8 Steps to Planning your Emergency and Disaster Plan

As with other business aspects, planning for an emergency relies on the following:

  • An understanding of the organizational objectives.
  • Solid research on the risks.
  • Creative alternatives to unique challenges.
  • A reliable decision-making process.

Step 1: Establish an Emergency Preparedness Team

It is advisable to assign one person to lead the planning process. You should also ensure that this “emergency manager” has the authority to get things done. Identify key employees including their roles/responsibilities and contact information. Click here to view the key roles and responsibilities for your Emergency Preparedness Team.

Step 2: Identify Essential Services and Functions

During an emergency, your business may experience a disruption in your operations due to:

  • High staff absenteeism
  • Unavailability of supplies and materials
  • Interruptions to services like power, transportation and communications.

Determine how your organization will maintain essential services/functions in the event of an emergency. These essential services include:

  • A service when not delivered, creates an impact on the health and safety of individuals.
  • A service that may lead to the failure of a business unit if activities are not performed in a specified time period.
  • In some organizations, services that must be performed to satisfy regulatory requirements.
  • A service where if not performed, the impact may be immediate or may occur over a certain time period.

This means that your business may be forced to modify, reduce, or even eliminate specific services/functions to cope with the impacts of the emergency. These impacts may be felt across the organization or localized to specific business units.

Step 3: Identify Required Skill Sets and Staff Reallocation

As part of your business continuity planning process, you will need to identify the number of staff and skills required to perform and maintain the essential services/functions.

You may also wish to prepare a list of special tasks and skills required in emergency situations and assign them to appropriate employees, e.g. crisis management team, employee support, IT backup, defining security perimeters etc.

Step 4: Identify Potential Issues

Discuss what will happen if you have to reduce, modify or eliminate essential services or functions. Document the following:

  1. All the issues that are identified.
  2. Action plans for each issue.
  3. The responsibilities of designated people for each essential service or function.

Step 5: Prepare a Plan for each Essential Service/Function

Action plan should include:

  • A description of the service or function.
  • Individuals responsible for implementing the action plan.
  • Backup individuals.
  • Business impact issues.
  • Action plans: Include key items such as notification communication plan, staff relocation, alternate resources, suppliers, etc.
  • Resource requirements.

List customers, suppliers and business partners who would need and expect personal notification from you, or who would be offended or take their business elsewhere if they were not contacted. Being proactive in contacting important customers can go a long way in mitigating losses.

Include the following information in your list:

  • Product or service provided: A description of the product or service you provide. Use the comments section to indicate the reason that this customer should be contacted in an emergency.
  • Contact person’s name: For some customers, there may not be a specific person to list. As appropriate, you can list a title or department, e.g., “service representative on call” or “service department.”
  • Contact phone numbers: Include all possible ways to reach the customer, including cellular, fax, after-hours number if different from the normal number, and toll-free numbers in addition to the normal number.
  • Alternate names and numbers: Where possible, list alternatives to the primary contact person.
  • 24-hour service: If your customer does not have 24-hour service, discuss with them how to contact them during off-hours. Reassure them that the information will have limited distribution.
  • Comments: Include any significant information including the reason this customer should be contacted following an incident, instructions the customer would need, etc.

Step 6: Compare with “Preparedness Checklist”

Review your Business Continuity Plan to make sure that all issues have been addressed, and identify any areas in which you may need additional documentation.

Step 7: Review with the Emergency Preparedness Team

You should present a draft of the Business Continuity Plan to your emergency preparedness team for review and/or comment. Since the committee will have an understanding of the overall corporate impact of an emergency, they should review to ensure that your plan:

  • Is consistent for all business units/departments.
  • Addresses all critical elements.

The committee should also be in charge of monitoring the progress of the initiative.

Step 8: Revise, Test and Update the Plan

The plan is dynamic and should be revised, tested and updated as necessary so it remains current. This will help you identify any missing aspects or weaknesses.

Derek Atkins8 Steps to Planning your Emergency and Disaster Plan