Business Disaster Prevention
With the precariousness of world peace and the tumult of changing weather patterns, all of us must be prepared in the face of disaster. Although it is not something we want to think about, planning ahead means a level head when an emergency arises. If you are a business owner, you should designate an individual in charge of developing an emergency management plan.
When developing a plan of action, make sure to get input from your employees. Obtaining input from areas like upper management, line management, labor, human resources, engineering and maintenance, safety, health, and environmental affairs, public information officer, security, community relations, sales and marketing, legal, finance and purchasing. Review internal plans and policies such as safety and health program, security procedures, employee manuals and mutual aid agreements.
Meeting with outside groups such as community emergency management office, American Red Cross, local hospitals, utilities, neighboring businesses, fire department and local police to know what their emergency plans are is also crucial. Take time to identify codes and regulations, such as Occupational Safety and Health regulations, Fire Codes and any corporate policies that may be in place.
There may be critical operations including critical products, services, and operations that you need to be aware of, such as communications and transportation. If you have qualified people amongst your employees, such as individuals that have had first aid training or emergency response knowledge, identify them in your business disaster prevention plan..
Meet with your Insurance Agent to review your policy and to make sure you understand your coverage. Keep a copy of your insurance policy in a safe place.
To determine what may be considered a potential emergency , make a list of potential hazards and determine an action plan suited to each crisis. Analyze what could happen with each potential emergency as a result of the following: prohibited access toyour workplace or facility, loss of electrical power, communication lines down, ruptured gas mains, water damage, smoke damage, structural damage, air/water contamination, explosion, building collapse, trapped persons or hazardous chemical release or dangerous spills. You should then try to estimate the probability of each occurrence, given the safety and prevention measures currently in place.
Most important is determining what impact there could be to yourself and your employees in case of a disaster. Keeping everyone safe and assessing the potential human impact is first and foremost. Secondary is an assessment of the potential property impact, including cost to replace and repair any damaged structures.
The impact on your business could be catastrophic, therefore conduct an analysis of the potential business impact. Problems that could be experienced include business interruption, employees unable to report to work, customers unable to reach facility, company in violation of contractual agreements, imposition of fines and penalties or legal costs, interruption of critical supplies, interruption of product distribution, etc.
What you need to ask yourself next is “Do you have the needed external and internal resources and capabilities to respond to each potential emergency?” If the answer is no, consider putting additional procedures in place, conduct more training of your employees, conduct equipment checks frequently, look into mutual aid agreements and possibly specialized contractor agreements to improve your business disaster prevention plan.
Establishing a sound communications plan is key. Establish protocol between emergency responders, person in charge of incident who would oversee technical aspects of the response, determine what and where would a temporary emergency operations center be set up which would be responsible for emergency operations. How would communications be made and received between outside organizations, neighboring businesses, employee’s families, customers, and the media? Methods of communication that can be considered are using a messenger, telephone, two-way radio, fax machine, microwave, satellite, dial-up modem, local area networks, and hand signals, depending on what is available to you during the crisis.
In case an evacuation becomes necessary, determine the conditions under which an evacuation would be needed. Identify people in your workforce that can maintain a level head with authority to order an evacuation. Keep in mind employees’ transportation needs for community evacuations. Establish procedures for assisting people with special needs. Designate personnel to continue or shut down critical operations as deemed appropriate. Designate primary and secondary evacuation routes, which should be wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel. This path should be clear and unobstructed at all times. It also should be unlikely to expose people to additional hazards. Make sure to designate an area where personnel should gather for accountability after evacuating. Coordinate plans with local authorities.
Under what conditions should you take shelter? These should include hazards like explosions, tornadoes and hurricanes. Designate shelter space in the facility and in the community. Establish procedures for sending people to the shelter. Outline needs for emergency supplies such as water, food, and medical supplies. Determine ways to help employees prepare their families for emergencies. This will also serve to help make them more productive members of your team at work.
Establish procedures for using fire extinguishers, containing material spills, closing or barricading doors and windows, shutting down equipment and covering or securing equipment. Also if equipment can be moved, determine a safe location. Invest in proper systems to detect abnormal situations, provide warning and protect property. These should include fire protection systems, lightning protection systems, water-level monitoring systems, overflow detection devices, automatic shutoffs, and emergency power generation systems, if applicable.
Following these steps can help prevent improper or disorganized shutdown which can result in confusion, injury and property damage. Records preservation is essential to the quick restoration of company operations. Maintain a dialogue with community leaders, first responders, government agencies, community organizations, utilities and the media. Recovery and restoration is essential to getting yourself back in business as quickly as possible.
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