An organization needs to manage risks as part of its core management operation if it aims for a sustainable growth that ensures safety of employees and well-being of community in which it operates. Businesses and organizations may face significant risks associated with natural disaster, technological crisis or sometimes socio-political upheaval. In Nepal, this has been more evident in the recent Gorkha Earthquake devastation and the crisis brought about by the border closure. In a broader perspective, disasters and emergencies can therefore have natural and technological causes or they can be man-made. They could have origins outside a business or could also be caused by its own operations within the organization.
So, what is at stake today?
Most often, disasters strike us without warning and may cause harm and disruption to our businesses and organizations. Under the circumstances, employees or their families may suffer great deal of physical injuries or even death while company buildings, equipment, inventory and information may be damaged or lost. Disaster emergencies can also affect businesses more indirectly, for instance by disrupting supply chain network both upstream and downstream. Suppliers, distributors or customers may be unable to do business transactions meanwhile internal operations as well as logistics may collapse miserably.
Such risks may not be prevented or eliminated entirely but the level of impact can be reduced through Emergency Preparedness & Response (EPR) planning within an organization. The EPR planning is primarily for the safety of employees and facilities while at the same time it also ensures continuity of business and community well-being. It basically prepares us for diverse kinds of potential emergencies by equipping us with swift response system to safeguard our employees as well as our business facilities. Moreover, it could help businesses/organizations including their employees, operations and nearby community to recover more quickly and effectively after a disaster situation.
Where do we start?
While the entire planning procedure can be discussed at length, this piece of writing here simply provides a good starting point for any organization to plan for or at least start thinking about possible contingency plans. Moving ahead with risk assessment, resource allocation, their mobilization and plan implementation phases, there might be instances when expert advice would be needed to bring in other tools, templates, documents and resources such as Hazard Identification, Vulnerability Assessment, Evacuation Planning, Procedural Writing, Hazard Communication, Safety Management System, Business Impact Analysis, Employee Training, Exercises, and Drills etc.
Setting goals and objectives
Although an EPR planning seeks inputs from various layers of management within an organization, the leadership of top level management is critical for its successful implementation. First off, business managers should sincerely set their organization-level resilience goal, objective and scope while formulating their contingency plan. She/he could start with a basic understanding of the EPR planning activities and later move ahead with an easy-to-follow steps to develop a customized EPR plan, suitable for her/his organization.
In preparation of an EPR plan, the specifics within the objective would first require a thorough review of organization’s current level of emergency preparedness. This could be achieved by clearly identifying the potential hazards faced by the employees, facility and business operations within the organization. Risk assessment, mitigation actions and writing emergency response procedures could be the consecutive significant facets of developing an organization-level Emergency Preparedness & Response plan.
Let’s break it down into simple steps
At times, developing an effective Emergency Preparedness & Response plan can be a very challenging, time-consuming as well as cumbersome task for organizations. Thus, it is important to grasp the overall picture by first breaking it down into simple steps to follow. For the ease of understanding below we’ve divided the EPR planning into 5 major steps.
Step 1 – Committing to EPR planning:The key actions involved in this step would ensure your company’s commitment to increasing your organizational emergency preparedness. Top leadership commitment is a must.
Step 2 – Conducting a thorough assessment of hazards/ vulnerabilities in and around the facility: The key actions involved in this step would help gather information about possible disasters or emergencies that could impact your business as usual. They would also help review your facility’s existing capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster. For adequate risk mitigation, priority actions should be set and acted upon after the completion of risk assessment.
Step 3 – Developing an emergency response plan:The key actions involved in this step would describe the activities your business or organization will undertake to protect it and its employees before, during and after an emergency. Step-by-step detail procedural writing is essential at this juncture. Care must be taken to prioritize and address all the hazards identified in Step 2.
Step 4 – Implementing emergency response plan: The key actions involved in this step would help the planning committee to implement the emergency response plan with employees. Employee training, exercise and drills are probably the most important aspect of any emergency preparedness and response planning procedure.
Step 5 – Helping communities prepare for and respond to emergencies:The key actions involved in this step would help you make additional commitments aligning with your company’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. This is also important because we know that business organizations and communities are inextricably intertwined together and that they have to support and nurture each other to survive and sustain, especially when a disaster strikes.
Could this be your milestone business initiative?
Increasing number of disaster is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. We do not need to look elsewhere as we revisit a series of recent disasters that took place in our own backyards. As avalanche, landslide, flood, fire, earthquake, cyclone, political strike and economic blockade are becoming frequent events, are our organizations and private businesses ready to face such painful surprises? How prepared are we to sustain our businesses through these catastrophes?
First and foremost, top leadership as well as executive business managers should be ready and willing to take ownership of their organizational EPR planning process. It is absolutely clear that disaster threats; natural or otherwise will remain no matter how hard we resist. However, the emergency planning can certainly help businesses/organizations take proactive measures to reduce the impact and likelihood of loss after a disruptive event. Therefore, considering the inevitable nature of disasters we might face someday, preparing and planning for emergency could be a milestone initiative by every organization of all shapes and sizes countrywide.