As a business owner or leader of an organization, you may have thought about ways to mitigate risk and keep your doors open in the aftermath of a disaster, but there comes a time to put pencil to paper and formalize preparedness plans. As you explore what your organization needs to do to prepare for emergencies, it’s a good reminder to engage with your staff. They may provide different perspectives.
Plans are not useful until they are documented and communicated to those involved. They then need to be regularly updated and tested to prepare employees for real-time incidents and identify any gaps.
Formalizing plans can involve steps like selecting an emergency manager for your organization or maintaining emergency kits in your office. Make sure your emergency manager is connected to community authorities and distributes your plans to relevant stakeholders. Incorporating other entities into your emergency planning can be helpful. For example, perhaps your organization could have a plan to share workspace at another group’s place of business if your office is affected by an incident.
Taking your plans from ideas to practice is a vital step for your organization as you prepare for emergencies. FEMA’s Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) can help with formalizing plans and much more. This web-based course lays out 10 preparedness actions you can take, whether you’re a nonprofit, small business, faith-based organization, or other community-based group.
Once you’ve formalized your plans, it’s time to put them to the test and update them as needed.
In addition to identifying gaps, testing and updating plans is important because it allows participants to familiarize themselves with their roles before, during, and after a disaster. Consider telling new employees about your safety plans during their onboarding process. This should include information about current emergency resources. Look for ways to get staff and volunteers excited about training.
Here are a few questions to ask as you formalize your plans and put them into practice:
- Where are your emergency plans located? Who knows how to find them?
- Can your plans or instructions be understood by everyone? Are the actions in your plan accessible to people with access and functional needs?
- How often do you need to update your emergency plans, and who is responsible for updating your plans?
- What’s the best way and time to hold an emergency exercise?
- How can you incorporate what you have learned from an exercise into your plans?
To learn more about developing, testing, and updating your emergency plans, check out these resources:
- Ready.gov’s Emergency Response Plan
- Ready.gov’s Emergency Exercises
- FEMA’s Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans Comprehensive Preparedness Guide
Formalizing and testing plans are the final two of the 10 actions organizations can take to ensure they can serve their clients and protect themselves in case of emergency. Learn more about them through FEMA’s OPEN training, which is now also available in Spanish.
This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here
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