Developing an Emergency Plan

Question:

You mentioned Emergency Preparedness and Business Resumption in your last Question of the Week. What do you mean? Do I need to have an Emergency Plan in place for my company?

Answer:

What a fitting question for today…this is the one year anniversary of the wind storms resulting from Hurricane Ike that blew through Ohio last year – yes, a hurricane in Ohio. This “dry hurricane” produced wind gusts over 74 mph – equal to a Category I hurricane! This was Ohio’s largest natural disaster since the Xenia tornado in 1974. The damage was unbelievable and homes and businesses were without electricity for days. An estimated 2.6 million customers were without power – many had no electricity up to a week after the storm. This was certainly something that I had never thought to prepare for and many companies were taken by surprise as well.

Most companies don’t think about an Emergency Plan. After all, an emergency is unexpected so how can you plan for it? Actually you can prepare; it just takes some advance planning and foresight. Planning for the unexpected includes:

  • Knowing the types of emergencies that might affect your organization – determining natural disasters that are most common, including fire, the most common business disaster.
  • Putting together an emergency plan that anticipates these emergencies – identifying how will they be handled, who will handle them and how will business proceed.
  • Providing a continuity plan for keeping your organization functioning – inside and out, including everything from participation in the emergency plan to communication efforts to maintaining payroll.
  • Making sure you have the right emergency supplies and have enough – things such as weather radios, flashlights, first aid, food, etc.
  • Deciding when to shelter in-place or evacuate – have a plan for both.
  • Taking steps to handle medical emergencies – training employees in first aid and CPR.

We often think that in times of emergency we can step up-to-the-plate and do what it needed. But when running a business there are so many things to consider when it come to preparedness that things cans easily fall through the cracks. And if you didn’t know, OSHA requires many companies to have a written emergency plan.

According to OSHA, there is very limited information on the value of surgical masks to prevent the spread of the virus when there is no known source of infection.  So the question remains, is the cost worth it?  The bottom line – educate your employees on good hygiene practices; these are truly your best defense in the workplace to reduce the spread of infection.  Frequent hand washing, proper sneezing, and cleaning/disinfecting of work surfaces will provide many of the necessary protections in the workplace.  Of course, if there is someone infected in the workplace keep in mind that surgical masks would be only one small step (with questionable value) in protection.  Isolation and social distancing is a more effective pandemic control strategy in the workplace and should be enforced to eliminate occupational exposure.

Strategic HR, inc. will be hosting an HR Clinic that covers Emergency Preparedness and Business Resumption plans on September 23rd. This event will also include a discussion of the Pan Flu and what employers can do to be prepared. Visit www.strategichrinc.com/hrclinic.htm for more information and to register.

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