No one expects the worst to happen, but sometimes it just does. Whether it is a complete power outage or a fire breaking out in your break room, preparing for the unexpected should be part of your overall safety program.
While prevention should always be your first priority, preparedness may reduce the severity of the event and help maintain your employees’ safety.
Emergency Planning is Your Responsibility
Every company should have a published, well-communicated and practiced emergency preparedness and life safety plan.
The National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) provide codes, regulations and guidance on emergency action and fire prevention plans, including minimum standards. OSHA, in fact, requires a written emergency action plan for workplaces with 10 or more employees. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must still have an emergency action plan, but they may communicate the plan orally to employees.
Of course, a plan is only as good as its effectiveness, when put into action. How would your plan fare in a real emergency? Do your employees know what to do? These are questions to ask before an emergency happens.
Communicating, training and drilling are all essential elements to include in your emergency action plan, and can help make the critical difference in life safety outcomes.
Effective Planning Can Save Lives
In the first critical minutes of an emergency, taking the right steps can help save lives. Planning ahead and maintaining a well-trained emergency team can help make the critical difference.
- Appoint, organize and train designated staff with their emergency response duties and responsibilities.
- Document and distribute emergency procedures, including how to notify the fire department, evacuate employees and provide accommodations for those with special assistance needs.
- Publish instructions for the use of emergency equipment, such as the voice communication system, the alarm system or emergency power supply system.
- Post procedures for confining, controlling and extinguishing fires.
- Post procedures for assisting the fire department in accessing and locating the fire.
- Communicate your evacuation plan to all employees, visitors, vendors and contractors.
- Distribute the plan to emergency personnel who will be responsible for taking actions to maximize the safety of building occupants, including the fire department and designated emergency management and supervisory staff.
- Post your evacuation/floor plan exit diagram in clearly visible locations. Assign locations away from the building or job site for employees to gather.
- Practice drills on a regular basis. Monitor and evaluate drill performance to consider improvements.
- Include full, partial and shelter-in-place evacuations, designed in cooperation with local authorities, to familiarize employees with procedures.
- Develop a roll call system to account for all persons and notifications to the fire department of any missing person.
Travelers safety professionals see a broad spectrum of businesses and facilities and understand the plans used to ensure emergency preparedness. Every day, we share our insights with our customers to help keep their businesses, and most importantly, their people, safe.
There are many reasons why your company needs a business continuity plan. Having a strategy – before an event happens – helps to maximize the chance your business can recover while minimizing the loss of property, life and assets.
Developing your business continuity plan should be a thoughtful process resulting in a plan that can be beneficial to you if an event occurs.
Start by assembling a team of key decision-makers who will lead your continuity planning efforts. Senior management, team leaders and anyone with in-depth knowledge about business operations should be included.
Four Steps to Developing an Effective Business Continuity Plan
- Identify threats or risks
Understanding the risks that could leave employees, customers, vendors, property and operations vulnerable is fundamental. Threats can include, but are not limited to natural disasters, malicious attacks, power outages and system failures.
Identify the risks most likely to occur based on historical, geographical, organizational and other factors. Then weigh the probability of each event against its potential impact to your business, as well as your readiness to respond.
- Conduct a business impact analysis
Identify the people, places, providers, processes and programs critical to the survival of your business. What functions and resources, if interrupted or lost, could impact your ability to provide goods and services or meet regulatory requirements?
Consider who and what is absolutely necessary to restore critical operations. Then prioritize the need to restore each item after the event. Plan to use limited resources wisely. Complementary functions can always be restored later.
- Adopt controls for prevention and mitigation
Prevention and mitigation planning and activities are intended to help prevent an event (such as a fire or explosion from unsafe conditions) as well as to reduce the impact or severity of an event (such as relocating critical equipment to a higher elevation in flood-susceptible areas).
Your prevention and mitigation plans should address, among other things, emergency response, public relations, resource management, and employee communications.
- Test, exercise and improve your plan routinely
A business continuity plan is an evolving strategy that should adapt to your company’s ever-changing needs. Test and update it regularly – yearly at a minimum – or any time critical functions, facilities, suppliers or personnel change. Train employees to understand their role in executing the plan, too.
Exercises can include discussions or hypothetical walk-throughs of scenarios to live drills or simulations. The key is to ensure the plan works as intended.
Cyber and workforce risks rising concern for U.S. businesses.
American business leaders worry about the same major risks as they did in 2014, however rising levels of concern over cyber risks and the ability to attract and retain talent have shifted the ranks in some subtle and no-so-subtle ways.
1. Medical Cost Inflation – Medical cost inflation still leads the list of top perceived risks despite a nearly 10 percentage point drop in general concern from 67% in 2014 to 60% in 2015.
2. Cyber Risks – Making the greatest leap from fifth in 2014 to second this year, concern over cyber risk has grown considerably, particularly among large businesses. In fact, 9 out of all 10 industries surveyed report cyber risks and data breaches among their top 5 concerns.
3. Increasing Employee Benefit Costs – Closely related to concerns over medical cost inflation, worry over increasing employee benefit costs, has also fallen, from 62% to 56% since last year.
4. Legal Liability – Although general concern over legal liability has decreased only 2% since last year, its ranking has dropped to fourth from third in 2014.
5. Attracting & Retaining Talent – U.S. businesses are increasingly worried about the challenge of finding and retaining skilled labor, with a 3% increase since last year resulting in a jump from last to fifth on the list of top risk concerns.
6. Regulatory Compliance – Nearly unchanged since last year, among the 51% of all businesses concerned about complying with laws and regulations, 29% worry a great deal.
7. Broad Economic Uncertainty – U.S. business owners showed a slight reprieve from worry over the economy, with concern about broad economic uncertainty down in level (by 6%) and ranking (by 4 places) since 2014.
Many U.S. Businesses Still Feel Unprepared for Top Risks
While the ranking of top concerns may have slightly shifted, the gaps between how much U.S. businesses worry verses how prepared they feel to manage these risks remains large. In fact, the top risk concerns are often among the 3 to 5 risks businesses feel the least prepared to handle. Furthermore, only 50% of companies report having a written business continuity plan.
Global and Political Conflict, Extreme Weather Emerging Concerns
While not quite making the cut of top risks, concern over geopolitical conflict has risen significantly among U.S. business leaders. One-third surveyed (32%) worry about global and political conflicts, while one-quarter believe political unrest is of greater concern today than it was five to 10 years ago.
More than half of all business surveyed (52%) believe the frequency of severe weather events has increased over the past few years. More importantly, one-third believe these increases in extreme weather also increase the threat of damage to company property and equipment.