The potential reality of an emergency scenario, employee injury or death, business interruption, or negative corporate reputation is an ongoing risk. Because of this persistent potential and changing variables, preparedness must be an evolutionary process. Establishing and maintaining mechanisms, processes, and/or procedures that result in predictable and repeatable behavior that counteract negatively impacting scenarios is the objective of preparedness.
“Preparedness is best thought of as a process—a continuing sequence of analyses, plan development, and the acquisition of individual and team performance skills achieved through training, drills, exercises, and critiques.” (Dynes, et al., 1972; Kartez & Lindell, 1987, 1990).
It is important to recognize that improvising and implementing unplanned response actions is time-consuming, often inadequate, and typically damaging. Whether companies have established response plans, or are developing new plans, they must establish a process to incorporate the following response planning elements:
Each response-planning element is strongly connected with the others. When all three elements are in motion, the ongoing process of preparedness is established, giving companies the best possible prognosis for an effective response.
1. Identify: Preparedness is a continual sequence of analysis. Operational consolidation and growth, and changing threat variables require recognition. In order to prepare for and respond to an incident, emergency managers must identify:
- What risks and hazards may result in an incident?
- What processes are put in place to limit the exposures to risks and hazards?
- What community/environmental sensitivities exist?
- Who will respond when an incident occurs?
- How will responders respond (processes and procedures)?
- How will individuals/employees respond to secure their safety?
- What training will responders need to respond, counteract impacts, and restore to pre-incident levels
- What tools/equipment are necessary to respond to an incident and who will provide these necessities?
- What local, state, and/or federal organizations should be consulted?
- What regulations apply?
- Data and computer needs: Review the procedural details of computer backups, data restoration methods, and the minimum program needs to re-establish critical business processes. Companies should examine current data center outsourcing or other alternatives to ensure continuity and accessibility.
- Notification lists: Response plan administrators must be certain that newly-assigned personnel are included in the plan, as necessary, and that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers. Review contact lists to ensure all necessary information is correct.
- Communication needs: Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. Evaluate current communication equipment and/or mass notification systems to communicate to key individuals, company employees, or an entire client base, as each scenario deems necessary.
- Supply Chain: As a company’s needs change and new suppliers come online, potential suppliers should be evaluated and plans should be updated to reflect any changes. Alternate resources should be reviewed to ensure availability, delivery, and continued operations in the event primary suppliers are not available when needed.
- Essential Personnel: Ensure necessary minimum staffing levels are acceptable to remain operational. Review individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives with staff, contractors, and suppliers.
- Equipment needs: Review availability of necessary equipment and establish processes for response, recovery, and continued operations, in order to minimize downtime and additional recovery efforts. .
3. Verify: The overall emergency response program readiness must be verified for effectiveness and accuracy, regardless of the threat or hazard. Training and exercises are valuable verification tools that can confirm effective response planning and preparedness efforts. Verification should include, but is not limited to:
- A system for assessing emergency scenarios and prioritizing incident responses
- Thresholds and procedures for activating the Incident Management or Crisis Management Team
- Notification information (If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for a e-mail notification verification system that enables each contact to verify their own information. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to register for notifications.)
- Roles and responsibilities of the Incident Management or Crisis Management Team members
- Communication and notification procedures to facilitate interaction among responders and Incident Management Team
- Guidelines and checklists to facilitate an effective and organized response
- Verification of on-site hazardous materials details, response equipment, and response times
(Note: The compiled lists are not all-inclusive. A comprehensive preparedness program must include the identification, review, and verification of site-specific details, regulatory compliance requirements, response parameters, training and exercise measures, and applicable hazards, risks, and threats)
Challenged with managing preparedness amongst your various facilites? Download TRP's best practices guide on response planning for large organizations with multi-facility operations.