The best time to prepare for an emergency is before an emergency is imminent, but with so many potential threats from cyberattacks or natural disasters to physical threats like a fire or an active shooter, it can be overwhelming to consider all the possibilities and determine how best to respond. While we can’t know exactly what’s coming, we can prepare for what we’ll do when it does, which is a critical factor in surviving the challenges our organizations face.
Up to 40% of businesses that shut down in response to a natural disaster or emergency event don’t come back from it. The key is in your watertight Emergency Action Plan (EAP), which is designed to help you assess the risk factors facing your organization and have the resources on hand so that you are ready to respond and protect your team members in any of the possible scenarios. This is also smart from a business perspective. In a notable study by Liberty Mutual, 60% of CFOs reported that for every $1 invested in injury prevention, there was a return of $2 or more. If you already have an EAP, that’s great; you’ve taken an important first step in ensuring operational readiness in the face of an event or incident. EAPs, like every facet of your business readiness strategy, need to be evaluated and assessed regularly to ensure they’re optimized in our changing business landscape and world.
Here’s how to assess your EAP to ensure your organization can handle whatever’s coming your way.
An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a component of your business preparedness strategy that details the appropriate response in the face of different types of emergencies that could impact your organization - emergencies like hurricanes and other weather events, equipment and facility safety concerns or malfunctions, and human-caused events like an active shooter. The process of creating an EAP and effectively training your leadership and team members has a direct impact on mitigating risk and protecting the health and safety of your team members and clients. Each organization’s EAP is unique to them, tailored to their geographic location(s), employee population, and the likelihood of certain types of risks. Once you have an EAP, it’s important to regularly assess it to ensure that the procedures are up-to-date with the reality of your organization. Some common components to EAPs are:
This last point is important, because, while most businesses have some form of EAP in place, if it is out of date, it is much less likely to protect them in the event of an emergency.
At the end of each of the sections below, you’ll find an “Assess Your EAP question.” In each case, give your answer a score of 1 (ready to respond) to 5 (needs updating) to determine which areas of your EAP need some attention.
In the event of different types of emergencies, you need dedicated leaders to respond. Your leadership team must make it clear that your EAP is a high-priority asset to your organization. Your EAP should have a dedicated task force that represents your organization’s diverse internal stakeholders, not just managers.
In the case of specific emergencies, you will have specific responses to the situation. For example, during a fire, your primary form of communication will be pulling the fire alarm, and your trained and dedicated fire safety team will lead employees outside. It’s imperative that your EAP clearly outline the roles responding to various threats, what their responsibilities are, and train them to do it effectively. You will also want to ensure that any necessary equipment or assets included in your EAP are routinely inspected for inventory, compliance, and functionality. Vector Check It is the ultimate mobile application for performing routine checks of inventory, equipment, and assets, and can help organizations strengthen their EAP by efficiently managing assets and other mission-critical items. This includes preventing waste and mitigating the risk of human error, ensuring that, if and when an emergency strikes, the tools and supplies you and your team rely on are up-to-date and ready to use.
All employees should be trained in your EAP and new hires should be trained right away, as emergencies can happen at any time.
Assess Your EAP Question #1:
Does your EAP have the dedicated training resources and personnel necessary to optimize your response?
Emergencies are concerning and we want to be prepared for everything, but, for most organizations, the risks they face come down to a few categories:
Your response to each of these events will be different; for a fire, you will want to evacuate, whereas, in the case of an external threat, you may be better off sheltering in place. By determining the types of internal, external, and human health risks your organization faces, you can put a plan in place to respond safely to these risks.
Assess Your EAP Question #2:
Does your plan accurately reflect updated procedures for each of these scenarios so that you can train your critical response teams?
Communication is central to so many aspects of business and it is critical when it comes to emergency response. During an emergency, you will have different types of communication needs depending on the situation:
In each of these cases, different communication methods can be used to effectively notify and assist employees and authorities as you work through your EAP.
In some cases, Emergency Mass Notification Systems can be useful to broadcast one-way communications in a crisis. These EMNS platforms can share relevant information, give weather warnings and updates, remind employees and visitors of protocols, and sound the all-clear when the threat is resolved.
In other cases, two-way communication can be critical to optimizing your response, such as in an active shooter incident. Vector LiveSafe is the leading mobile platform for emergency notification, risk management, and safety communications. The mobile app enables your leadership to have two-way communication with employees, which empowers them to easily provide relevant information and report safety concerns to safety personnel throughout the incident. The platform also allows operations managers to broadcast notifications across multiple channels including SMS, phone, email, and push notifications to ensure everyone is informed.
Assess Your EAP Question #3:
Are you able to seamlessly communicate with your employees and authorities in different emergencies?
Part of mitigating risk to your organization is identifying emerging threats and using data from past experiences to help predict future vulnerabilities. Incorporating real data both by predicting incidents and analyzing your organization’s past response to them is critical to consider as part of your EAP, as new threats may arise that you have not faced before. Vector LiveSafe uses real-time analytics and dashboards to collect anonymous, crowd-sourced information that helps your security personnel and risk managers accurately identify potential threats and risks before they occur. A safety management system, like Vector EHS Management, connects all safety areas in one easy-to-use platform, saving time and improving efficiency in your safety department. Through custom reports and dashboards, Vector EHS Management simplifies processes so you can effectively analyze your safety data to maximize your emergency preparedness.
Assess Your EAP Question #4: Do you accurately capture and analyze the data that can help you more effectively predict and respond to emergencies?
Tip #5: Review and Update Your EAP Annually
Change is the only constant! As our world changes, new challenges arise for organizations, and we must keep up by reviewing and revising our plans for remaining resilient in the face of them. Review your EAP annually, at a minimum, and consider any new risks or changes that have taken place that may impact how effective your EAP is for your organization. Some changes that could impact your EAP:
It may seem irrelevant, but a new building may have updated fire codes, which might change your evacuation plan or route in the case of a fire. A new location might face a different set of weather conditions that could impact your operational readiness. Any changes need to be considered when you review your EAP each year.
Assess Your EAP Question #5:
Do you review your EAP at regular intervals to reflect internal and external changes that may impact the safety of your organization?
There is no way to know what we’ll face next, but, by leveraging the right solutions, capturing meaningful data, and giving our employees the training and resources they need to safely respond in the face of an emergency, we’re optimizing our businesses for success. Ensuring your EAP is a valued and prioritized resource in your organization will increase your resilience to the challenges of the future. At Vector Solutions, we’re proud to help organizations in critical industries train and develop their teams, manage their operations and workforce, and mitigate risk by making safer, smarter, better decisions. Find out how we can help your organization increase stay operationally ready in today’s fast-changing business environment.