Emergency Planning: Command Solutions’ Expert Advice
Dozens of finely tuned cogs and gears turn the emergency planning wheel. And when any one of those cogs or gears sticks, slips, or stops, the wheel is sent careening off its track.
That was the theme of a recent webcast presented by Command Solutions and sponsored by ARC. Command Solutions, which is owned and operated by a group of retired Professional Fire Chief Officers, trains organizations how to effectively plan for emergencies.
During the webcast, which was hosted by Facility Executive Magazine, our readers had the unique opportunity to listen in to retired Battalion Chiefs Dennis Hohl and KJ Spurlock. Here’s what we learned.
Writing an Emergency Plan is Not as Easy as it Seems
KJ Spurlock and Dennis Hohl make a living poking holes in emergency plans. That’s why, before discussing the common emergency planning gaps they see and correct every day, Spurlock was quick to point out that writing emergency plans is anything but easy.
He likened the entire process of emergency planning to a clock, with several gears and cogs that must all consistently work in concert to make successful preparation, response, recovery and mitigation possible.
KJ identified the four cycles of emergency planning, as shown in the image below.
He asked listeners to imagine the larger cogs—preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery—as consisting of many smaller cogs.
KJ used this illustration to make the point that, given such complexity, it’s easier on facility teams to design smaller components, such as a communication plan, then insert them into the entire emergency planning machine.
Emergency Management is Not the Same as Business Continuity
During conversations with Command Solutions’ clients and prospects, Spurlock and Hohl began to notice widespread confusion related to emergency planning versus business continuity.
This is an issue, they said, because many organizations are treating business continuity and emergency planning as one in the same. This is both inaccurate and dangerous because business continuity plans are primarily concerned with protecting and restoring IT systems, protecting the organization’s online reputation, and other related tasks.
Emergency management, on the other hand, exists to “safeguard people from harm, protect assets and resources from danger, threats and hazards,” Spurlock said.
Because of this confusion, organizations are leaving their employees vulnerable by overemphasizing business continuity.
Command Solutions proposes a stronger focus on emergency planning and preparedness while maintaining a strong emphasis on IT, data, and business functions. This, they say, will actually create a more effective business continuity plan in the long run.
Emergency Planning is Not a “Fill in the Blank” Exercise
When asked how a lack of understanding of the emergency planning process manifests itself as a problem, KJ highlighted the emergency planning resources many organizations find on the internet.
The problem with these forms is that they’re very basic boilerplate, fill-in-the-blank forms. This is an issue because specific organizations and industries require a customized plan to be truly prepared.
KJ put it rather bluntly when he said, “Just because you download an emergency plan, and fill in the blanks, that does not ensure that you are actually prepared for anything.”
He said that careful consideration must be made for the unique needs of each organization. Moreover, organizations in different industries such as healthcare, education, and government, must make plans that are specific to their industry.
Plans Must be Replicated in Different Locations and Formats
Another issue that the experts at Command Solutions highlighted was that most emergency plans are placed in a large 3-ring binder that sits on a bookshelf and collects dust. Then, most of the time, when an incident occurs, no one knows where the plan is. Either that or they forget to grab the plans on the way out.
Then, when it’s time for company executives to enact the action plan, they can’t go back into the building to look for it.
KJ highlighted a recent exercise Command Solutions conducted with a client in which this happened. As part of the simulation, a portion of the facility was rendered inaccessible because it had been declared a “crime scene.” As a result, not only did the organization’s employees not have their action plans at the time of the emergency, they also couldn’t access their recovery plans for days after the event.
Had the organization gone through the process of replicating their information in different locations and formats, they could have immediately started to manage the event. KJ suggested the ARC Facilities Platform as a place where organizations can safely store and easily access emergency and business continuity plans. This, he said, would add to the overall effectiveness of an emergency response plan.
Actionable Tactics to Fill in the Most Common Gaps in Emergency Plans
Command Solutions provided this bulleted list of ways to help fill in common gaps that they see in many emergency plans:
- Establish a planning team with all levels of employees.
- Perform a Threat Hazard Identification Risk Analysis.
- Follow an all-hazards approach.
- Establish a chain of command for emergencies.
- Delegate authority and responsibility for emergency preparedness and planning.
- Create specific Incident Action Plans for critical emergency functions.
- Ensure that all applicable regulatory requirements are followed.
- Establish a Command Structure.
- Provide employee crisis assistance programs.
- Establish a schedule of planned drills and exercises.
Conclusion: Don’t Make a Difficult Task Even More Complicated
As the experts at Command Solutions pointed out, emergency planning is difficult. But many facilities teams make it even more difficult by failing to create multiple copies and formats of their emergency plans.
While there’s much more to do to shore up your emergency plan, take the first step by scheduling a demo of ARC’s information management platform and its four mobile facilities dashboards – including ARC Emergency – to get your momentum going. By having your emergency planning tools in place early, your organization can practice with those tools right from the beginning.