Corporate preparedness is one of Total Prepare’s biggest strengths. We understand that organizations have many moving parts, valuable assets, and budgets to consider and we work with companies big and small to help them get prepared. In this article we’ll be discussing just how that’s done. We’ll cover creating a plan, establishing supplies, and organizing regular drills. Together, we’ll hone the skills and reactions of staff and management.
We aim for this guide to be comprehensive, but please don’t hesitate to contact our team of professionals for personalized help. We’re always more than happy to assist!
Making a Plan
The first step in creating an emergency plan is conducting a risk assessment. Knowing what you’re preparing for really makes planning easier. If your organization has a health and safety committee, or an emergency prep team, they’ll likely already have something in place. If not, here’s how you can start:
Look to your local area and list the hazards that might impact the business in an immediate way. Fire, flood, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis are issues experienced in different areas of Canada. Check with your provincial website to discover what hazards are most common in your region.
Unfortunately, civil disasters are also an element that requires consideration. This is especially important if your business is located in a city center. If applicable, add items like riots, active shooters, and bomb threats to the list.
Once all the external threats are listed, turn your inspection inward. If you handle hazardous or explosive materials, heavy machinery, or work in a dangerous place (climbing trees or power poles for example) then add ‘accidents’ to your assessment list. If there are other internal risks, write those down too. Examples might include: fire, loss/corruption of data, gas leaks, mechanical break down, or cyber attack.
Once you have your list of risks, order them by how much damage they are likely to cause, and how likely each is to occur.
Go through your listed hazards and determine which of your assets are at risk in each type of emergency. People (staff/customers) and data should be high priority. Also list physical goods, infrastructure, and even reputation. If the environment may be impacted by an emergency (a dangerous chemical spill for example) include this in your list too.
Once your endangered assets are established consider what vulnerabilities surround each. That crack in your wall, or those pop-ups the receptionist clicks, might seem harmless, but can exacerbate major problems. Both could take a physical or cyber emergency from bad to worse, leading to building instability or hackers.
Vulnerabilities are anything that would make an asset more likely to be damaged by a hazard. Think through everything from processes, to infrastructure, security, and loss prevention programs.
Impacts and Mitigation
What impact would an emergency have on the assets listed in the previous section? Would there be casualties? Property damage or business interruption? Lawsuits, or loss of confidence in the company?
Go through each of your assets and conduct a impact assessment. Explore the potential end results of an emergency in each area. Once we understand what might go wrong, steps can be put in place to mitigate danger.
Look at all the information you’ve gathered and consider how you can minimize risks and speed recovery. You might discover simple things that can make a big difference! Fire sprinklers, back up generators, a business continuity plan, emergency supplies, insurance, and updated cyber security are all examples of risk mitigation.
Creating a Plan
You’re sitting at your desk putting the finishing touches on an important proposal when you hear shouting downstairs. You leap to your feet as one of your loyal team throws your door open, their face stretched in distress.
“Boss, you’re not going to believe this,” they say, leading you to the lobby at a jog. “It’s everywhere. The records room’s hit worst, but if it goes any further the servers are next.”
There’s water up to your ankles, but you splash in fearlessly, ignoring the smell of damp. Your pants cling to your legs as you wade deeper, dread growing in your chest until you see the open door to the basement, where the records room used to be. The stairs are invisible beneath the rising flood.
“I knew the river was pushing the dam’s limits, but this…” you rub your eyes, “where on earth is Jenson? I want to hear what facilities thinks of all this.”
Your employee glances around, shrugging, so you call to another in the hall.
“Don’t worry Alex, we’ll sort this out. Have you seen Jenson?” you ask, offering what comfort you can. Alex sobs, lifting a shaking hand to point at the basement door.
“He was double checking the pipes when it all rushed in. I didn’t see him come out. I called 911 but the number’s busy. No one’s coming.”
What do you do?
In the above scenario, we have three different emergencies playing out. A flood is devastating important records, vital servers are at risk, and an employee is missing and potentially in danger. Although this instance is very specific, the business has covered enough in their emergency plan to react in an efficient and logical way.
While ’employee trapped in a flooded basement’ might not be in the plan, a missing employee might be. Following procedure might reveal that Jenson is actually in the lunch room, having left the basement unseen. Procedures for protecting data, and containing floods would be highly relevant. Perhaps the business has mitigated these risks by backing up all their files on a remote server, or keeping records in watertight containers.
When building a plan for your organization, look through each risk covered in the risk assessment and write out a detailed, clear, and easy to follow guide of how employees and management should react. If you have a leadership team or emergency wardens be sure that each of them have a digital and physical copy of the plan. They should know it back to front.
Mention meeting places, and make note of where your leaders can collect/access emergency supplies if an evacuation or shelter in place scenario becomes necessary. Make it clear to every employee that they should check in with their leaders before leaving the premises. It’s important to take a roll-call to ensure that everyone is accounted for.
Severe emergencies can often require staying in your place of business, or at a meeting point nearby, for several days. Over this time, some employees may find their way home, while others might be delayed by inclement weather, inaccessible roads, or injury. It is recommended that every organization have at least 72 hours worth of supplies for employees. Depending on the nature of the organization, supplies may also be required for customers, guests, students, or patients.
Total Prepare carries pre-built, customizable solutions for any size of office or workplace. Our one-stop-shop kits cover a range of budgets and different levels of preparedness. Not sure which is right for you? Contact our team of friendly professionals and we’ll help you find the right fit for your organization, or customize our options for a tailor-made kit.
DIY Workplace Emergency Kits
If you are only looking for a few items, or purchasing piecemeal to work within a budget or schedule, you’ll want to ensure that you have covered all the essentials. Below we outline some of the most important things to include in your DIY Workplace Emergency Kit. We’ve ordered them by their usual level of importance, but some items may be of higher or lower priority for your organizational needs.
Water is the first priority in most kits. Water is crucial to life, and dehydration can effect people quickly. Pipes can crack in earthquakes, back-up in floods and burst in extreme cold, so a back up option is a must.
We’ve written extensively on how to approach water solutions in the past, but here’s a quick synopsis. There are three ways to deal with water needs: Storage, Filtration, and Treatment. Storage refers to water that you have either packed and preserved yourself, or pouches and cans of professionally sealed water with longer shelf lives (up to 50 years!) If you purchase packaged water from Total Prepare, we’ll be sure to give you a courtesy call to let you know when its expiry date is coming up.
Filtration and treatment both take available fresh water (why let a flood go to waste?) and process it until it’s safe to consume. These options come in different strengths and dosages, so be sure to read the labels. If you’re drinking from a source that comes into regular contact with humans, stick to methods that remove viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa!
We’ve got to eat! Happily, there are plenty of options when it comes to emergency food. The most common ration in the emergency preparedness world is the 3600 Calorie Ration Bar. Each package contains enough calories to support someone for 3 days if rationing down to 1200 calories per day. These bars are resistant to temperature changes and tend to have a 5 year shelf life.
For organizations that require a longer period of preparedness we recommend freeze dried food. We cover freeze dried options extensively here. Most freeze dried foods have 20+ year shelf lives and a much broader nutritional range than calorie bars. They are tasty, easy to cook meals that last best stored in cool, consistent temperatures. These options do require extra water and heat to cook. Gluten free options are available!
If you purchase cases of ration bars or freeze dried food from Total Prepare, we’ll follow up near the expiry date with a courtesy call.
Outside of food and water, there are a handful of essential supplies that we recommend stocking up on, even if you’re creating a minimalist kit. These are small, lightweight items that can make the difference between life and death in extreme circumstances.
- Emergency Blankets
- Emergency Ponchos (body heat is lost 7x faster when wet)
- First Aid Kit
- N95 Dust Masks
- Waste Management Kit (and lots of extra hand sanitizer)
- Binder listing staff and emergency contacts
Half of this list cost less than $2 per unit, and can make a monumental difference to the health and well-being of an employee or customer. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive kit, there are lots of great options that can be added to the above for additional safety and comfort in an emergency:
- Garbage bags
- Army Knife
- Generators/Solar Panels
- Emergency phone chargers
- Duct Tape
- And lots more!
For large organizations, we also recommend compiling Warden Kits or search and rescue kits, with some of the following:
- Hard Hats
- Pry Bars
- Sledge Hammer
- Extra Blankets
- Extra First Aid
- Safety glasses
- Work Gloves
- Reflective Vests
- Signal Whistle
Practice Makes Perfect
So you have a kit, congratulations! Now we need to make sure everyone knows what to do with it. If you haven’t already, establish a safety committee, emergency warden, or designate a team leader who will be in charge of emergency drills and organizing recovery. They should meet once a month to discuss potential risks and mitigation, as well as planning drills and awareness initiatives – ShakeOutBC, or Emergency Preparedness Week for example.
Schedule emergency drills at least twice a year, and practice for different types of emergencies each time. Ensure that all employees are participating, and no one is left behind while the building is ‘on fire.’ Make drills as realistic as possible by enlisting some employees to play wounded or trapped victims. New employees should be educated about procedure right away, and extra considerations should be made for people with special needs.
Be sure to communicate the importance of taking attendance and checking in with wardens too. No one wants to spend precious time and energy during a disaster searching for someone who has simply gone home.
Encourage employees to prepare at home too with payroll purchasing programs (we do that!) or group purchases.
If you’ve gotten this far – great job! You have a plan, a kit, and the practice to make it all work smoothly. Know your risks, mitigate them, then prepare for the worst and hope for the best. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, we’re here to help! Contact us any time by phone (1-888-832-1733) or email.
Thank you for reading!
This article was written by Zenia Platten – Writer and emergency preparedness professional.