Ensure Safety by Preparing for the Worst

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Creating a Crisis Management Plan

SmokeThere's no doubt that the unexpected can happen at any time. Stories and images of school shootings, hurricanes and floods, disease pandemics, workplace violence, terror attacks and more fill the news. These tragedies can happen anywhere – at home or at work. But as difficult as it is to imagine what you would do if faced with a crisis on the job, it's even worse to be caught in the middle of one with no plan for what to do. That's why creating a workplace crisis plan is vital for any business owner.

Since it's safety month, set aside some time during June to ensure the safety of your workforce and the future of your business by creating a workplace crisis plan. Here are some guidelines to consider when you create your plan.

Consider every potential scenario. Depending on your region, industry and work environment, each workplace will have different possible crisis scenarios. For example, costal regions should plan for hurricane threats. Industrial plants should establish guidelines for serious workplace injuries, plant fires or chemical leaks. The first step in establishing a comprehensive crisis plan is to seriously consider each potential issue that could arise. Then, you can create one comprehensive plan that will list special considerations for each potential crisis scenario.

Cover the basics. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the essential elements for any business's emergency management plan include the following:

  • Designating leaders – Who will be in charge if a crisis strikes? You must decide beforehand who will take the lead if a crisis occurs, including a succession list in case top personnel are injured.
  • Selecting an offsite location – Establish a temporary base of operations in case your facilities are damaged and you need to operate elsewhere until the recovery phase.
  • Establishing communications procedures – This includes reporting to emergency officials such as the police or fire department, establishing a way for personnel to report an emergency, communicating with on- and off-duty staff members and their families if a crisis occurs, and telling clients, customers and suppliers if necessary.
  • Protecting health and safety – Before any crisis strikes, you should establish and communicate evacuation plans, routes and procedures, create safety and shelter zones for employees, and regularly conduct training on these policies.
  • Protecting property, facilities and data – Being proactive is the best way to prevent damage to your business. Many crises can be prevented by simply having policies and systems in place to protect your workplace in case of fire, flood or storm. Establish a regular time to conduct a safety audit to make sure you're in compliance with state or provincial and federal regulations, along with industry standards.
  • Conducting community outreach – Often called “crisis communications,” this element of crisis planning helps your organization communicate with officials, emergency response organizations, the media and the public at large when an emergency occurs. Create a list of key contacts and put it in a safe place for your company's leadership to access if necessary. When a crisis occurs, the media will call whether you have a communications or public relations professional on staff or not. Learn more about FEMA's crisis communications guidelines here.
  • Restoring operations – In this step, you'll need to create guidelines for processes such as repairing equipment, finding an alternative location, dealing with insurance, supporting employees and ensuring management continuity. Read more at FEMA's guide to the recovery and restoration process after a crisis strikes.

Communicate your plan. The best crisis plans are those everyone in your workplace is aware of, from top management to first-day employees. Make sure everyone at your workplace has access to emergency planning details that are pertinent to their role. Regularly train employees who have specific roles in the crisis management process, and routinely update your plan to deal with turnover of roles, new potential issues and updated policies and procedures.

Planning ahead for a crisis may seem like a daunting, thankless task, but you'll rest easier when you've done your best to prepare for the worst.  

Additional Resources

Public Safety Canada Regional Offices List – Public Safety Canada

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