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How To Create a Disaster Plan

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Imagine that a key employee has just fallen to the ground on the job complaining of chest pain. Do your other employees know what to do? Do they know how to call for medical services? Imagine scenarios involving disgruntled employees, fires, terror threats, weather threats or any other disaster. Proper business insurance planning requires the creation of a disaster plan that reduces risk and damage in the event of any size disaster.

Creating a written plan is not difficult and there are many sources of information available. Here we will discuss how to create a disaster plan.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Creating a Disaster Plan is an ongoing process

Here's How:

  1. Gather Information - Gather information including:
    1. Locations and Contact Numbers of Hospitals and EMS.
    2. Locations and Contact Numbers of Nearest Disaster Responders.
    3. Utility Contacts.
    4. Location of Critical Documents.
    5. Contact Numbers of all Key Company Personnel - include cellular and personal numbers.
    6. Contact Numbers of Other Key Personnel - landlords, safety contractor, contractors managing fire suppression or utilities and any other personnel.
    7. Employees with Special Needs or Abilities - List employees that may need help to evacuate. List any doctors or nurses you may have on staff or anyone else with special training.

  2. Test All Contact Numbers and Communications - Test every contact number on the list. Common errors and problems include:
    • Outdated Numbers - do not rely on telephone book listings.
    • Phone Systems Cannot Connect to 911- train employees how to contact disaster response. Does your phone system use 911? Do you need to dial an outside extension first?
    • Employees do not Respond - Employees listed in the Disaster Plan must be willing to take calls 24/7 and be responsible.
    • Wrong or Ineffective Contacts - The contact must be direct to be effective.

  3. Prepare all Contact Information in a Disaster Plan Binder - Put the information in a binder with appropriate tabs. Prepare phone numbers in the precise manner to be dialed. Write the contact numbers exactly as needed. Other things to consider:
    • Foreign Languages (especially, Spanish) - If you have employees that speak a language other than English, then prepare two sets of binders.
    • Special Needs - If you have employees with impaired sight, consider large print binders.
    • Binders are Available to All - Make the binders available to every employee and required reading.

  4. Identify Responsible Employees and Areas of Responsibility- After the "Contacts" section, create a listing of responsible employees. Make the list disaster specific. The idea is to create a list of responsible people geared toward what they can properly address. Common problems include:
    • Delegation Issues - In an emergency, the business needs the person that can best respond to the threat and not the person that can best "direct" others to respond. Delegate emergency duties accordingly.
    • Sometimes businesses just assign all disaster issues to one "know-it-all" employee and that employee cannot respond properly.

  5. Create Step-by-Step Scenario Specific Instructions- Remember fire drills in grade school? Your employees must have that same level of rote understanding to disasters. Draft separate sections for each potential disaster and have these individually tabbed (e.g., "fire" or "bomb threat"). Adapt the plan to employee location and take into account escape routes and contact personnel applicable to each floor or department. Things to consider:
    • Plans must be Simple
    • Productivity is not an Issue in a Disaster
    • Step-by-Step Plans Should be Tested - Run fire or tornado drills, test exit routes and get your employee's input.

  6. Professional Help - For Free!?-Your plan should address local, state, and federal regulations applicable to your business. Check with these sources:
    • Your Insurance Company - Good insurers and brokers help their insureds prepare.
    • National Organizations - The Institute for Business Safety offers an online toolkit for disaster planning.
    • Government Sources - The SBA offers tips on disaster planning.
    • Private Companies - Many companies offer safety consulting services to employers and may consult for free in return for purchasing specific safety products from one of their vendors.

  7. Empower Employees - Disaster planning requires employee involvement. Encourage employees to seek Red Cross first aid and CPR training. Encourage disaster planning education. Courses in such areas are very low cost, consider reimbursing employees that undergo such training. Make it part of your disaster plan.

  8. Review and Update - Your business disaster plan should be reviewed annually at a minimum. Contact numbers should be tested. Fire drills and other mock tests can be conducted.

  9. Circulate the Plan - A disaster plan that sits in your desk or a top manager's desk is not a plan. One good practice we employ is to require a copy of the plan to be located at every telephone in the business. Require new hires to read the plan as a condition of employment.

Tips:

  1. Test your phones. In the world of voice over internet protocol, cellular phones, and deregulation, you cannot depend on 911 or other emergency service without testing your system. Train employees accordingly.
  2. Write out the plan. Businesses grow and employees that "know what to do" move on to other jobs. Only a written disaster plan can provide continuity.
  3. No business is too small or emergency too small to be included in a properly written disaster plan.
  4. Creating and implementing a proper disaster plan usually results in the business complying with laws and regulations applicable to the business. The end result is the avoidance of fines, reduction of risk, and resolving two issues at once.
  5. Ask your insurer if premium reductions are available for disaster planning.

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