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Emergency Action Plans: What Does Your Business Need?

An emergency action plan is a set of guidelines for businesses to follow during disasters. A good EAP not only details actions businesses will take in the event of an emergency but also helps them prevent catastrophe, prepare for prolonged shutdowns, and return to normal operations post-disaster.

Why Businesses Need Emergency Action Plans

Emergency action plans outline steps a business will take to maintain continuity and protect its employees and customers in response to various types of emergencies, including:

  • Pandemics
  • Fires
  • Tornadoes
  • Floods
  • Hazardous material spills
  • Blizzards
  • Security breaches
  • Terrorist and active shooter threats

Some emergencies demand an immediate response, so it’s critical for businesses to train employees and practice policies and action plans, so they can help to prevent damages and casualties. Other action plans afford businesses more time to respond, yet still require swift action to avoid financial and other catastrophic losses. In such cases, an EAP removes the need to make crucial demands on the fly and enables businesses to execute predetermined measures to protect their people and their finances.

Disaster response planning is only part of the process. When companies take the time to develop emergency action plans, they’re able to discover existing vulnerabilities that could leave them liable for legal damages, penalties and fines. Proper planning, then, helps businesses assess and mitigate risks before they become emergencies.

Emergency action plans reduce the risk of mistakes, and in doing so they save lives, time, money and businesses. Companies that do not have an emergency action plan would be wise to begin developing one right away; and those that already have one should review it to ensure it adequately prepares the business to survive a disaster.

7 Steps to Developing an Effective Business Emergency Action Plan

  1. Develop the outline and guidelines of your business emergency action plan.
    First, before you can actually write out your emergency action plan, you need to organize your business’s objectives and guidelines for the plan. You need to also assess your security emergency needs. Of course, at a high-level, the goal of your plan will be to mitigate the impact of the disaster or emergency on your business, protect your staff, assets, and operations, and ensure that you can get back to business as soon as possible.
  2. Assess risks and threats to your business.
    Once you have a better idea of the federal, local, and business-specific requirements that will play a role in the development of your emergency action plan, your next step will be to assess the risks, threats and emergency needs to and for your business. Of course, it will be impossible to identify and plan for all risks and threats, however, by identifying those that are more likely to affect your business, you can create a more impactful and relevant procedure.
  3. Conduct a business impact analysis.
    Next, you’ll want to use the information you identified in your risk assessment to inform your business impact analysis. Your business impact analysis will try and predict the consequences of business disruption as the result of an emergency or disaster and therefore, will help in the development of your recovery strategy.Once again, it will be impossible to predict exactly how a potential disaster or emergency will impact your business—however, you can use the threats and risks you established in step two to determine what disasters are most likely to affect your business and what that effect looks like.As an example, if your business is located on the coast of Florida, some of your biggest risks might be flood or hurricane damage to your physical location. Therefore, in your business impact analysis, you should consider how these scenarios might disrupt your business—a flood may cause damage to the physical structure of your business that would need to be repaired, or it may ruin inventory that would need to be replaced, etc.
  4. Write your business emergency action plan.
    Now that you’ve accomplished the most significant part of developing your emergency action plan—the actual planning, you should have a sense of the potential risks your business could face, as well as their impact, and as a result, what type of information your emergency action plan should include. Now, it’s time to actually create and write out the plan itself.This will be a time-consuming process, especially since you’ll want to work with other company leaders, your business’s HR department, and even local and governmental resources.
  5. Review and test your plan with emergency scenarios.
    After you’ve written out your business emergency action plan, the process isn’t quite complete yet. Next, you’ll want to review the emergency action plan with other business leaders and test it out.You can arrange a meeting to discuss emergency preparedness, walk through the plan with business leaders, allow for discussion, and record feedback. Once you’ve taken this initial step, you can take a more hands-on approach by conducting drills, tests, and seeing how your business emergency action plan functions in these planned out scenarios. During this time, you might also introduce the plan to your staff, start the training process, and gather their feedback and how the plan works and what could be improved.Then, after you’ve conducted these conversations and tests, you’ll want to regroup with your team leaders to discuss how the process went. You might also ask for written feedback, in the form of a survey, for example, from staff, to gather any and all information you might need to revise the plan.
  6. Identify areas of improvement and refine your plan.
    From your meeting with business leaders, you should come away with areas where your emergency action plan could be improved. At this stage, you’ll want to determine how you can adapt the plan to fix these areas of improvement and refine the document you’ve created as much as necessary.It’s also important to note that your business emergency action plan should be a “living” document. As your business changes and evolves, your emergency and disaster plan will likely change as well. Therefore, although you’ll want to train your staff thoroughly after the document has been created, you’ll want to ensure that you update them (and the document) as processes evolve and change.
  7. Work through your business recovery strategies.
    From all the work you’ve done so far, you should have created and started to implement your business emergency action plan. With this in mind, however, there is one final component of your disaster preparedness that you might want to revisit in more detail: recovery strategies.Although the actions you take before and during a disaster or emergency are essential, it’s also important to determine how your business will function and recover after one of these events occurs. As mentioned above, part of actually writing your business emergency action plan should be detailing the business continuity plan—or, how your business will work to mitigate the negative effects you identified in your business impact analysis.Due to the importance of this part of the business emergency action plan, you might decide to create a separate or more comprehensive document that specifically outlines your business recovery strategies. For this, you’ll want to consider past short-term survival and reactions after a disaster or emergency and focus on the long-term survival of your business.

Emergency action plan resources

The following resources can help businesses like yours develop and execute comprehensive emergency action plans that protect their companies, customers and employees.

    Sponsored by the Dept. of Homeland Security, this free resource offers detailed information about what to include in a business emergency response plan, how to assess and mitigate risk and how to conduct a business impact analysis. It also includes links to additional resources for pre-incident planning, protective actions for life safety, firefighting, medical response, hazardous materials and workplace violence. Businesses can download’s Emergency Response Plan template and customize it to create their own.
  • FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
    FEMA maintains a list of emergency preparedness resources to help businesses plan for and mitigate potential hazards. The page includes a guide for helping small businesses prepare for emergencies, a business continuity plan, disaster protection cost analysis, and worksheets for inventory, emergency supplies, resource requirements and insurance coverage. Businesses will also find helpful case studies that illustrate the impact of disaster and the necessity of a sound emergency response plan.
  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    In addition to a general overview of emergency preparedness, the CDC offers links to emergency management for business and industry, the OSHA evacuation plans and procedures, eTool, fire and emergency evacuation drills and protective actions during hazardous material emergencies.
  • Small Business Administration
    The SBA offers checklists for dealing with various emergencies, from winter weather and hurricanes to earthquakes, floods and cybersecurity. Businesses can also learn about the SBA’s disaster relief programs, which offer financial assistance and economic injury loans.
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association)
    OSHA’s emergency preparedness and response page lists general preparation resources plus specific guidelines for disasters ranging from heatwaves and lightning to tornadoes and floods. It also covers biological diseases, toxins, chemicals and nuclear threats. Businesses can study the site to find updated rules and regulations to help them comply with the law. One excellent resource: OSHA’s Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness publication.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
    The foundation offers preparedness tips plus a whole host of emergency planning resources businesses can follow to bolster their emergency response plans. The page features checklists for emergency planning by hazard, guides for reviewing insurance coverage, how to file a claim, crisis communication, employee assistance and other information that can assist businesses with planning. The foundation also offers a Small Business Disaster Preparedness Quick Guide.

As difficult as it may be – and even impossible – to predict when emergencies will occur, a strategic emergency response plan can help businesses mitigate risk, limit losses and protect their employees and customers. Though it takes time and money, it’s well worth the investment because ultimately, comprehensive emergency action plans save companies money, protects livelihoods, and even saves lives when disaster strikes.

LaMarco Systems Can Help You With What’s Next

LaMarco Systems is a leading life safety and integrated security solutions provider — offering comprehensive, all-in-one services and customized solutions that protect people, businesses, and the assets associated with both. For over 20 years, we have partnered with the world’s leading technology companies, security experts, and law enforcement personnel, to constantly reimagine facility security in this rapidly evolving arena. Once you have an EAP in place, and are ready to ensure that your facility has the life safety systems you need, you can trust LaMarco.