It seems not a week goes by without hearing news of the latest natural disaster affecting our planet. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster, and for those that do, only 29% are still operating two years later. Smart planning can help you keep your business running if disaster strikes.
Less than a month away, September is FEMA’s National Preparedness Month, and the timing is right for business leaders, human resource professionals and individuals everywhere to examine their emergency plans to handle the full range of disasters, whether natural or man-made. I recommend the following 3 best practices for creating an effective emergency preparedness approach to communicate vital information to your team during instances of natural and crime-related emergencies.
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Have an Emergency Plan In Place
As unfortunate situations can be inevitable, it is incredibly important to implement a proactive, targeted and ongoing crisis communications strategy. Understanding the threats to your business and the potential costs of responding to them is critical to emergency planning. A risk assessment and a corresponding business impact analysis is paramount. These assessments are also a great way to create a clear picture of why planning is so important. They will help you understand whether or not you could even recover from a disaster, how long it would take and the potential costs of operations going down.
A risk assessment will help you prioritize emergency planning, based on the most prevalent threats. Preserve your equipment and business records by referencing this IRS guide on protecting your information before an emergency strikes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also offers an emergency preparedness checklist and toolkit.
Build a Cross-Functional Emergency Team
Good emergency planning takes the cooperation of people from departments within the company. Assemble a team that makes sense for your organization and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each member. Your staff also needs to understand what to do and be comfortable carrying out the assigned responsibilities. This can take practice so that all team members are prepared.
Also, make sure you constantly monitor for oncoming threats so you can respond appropriately and quickly whenever possible. While this isn’t possible with all types of disasters, in many cases, you can at least get a few minutes of advance warning, and communicate the warning throughout your team. Every minute counts in an emergency.
Leverage Technology to Communicate Quickly with your Frontline Staff
While your initial emergency planning focus may be on headquarters operations, it’s also important to consider what will happen at the frontlines of your business. A disaster that disables the power to your stores creates dangerous conditions for staff and customers or compromises your team’s ability to perform needs to be handled immediately. It is critical to be able to reach your frontline team to ensure their safety, and effectively and efficiently provide vital information they need.
First and foremost, be as timely as possible. Don’t let too much time lapse before clearly communicating to everyone in your organization who may be impacted by a disaster. If businesses aren’t proactive and timely with what they communicate, you can bet it could lead to confusion, panic, and frustration. All of this can be avoided with the right crisis strategy and communications platforms.
Here’s what I suggest: Business leaders should work with their HR and internal communications teams to craft messaging that gets out ahead of anticipated questions from their frontline workers before they’re even asked. This requires putting themselves into the mindsets of their frontline workers – understanding the nature and context of their roles, work shifts, and priorities.
On top of that, think through the possible scenarios and what the most pressing issues will be for the folks who work on the store floors – and interact with customers first-hand. This vital information will help both your team and customers during their time of need. By preparing these details in advance, you won’t be scrambling to answer as many tough questions on the fly and, in turn, you’ll avoid dangerous missteps.