Many of the businesses I have worked with over the years have some type of plan in place, albeit most of those plans could use some improvement. What does your organization's safety and/or preparedness plan entail?
Take a few moments to review the list of tips outlined below, although this list is not all inclusive, it at least gives you are starting point to measure against your organization's current plans.
TIP #1: SECURE UPPER MANAGEMENT SUPPORT
The first step in any successful safety/preparedness plan is to secure the support of Upper Management for a plethora of reasons. They will be beneficial to ensure full staff participation and allow for budgetary provisions, at a minimum.
TIP #2: CREATE A SAFETY COMMITTEE
Ideally you will have people chomping at the proverbial bit to join the safety committee, however more realistically you may have to recruit folks to take on the position. It is better to seek volunteers, however folks can become engaged once assigned. Secondly, it is recommended that you have representatives from each area or department to establish full representation. Make sure to identify a budget and establish regular meeting times.
TIP #3: HAZARD ANALYSIS
Take some time to meet with your safety committee to discuss your organization's vulnerabilities. Identify things that could occur and interrupt your normal operations. You will want to include both natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, etc.), man made events (riots, acts of terrorism, workplace violence, etc.) and biological threats (pandemic flu, etc.). Once you have identified the potential interruptions that threaten your organization, you are ready to address your mitigation, response and recovery plans.
TIP #4: DEVELOP YOUR PLANS
After you collectively identify your vulnerabilities, you will want to move into the planning stage. What can be done to mitigate the risk? If you identify feasible means to mitigate the risk, by all means implement those strategies. What about your organization's response plans? Does everyone know what to do, in the event there is an interruption? How about afterwards, could your organization survive a short or long term interruption? Many organizations will fail, if they have no business continuity plan in place.
TIP #5: SECURE NECESSARY SUPPLIES
Invest in having the appropriate life saving supplies on hand, such as first aid kits, fire extinguishers, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). Encourage staff to bring in their own supplies, medications and comfort items to last them at least three days.
TIP #6: PROVIDE SKILLS TRAINING TO STAFF
Ensure that you have staff that are trained and certified in life saving skills such as First Aid, CPR and AED operations. If they know what to do, they will be more confident to administer aid to their co-workers.
TIP #7: PROVIDE PREPAREDNESS TRAINING TO ALL STAFF
Your plans will only be as good as the training you provide to your staff AND after all, your staff are your organizations greatest asset. No plan can operate on its own. Your organization's success is hugely influenced by the actions of your staff. If you have taken the time to properly train and educate your staff they will be more likely to take actions that are appropriate rather than panic and make potentially life threatening decisions. At a minimum, encourage your staff to have family preparedness plans. How will they reach their loved ones, if there is an interruption?
Ultimately, you want to aim to create a culture of safety and preparedness. I have seen organizations embrace this culture so well that every meeting held in their organization included safety messaging of some sort.
TIP #8: DRILLS & EXERCISES
After you have trained your staff on the means to respond and recover from interruptions, you should then move into testing your systems. Conduct drills and exercises regularly. You should drill for fire and earthquake at least twice a year and incorporate other topics of interest as you see fit. You can do a drill, tabletop exercise or conduct a mock event. Get creative, identify goals and have upper management encourage or require full staff participation.
TIP #9: MAINTAIN YOUR PLANS
After each drill and/or exercise take some time to reflect on how you performed. Did everything go smoothly or were there gaps identified? If you identify areas for improvement, make changes to your plans and make sure to maintain your plans on an annual basis for changes in operations or personnel, at a minimum.
TIP #10: PREPARE WITH NEIGHBORING ORGANIZATIONS
Years ago I worked with a group of organizations on establishing a neighborhood preparedness plan collectively in a mixed use neighborhood. It was really eye opening when their response plans were shared with one another. As it turned out, many of the businesses were planning to evacuate and congregate in the parking lot of one of the participating businesses, much to that businesses surprise. As it turned out, that business also planned to congregate in their parking lot and chaos would likely have ensued.
Enough can not be said for collaborating with you neighboring organizations in sharing resources and collectively responding. Reach out to your neighbor now, rather than after the event.