Disasters are all over the news.
Fires. Landslides. Hurricanes. This past year, the U.S. has experienced some of the deadliest disasters ever, impacting people and disrupting businesses. The bill for dealing with these issues is ever-increasing as places around the country continue to experience everything from mudslides to record temperatures. Many in Puerto Rico still don’t have power. And it’s not just the U.S. Even Ireland experienced a hurricane this past fall.
The concern is that disasters will only increase along with their consequences. It’s time to gear up.
According to FEMA, Americans aren’t prepared. 60% of Americans haven’t practiced for disasters, and only 39% have developed an emergency plan.
There’s a disconnect that organizations can help with by getting serious about disaster planning and business continuity. It goes beyond developing policies and procedures and starts with prevention.
Here are four things IT, Communications and HR can do to help:
1. Do your part to prevent them from happening
You can’t necessarily stop an act of nature, but you can do your part to ensure it doesn’t happen.
- Go green. Your organization may be able to help prevent climate change. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, organizations that go green can save money as well as engage workers who feel strongly about helping the environment.
- Include green causes in your employee giving activities with company matches to show how you’re helping the planet. Use these giving opportunities for public relations purposes in communicating. For example, companies like Anheuser-Busch are using it as a differentiator as they compete for consumers. Include the results in your annual community report.
- Volunteer and consider investing in helping your town plan for issues. Some cities have introduced infrastructure to prevent major issues. In London, they have massive barriers to prevent flooding in the Thames. Again, include results in your public relations efforts.
- Consider the worst-case scenario and plan for it. For example, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant survived an earthquake, but the tsunami and power outages that accompanied the disaster were crippling. For a more recent example in the U.S., a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas had to contend with severe flooding and power outages that made their chemicals too warm and unstable – causing fires and some evacuations.
- Communicate. As you’re addressing issues, volunteering or helping the community at large, let your employees know through intranet news. Also, use public relations to communicate with the community. Include information you’re doing in your annual community report.
Although you can’t stop Mother Nature, you can do your best to prevent some disasters from occurring. It’s that long-term vision that helps you protect your community and your town.
2. Plan and prepare
When it comes to preparing, consider every group your organization interacts with: employees, suppliers (including contractors), customers, partners and the community. When disaster strikes, you need all of these groups to help your organization recover. For example, you need customers who can buy goods and services from you to keep revenue coming in. You require suppliers to provide goods and services. You need partners to develop relationships to work around issues. You need a resilient community with workers who are ready to get back to work.
Also, consider the processes, policies and procedures needed for everyone to know expectations.
- Create an emergency task force made up of people across your company. Include HR, IT, communications, facilities and other important groups. Setup recurring meetings to ensure everyone understands what to do before, during and after an emergency.
- Join other organizations in your area that handle emergency procedures to know what the city and state plan to do, and how you can get updated information. Organizations like FEMA and NEMA can help.
- Sponsor and provide information at emergency preparedness fairs for the community as a whole. If you’re in healthcare, this could include immunizations against preventable diseases (such as influenza).
- Understand your organization’s insurance coverage for disasters that may occur in your area and discuss whether you need additional protection – for buildings, equipment and personnel.
- Keep up with emergency supplies. Consider year-long issues from flashlights to blankets, too.
- Develop response teams, from those who know and can perform CPR and first aid to people who can evacuate employees during an emergency. These teams should receive frequent refreshers.
- Educate employees on how to keep safe at home. Not only will it protect employees, but it may enable them to return to work faster. Include this information on your intranet and conduct training around how employees can be prepared.
- Educate employees on how to keep safe at work. Fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and more can happen quickly and without warning. Your employees should understand where the exits are, where protected parts of your building are located (for tornadoes), and evacuation procedures.
- Come up with business continuity plans. After superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York, many businesses never recovered and were forced to close permanently due to issues with continuity. Larger businesses can shift operations to other locations. Smaller businesses may have more issues, needing employees to work from home or other creative solutions.
- Get your marketing and PR teams to communicate with customers and partners, so they’re prepared and know what to expect from your organization.
- Have your purchasing team ensure suppliers are ready for what may happen, including those who may come on-site during or after an emergency.
- Communicate with employees and the community at large in what you’re doing to keep safe. At least monthly, focus on an aspect of disaster planning and recovery for employees and contractors on-site, especially those items that are timely. Don’t forget remote workers who may need urgent instructions using alternative communication methods.
- Have contact information available in various systems. When an emergency happens, it should be easy for managers to contact employees and provide information or help in addition to what’s available online.
- Deal with specific industry issues. Each industry has unique issues that impact it, from aerospace malfunctions that affect people to oil rig fire issues.
It’s not just a Boy Scout motto – being prepared and planning for disasters can help mean the difference between life and death.
Practice makes perfect, and during a disaster, everything from evacuations to teams ready to respond needs to be rote. It’s why emergency personnel practice so often. They need to do the right thing by instinct, which takes significant training.
Switch data centers, perform fire drills, update the intranet and Internet sites, conduct inventory audits on supplies, get your employee designees to perform their duties, and more. Set up a testing schedule and ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
- Follow various guidelines (state and local standards, including OSHA) for how often to hold various drills, including fire drills.
- Hold drills for facilities, IT and communications employees on power outages and security issues. These drills should include multiple scenarios, including asking backup resources to help.
- Practice medical events, including keeping up with CPR and first aid certifications.
- Test equipment like fire alarms and your intranet to ensure they’re ready for emergencies.
- Use online exams to determine whether people know what to do and where to go for more information.
- Test communication chains to ensure everyone received communication.
Treat each drill as a project, reviewing the successes and failures. Plan changes and assign team members to prevent further catastrophe.
4. Measure results and improve
Provide metrics on your company’s intranet to let everyone know how prepared your organization is. Set goals and let them know where the organization needs to be for safety. Also, provide qualitative information regularly through your company news where everyone can help ensure his or her safety as well as peers.
Communicate often about what’s happening for everyone’s safety.
Whether you believe climate change is happening or not, one thing is for sure – emergencies will continue to happen. Being prepared and ready can mean the difference between life and death for your community, workers and organization.ElevatePoint has intranet news and an intranet platform that makes communicating disasters faster and easier. Because we know you want to get communications right when facing emergencies. Get a demo today.