Large or small, every business needs a Contingency Plan in case there is an emergency. The importance of preparing an action guide for foreseeable emergency scenarios could mean the difference between life and death. But you will be surprised to know that many business owners and employees alike have no idea what a Contingency Plan is.
In the case of a natural or man made disaster, do you and your employees know what to do? Do you know where to go for help, how to safely evacuate if necessary? Are you prepared to stay put in your building for an extended period of time? What about the continuation of business? Are you prepared to shift operations to a backup location or will you shut down all together for as long as it takes? Are all employees trained on emergency processes and procedures? Do you have designated first responders in place in the case of a health emergency? All of these questions are answered in a Contingency Plan.
Now depending on what type of business you own, every plan will be different to fit the specific needs of the business. But here are a few things that every basic plan should include listed below.
- First Aid Kits – There should be fully stocked and updated First Aid Kits available. If you already have one be sure that the contents are not expired.
- AED Defibrillator – This may be an investment, but it is definitely one worth making if there is ever a time that it is needed. It could mean the difference between life and death and time is of the essence if there is a health situation that will need immediate response while you wait for medical assistance.
- Designated First Aid First Responders – This is important because number 1 and 2 on this list do not apply without having trained and certified first aid responders that are prepared to handle emergency health situations. As a business owner there are local first aid companies that can come out and provide training and certifications in a one day class. It is also important to communicate who these first responders are so employees will know who to contact as quickly as possible. As an employee it is important that you know who the first responders are where you work. Be sure to ask your Human Resources department for that information if you do not already know it.
- Emergency Evacuation Maps – If there is a fire or a situation where everyone needs to evacuate the building immediately, are there posted maps nearby to show the quickest exit routes? If there is a hurricane or a tornado, are there shelter areas identified within the building?
- Visitor Sign In Sheet – Is there a sign in sheet for visitors that may also be in your building at the time of an emergency?
- Safety Drills – After the Evacuation Maps have been created and posted, there must be training for all employees that occupy the building to be sure that they know the evacuation procedure. A designated meeting area far enough away from the building to ensure safety should be identified. Each manager or leader should have a list of all employees to do a roll call/ headcount that includes any visitors for the day should an evacuation be necessary. Everyone should be accounted for until the police or fire department arrive. These drills should be timed to ensure the fastest exit routes are being used. This should be done twice a year.
- Fire Safety – Fire extinguishers should be available and checked monthly to ensure the correct pressure levels are maintained. Employees should be trained on how to use these. You can contact your local Fire Station for training.
- Bomb Threats – If you or an employee receives a bomb threat, there must be a procedure in place on how to handle that threat. What to say to the person making that threat and what actions to take immediately afterwards. All threats should be taken seriously and everyone should be trained on what to look and listen for in those crucial moments. Your local police station can provide direction on how to provide this training to your employees.
- Blackout Procedure – Is there a backup generator, or emergency flashlights in designated areas at all times? A method of communication should be established in the event that there is no power. A battery operated megaphone is a good option to provide instructions. The leader responsible for doing this should be identified and trained.
- Inclement Weather – In the case of inclement weather how will your employees know if the building is closed or if they need to go home for the day? A phone number, website, or leader to contact should be identified. Battery operated weather radios are a great investment to warn you in the case of a weather emergency.
- Emergency Contact Info – It is always a good idea to have up to date emergency contact information for each employee. This is the person who should be contacted if there is an emergency with that particular employee. If they become sick or incapacitated, there should be someone on file that is responsible for them. It is just as important that these records are updated yearly and employees are reminded of their responsibility to notify you if there are any changes throughout the year.
- Operation Continuation Procedure – This procedure will be specific to the size and type of business you own. But some type of process should be in place and communicated. Whether it is a procedure on how to shut everything down until further notice or how to transfer operations to other locations. There should be a designated person in charge of any PR communications so in the case that there are outside inquires, employees will know who to forward these to without being uncomfortable or providing the wrong information.
It can become very overwhelming when you begin to plan for an emergency. It is almost impossible to know every situation that could occur. Emotions run high and people often panic and operate out of fear, but if you continually provide as much consistent information on what to do for as many scenarios as you can think of, the chances of your business being as prepared as possible increases.
If you would like more information on how to create your own Contingency Plan specific for your business click here.