From catastrophic weather events to terrorism, the perils to society are massive and growing. And while we can all hope it won’t happen to us, the reality is that most of these catastrophes are equal opportunity threats — meaning the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys and hows are often largely out of our control. What’s not out of our control, however? Preparing for them. The theme of this month’s National Preparedness Month (NPM) is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” Here’s a closer look at four best practices for proactive emergency planning.
1. Implement Policies, Procedures and Plans
Far too many organizations wait until disaster strikes before realizing the value of a plan. However, according to Ready.gov, “At the very least, every facility should develop and implement an emergency plan for protecting employees, visitors, contractors and anyone else in the facility.” In addition to delineating protective actions for life safety, plans should also include protocols for stabilization as well as minimizing potential damage.
If your organization doesn’t yet have an emergency response plan in place, there’s no time like now to correct course. You can prevent bad situations from becoming worse by having exhaustive plans, policies, and procedures in place prescribing responses to the full range of scenarios and contingencies. (Risk assessment is the first step in determining potential emergency scenarios.) The more thorough your plan is, the greater the likelihood that it will be of value during an emergency.
2. Review Existing Policies, Procedures and Plans
Already have an emergency response plan in place? You’re already one step ahead. However, your work isn’t done yet. The nature of emergency response planning is inherently dynamic due to a number of factors, including everything from emerging threats to attrition within communities. Establishing a routine schedule for reviewing and updating your organization’s emergency response plan ensures both relevance and readiness.
3. Communicate with your Community Members
An emergency response plan is only as good as its communication strategies. After all, if you aren’t successfully disseminating potentially life-saving information to the people you’re trying to protect, then you’re setting yourself up to fall short when the thinkable occurs.
In addition to sharing your proactive emergency response plan with your constituents — as well as reiterating its importance as well as the vital roles they play in upholding it — you should also have a specific plan for how you’ll reach your community members during an emergency. Messages must be clear, concise and accurate. Tailoring information to specific recipients and using multiple communication channels are simple yet significant ways to make your organizational communications efforts as meaningful as possible.
4. Test and Practice
If your organization has never endured an emergency situation, you’re among the decreasing few. If you can’t learn from real-world emergency situations, drills are the next best thing. The more your community goes through the motions, the more likely they are to respond the right way when a run-through turns into a reality.
Additionally, practicing your plan can also help reveal weaknesses, such as shortfalls in resources and personnel and lack of understanding about roles and responsibilities. While coordinating practices takes time, doing so is essential to ensuring that your community is best prepared to respond to emergencies.
Explains Ready.gov, “The actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical. A prompt warning to employees to evacuate, shelter or lockdown can save lives. A call for help to public emergency services that provides full and accurate information will help the dispatcher send the right responders and equipment. An employee trained to administer first aid or perform CPR can be lifesaving. Action by employees with knowledge of building and process systems can help control a leak and minimize damage to the facility and the environment.”
The overall takeaway for leaders looking to safeguard their organizations and community members? Just because disasters occur on the fly doesn’t mean your disaster response has to do the same. Commit to staying ahead of whatever’s headed your way by making emergency response planning a priority this National Disaster Preparedness Month. The CodeRED solution from OnSolve is a key element in an emergency responder’s toolkit. Streamlined communications can give you constituents the time and information needed to make decisions and keep themselves safe. Contact OnSolve today to get more information.