Major disasters or minor emergencies. When they hit you, it doesn’t matter for the moment which is which. If you’re caught up in protecting you and those around you, your responsibilities, actions, and follow-up will be the same whether the whole community is involved, or it’s just you.
Let’s look at a key point in the above statement; “When they hit.” For most of us, the better part of our day and week is spent at work. The details surrounding protection in the workplace takes up volumes. For our focus today though, let’s look at one aspect of business life: the meeting.
What do you do if an emergency strikes in the middle of a business meeting?
The answer is as simple as “1, 2, 3.”
You have 1 main responsibility.
You have 2 types of immediate reactions.
And you have at least 3 sources of assets and solutions.
Your Main Responsibility:
Your one and only responsibility is the safety and well being of people in your building, at your meeting, or attending your event. This goes for the one-time guest as much as for the full time employee. Though we say this is your “one” responsibility, it’s a huge one and it should be the cornerstone of all the contingency planning and emergency preparedness efforts you put in place before any meeting or event is ever put on the calendar.
Your Two Immediate Reactions:
Emergencies are divided into two types: The evacuation emergencies, like fire, and the shelter-in-place emergencies such as a tornado. So in your planning, account for both, and run each through the phases of planning, table-top-exercises, and functional drills. When you do this, go above and beyond fire and weather. Think about things like earthquake which is both a temporary shelter and then a building evacuation. Then there’s an “active shooter” scenario when contains elements of both as well. And what about hazardous materials? Or a bomb threat?
Work with local emergency management and law enforcement when you create plans and have drills. They need to know you and your facility and they can add pointers you never would have thought of.
Your Three Sources of Solutions and Assets
In all emergency planning, your number one goal should be confidence. You should have confidence in the fact you’ve tried your best to cover every scenario, you should have confidence in the ability of your staff to react to the level of their training, and you should have confidence in the fact that your solutions and assets will always outnumber your threats if you know where to look.
1. Local emergency responders: As we stated, they need to be involved in planning so they’re ahead of the curve if the emergency call comes in. Also, make sure you have redundant communication options. In addition to calling 911, you should have an alarm system tied in directly to the 911 center
2. Your staff: The most overlooked aspect of site security and Business Continuity is the individual employee. Your employees should be trained in emergency reaction. Not just your security staff, but all employees. Never underestimate this asset. Employees who are trained in preparedness are much more likely to react properly in a work emergency and are also more likely to report for duty in times of crisis and turn your Business Continuity Plan into a functional reality rather than an exercise on paper.
3. Today’s technology: One crucial component to emergency reaction is communication. Emergency Management needs to know if an emergency has occurred and those under you care in your building need to be accounted for and their actions properly directed. Though the list of technological assets is long indeed, consider just a few options:
A. A building-wide alarm system combined with a Public Address system and a camera monitor system that can be accessed off-site or online by emergency management or building security.
B. Mass texting or voice messaging through employee cell phones. This can alert employees in the building that an urgent situation has developed or can be used to call off a second shift until a crisis is over.
C. Software-based guest check-in systems can account for visitors attending your event or meeting. This can be used as an after-the-fact roll call, or you can request their cell phone number on arrival and add it to your mass notification system.
For the purpose of a short presentation we say that meeting and event safety is “as easy as 1, 2, 3.” But if you add up the detail that needs to be considered in each of the steps, we might as well be saying “1,000 – 2,000 – 3,000.” In other words, we were able to convey a few of the major points in this short presentation, but we urge you to not stop there. The safety of your employees and your guests is in your hands. Please put as much effort into this area as you can, and if you need help, let us know.
Blog Post by Paul Purcell (author of Disaster Prep 101 and adviser to www.1800prepare.com)