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6 Steps to Evaluating Your Disaster Plan

Emergencies
by ckilbourne

Since you never know when a disaster will hit and how it will affect your workplace, the key is to be prepared. And a first step for that is to evaluate—or reevaluate—your disaster plan.

Here are six steps to take to insure a comprehensive review of your workplace disaster preparedness plan.

Step 1. Assign priority and responsibility.

Make it clear that management gives the project high priority and support.
Assign one person to coordinate the task force or work group that will evaluate hazards and prepare plans. Select and appoint the participants. Most organizations try to involve a wide representation of managers, supervisors, and employees.

Be sure to involve human resources, as well as safety, security, and operations. When a disaster occurs, employees will come to HR.

Establish goals and timelines for completion of your review and update.

Step 2. Evaluate your facility’s challenges and hazards.

Evaluate your situation to determine likely or potential problems. Certain challenges could face almost all organizations—fires, injuries, medical emergencies, and violence.

Address threats that are specific to your geographic location, including flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather-related problems.

Categorize and list threats related to your specific operations, such as dangerous equipment, dangerous environments (e.g., confined spaces), and hazardous substances.

Consider neighboring facilities and the threats they may pose.

If your buildings are some distance from fire, police, and emergency services, ascertain if providing extra training and equipment will help employees deal with emergencies until responders arrive.

After approval, put the plan in writing, and share pertinent parts with employees.


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Step 3. Delineate steps for avoidance and prevention.

Once threats are identified, think of measures that will prevent or contain them.
Establish new rules or procedures as needed, such as increased security or more vigilance in enforcement of safety rules.

Determine if more training in areas such as first-aid and CPR, hazardous materials response, or handling threats of violence may be required.

Devise site-specific preparations for protecting materials, equipment, and data.
Take steps to provide technological or physical protection for IT, including redundant systems and off-site capabilities.

Meet with local emergency services organizations, including fire and police, and invite them to do a "walk-through" of your facility to familiarize themselves with the layout and help identify potential problems.

Step 4. Plan for actions during and after a disaster.

Prepare for evacuation

  • Install and/or test the emergency alert systems.
  • Review evacuation routes and designate assembly sites and reporting procedures.
  • Inform employees, contractors, and others who frequent your facilities about the alert signal and the evacuation plan.
  • Detail equipment shutdown procedures and identify employees who will stay to accomplish them.

Establish a command post

Identify:

  • The location (on- and off-site)
  • Who will be in charge
  • Alternate communication methods including your website and intranet
  • Who will deal with police, fire, and hazardous materials responders
  • Who will deal with the media

Prepare for ongoing operations

In your planning, determine ways you will keep the business going after a disaster, including alternative sources of power, water, utilities, etc.

Find sources of temporary space, computer capability, phones, and other means needed to do whatever you normally accomplish.


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Step 5. Practice your procedures.

Conduct practice drills to ensure that every employee knows what to do. Determine if drills uncover flaws in your plan.

Step 6. Make regular reviews.

Your standing procedures should include annual reviews of your plan. People leave, phone systems change, partitions are built, and so on. Also note if new technologies, equipment, hazardous substances, etc. have been introduced.

Tomorrow, we’ll address disaster recovery roles and responsibilities.

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