Could your workplace survive a natural disaster?

Natural disaster can strike at any time, even during the work day. Is your workplace safe? We discuss how to disaster-proof your work environment.

natrual_disasters-13483347911635Most people don’t wake up in the morning and expect a disaster to occur. The truth of the matter is that disaster could happen anytime, anywhere. Business owners and managers have a responsibility to their employees and their customers to plan for an emergency. Emergency preparedness can protect the lives of employees and reduce business losses the result from damaged infrastructure and equipment, as well as from down time.

If your business does not have an emergency preparedness plan, or if you’re worried that your current plan is not up to task, the information below can help initiate or refine emergency plans. Dr. Tim Murphy, professor at the University of Findlay in the emergency management program, offers advice and tips.

 

Risk Assessment

The first step in building a solid workplace emergency plan is to consider all the natural hazards that have occurred or may occur in your area. Dr. Murphy states that risk assessment begins when you “identify what can go wrong, the potential impact from that event, and then how to protect your people, the environment and your firm.”

According to the Ready program, a joint effort of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA, businesses should take an all-hazards approach to emergency planning. Consider all hazards that may affect your business, and in doing so, look for any weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Potential vulnerabilities include deficiencies in the building or a lack of security and protection systems. For example, a building without an operational sprinkler system stands to take more damage from fire. A workplace without a security system is in danger of theft or vandalism.

 

Business Impact Analysis

A business impact analysis (BIA) can help businesses identify issues in productivity that may arise in the event of a disaster. Dr. Murphy suggests a few questions business owners and managers can ask to test preparedness.

“As an example, has the firm determined how to stay in production if they lose power for a week? Do they have a backup generator? Do they have a contract with a temporary energy provider that guarantees them power within a short time from calling the provider? Is this contract up-to-date?”

Businesses need to consider the possible consequences that may result from a disruption or downtime, including lost or delayed sales and income, increased expenses, regulatory fines and customer defection. When possible, businesses should take efforts to ensure that employees can work remotely through VPN connections and other resources.

 

Prevention, Deterrence and Risk Mitigation

Natural disasters, such as tornados, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, cannot be prevented. However, there are steps businesses can take to reduce danger to employees as well as financial damages to the business. There are state and federal regulations in place that can aid in establishing risk mitigation practices. Insuring your business against fire, flood and natural disaster is another way to off-set the impact of natural disaster.

 

Emergency Response Plan

The most important course of action during an emergency is to ensure the safety of your people. Protective actions for life safety may include evacuation, sheltering or lock-down. Typically, occupants should be evacuated when there is a hazard, such as a fire, chemical spill or bomb threat, inside the building. In the event of severe weather, everyone should be relocated to the most structurally sound part of the building and away from exterior glass. Lockdown occurs when a violent intruder has entered the building and employees are advised to hide or barricade themselves from the intruder.

The first few seconds after an emergency event occurs are crucial. Dr. Murphy states that “the true first responders in an emergency are the people in the emergency, the employer and employees. They need to be ready to help each other out. They need to be able to work their emergency response plan and be prepared to take care of themselves for up to 72 hours.” Employees who have been trained in CPR or know how to operate fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment can save lives.

Priority number two in the event of an emergency is to stabilize the incident. Even if you plan to do no more than call emergency services and evacuate, it is good to take inventory of available resources that can aid in taking protective action. Make sure that your plan keeps communication lines open, so that properly trained employees can access protective action resources and reach first responders.

 

Testing and Exercises

Once your business has developed an emergency response plan, it is important that you make the information available to employees and test your plan. According to Dr. Murphy, the number one mistake businesses make is not updating and practicing their emergency response plan. Be sure to properly train your personnel and clarify their roles and responsibilities during an emergency. Businesses can practice their emergency response plan by running scheduled drills. Drills should be monitored and timed so managers can report back to staff and reveal any weaknesses or gaps in performance.

 

Resources

If you’re ready to start building an emergency response plan for your business, there are resources that can help. FEMA and ready.gov offer tips and resources such as worksheets and planners to help businesses build, modify and strengthen emergency response plans. Once you’ve established a plan, the American Red Cross Ready Rating can help you evaluate it. If you want to make emergency preparedness your full-time job, the University of Findlay offers an emergency management degree online that can help you make your goals a reality.

The University of Findlay bridges a quality education with accessibility to deliver online degree programs that fulfill the needs of adult learners. Established in 1882, Findlay has maintained a strong focus on its founding mission continuing to deliver an education that equips graduates with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to discover productive careers and lead meaningful lives.

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