Tag Archive for emergency response plans

Removing the Fluff from the Stuff

I understand and appreciate the need to document your Business Continuity, mission, objectives, process, justification and analytical results.  I think all of this information is valuable in advancing and promoting your programs; educating management and participants on your program; and, providing a foundation for internal and external audits.  And, I think it is important to mandate that certain, key players in your program read and understand all of this information.

But …  Oh, come on, you knew there was a “but” coming.  But, I don’t think that stuff belongs in the same document that includes your “at-time-of-interruption” action plans.

Too often, I see organizations create one tomb of everything Business Continuity and call that their Business Continuity Plan.  In my opinion, you should have the book that explains everything business continuity related and then a stand-alone “Action Plan” that is you instruction manual of what to do when the lights go out.  In fact, you should probably create a whole bunch of “Action Plan”s – one for each unique function in your continuity, recovery and emergency response program.

I think reading and understanding “the book” prior to an emergency is important and should be mandated.  However, much of the stuff in “the book” just gets in the way at time of event.

“The book” should: set the premise for your program; identify objectives, assumptions and givens; explain, holistically how teams work together; provide background on how and why strategies and solutions were selected; explain the entire planning and implementation process – all stuff that is important to know, prior to an interruption, but just becomes a burden to flip through when trying to figure out just what to do now that an event is occurring.

The “Action Plan”s should be concise and detailed, step-by-step, vetted through testing, tactical tasks to be undertaken once a disaster is declared.  These plans need to be easy to follow (relatively) easy to reference and to enough detail that a backup team member, with less experience in the process, can follow and successfully implement.

I have seen organizations get very creative in producing wallet sized plans, tri-folds and/or thin plans that get right to the point and, in some cases, provide a way to record which steps were executed along the way.

There are a number of software products that also help maintain these action plans and allow you to track the implementation process at time of disaster.  These can be very powerful emergency management tools if properly implemented and monitored.  (They can also become just as cumbersome and useless as the War and Peace-like plan if implemented incorrectly.)

So look at your documentation and ask yourself if you have successfully separated the wheat from the chaff?  Do your team members have a useful tool to help them execute their recovery responsibility at time of disaster without having to flip through pages of “fluff” to find out exactly what they are supposed to do?  And, when you test your program, do you make sure these plans are being referenced and updated to ensure the documentation matches the reality?

More on this topic to come in future blogs, but – I use that “but” word a lot, don’t I – I think that is enough for today.  Thanks for visiting our blog.

Emergency Preparedness Plans: Evacuating Persons With Disabilities

Do your emergency evacuation plans include procedures for assisting persons with disabilities?  The American Red Cross has a few tips for how to go about this on their website.  Although they seem to no longer use the term “Buddy System” it seems to me that that is what they used to call it years ago.

When I did a little research on this lately, I found many University plans that include some pretty good documentation on their “buddy system” approach for this.  I have included some of them here for you to look at for yourself.

What I have found, over time, is that even for those organizations that have a pretty well established “buddy system” in place it is usually well implemented for people who have permanent disabilities but not so much for those who may have temporary disabilities like a broken leg, recovering from surgery, or, although not a disability but a condition that may require evacuation assistance, women in their third trimester pregnancy.

I am not always up on the most recent politically correct terminology, but I know some folks who have taken to using the term, “mobility challenged individuals”.  This is probability a more apt description that would include pregnant women and other similar situations that are not disabilities but could result in the need for evacuation assistance.  I remember talking to first responders who helped with the evacuation of the World Trade Center following the first bombing in 1993 and they told me that they were surprised by the number of pregnant women requiring assistance – some of them were evacuated up to the roof top because they could not go down some 100 flight of stairs in complete darkness.  (Just an aside you may not be aware of – during the evacuation in 1993 they discovered that there was no emergency lighting in the stairwells.  People had to evacuate in complete darkness.  Not only that, but they did not know that stairwells only traversed about 30 floors, requiring an exit to a lobby area to find the next set of stairs.)

Persons with permanent disabilities are somewhat used to and less embarrassed by seeking assistance and pro-actively engaging in a buddy system program.  They can be assigned and trained with a buddy(ies) prior to an actual evacuation.  And, HR usually knows who these employees are and can solicit their involvement in these programs.  Persons with temporary mobility challenges are less likely to be aware of the program; are less likely to identify themselves as someone who might need a buddy; and, are less likely known by HR personnel.

If your program includes floor wardens, you should alert them to be aware of employees who might have temporary disabilities and train them to delicately approach these individuals to educate them on the buddy system and try to assign them a buddy until their recovery is complete.

If your organization has a buddy system in place – thank you!  If not, maybe you might want to check out a few of the links provided.  Thanks, Buddy.