Emergency Communications Plan7th August 2020
Most organizations don’t realize they need an emergency communication plan until it’s too late. They end up in a stressful or dangerous situation, don’t have a set procedure, and realize they should have had a plan of action laid out beforehand. Don’t find yourself in this situation.
Early preparation and planning ahead can alleviate the stress of an emergency, protect your staff and visitors, and create a safer, more secure facility. So, use these tips to plan your emergency communication plan today.
A typical emergency communications plan is part of an overall emergency action plan. It should be detailed and carefully designed and include information on how both internal and external crisis communications will be handled.
Internal emergency management alerts can be sent using email, overhead building paging systems, voice messages or text messages to mobile devices. This type of communication would include instructions to evacuate the building and relocate at assembly points, updates on the status of the situation and notification of when it’s safe to return.
External emergency communications that should be part of a business continuity plan include how to notify family members of an injury or death, discuss the disaster with the media and provide status information to key clients and stakeholders. The emergency coordinator must ensure that each message is prepared with the audience e.g., employees, media, families, government regulators in mind. Broad general announcements may be acceptable in the initial aftermath of an incident, but they must be tailored to the specific audiences in subsequent releases.
Eight things your emergency communications plan must do
Emergency situations and disasters can range from fires, floods and severe weather to kidnappings, bomb threats and vandalism. An emergency communications plan must be able to do the following eight things:
- Launch quickly.
- Brief senior management on the situation.
- Identify and brief the company spokesperson on the situation.
- Prepare and issue company statements to the media and other organizations.
- Organize and facilitate broadcast media coverage.
- Communicate situation information and procedural instructions to employees and other stakeholders.
- Communicate with employee families and the local community.
- Continually adapt to changing events associated with the emergency.
Decide What Type of Emergencies You Need To Plan For
As you make your plan, consider all of the emergencies that can happen in the workplace, and decide which situations could be a threat to your organization.
Workplace emergencies are things that cause damage to the property or a person, are a threat to the property or a person, or shut down the operation of your organization. Most workplace emergencies are classified as one of the following:-
- Power outages when your team is unable to work, visitors are left in the dark, machines are unable to operate, production cannot continue, etc.
- Resource failure when tools, machines, and other items that are essential to the operation of your organization break down or stop.
- Staff medical emergency when a staff member or team member is injured or experiences a medical situation.
- Burglaries when vital office information, products, or tools are stolen.
- Foreseen weather emergencies when you have been warned about an impending weather event such as a hurricane or snow storm.
- Immediate weather emergencies when you are presented with an immediate weather threat such as a severe storm or tornado.
- Immediate danger at the location when your facility is under an actively dangerous situation such as a fire, intruder, chemical spill, workplace violence, etc.
Once you identify each potential problem that could arise at your location, create a plan for each situation.
Create a Plan of Action
Each situation will require a different plan of action. As you go through your planning, consider if you need the following sections in your emergency communication plan.
- Evacuation plans that say how you will exit, where you will meet after, and how you will check to make sure everyone is accounted for.
- Safe space plans that tell people where to go in the event of an immediate danger at your location.
- Chain of command plans that explain who is in charge.
- Family notification plans that include emergency contact information and explain how to contact employee families.
- Continued operation plans that explain how to keep operating if certain systems, machines, or equipment fail.
- Severe weather preparation plans that tell employees what to do and what to shut down in the event of an impending weather emergency.
- Severe weather guidelines that outline when the weather is bad enough to shut-down the office or location.
Each office or location will have unique situations and plans to consider, so talk to experts to make sure you consider each scenario and planning need.
Decide How Will You Communicate With Your Team
Communication is key during an emergency. So as you go through each scenario, detail how you will communicate with your team before, during, and after an emergency.
Remember that certain emergencies, such as a power outage, may restrict the use of some of the communication methods. Set a backup plan, and use one or more of the following methods.
- Phone contact trees that assign callers to notify other staff members until the whole team is contacted.
- Text message alerts that communicate with your team through mobile devices.
- Alarms that are placed throughout your location.
- On-site screens that act as an internal communications tool and share messages about the emergency as the situation is unfolding.
- Overhead alerts that air over a loudspeaker and tell people in your facility what to do as the situation is happening.
- Digital wayfinding maps that tell people where to go to find safety.
The ability for you to share details and information during a stressful situation is vital to a plan running smoothly. Focus on creating a clear and reliable emergency communication plan that helps people prepare and follow the process as a situation is unfolding.
Document Your Plan
As you define each situation and outline its plan of action, clearly and thoroughly document the processes. Communication in the workplace relies heavily on the documentation of processes and policies. Put of this information in writing so you can review it, share it with team members, reference it in the event an emergency, and refer to if after an emergency to see if protocol was properly followed.
Consult an Expert
Once you develop the emergency communication plan for your organization, you should review the plan with a professional.
As mentioned above, you may think you thought of everything, but it’s likely that you could miss small details that matter. Working with a professional risk management expert will help you identify the holes in your processes and ensure you have the safest plan for your business and team.
Review Your Plan
Once you have reviewed your plan with an expert and finalized all of the details, share it with your organization. Spend extra time reviewing it with senior-level management who need to memorize the protocol, and conduct organizational training sessions to explain the procedures to your entire team.
Don’t run through the material once and then shelf the plan forever. Schedule regular reviews of the your emergency communication plan to ensure that that the information is always fresh in everyone’s mind. Also, add emergency planning to the training of all new employees.
Test Your Plan
Practice makes perfect, so test your emergency communication plan with your upper-level management and/or your whole team. Running through the plan will reinforce its importance, identify any errors in your planning, and help your team learn the processes step-by-step.
Keeping your team safe, your location running, and your organization protected are important responsibilities. Don’t wait to set plans to keep up with that responsibility. Start planning your emergency communication plan today so you can have a safer tomorrow.