Steps for next-level emergency preparedness

Monday, May 14, 2018

Beyond the Plan

You’ve approved the plans, printed the pages, and made the official binder. Now that your business continuity and emergency preparations are complete, you can shelve them and forget them until the day disaster strikes.

Unless, of course, you actually want to survive an event.

“If your idea of emergency preparedness is making a plan and letting it collect dust on a shelf somewhere, then you don’t really have a plan at all,” says Kim Dandewich, Director of Client Operations with FirstOnSite Restoration. “People change. Technologies change. Organizations change. You need to take those plans off the shelf on a regular basis to test them and make sure they will actually help you in a disaster scenario.”

Emergency planning, she continues, is an ongoing exercise that includes several key steps and considerations. They include:

An integrated plan

It’s not enough to know who to call or where the exit doors are located. An effective disaster strategy includes several documents, including an Emergency Management Planning (EMP), outlining key protocols, procedures, roles, and responsibilities during a disaster event; an Emergency Response Plan (ERP), outlining specific actions to take during an event in preparation and immediately after an event; a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), detailing an organization’s short-term restoration strategies; and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), guiding leadership and staff on how to continue critical business functions and process.

“There are many factors and moving parts to consider when building a plan,” says Dandewich. “It will depend on what your company does and what it needs to protect, but in the end, all of these elements have to be integrated into one plan order to be successful.”

Engaged Champions 

Common to all plans is a need to establish a “champion” (or champions) within the organization who will ensure the plan is being continually updated and tested, and that both executives and their staff alike are trained on its execution.

After all, Dandewich says, “You can do all this great emergency planning at a high level, but if you aren’t communicating that to your staff, it won’t do you much good.”

Regular reviews and tests

Emergency plans should be reviewed regularly by all relevant leaders, champions, and department heads to make sure its elements are up-to-date (e.g., emergency contacts, staff roster, key assets, etc.) and to determine what’s working, what’s not, and where improvements can be made. Those reviews can take place twice a year or every quarter, but it’s important they are part of your business’s activities.

After a review, it’s also important that the plan is also put to the test. That means posing a disaster scenario to those same stakeholders and evaluating how well they make it through the hypothetical situation.

“Testing your emergency plan is crucial as it allows participants to walk through every aspect of the plan and gain familiarity with their roles and responsibilities,” insists Dandewich, adding that no one should feel discouraged if the scenario ends in failure: “It’s OK to fail part of the test because that will help you identify weaknesses, make corrections, and move forward with a stronger strategy.”

Expert support

Emergency planning is a complex, ongoing process. Consider partnering with third-party disaster relief specialists who can bring the knowledge and experience needed to make sure your plan works when it’s needed.

Staying alert

The importance of business continuity and emergency planning is not lost on today’s organizations. What can get missed in the busy, day-to-day shuffle, however, is the need to keep that plan alive, monitored, and aligned with an organization’s current state. And with a little work and support, this too can become a regular part of doing business.

Kim Dandewich is Director of Client Solutions with FirstOnSite Restoration., a leading Canadian based disaster restoration company providing remediation, restoration, and reconstruction services nationwide, as well as for the US large loss and commercial market. For more information, visit www.firstonsite.ca.

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