If you haven’t heard about National Preparedness Month, which was started in 2004, now it the perfect time to learn about it and implement some of the key principles within your business. Even though the whole month of September is designated as National Preparedness Month, that doesn’t mean you should only revisit your emergency plans at that time, it’s a yearlong endeavor that takes some organization and teamwork. Even with warnings from the news and weather channels, you still never truly know when disaster will strike and the severity of the situation.
Many people think that having emergency plans, meet up spots, etc. are only for within your family. But what if a disaster strikes while your business operations are in full swing, with a full staff on the premises? Will you know how to account for your staff and their locations? Do you have set meeting spots for people to gather? Is there a phone chain protocol to make sure people are ok? How will you notify employees families if someone is hurt? How will you notify your customers of delays?
Here are some guidelines to help your business make the most of National Preparedness Month:
- Document roles and responsibilities. Assigning roles and responsibilities during or after an emergency will help prevent confusion among your staff. You will want to have 1 person in charge with a designated back up, and several point people to handle specific tasks. Your HR person may be tasked with contacting employees or their families to relay information. A department manager may be assigned to contact key customers to provide them with information on when you will be running at full speed again. It’s also important to have a key person assigned to handle any media, and only that person can give updates to avoid multiple, conflicting statements to local media outlets.
- Determine and document your communication plan. How will you notify employees, customers, vendors, shareholders, etc? Will you use a mass email or text vs individual phone calls, emails, or texts? Do you need to contact any employee family members if an employee was injured? Do you have a policy on what employees can share with friends and family or on social media? Will you have a message on your answering systems or website?
- Share your plan with employees. Document your entire plan, share it with the team and educate your employees. Have both electronic and hard copies available. Make sure employees know what their roles are in different situations and how they are affected by the timing – off hours vs. during work. From a fire to an extended power outage, to a hurricane or even a workplace violence situation – each scenario is different.
- Encourage employees to have a family preparedness plan. Not only do you need to have a plan in place for business continuity, but you need employees to help carry those out. While your primary focus may be on getting the operations back up and running, your employees’ focus may be on the safety and security of their families. Having a family preparedness plan in place will provide your employees with added comfort and security knowing their family is prepared and safe should a disaster occur.
- Secure contact information updates from employees and other stakeholders. National Preparedness Month is a great time to remind people to update their information. Make it easy and make it a requirement during September for each employee to fill out an info sheet.
- Evaluate your plan and test it! Circumstances can change quickly. Evaluate your plan at least once a year and any time there is a major change to your business. Run drills with your employees making sure they know the right place to go or the communication chain.
- Have the proper insurance! Ask your insurance agent about Business Interruption Insurance Coverage to ensure you protect your financial interests in case of a prolonged shut down of your business.
The old saying “Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it” sums up why you should have an emergency plan in place for your business. If you need help or resources for your family or your business, Ready.gov has a plethora of information that can help you create a plan, share information with your employees, and just be better informed about the importance of being prepared. If you have some cool tips or tricks to creating an emergency plan, we’d love to hear them!
Vice President, Secretary