Friday, April 18, 2008

Develop Your Emergency Plan, Part III

So far I have discussed preparing for disasters involving key personnel and public utilities. Now, we are going to talk about your most important corporate asset: your employees.

When disaster strikes, your employees are worrying about their own homes, families and jobs. You need a communication plan to reach out and get in touch with your workers after a disaster. This plan can be as simple as a telephone tree where managers call their immediate subordinates. The key is to ensure that your employees are informed and know what to do next.
After Hurricane Katrina, many South Florida companies offered free gasoline to their employees living in areas without power. Johnson and Wales University provided living space in their hotels for all their employees who were also under duress. Suddenly, disaster assistance became a new employee perk that served to generate goodwill and good press coverage for these benevolent corporations.

Make sure you make plans for employees with disabilities. In most cases, they will know exactly what they need, so be sure to communicate with them before the crisis so you can plan accordingly. Part of these plans should include designating another employee to assist the staffer with special needs, as part of the crisis management plan.

You need to define all your crisis management procedures (this will be discussed at length in the next article) and individual responsibilities well in advance. The same employees you have assisted are the ones responsible for getting your company back in business. Make sure those involved know what they are supposed to do and in what sequence. Assign alternates to the most important tasks in case someone needs back-up or replacement.

Make sure you have emergency payroll available! If you outsource this function, you need to be prepared if they are out of business during the recovery effort. Your employees will need ready access to their paychecks during the aftermath.

In the worst case scenario, you should also make plans for succession of management. If the disaster should take the life of one of your key managers, you will need someone ready to step into his/her role in the crisis management plan. While no one likes to think about this, it is as important as any other step in these articles. By maintaining an orderly flow of work and a unity of the chain of command, your business will have a better chance at bouncing back quickly from catastrophe.

As strange as this sounds, now that you have your employee responsibilities in place, you need to run a drill. In school we enjoyed the fire drills as a chance to get out of class for a few minutes. However, drills are important so that people learn a routine. While I am not recommending that you run drills every week, you may want to consider running a quarterly crisis drill to ensure everyone is doing their part after a disaster.

Click here for How To Develop A Business Emergency Plan, Part IV.

If you would like some help developing your disaster recovery plans, contact us. Since we're from Florida, we know all about disasters.

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