Emergency situations, including those involving severe weather or violent crime, can occur at any time, and companies must be prepared, not only for the safety of their employees, but also to ensure that business will continue to run successfully following such an event.
“Knowing the potential risks your organization could have and implementing a strategy is the first step to a successful emergency response plan,” says William McGuire, the president and CEO of Global Elite Group, a company that provides security and emergency management services for organizations of various sizes. He adds that a risk assessment approach can be useful for many different industries because not all work environments are at risk for same emergency scenarios.
Part of a company’s business continuity plan for emergencies should include arrangements for a temporary office location and communication center to minimize business disruption following a disaster. According to McGuire, communication centers should be located in an unaffected area and include landline phones, satellite phones and computer back-up systems so that calls can easily be transferred and work can be maintained without requiring access to the affected location.
McGuire suggests that companies cross-train employees to ensure that if one worker is injured during an emergency and needs to take an extensive leave of absence, another worker will be able to fill his or her position. If an organization is unable to cross-train employees, managers should provide specific manuals with detailed instructions regarding each job so that employees can quickly learn to accomplish tasks normally performed by an absent worker.
Organizations often struggle to compile an effective emergency response plan due to “the wrong mindset of ‘this can’t happen to me,’” says McGuire. He stresses that although risk assessment may reveal a variety of potential emergencies, companies should stay focused on developing a single response plan that will allow for business continuity following any type of disastrous situation. That plan should be reviewed annually and updated after any changes are made to the company’s size, location or business dynamic.