Being really good at emergency response takes practice, and since most of us don’t have that experience, preparedness is the next best thing. We might prefer to think about what we’ll do when fortune strikes, but thinking about an emergency response plan before a catastrophe may be the only difference between recovery and losing your business. You’ll be fortunate you can carry out a well-executed emergency response plan if it comes to using it.
Create an emergency response plan
When an emergency occurs, the first priority is to save lives; the second is to stabilize the situation. Responding quickly and effectively may be vital for saving lives and your business. These very important actions will be hard to follow through on without a detailed plan in place.
Start with risk assessment
Your emergency response plan needs to start with a risk assessment. You need to understand the situations you may be responding to and what will happen if they come to fruition. Some risks you should evaluate include but certainly are not limited to:
- Hazardous material spills
- Mechanical breakdown
- Cyber attack
Identify which assets need protection
Once you understand what the risks you may be responding to are, it’s important to know what assets may be affected during those situations – what’s vulnerable. It may go beyond immediate loss of resources; consider how it could affect the reputation of your business. Oil spills result in major environmental losses and loss of revenue for oil companies, but they also mean the entire industry’s reputation takes a hit. Assets that may be at risk include but are not limited to:
- Building/critical infrastructure
- Information technology
- Confidence in your business
- Business operations
There will be a lot of potential risks on your list. In order to move forward with a response plan, it’s important to prioritize the list. Applying metrics will make prioritizing easier. Which risks are most likely to occur; which will have the biggest impact on safety of your employees? These might not be the same risk and you’ll need to decide how to weigh each metric. There may be risks that you can accept and don’t require expending resources on trying to avoid or control.
Invest in risk mitigation
If your company is highly susceptible to a particular unacceptable risk, systematically reduce the likelihood that your company will be vulnerable when exposed to the risk. Some risks you’ll be able to avoid and others you’ll be able to control. If lack of a sprinkler system means your building would burn to the ground while waiting for a fire truck, getting a sprinkler system mitigates that risk and gives you some control. If your swimming pool isn’t properly grounded, you can remove the risk of electrocution by closing the pool during electrical storms. The good news is, risk mitigation may not require major changes or expenses.
When building your emergency response plan, here are a few things you don’t want to forget:
- Put your plan in writing and communicate it to your staff
- Appoint someone to monitor each identified risk
- Practice your evacuation plan
- Post a list of emergency contacts by each phone and computer
- Create a portable emergency kit with items like bandages, flashlights, etc, multiple kits if necessary, and keep them centrally located in a designated area
The most important thing when it comes to an emergency is being prepared. With a good emergency response plan in place, you can worry a little less knowing that certain hazards have been avoided and if emergency does strikes, you’ve done what you can to prepare.