Emergency Response Safety for Your Business
by Jamie Badger
Thursday, September 07th, 2017
Most businesses have emergency management plans in place. However, they are not always practiced regularly, coordinated with community resources, updated regularly or based on factual data and circumstances. As a result, when businesses find themselves in situations that merit an emergency response, they are often left unprepared.
Having a solid emergency response plan in place is essential, as emergencies of all shapes and sizes occur in businesses at some point in time, and these incidents can have lasting physical and emotional ramifications.
There are several phases involved in planning an effective emergency management program.
Phase 1: Mitigation and Prevention
Mitigation is the action businesses can take to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage related to an event that cannot be prevented. On the other hand, prevention is the action businesses can take to decrease the likelihood that an event or crisis will occur.
Some examples of mitigation include taking the following steps:
- Fencing off hazardous areas
Some examples of prevention include taking the following steps:
- Forming policies related to mail handling and building access
- Making assessments related to threats, physical infrastructure, and culture and climate of the business
- Current business efforts such as wellness activities
To put this phase into action, employers should be encouraged to take the following steps:
- Know the building thoroughly and the community at large.
- Become acquainted with local first responders, community partners and the state emergency management agency.
- Bring together regional, local and business leaders.
- Make regular office safety and security efforts part of larger mitigation and prevention efforts.
- Establish clear lines of communication.
- Conduct safety and security need assessments.
- Incorporate lessons learned from previous emergencies and drills to update emergency plans.
Phase 2: Preparedness
The preparedness phase is designed to get the business ready for potential emergencies by coordinating efforts with community partners. This involves developing protocols and policies, creating incident command systems and conducting formal training and exercises:
- Identify and involve stakeholders in the planning process.
- Determine what crises the plan will address.
- Define roles and responsibilities.
- Develop methods for communicating with staff, families and the media.
- Obtain necessary equipment and supplies.
- Prepare for immediate responses.
- Create maps and facility information.
- Develop accountability procedures.
- Predetermine policies for locating employees following an emergency.
- Establish systems off-site for storing registration information and for conducting payroll services.
- Practice your program with all those affected by a potential emergency.
- Address liability issues.
Phase 3: Response
The response phase encompasses taking action to effectively contain and resolve an emergency through the implementation of the business’s emergency management plan:
- Expect the unexpected.
- Assess the situation and choose the appropriate response.
- Notify appropriate emergency personnel and the company crisis response team.
- Evacuate or lock down the premises, as appropriate.
- Triage injuries and provide emergency first aid to those who need it.
- Keep supplies nearby and organized at all times.
- Identify primary and alternative evacuation sites in case the primary sites are not available during an emergency.
- Trust leadership to know how to handle the situation.
- Communicate accurate and appropriate information.
- Allow for flexibility in implementing the emergency management plan.
- Document the process and how successful the emergency management plan was.
Phase 4: Recovery
The recovery phase is designed to assist employees and their families in the healing process and to restore the operations of the business. This includes repairing the physical/structural aspects of the building, attending to business or fiscal needs, getting back to work and healing psychological or emotional wounds.
Planning for recovery involves establishing community partnerships, developing policies, providing training and developing memorandums of understanding:
- Assemble a crisis intervention team.
- Return to “business of usual” as quickly as possible.
- Keep employees well-informed.
- Provide assessments of the emotional needs of the employees and responders.
- Provide stress management after business resumes.
- Conduct daily debriefings with employees, responders and others assisting in the recovery efforts.
- Take as much time as needed for the recovery.
- Pre-negotiate contracts for transportation, construction and other business needs.
- Implement a system to manage the receipt of any donations.
Goal of Emergency Response Systems
If an emergency response system is created and executed correctly, it should hopefully achieve the following objectives:
- Address all four phases of emergency management, as listed above.
- Take an “all hazards” approach. This means that the plan addresses the following perils:
- Natural disasters–earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters.
- Technological, such as power outages
- Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and utilities
- Nonstructural, such as cubicles, suspended ceilings and light fixtures
- Man-made, such as hazardous materials release or acts of terrorism
- Company culture and climate, such as harassment or violent behavior on the premises
By engaging the local government, law enforcement, and employees in these emergency response efforts, you are taking the appropriate measures to make your business a safer place to work.
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