4 Steps to Disaster Readiness

No one ever expects a disaster. Whether it’s a fire, weather-related emergency or an incident of workplace violence, disasters are both a surprise and a challenge to any business.

Having a plan in place can help employers and employees react when faced with the unexpected.

“Lack of a disaster plan is one of the most critical areas we see challenges in. It’s difficult to identify any disaster that can happen to any business,” says safety expert Philip Farina.He offers that though disasters come in many forms, implementing a comprehensive plan will protect you, your employees and your customers.

Don’t think you need a disaster plan? Think again, says Farina, a board certified security expert and CEO of Farina and Associates Ltd. A disaster can come in the form of a tornado or the angry ex of one of your employees. Not having a plan means negligence on your part, and negligence equals liability. Aside from a moral obligation to protect your employees and customers, failure to do so can be catastrophic to your business.

A well thought-out disaster plan takes foresight but is fairly straightforward to create by following these four steps:

1.  Determine who will be in charge


Chaos and pandemonium are to be avoided at all cost so establishing a chain of command is imperative. Depending on the size of your company, it may be necessary to have several tiers of leaders. If your business was instantly without electricity and everyone trapped inside would your employees know what to do? An emergency is not the time for upper management to be playing “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who will lead or assume that someone else is taking charge.


2.  Develop procedures and policies


Different situations require different responses and pre-determining when everyone will shelter in place or clear the building should be pre-established. An off-site meeting place should be designated and a manager should determine that everyone is accounted for. A catastrophic incident may be unlikely, but employees should know who to contact in case of a widespread emergency.

3.  Communicate with your employees

No matter how well thought-out or thorough a plan may be, if those participating are not informed it will be useless. Post exit maps, include disaster plans in training materials, and conduct drills. Larger companies may want to give cards to employees with pertinent information for them to keep in their wallets. Solicit employee input when formulating policies and plans; ask for their concerns and help them identify their priorities. “All employees should know of the plan and how to use it. It should start on the first day with new employees,” says Farina.


4.  Consider exceptions


Employees with special needs may not be physically able to follow a typical evacuation route, for example. Think through possible problems with and exceptions to your plan prior to executing it in a stressful situation.The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a variety of tools on their website that will help you determine what risks are most relevant to your industry and location.
A disaster plan may not be at the top of your lengthy “to-do” list. But planning for the unthinkable will give you and your employees the wherewithal to survive should it occur.


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