Navigating the Tough Times: Managing a Business Amid Emergencies and Disasters

We live in a world filled with so much uncertainty and unpredictability. Anything can happen at any time. If you’re not prepared for the worst, you might end up endangering the lives of those around you and your business, too.

Defining Workplace Emergency

Before we even talk about crafting an emergency action plan, we need to clearly define what an emergency is in the workplace.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, an event is considered an emergency if there are clear and present dangers that threaten the health and safety of employees, customers, and the general public. It also includes things that pose a threat to the environment and natural surroundings as well as circumstances that could disrupt or shut down operations.

These can be in the form of technological hazards or results of human or industrial failures, such as:

  • Fires
  • Chemical spills
  • Loss of electrical power
  • Structural failure
  • Terrorism and crime

This also includes the more obvious natural calamities and tragedies like:

  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Epidemic or pandemic

Emergency Preparedness Checklist at the Workplace

The U.S., Canada, and the UK have government regulations in place that require all workplaces to have emergency preparedness plans. Although they slightly differ in structure and implementation, they are all designed to enforce proper emergency management.

  1. Get the right stakeholders involved.

Creating and developing an effective emergency action plan or EAP will require several minds to work together. You need to get input from the right people Aside from your business leadership and security staff, you also need to get the input of representatives from the other departments so you have a better understanding of the movement on the ground.

It would also be wise to seek advice from neighboring businesses and local emergency services.

business meeting

  1. Come up with a list of possible threats and hazards to your business.

During one of your brainstorming sessions, take time to enumerate the different threats and hazards to your business. List them down in order of severity so you can clearly outline your action plans accordingly.

Take a look at the different factors that could endanger your workforce and facilities. Is your area prone to flooding? Are you situated on a fault line?

Once you have listed all the possible hazards, take the time to list down all the possible responses to each concern.

  1. Come up with a clear set of emergency action plans.

As you deduce the threats and come up with the appropriate responses, it is now time to formulate specific procedures.

One, you need to make sure that your EAP is clear and simple as emergencies tend to be chaotic. The simpler the process is, the better the response rate of the people.

Two, it needs to clearly outline how communications will take place in case of an emergency.

Three, work on an evacuation plan and map out the route clearly. Post copies of the evac plan in several key areas that are highly visible for everyone’s benefit. Be sure to include an assembly area in your evac plan to help you keep tabs on personnel.

If the situation calls for it, you must also have a shelter-in-place protocol to protect your people from external threats such as storms and violence.

  1. Assign specific roles and responsibilities to your people.

Once you already have a solid EAP, you need to assign people who will be responsible for certain things. Who will be in charge of shutting down the power? Who will coordinate with business continuity and disaster recovery services?

It is important to place people in charge of different aspects of the business so that you still have a working structure even in the middle of an emergency.

  1. Train your people on the EAP you have created.

It is also important to train your people on the emergency action plan you have created. No matter how brilliant your EAP is, if your staff cannot implement it, then it is worthless.

Regularly conduct mock emergency drills like evacuation drills, fire drills, and earthquake drills.

  1. Revisit and evaluate your EAP every year.

If you make it through the year with not one incident, then you’re in a far better position than others. However, don’t get cocky about it. Revisit your EAP annually and see how you can make improvements to it. Hold updated training sessions or refreshers to keep your people on their toes.

Although it’s near impossible to say that you are fully prepared for all types of emergencies, being prepared for most of it will ensure that your people and business will be secure and safe amid disasters and emergencies.

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