Reviewing Organizational Emergency Preparedness

Hurricane Irene From Space

Hurricane Irene From Space

This article is part 1 of a two-part series on business emergency preparedness evaluation and enhancement. This article focuses on evaluation, the next installment will cover some key opportunities for enhancement.

A Multifaceted Approach
I recently had the opportunity to lead an in-depth review of the emergency preparedness approach of a large multi-site company. What was very informative for me about this review was that it covered some dimensions of policy and approach on a corporate level, as well as some variations of approach on divisional and regional levels, and also included a look at implementation at the site level.

Business Continuity
For some companies, business continuity planning is organized and managed along with emergency preparedness. There are many reasons for this, but it is a decidedly newer approach. For the organization in question, business continuity planning was a more recently developed and implemented concept and program (of course it is much more than a mere program, but for the sake of simplicity of discussion, that is how it will be handled for the moment) and was treated as a separate endeavor, by different leaders and different work groups for implementation. As such, business continuity plans were not covered in this evaluation.

Many Components of Emergency Preparedness
The emergency preparedness review included a wide variety of items. Here are some of the more prominent areas of examination:
– Emergency plans
– Matrices of types of disaster and distinctions of response
– Emergency action procedures
– Worker and management (routine and response) assignments and job descriptions
– Emergency service personnel roles and arrangements
– Notification systems and alternatives
– Emergency operations center procedures
– Communications methods and options
– Budgets and forecasts for preparedness
– Preparedness supplies
– Business intelligence and analytics for preparedness
– Monitoring, early warning, and telemetry
– Preparedness communications
– Preparedness resources
– Partnerships with neighbor businesses
– Partnerships with public safety entities
– Partnerships with government entities
– BERT (Business Emergency Response Team) implementation and planning
– Engineering and facility maintenance activity to survey, improve, and prepare facilities and equipment
– Personal preparedness promotion and resources
– Emergency preparedness training
– Knowledge and performance assessments
– Exercises, simulations, and drills
– Regular and disaster preparedness/response assignments
– Documentation of activities
– Metrics for emergency preparedness and readiness
– Material and procedure updates
– Resources and support for program evaluation and enhancement
– Employee involvement and strategy for engagement
– Top management commitment
– Inspection, evaluation, and auditing mechanisms both internal and external
– Tie-ins between disaster preparedness, emergency management, safety, health, environmental, security, loss prevention, and risk management functions.
– And even more!

The Nature of the Evaluation
This evaluation was done in partnership with internal risk, safety, security, and operations personnel. Document and material review, questionnaires, surveys, field observation, exercises, and numerous walk-throughs and one-on-one meetings with management and front-line personnel were all part of the evaluation. The goal was not a voluminous report, but actionable information delivered quickly and with the right amount of detail and depth.

Flood Waters

Flood Waters

A Complex but Vital Task
Yes, this is a very complex endeavor, and there are many different ways to approach the issue. In large part, the emergency management and preparedness function of an organization is a good indicator of how forward-thinking an organization is, as preparedness in essence requires future consideration beyond present-day issues. Small organizations often attempt to “get by” without any significant attention to emergency preparedness. Organizations that successfully grow from small, to medium, to large are not going to be able to make that transition and protect their growth without considering preparedness in depth.

Consider Your Organization’s Preparedness

Whether you are in a small organization or large, a high or low hazard industry, have been in business a short or long time, it makes sense to consider your company or organization’s emergency preparedness. Consider good preparedness both an opportunity to be proactive, and a worthwhile pursuit that will have peripheral business strengthening benefits as it it sought. If you know your program hasn’t been examined in a while, now is the time to change that!

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