The worst time to think about emergency planning is when the threat of an emergency looms over your business. When that happens, no business owner is glad they pushed off emergency planning “to Q1” or the hazy future: “We’ll get to that later.”
A better way for businesses to prepare is with the “all-hazards” approach to emergency planning. The all-hazards approach is defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as an “integrated approach to emergency preparedness planning that focuses on capacities and capabilities that are critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies or disasters.”
All-Hazards Approach : Not the Kitchen Sink
One common misperception is that all-hazards planning means planning for everything that can go wrong with a corresponding catalog of minute details. To the contrary. Instead, all-hazards planning focuses on developing capacities and capabilities that matter when the going gets tough. In other words, it doesn’t zero in on every.single.threat but instead makes sure businesses have the training, supplies, and leadership to address a broad range of emergencies.
All-hazards plans address the resources and steps the business needs to take before and after an emergency happens. It is meant to minimize injury to people and destruction to business property. With the all-hazards approach, businesses can take emergency preparedness to a level that is more effective and scalable.
The all-hazards approach takes what seems like a monumental task and breaks it down into a plan that will ensure employees have a standard protocol to follow in case of any emergency.
Define Possible Emergencies
Ready.gov recommends taking an all-hazards approach to emergency planning since businesses face many different threats or hazards. But it’s almost impossible to determine the probability of a specific hazard. That’s why it’s important to examine various threats and hazards and the likelihood they will happen.
For instance, in 2017, 59,985 weather-related events resulted in 592 deaths and 4,270 injuries. Most fatalities that year were the result of flash floods, tropical storms, and heat waves. If your business is not in the path of tropical storms (say, you’re in a Wyoming location), planning to mitigate tropical storm damage and injury is probably not helpful. But planning for communication challenges during wildfire season, windstorms, or the hazards of winter weather? That’s more like it.
What Are Our Hazards?
When creating an all-hazards preparedness plan, the first step is to identify possible hazards. Of course, risks vary from location to location and company to company, but here are the most common events that can set off the activation of an emergency plan:
- IT outages
- Weather-related incidents
- Power outages
- Natural disasters
- Fire (including wildfires)
- Facilities management incidents
- Security-related issues
- Health and safety incidents
- Cybersecurity incidents
- Travel disruption
When you scan this list, there are probably events that could occur at your facilities, plants, or offices. Of course, anything could happen but it’s probably more effective to assess threats that have the most potential. No matter how many situations you have to cover, the all-hazards approach is scalable enough to handle any emergency occurrence.
Put Protocols in Place
Creating an “all-hazards” plan will make sure that employees have a standard protocol to follow in case of any emergency. Specifics may change depending on the circumstance, but companies should set guidelines which employees can apply to any critical event.
Preparation for each event is key. In Fairbanks, AK, Emergency Manager Baird Stiefel has been preparing for a long list of potential emergencies including earthquakes, fires, and floods. He told the News Miner that major emergencies had been kept at bay for a while now.
“We still have the potential for bad things to happen,” Stiefel told the newspaper. “I can’t say it’ll happen tomorrow. It might take 10 years. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the rest.”
Just like the folks in Fairbanks, your business has the opportunity now to get ready for the emergencies of the future.
Once you have a list of hazards, you’ll need to figure out the specific action steps to take for each emergency. These actions can include:
- Naming staff who are responsible for executing the emergency plan and their duties
- A list of supplies, maintenance, and equipment that will be needed to keep operations going. (Depending on the complexity of your business, you may want to consider a Continuity of Operations plan which may include an alternate place of business.)
- Holding employee training classes about emergency plans
- Stocking up on first aid kits and disaster supply kits
- Live training for employees such as fire drills, shelter-in-place drills, and evacuation drills
- Identifying communication procedures to let employees know about emergency situations
Communicate Like a Pro
One of the most important features of any emergency planning is to make sure the business has the most modern mass communication system available. Gone are the days of walkie-talkies, phone trees, and loudspeaker announcements. Today’s workforce is geographically dispersed, with lone workers often at risk and other employees working away from their desks for all of their shift. So, how do you reach everyone when bad weather wreaks havoc or an earthquake sows confusion and fear?
The best way to communicate with workers is to use an intuitive tool like AlertMedia. In an emergency, employees may not have access to normal communication channels such as email. Or their office phone lines could be knocked out. With AlertMedia, companies can communicate with staff through email, phone, text, social media channels, Slack, and our mobile app to ensure their communication gets the broadest distribution possible.
An emergency notification software solution can help you organize the way you plan for and communicate around these events. Having a place to store your contact records and communications templates will save your organization time and frustration.
Emergencies aren’t fun to think about, and of course, no one wishes them on any employee or business. But planning ahead using the all-hazards approach is the most effective and scalable way to face the potentially scary and frightening events of the future. We hope you never need to activate your emergency plan, but if you do, your business will be as ready as it can possibly be.