Preparedness planning: Three vital steps
Knowing your organization extends to knowing how your staff is likely to perform in a crisis. You already know which of your employees are reliable in crisis. Like most managers, you probably have a “brain trust” of key employees on whose judgement and advice you rely for daily operations. Consider these employees as the nucleus of your crisis management team. Remember that it’s not about job titles but about trust and expertise. By using the same team in varying levels of crisis, you train them and build a rapport that will pay dividends in a large crisis.
It’s common to develop a disaster management plan that is distinct from all your daily plans and procedures with the expectation that this plan will only be used in a disaster. But disasters aren’t always big events and plans must be scalable. Instead of focusing solely on big events, think systematically.
How do you approach a routine emergency? Your first thought is usually, “is everyone okay?” Your next thought is, “what do I need to do to fix this and get back to business?” You try to figure out what’s happened, you gather together the people who can fix the problem, and you get on with it.
While there are some differences, this is the same thing you do in a larger event. There are six basic steps you want to take:
- Take immediate life safety measures to protect your staff and limit damage. This might include evacuation, using fire extinguishers, etc.
- Assemble your crisis management team.
- Assess the damage. In a large event, this includes information about what is happening within your community. One of the problems with disasters as opposed to local emergencies is that the resources you rely on daily may also be affected.
- Develop an action plan. Identify those things that need to be done immediately. There are short-term issues that must be addressed at once but there are also long-term issues that may need to be decided upon and addressed as soon as possible.
- Plan for personnel support. Your employees will be anxious, some may be injured, and some may not be able to get home. You’ll need to make provisions for taking care of them.
- Implement a crisis communications plan. At minimum, you’ll want to communicate with your employees, but remember that your customers will also be concerned. Keeping them in the loop may be the key to keeping their business.
However you approach preparedness planning, remember that to be effective, your plans must be an outgrowth of how you do business. You can’t just switch off your daily routine in a crisis. Instead, the trust and relationships that you’ve built and the procedures you have in place before the crisis will ultimately determine whether your organization stays in business.
Lucien Canton, CEM is a consultant specializing in preparing managers to lead better in crisis by understanding the human factors often overlooked in crisis planning. A popular speaker and lecturer, he is the author of the best-selling "Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs." For more information, visit http://www.luciencanton.com/, or email Info@luciencanton.com.
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