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How To Build Your 2022 Emergency Management Plan
Emergency Management Dec 21, 2021

How To Build Your 2022 Emergency Management Plan

A comprehensive emergency management plan can ensure you are ready for any crisis that hits your business. Learn the four stages of emergency management and how to build a plan that keeps your people safe.

A new year is right around the corner—a festive time, as well as an opportunity to reflect and redirect for the year ahead.

As you make decisions about how you’ll allocate resources for the coming year, consider what the recent past has shown us. The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reported that the cost of weather disasters in just the first nine months of 2021 was $104.8 billion, already surpassing the disaster costs for all of 2020. The COVID-19 death toll was greater than that of 2020 by November, and the number of mass shootings in 2021 is the highest it’s been since 2014.

Faced with increasing disaster threats—both natural and manmade—proactive emergency management planning is essential to ensuring employee safety and organizational resilience. And yet, FEMA reports that only 44 percent of adults feel prepared for a disaster—down from 59 percent just two years prior.

To help guide your organization’s disaster preparedness efforts in 2022, we’ve scoured our content for the best bits of information to help your business prepare for the worst. In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of building up an emergency management plan—whether you’re starting from scratch or improving the basic plan you already have.

What Is an Emergency Management Plan?

A comprehensive emergency management plan (CEMP) outlines a series of steps to take during critical events in order to optimize safety and minimize harm. While emergencies often seem to occur when we least expect them, emergency preparedness can prevent emergencies from becoming catastrophes. And an emergency management plan exists precisely to mitigate the impact of an emergency on your business.

In the workplace, the emergency management planning process begins with a threat assessment—analyzing the likelihood and severity of potential threats that could impact the business, from severe weather to acts of violence. Next, a plan of action is established and practiced. Disaster response roles are assigned, essential supplies are collected, and plans for post-disaster recovery are put into place.

“While we can’t necessarily predict when critical events will happen, emergencies are a reality for which every business needs to be ready.” (Source)

Maintaining a proactive, rather than reactive, response to emergencies ensures that employees stay as safe as possible. A strong plan also helps minimize interruptions to essential business operations during any unpredictable situation.

Why Build an Emergency Management Plan?

At their core, CEMPs exist to protect people. All employers have a duty of care to their employees—in other words, businesses are obligated to keep people safe while at work.

In addition to providing a safe work environment, there are other benefits to establishing a preparedness plan. Effective preparedness reduces loss of life and property, speeds recovery, and minimizes the overall cost of disaster recovery. One study even found that every $1 invested in disaster preparedness can save up to $11 in total cost.

FEMA estimates that about 25 percent of businesses won’t reopen after being faced with a disaster. Effective preparation will help reduce the negative impact an emergency has on business operations and promote a return to normal operations and success. Though it might seem like more work on the front end, committing to a comprehensive emergency management plan is both a wise business decision and invaluable when it comes to protecting your people.

“Preparation saves lives, homes, businesses, time, and money.” (Source)

The Four Phases of Emergency Management

Emergency management has four main phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Each phase serves a slightly different purpose and should be used in different stages of an emergency or crisis. But all of these phases work toward lowering the chance and/or impact of an emergency on your employees, operations, and overall business.

Phase 1: Mitigation

Mitigation is taking action to reduce the severity of a crisis. For example, wearing a seatbelt mitigates the risk of injury in a car accident. For your business, strong passwords mitigate the risk of cybersecurity attacks, evacuation plans mitigate the loss of life during a fire, and preparing your facilities for winter mitigates the impact of severe weather.

Performing a risk assessment will help your business identify what risks may require mitigation plans. Recognizing the hazards that are most likely to impact your organization and its

With common hazards identified, your business can develop a plan to avoid those risks altogether or reduce harm done if a crisis is unavoidable. Those plans will include specific actions for employees to take during an emergency, a strategy for communication, and pathways towards recovery.

To help you determine what hazards your workplace may need to mitigate, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a list of top workplace safety violations. From preventing falls to monitoring radiological materials to handling heavy equipment properly, there are a number of safety-promoting actions that can help reduce the impact of common workplace hazards.

Of course, not all threats stem from internal workplace hazards. Severe weather, like winter storms and tornadoes, are out of your control—as are threats to public safety like disease outbreaks or acts of violence. Being able to monitor external threats with threat intelligence software and alert employees quickly will help prevent and reduce the negative impact of any disaster.

Use this template to build a comprehensive emergency response plan.

Phase 2: Preparedness

While effective mitigation can sometimes be enough to prevent an emergency, not all crises are avoidable. With that in mind, being prepared for the worst with a strong emergency management plan will help your business respond effectively. Your organization’s plan should outline ways to address all of the potential threats to employee safety and business operations.

The more prepared your organization is ahead of an emergency, the better equipped it will be to handle it effectively. First, potential threats should be identified, then ideal responses to those threats should be defined. For instance, businesses in wildfire-prone areas should create defensible space around their facilities and have evacuation routes in place. Businesses in high-risk industries like construction and manufacturing should be prepared for workplace injuries, having easy access to first aid kits and first responder numbers.

“Effective emergency planning makes sure businesses have the training, supplies, and leadership to address a broad range of emergencies.” (Source)

Flexibility and adaptability is essential, especially when you consider that workplace emergencies can span from power outages to bomb threats. Some disasters, like hurricanes or flash floods, might require more than one emergency plan—personnel might have to respond simultaneously to power outages, IT complications, and travel disruptions. The more elements of emergency management your business plan can address, the better.

Clear, consistent, and timely communication is also foundational to any effective CEMP. It ensures employees know what to do in the event of an emergency and always have a lifeline to support. A robust emergency communication strategy will make sure everyone is on the same page, and understands what is going on, whether they should be actively responding to the emergency, or just keeping themselves safe.

Phase 3: Response

When an emergency does hit your business, you don’t want to just react, you want to respond. Where reactions are often chaotic or unpredictable, a response is intentional, well-planned, and action-oriented. They are tailor-made to a variety of crises but still flexible enough to adjust in the face of unforeseen changes. Taking advantage of your prepared emergency plans in the face of a crisis will minimize the damage and impact on the well-being of both employees and business operations.

Response time is critical in an emergency, so being able to quickly communicate with employees is invaluable. A quality emergency communication solution will ensure that your messages reach the right people quickly, no matter where they are. Without communication, there is no way for key personnel to execute their designated emergency duties. There is no way to provide real-time emergency alerts and up-to-date information. There is no way to answer any employee questions that may arise.

“Studies show that information is as critically important to people as food or water. Not only can accurate information mean the difference between life and death, but it can also provide reassurance that response and recovery are truly underway.” (Source)

With the right plan in place and a reliable communication system, you are set up to respond to the incident. Activate your emergency operations plan to maintain essential business activity and contact first responders or your emergency management agency, if necessary. An effective response plan will see your business through the worst of the crisis and to the next phase of disaster management: recovery.

Phase 4: Recovery

Management of an emergency often continues long after the initial threat has passed. This phase of incident management is recovery—where you address the impact of the disaster and mitigate further risk. Be prepared to take corrective actions to recover both the business and your employees.

Establishing a recovery plan during the preparation phase of emergency management will help guide the process. For instance, recovering from an information technology (IT) crisis might include restoring data and performing careful system updates. In the case of a public health crisis like the pandemic, workplace recovery might include developing a COVID-19 vaccine policy or helping employees adjust to remote work.

Write an After Action Report (AAR) and summarize your organization’s response to emergencies or drills. Additionally, documenting your recovery efforts will help identify opportunities for improvement and enable you to effectively communicate event details with employees and other stakeholders.

How to Build a Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan

Now that you have the basics of emergency management, it’s time to build a plan that works for your business. Here are five practical steps to guide you:

1. Determine your emergency risks

First, sit down with your organization’s key stakeholders and run a risk assessment to determine the threats that are relevant to your business and its employees. Remember to take seasonal and regional factors into account—like preparing for hurricane season or severe winter weather. Other hazards might pose a threat year-round, like cybersecurity issues or workplace violence.

2. Account for your whole team

When building your CEMP for the year ahead, consider all members of your business team. For instance, how can you maintain accessibility for personnel with disabilities when planning evacuation routes? Consider vendors who might be on-site in the event of an emergency and how you can effectively care for and communicate with them too. Identify the key stakeholders responsible for these actions, and build contact lists for different groups based on location or potential for impact.

3. Find your technology solutions

There are many software solutions that can make building and executing your CEMP much easier, and you want to have them implemented before a crisis hits.

Threat intelligence solutions can help you identify and assess emerging threats that could impact your business. Emergency communication software allows for rapid, multichannel notifications and up-to-date information in the case of a crisis. Using two-way emergency communication software also allows employees to ask questions and gather the information they need to remain safe and maintain essential operations.

Since technology should make things easier, not harder, finding all-in-one platforms for emergency communications is always better than patching together various disconnected systems. Emergency communication solutions with integrated threat intelligence and employee safety monitoring, like AlertMedia, make staying connected easier on both you and your employees.

4. Run drills

As good as having a plan is, you need to make sure that everyone knows how to use it. True preparedness requires practice. Running drills, like earthquake or fire drills, will show everyone what they should do and where they should go in an emergency. Reviewing how to behave in an active shooter situation will help employees respond appropriately in a potentially paralyzing situation.

Tabletop exercises are also a great way to prepare for disasters in the workplace. They are low-stakes, simulated scenarios where employees can put their preparedness plans into practice. A tabletop exercise creates a safe learning environment and is also a good way to identify potential opportunities for improvement.

In any scenario, the more employees are able to practice, the easier it will be to remember what to do when it is actually time to act.

5. Plan for communication

Having a communication system in place is invaluable in a variety of situations—from winter weather to political demonstrations to the global pandemic. The ability to disseminate vital information and stay in touch with employees is absolutely essential in the event of an emergency.

Mass notification solutions allow you to keep everyone informed. You can ensure employees have accurate, rapid, and regular updates by using a two-way, multichannel alert notification system that will help minimize chaos and maximize employee safety.

Event page functionality can further ensure employees receive consistent and accurate information during a crisis. With a centralized hub to provide ongoing updates and streamline access to critical resources for any incident, employees are always on the same page. Disseminating information in this way prevents misinformation and reduces confusion during critical events.

Planning for Your Safest Year Yet

There’s no better time than now to look over your current emergency management plan and make improvements for the year ahead. Don’t wait until you’re mid-crisis to start getting organized—get prepared now. Need to do more research? Follow the AlertMedia blog or subscribe to The Employee Safety Podcast.

Investing in safety doesn’t need to be hard. Leverage our templates and checklists to simplify emergency preparedness, and use this guide to make sure you’re meeting your duty of care. Subscribing to The Signal for safety insights and action-item alerts is another easy place to start.

Wherever you are on the journey towards building a stronger emergency preparedness plan, AlertMedia has the resources your business needs to find success. With a comprehensive emergency management plan—supported by robust emergency communication software—you can be confident that you will have your safest year yet.

Emergency Response Plan Template

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