Emergency Plan.