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Preparing Your Company for an Emergency

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a new awareness of the importance of disaster preparedness.  The pandemic reminds us that an unexpected crisis can happen anytime or anywhere—and even constitute a new or unanticipated type of crisis.  In the modern world, disaster preparedness goes beyond data backup or planning for a tornado. 

Most managers know that disaster preparedness includes such things as having an off-premises data backup program and a data recovery plan, as well as a plan for what to do in the event of contingencies such as a tornado warning.  However, it is good practice to create a formal crisis management manual for use by your organization in broader-based training and preparedness.

A typical crisis management manual contains plans and instructions for how to respond to four main types of contingencies.  The first type to address is natural disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes, each of which requires a plan for evacuation, shelter, or safety.  The second category is emergency medical response for illness, injury, or death.  The third category is workplace violence or criminal conduct, including an armed intruder or bomb threat.  Finally, you need a plan for utility emergencies, such as an interruption in electrical power, a natural gas leak, or a water main break. 

Today, however, it seems that we need to add a fifth type of contingency: pandemics or epidemics.  How are you going to address staffing issues, working from home, new technology needs, Internet capacity needs, health concerns, document management and transmittal?  How will you take care of both your employees and customers?  I address some of these issues in my earlier blog, Back to Normal at Bookkeeping Plus.

At any rate, your crisis manual still needs to include the mainstays of emergency planning: information on the location of building exits (a floor plan graphic is a good idea), emergency phone numbers for local law enforcement and medical authorities, and contact numbers/websites for utilities and repair persons.  Also, check with your alarm system provider regarding provisions for instantly summoning help through the alarm system.

A search of the web will guide you to sample crisis management manuals and other resources for creating your own. Make sure you provide training to your department heads or supervisors, and periodically review the procedures with your employees.  As with most other types of business contingencies—known and unknown—preparedness is the key.  —Beth A. Marsh, CEO

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