Thursday, September 09, 2010

Developing an Emergency Plan

There is unfortunately no magic template that will help an organization develop an emergency plan because there are so many variables such as size and location of business, nature of business, types of employees and invitees, internal resources available, external resources available, etc. etc. etc.

That being said, here are a few thoughts that might be helpful:

· There is no such thing as AN emergency plan. Different plans must be developed to address a variety of potential emergencies (this should be obvious but is not always – for example, a weather-related emergency is totally different from an active shooter scenario).

· A team approach to plan development is good, bringing to the table not only the persons/functions responsible for crisis management but other representative stakeholders as well (both internal and external).

· Good emergency planning deals with issues related to emergency prevention/mitigation, response during the emergency, and aftermath response to include business continuity planning.

· A good emergency plan is as complex as needed yet as simple as possible.

· Having someone knowledgeable in emergency plan development is of paramount importance, to help the team focus on not only the major issues to be considered but the subtle nuances as well. This key resource person might be internal or external, might be an independent security consultant, or might be a local law enforcement or fire service representative. Public safety agencies need to be involved in planning and testing, but keep in mind that public safety agencies may not have the expertise and/or resources to serve as the key plan development resource (this is especially true in public safety agencies in smaller communities).

· Emergency plans, once formulated, need to be formalized via company policies, with appropriate sanctions for non-compliance.

· Emergency plans need to be tested on a regularly recurring basis, with both tabletop and practical drills, to include all entities that will be involved during an actual emergency. Things that look good on paper do not always translate equally to application. The purpose and ultimate value of drills is to not only look for the things that are right with the plan, but to actively seek out the things that are deficient so they can be modified/remedied.

· Emergency plans need to be reviewed on a regularly recurring basis. As organizations change (facilities, assets, resources, etc.), plans need to be modified accordingly.

Emergencies can and do occur – that is a basic fact of life. How well an organization copes with those emergencies is a function of sound planning and preparation.