Could your company continue to function normally if an earthquake or fire damaged your headquarters? Would you be able to keep your staff safe during an emergency? Do you have backup systems to get your business up and running again?
Concord Security Corp. has operated throughout British Columbia and Alberta since 1983, and it added risk and emergency-management services in 1999. Its risk experts offer the following advice for emergency preparation.
Get started: The sooner you begin, the more prepared you will be. Begin by thinking about the possible risks to your company and how to prevent or mitigate them.
Get an expert: Overwhelmed by the thought of resolving power failures, computer viruses, winter storms, a major earthquake, forest fires or a pandemic? A trained emergency-management professional can offer a fresh perspective on how to weather the storm.
What are you up against? Concord’s risk manager, Sandor Maradi, said that a proper hazard, risks and vulnerability assessment shows you what problems you could realistically face, from a major earthquake to a truck hitting a gas main in your street.
Plan your planning: Form a planning committee that will meet regularly, develop an emergency-management plan, co-ordinate staff training and plan drills and table-top exercises. Meet often and keep updating the plan to reflect new hazards and regulations such as the B.C. fire code and requirements from WorksafeBC.
Keep plans user-friendly: “Too many emergency plans are kept in big binders and never get used,” said Concord general manager Mark Forward. “At Concord, we condense a client’s documents into a single handbook that the client can keep in a briefcase so that it’s always close by in an emergency.”
Get everyone on board: “All staff members from the receptionist to the sales clerk to the president need to know what their roles are,” said Maradi. “Don’t inundate them with information; give regular, short training sessions and hold regular practices. Make sure everyone has emergency supplies at home too.”
Test your plans: “Table-top exercises give everyone a chance to consider a scenario and how he or she would deal with it,” said Forward. “They are very popular with our clients. We might ask them to consider what they would do without power for several days or how to protect their business assets.”
Get supplies: Do you have emergency first-aid kits, high-visibility vests, emergency lighting and backup power? B.C.’s Provincial Emergency Program recommends that every home and office have enough food, water and essential supplies to last 72 hours. How would you communicate with your staff in an emergency if electricity or telecommunications were unavailable?
Involve your suppliers: Ask your key suppliers what their emergency plans are. Include them when you are creating your plan and training staff. If your company’s survival relies on a supplier’s showing up no matter what, build a service-level agreement into your contract so that the supplier knows what you need.
Planning is easier than explaining: “If emergency planning seems tough, imagine explaining to an employee’s family why you didn’t have a management plan to save his or her life, or explaining to your staff why the business folded,” said Maradi.
“Split planning into manageable steps or hire a professional to save you valuable time.”
Originally published in BIV’s How~2 magazine – expert advice on essential business products and services.