Does your workplace have an emergency response plan?

According to an Ad Council survey, nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents said they do not have an emergency plan in place for their business.

Ready.gov also reports that:

  • Up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen.
  • Insurance is only a partial solution; it does not cover all losses and it will not replace customers.
  • Many disasters – natural or human-caused – may overwhelm the resources of even the largest public agencies, or they may not be able to reach every facility in time.
  • Failure to implement a preparedness program risks losing business to competitors who can demonstrate they have a plan.

Do you have a preparedness policy in place?

A preparedness policy defines roles and responsibilities. According to Ready.gov, it should authorize selected employees to develop the program and keep it current and define the goals and objectives of the program.

Typical goals of the preparedness program might include:

▪ Protecting the safety of employees, visitors, contractors and others at risk from hazards at the facility.
▪ Maintaining customer service by minimizing interruptions or disruptions of business operations.
▪ Protecting facilities, physical assets and electronic information.
▪ Prevent environmental contamination.

What should your workplace emergency response plan cover?

The best approach is to take an “all hazards” approach. It’s hard to determine exactly what your workplace may face. So, prepare for every season. Prepare for all types of emergency situations, natural disasters, technological hazards, workplace violence and even terrorist activity.

To help you develop a workplace emergency response plan, Ready.gov offers the following guidance. {You’ll also find more resources at: Ready.gov/business

  • Step 1: Review performance objectives for your program. Objectives might be hazard prevention/deterrence, risk mitigation, emergency response and business continuity.
  • Step 2: Review hazard or threat scenarios identified during a risk assessment.

A risk assessment is the process to identify potential hazards and determine what could happen should it occur.

A business impact analysis (BIA) is when you identify potential impacts resulting from any interruption of time sensitive or critical business processes.

  • Step 3: Assess the availability and capabilities of resources to help stabilize the situation including people, systems and equipment within your business and from outside sources.
  • Step 4: Talk with public emergency services (e.g., fire, police and emergency medical services). Determine their response time to your facility, knowledge of your facility and its hazards, and their capabilities to stabilize an emergency.
  • Step 5: Determine if there are any regulations pertaining to emergency planning at your facility and be sure to address in your plan.

For instance, facilities that manufacture, treat, store or dispose of highly hazardous chemicals must comply with environmental regulations. Chemical facilities that pose a pollution threat to water resources also must comply with environmental regulations.

Regulations tend to differ by jurisdiction, i.e., city, county, state. If your program covers multiple facilities in different jurisdictions, be sure to identify regulations required by each facility’s location.

  • Step 6: Develop protective actions for life safety (i.e., evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place, lockdown).
  • Step 7: Develop hazard and threat-specific emergency procedures.
  • Step 8: Coordinate emergency planning with public emergency services that would be needed to stabilize incidents at your facility.
  • Step 9: Train personnel. Training is essential so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency or disruption of business operations.
  • Step 10: Practice the plan. Conduct evacuation and fire drills as required by local regulations.

What Training Should Be Provided?

All employees
• Protective actions for life safety (evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place, lockdown)
• Safety, security, and loss prevention programs

Emergency Response Team (evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place)
• Roles and responsibilities as defined in the plan
• Training as required to comply with regulations or maintain certifications (if employees administer first aid, CPR or AED or use fire extinguishers or clean up spills of hazardous chemicals)
• Additional training for leaders including incident management

Business Continuity Team
• Roles and responsibilities as defined in the plan
• Additional training for leaders including incident management

Crisis Communications Team
• Roles and responsibilities as defined in the plan
• Additional training for leaders including incident management
• Training for spokespersons

This blog was originally posted September 15, 2015, but has been updated with additional sources and information.

photo credit: fairfaxcounty Incident Command Staff via photopin (license)

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