Unfortunately, disasters can strike any company or organization with little to no advance notice. No one is immune. Disasters can result from fire, wind, ice, flood, hurricane, earthquake, terrorism, hazardous material, and more. However, regardless of the cause, the net result is the same: Employees can suffer severe injury and even death; businesses can lose access to their data systems, phones, Internet, and fax lines at the very time when hundreds of its stakeholders need assistance.
With these serious repercussions, it’s important to prepare for disasters as comprehensively as possible. After a disaster plan is put into effect, it’s important to review that plan with the entire office and on a regular basis in order to ensure that all of the employees are prepared in the event of a disaster.
Simulating evacuation plans as a form of review is often the key to a successful evacuation, because this routine prevents injury and panic, assures quick reaction times, and provides the chance to amend and update the plan. It also ensures that key officiators of the plan are practiced in how to protect business critical hardware and operations.
In addition to practicing your evacuation plan at least every six months, a regular review of your disaster contingency plan is vital, and the following examples highlight why.
Staff Members Come, Staff members Go
Just as your employees have different job descriptions, everyone will have different duties and work assignments during office disasters and evacuations. Contact information, including call lists and telephone numbers, will need to be updated faithfully. Do you have an employee with special needs or disabilities? If so your disaster plan will need to be modified accordingly.
Reviewing your office’s disaster plan on a regular basis allows you to update information and allows new employees to practice the plan for the first time, while keeping all of your employees familiar with and reliable for the plan.
Each staff member should handle an aspect of the disaster plan and these roles should be reinforced regularly in staff meetings. The staff can review possible disasters and the steps to be taken in each situation. Roles and responsibilities can also be amended and reassigned at such times.
Needed Resources Can Fail Over Time
Imagine that you have prepared for a disaster that doesn’t come for years. When you really need them, the fire extinguishers no longer work, batteries are dead, the evacuation route has changed, first aid kits have depleted, important medications have not been updated, et cetera. Things change and you often won’t notice it until its too late. Therefore, review these resources once every six months.
Remember, your disaster contingency plan is not effective unless everyone in your office knows and understands their needs and responsibilities in a disaster. Arrange first aid and CPR classes through local emergency officials. Develop and maintain offsite storage policies, office operating procedures, and computer backup schedules and procedures. When you read about the effect of disasters on other businesses, review your disaster plan to ensure that it covers such an event.
Vital Records Need Your Protection
Of course, disaster preparation means protecting the welfare of your company’s most important asset, its employees. But it also means protecting vital information. Identify essential records and store copies of them off-site. Implement a records management program and include a computer data backup system to assure that needed information cannot be lost when disaster strikes.
This program should also entail a policy for the development of an alternate or emergency location from which you can perform the critical functions of your business, should you be unable to access your business facility. Ensure that all members of your staff understand these policies, including their individual responsibilities, before a disaster occurs.
Brainstorm all the possible disasters that could strike your business, and drill your office staff on its disaster plan every few months. This will help you to evaluate your efforts and to improve upon them as needed.