Why Organizations Should Plan for Emergencies When an organization plans on how it will respond to an emergency threatening its operations, it is more likely to survive the incident. History has shown that a well thought out, coordinated response helps prevent personal injury, property damage and lessen the resulting confusion.
America's businesses form the backbone of the nation's economy. Small businesses alone account for more than 99% of all companies with employees, employ 50% of all private sector workers and provide nearly 45% of the nation's payroll. FM Global insurer found that 72% of workers feel their employer is not well prepared or may not recover quickly from a natural disaster. Business disaster preparedness adversely affects employee performance and the health of a business. It is crucial for a business to be able to guarantee worker safety.
Oakland County is prone to a variety of disasters including, but not limited to, tornadoes, fire, flooding, severe weather, power outages, workplace violence, and exposure to infectious disease or hazardous chemical release. During a large scale disaster, local response agencies may be overwhelmed and unable to immediately respond to the organization's site. Employees and clients alike will need to know what to do to protect themselves during an emergency. Protecting Your Investments
Creating a plan helps protect investment, supports your employees, customers, community, the local economy and even the country. Safeguard your company and secure physical assets.
Site Emergency Plan
- Review Insurance Coverage - Check with your agent or provider about policies, physical losses, flood coverage, and business interruption. Ask about deductibles and find out what records your insurance provider will want to see after an emergency.
- Prepare for Utility Disruptions - Businesses depend on electricity, gas, telecommunications, sewer and other utilities. Speak with service providers to identify back-up options such as portable generators to power vital aspects of your business.
- Secure Facilities, Buildings and Plants - Install fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and detectors in appropriate places. Identify production machinery, computers, custom parts or other essential equipment needed to operate. Identify more than one supplier to replace or repair vital equipment if damaged or destroyed. Store extra supplies and materials. Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store cannot be used for a given period of time.
- Secure your Equipment - Attach equipment and cabinets to walls or other stable equipment.
- Improve Cyber Security - Protecting data and information technology systems may require specialized expertise. Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. Do not open email from unknown sources. Use hard-to-guess passwords. Protect your computer from internet intruders by using firewalls. Back up your computer data. Regularly download security protection updates known as patches. Subscribe to the Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Alert System at www.us-cert.gov for free, timely alerts on new threats.
A site emergency plan describes, in detail, an organization's policy and procedures for coping with an emergency situation on site. These policies and procedures should define how the organization will protect employees, visitors, contractors and anyone else at the business. Developing the plan is the process of assigning emergency related tasks to individuals in the organization and outlining protective actions to be taken.
If you are specifically told to evacuate, shelter-in-place or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.
Review the Program:
Make a Shelter-in-Place Plan
- Determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating.
- Review business process flow chart and include emergency payroll.
- Expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster.
- Establish procedures for succession of management; include at least one person not at the company headquarters.
- Decide who should participate in putting together an emergency plan. Consider a broad cross-section of people throughout the organization and focus on those with expertise vital to daily business functions.
- Identify key supplies, shippers, resources and other businesses you must interact with on a daily basis.
The following situations are examples of when it is best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside:
Make an Evacuation Plan
- Chemical Incident - How and where you take shelter is a matter of survival. "Seal the room" if air is badly contaminated with a chemical. Identify where you will go by choosing an interior room with few windows and doors if possible. Take emergency supply kit unless believed to be contaminated. Effectively close the business and bring everyone inside. Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers. Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems. Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape (measure the sheeting and cut in advance).
- Tornado Warning - Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If underground shelters are unavailable go to interior room or hallway on the lowest floor. Stay away from windows, corners, doors, and outside walls.
- Create a chain of command so that others are authorized to act in case your designated person is not available.
- Post maps for quick reference by employees. Identify two ways out of the building from different locations throughout your facility.
- Establish a warning system including plans to communicate with people who are hearing impaired or have other disabilities and those who do not speak English.
- Designate an assembly site by picking one location near your facility and another in the general area farther away. Determine who is responsible for providing an "all clear" or return-to-work notification. Cooperate with local authorities. It is important to coordinate and practice with other tenants or businesses in the area to avoid confusion and potential gridlock.
- Test and exercise the plan to evaluate the effectiveness of your program. Train personnel clarifying roles and responsibilities. Reinforce knowledge of procedures, facilities, systems and equipment. Improve individual performance, coordination and communications. Evaluate policies, plans, procedures and acknowledge team member skills. Reveal weaknesses and resource gaps. Comply with local laws, codes and regulations. Gain recognition of the emergency management and business continuity program.
- Fire Safety - Fire is the most common. Each year fires cause thousands of deaths, injuries and billions of dollars in damage. Have your office, plant or facility inspected for fire safety, compliance with fire codes and regulations. Install smoke alarms, detectors and fire extinguishers in appropriate locations. Put a process in place for alerting the fire department.
- Flooding incidents - Elevate equipment off the floor to avoid electrical hazards in the event of flooding.
- Terrorism Incidents - Immediately report any threats by calling 9-1-1. Consider how people, products, supplies and other things get into and leave your building facility. Plan for mail safety against terrorist attacks and identify any suspicious objects within your work place. To view a printable version of the 7 Signs of Terrorism, click7 Signs of Terrorism.
Plan to Stay in Business: Create an Emergency Supply Kit
Keep copies of important records such as site maps, building plans, insurance policies, employee contact and identification information, bank account records, supplier and shipping contact lists, computer backups, emergency or law enforcement contact information and other priority documents in a waterproof, fireproof portable container. Store a second set of records at an off-site location.
Emergency Supply Kit
Be Informed and Develop Communications
- Water and non-perishable food to last up to 3 days
- Can opener
- First Aid Kit
- Dust Mask
- Garbage Bags
- Wrench to turn off utilities
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra Batteries
- Moist Towelettes
- Local maps
- Phone chargers
- Duct Tape
- Plastic sheeting for sheltering in place
Detail how your organization plans to communicate with employees, local authorities, customers and others during and after a disaster. Monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available.
- Speak with employees to make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
- Provide top company executives with relative information.
- Update the general public. Inform your customers of when products will be received and services rendered.
- Give neighboring companies a prompt briefing on the nature of the emergency so they may assess their own threat levels.
- Tell local officials what your company is prepared to do to help in recovery effort. Communicate with local, state, and federal authorities about what emergency assistance is needed for you to continue essential business activity.
Your employees and co-workers are your most important and valuable asset. How quickly your company can get back to business after a disaster can depend on how well prepared your employees are at work and at home.
Recover and Restore
- Include emergency preparedness information in: memos, meeting agendas, calendars, and paycheck reminders.
- Promote family and individual preparedness to: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed.
- Visit www.ready.gov to print out and distribute Preparing Makes Sense brochures for your workers.
- Encourage employees to talk about medical conditions that may require support or special care. Have employees take basic First Aid and CPR training. Have First Aid supplies in stock and easily accessible.
- Speak with co-workers with disabilities and ask what assistance they may require. Ask about communication difficulties, physical limitations, equipment instructions and medication procedures. Identify co-workers willing to help particularly if someone needs to be lifted or carried.
- Consider setting up a telephone calling tree, a password-protected page on the company website, an email alert or call-in voice recording specific for emergency details. Designate an out of town phone number where employees leave an "I'm Okay" message in a catastrophic disaster.
Develop a Continuity of Operations Plan to resume business after a disaster. Consider relocating to another facility while the main operating building is being restored. Provide employees with information on how to report to work following an emergency. Support employee health after a disaster by offering professional counselors to address fears and anxieties.Valuable Resources
Oakland County Homeland Security Division can provide businesses with site planning materials, workbooks, brochures, posters, and publications to assist in the development of an emergency plan.
A printable version of the Business Disaster Planning Program brochure can be found here:Business Planning Brochure
- Federal Emergency Management Agency handouts: www.ready.gov
- Community Emergency Response Team Programs: www.citizencorps.gov/cert
- Independent Study Courses: training.fema.gov/EMIWEB/IS/IS394A.asp
- National Cyber Threat Alert System: www.us-cert.gov
- YouTube Videos: www.Youtube.com/user/FEMA
For more information and materials, please call 248.858.5300.