The best time to reevaluate (or create) your disaster plan is before an emergency occurs. You never know when a disaster will strike and how it will affect your facility. The key is to be prepared, and the best way to be prepared is to periodically review, reevaluate, and appropriately adapt or change your plan.
Here are six steps to take to ensure a comprehensive review of your program.
Step 1. Assign Priority and Responsibility
- Make it clear that management gives the project high priority and support.
- Assign one person to coordinate the task force or work group that will evaluate hazards and prepare plans. Select and appoint the participants. Most organizations try to involve a wide representation of managers, supervisors, and employees.
- Beyond facilities, be sure to involve human resources, as well as safety, security, and operations. When a disaster occurs, employees will come to HR.
- Establish goals and timelines for completion of your review and update.
Step 2. Evaluate your Facility’s Challenges and Hazards
- Evaluate your situation to determine likely or potential problems. Certain challenges could face almost all organizations—fires, injuries, medical emergencies, and violence.
- Address threats that are specific to your geographic location, including flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather-related problems.
- Categorize and list threats related to your specific operations, such as dangerous equipment, dangerous environments (e.g., confined spaces), and hazardous substances.
- Consider neighboring facilities and the threats they may pose.
- If your buildings are some distance from fire, police, and emergency services, ascertain if providing extra training and equipment will help employees deal with emergencies until responders arrive.
Step 3. Delineate Steps for Avoidance and Prevention
- Once threats are identified, think of measures that will prevent or contain them.
- Establish new rules or procedures as needed, such as increased security or more vigilance in enforcement of safety rules.
- Determine if more training in areas such as first-aid and CPR, hazardous materials response, or handling threats of violence may be required.
- Devise site-specific preparations for protecting materials, equipment, and data.
- Take steps to provide technological or physical protection for IT, including redundant systems and off-site capabilities.
- Meet with local emergency services organizations, including fire and police, and invite them to do a “walk-through” of your facility to familiarize themselves with the layout and help identify potential problems.
Step 4. Plan for Actions During and After a Disaster
Prepare for evacuation
- Install and/or test the emergency alert systems.
- Review evacuation routes and designate assembly sites and reporting procedures.
- Inform employees, contractors, and others who frequent your facilities about the alert signal and the evacuation plan.
- Detail equipment shutdown procedures and identify employees who will stay to accomplish them.
Establish a command post
- The location (on- and off-site)
- Who will be in charge
- Alternate communication methods including your website and intranet
- Who will deal with police, fire, and hazardous materials responders
- Who will deal with the media
Prepare for ongoing operations
- In your planning, determine ways you will keep the business going after a disaster, including alternative sources of power, water, utilities, etc.
- Find sources of temporary space, computer capability, phones, and other means needed to do whatever you normally accomplish.
- After approval, put the plan in writing, and share pertinent parts with employees.
Step 5. Practice Your Procedures
- Conduct practice drills to ensure that every employee knows what to do.
- Determine if drills uncover flaws in your plan.
Step 6. Make Regular Reviews
- Your standing procedures should include reviews of your plan. People leave, phone systems change, partitions are built, and so on.
- Note if new technologies, equipment, hazardous substances, etc. have been introduced.