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PREPARING FOR THE NEXT EMERGENCY OR PANDEMIC

If we have learned anything from 2020, it should be that unpredictable things happen, and sometimes a lot of unpredictable things happen at the same time!. Whether its an infectious disease pandemic or an emergency situation, being prepared for the unexpected should be a part of every family and organization. 

What is the best way to prepare for the next pandemic or emergency situation?  Whether business or personal, the best way to prepare for an unexpected situation is to have an emergency response plan in place.

An emergency response plan is vital for the safety and welfare of your company, your family and yourself. Ideally, it will help you identify supplies to have on hand, where to go, who to contact, what documents should be immediately available and other, potentially life-saving information.

An emergency response plan helps take the “panic” out of a panic-driven situation and gives you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what needs to be done and by whom.

As business and personal needs are different, clearly a business emergency response plan will differ from a personal or family plan.

Personal or Family Emergency Response Plan

We’ll start by discussing a personal or family response plan.  The plan will look pretty much the same, regardless of who it is designed to cover.  We’re starting with this plan because you can’t protect your business if you haven’t already protected yourself and those you care most about.

According to Ready.gov, there are 4 primary steps in the development of your plan.  They are:

  1. Hold a planning meeting to address key concerns.
  2. Consider needs that are specific to your household or familial situation.
  3. Complete a written emergency plan.
  4. Practice your plan with your family or household.

Those are very broad steps, so let’s break them down into more manageable pieces.

Planning Meeting

There are certain fundamentals that your family or household will need to address, regardless of the type of emergency you are facing.  Some key areas of concern you will want to address are:

  1. How will your family receive emergency communications and updates? The federal, state and local governments all have different websites designed to provide your family with basic emergency information. National governmental options include:
    1. Wireless Emergency Alerts.
    2. Emergency Alert System.
    3. NOAA Weather Radio.
    4. Centers for Disease Control.
  1. What is your family’s shelter plan? Should you have to evacuate your home, identify a location that would be safe, and that everyone can locate. As emergency situations are fluid and subject to change, it is a good idea to have 1-2 backup locations, in different areas, in case first (or even second) choices are not feasible or safe given the situation. 
  1. Do we have an emergency preparedness kit? This is key!  Your home, and each vehicle you own, should have an emergency preparedness kit easily accessible.  You will want it to contain, at minimum, the following items:
    • A 1-gallon water per person per day. Ideally, you should have enough for 3 days.
    • A 3-day supply of non-perishable food.
    • Flashlight with extra batteries.
    • First-aid kit.
    • Face mask.
    • Plastic sheeting with duct tape (for sheltering, if needed).
    • Manual can opener
    • Cell phone with charger and backup battery.
    • 2-week supply of all required medications

This is not an all-inclusive list, by any means.  For a detailed checklist, please download this pdf.

Identify Specific Needs for Your Family or Household

Every family group is unique. Do you have small children and need to pack for diapers?  Perhaps some of your family are medication or oxygen dependent?  It is critical you identify special needs and address them in advance

Complete a Written Emergency Plan

For your convenience, an example is attached as a pdf download.  This plan is designed for parents, but easily modifiable to match your personal family situation.

Practice the Plan

You know it is recommended you have a fire escape plan and practice it monthly.  The same should be said for your emergency response plan. 

Business or Organizational Emergency Response Plan

Now that you and your family are safely protected, it is time to turn your attention to your business or organization.  Depending on the type of business you have, you may have people depending on you and your staff. Companies like home healthcare, hospice, and non-medical care providers all work directly with the most vulnerable of our populations. 

Having a business emergency response plan not only helps your business ride out an emergency situation, it also protects your clients and their safety, as well.

There are 7 steps to an effective business Emergency Response Plan.

  1. Identify your Emergency Response Plan Development Team.
  2. Conduct a Risk Assessment.
  3. Establish your business objectives.
  4. Create a Written Policy.
  5. Develop an on-site Emergency Response Team.
  6. Offer Training

Identify your Emergency Response Plan Development Team.

Ideally this will include owner or general manager, human resources director and a representative from each discipline or field that your business contains.  You want every individual in your organization represented on your team.  The varying viewpoints will help ensure the highest possible level of coverage.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Your Emergency Response Plan Development Team will conduct a risk assessment for your business.  Location is key.  If your business is in Arizona, hurricane risk is not an issue; however, wildfire risk is. By identifying your primary risk factors, you can better identify appropriate responses to those emergencies when/if they occur.

Establish Business Objectives

Obviously, your primary business objective is to…stay in business!  That said, the U.S. Government’s disaster readiness website, Ready.gov, has an entire section devoted to business preparedness.  They offer free toolkits on addressing various risk scenarios to assist with identifying and address your risks and objectives.

Some urgent objectives you must consider are:

  1. Centralized Communications.
  2. Staffing need fluctuations.
  3. Onboarding and training new staff, if needed.
  4. Protecting staff safety.

Create a Written Policy

OSHA has an extremely comprehensive checklist to help make sure your written policy is concise and complete.  You can download the pdf.  Adapt it, as appropriate to your business model.  It is important for your team to review this policy at least once per year and adjust is as needed.  Things you may need to take into account over time include:

  1. Have we added any new office locations?
  2. How does the plan account for remote workers (and their locations)?
  3. Have we changed any key operational or communication systems?
  4. Have any key staff or contacts changed?
  5. Do we have the latest contact information for advisory or regulatory bodies?

Develop an on-site Emergency Response Team.

This should consist of your Emergency Response Plan Development Team and addition individuals as is warranted by the type of business you run and the objectives you have outlined.

Offer Training

Your staff needs to be trained in the plan and how it is to be implemented.  They may also need additional education or training depending on the type of emergency involved and your business model.

Potential training topics may include:

  1. Use of new or unfamiliar equipment
  2. How to develop a personal or family emergency response plane
  3. How to assist with customer/client/patient needs
  4. How to maintain communications

It is best if these trainings can be available online or remotely. You don’t want your staff stopping in the middle of an emergency to attend a meeting. You also don’t want them unnecessarily gathered if you’re in an infectious disease situation.

Final Thoughts

Having an Emergency Response Plan will not stop the next pandemic, hurricane, tidal wave or any other emergency situation.

It will help protect you, your loved ones and your business. 

Aren’t they what really matter, anyway?