In a year of unprecedented change, employers redefined the workplace and established flexible modes of communication with a workforce that could be in the office, working off-site, or remotely—or a combination of these environments—no it’s surprise that employers are reevaluating how to best protect employees both on-site and remotely.
While events like active incidents or workplace violence were less common in 2021 due to quarantine and social distancing restrictions, as well as a surge in remote work, it’s critical that employees understand safety and security procedures when they return to the office.
As workplaces have had to adapt to new ways of doing almost everything – from employees working remotely to virtual meetings and conferences, and more – emergency planning has had to adapt as well. To ensure employee safety operations and business continuity in the coming years, prevention, response, and mitigation planning is critical. As you update and improve your organization’s emergency response and recovery plans, keep these four steps in mind.
It’s critical to reach out, interact with, and build trusting relationships in your community, including with mission partners and law enforcement from the state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government.
Make contact with local security and disaster preparedness organizations. Plan and conduct a risk assessment with these mission partners to identify potential emergency scenarios. You can determine resource requirements and develop plans and procedures to prepare your business with this knowledge of potential hazards and crisis scenarios.
Furthermore, establishing trusting relationships with mission partners prior to an incident can help speed up response time in the event of an incident. To collectively address the needs of the affected, the entire community and its partners should work together.
Take the time now to think about how you’ll handle a security or health emergency if one arises. Other events, such as the pandemic, can be used to inform your plans. Be aware of current threats in your area that may have an impact on your industry, and develop plans for security, emergency response, emergency communications, and business continuity.
Consider access control, video surveillance, signage, suspicious activity reporting, and parking security for your employees and customers. Evaluate and design a monitoring, surveillance, and inspection program that is compatible with the operations of your organization.
Develop evacuation and shelter-in-place plans, and make sure all evacuation route maps, which include emergency exits, primary and secondary evacuation routes, fire extinguisher locations, and fire alarm pull station locations and assembly points, are posted in each work area.
Keep in mind that when a disaster strikes at the same time as a pandemic, congregate sheltering may not be feasible due to social distance or quarantine requirements; as a result, traditional shelter space will be drastically reduced.
Prepare for alternatives like sheltering-on-site or non-congregate shelters. Keep in mind that supply chains and other services have been significantly disrupted as a result of the pandemic’s impact, as well as a shortage of adequate medical supplies, personnel, and volunteers.
Finally, make sure that local first responders – police, fire, and medical – are included in all efforts.
Make training tools available to your personnel and put your goals into practice on a regular basis. Employees should be trained in security principles, emergency communication plans, business continuity plans, and emergency response plans, as well as suspicious activities, active shooter scenarios, and what to do if they detect an improvised explosive device (IED).
Employees should be trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical support, as well as disaster preparedness for hazards that may affect their area.
Encourage employees to raise their hands if they have any safety concerns. Making the reporting process as simple as possible is a good idea. Reporting should be simple and quick to access.
Consider allowing employees to report incidents anonymously, as many employees may be afraid of retaliation and blame for the incident, preventing them from reporting critical safety incidents. Remember to teach “If You See Something, Say Something,” which is more than just a slogan in today’s world.
Organizations cannot afford to rely on antiquated and time-consuming communication methods such as phone trees and emails during an emergency.
New technology can help improve critical communications and emergency preparedness for the organization. Despite the fact that their businesses now utilize email as the major way of emergency communication, poll respondents responded that mass text messaging is their preferred method of communication — both on and off-site.
Mass notification solutions now provide multi-channel delivery, including voice calls, text messages, emails, mobile app push notifications, and even social media, as well as access to a platform via web or mobile applications.
These modern solutions are critical to ensuring the effectiveness of an emergency communications plan and can help keep people safe, informed, and connected during critical events by quickly delivering and disseminating critical emergency information, improving overall employee safety, mitigating loss, and ensuring business continuity.
And don’t forget that even the best-laid plans must be carried out in order to be effective. Emergency response plans should also be reviewed and reevaluated at least once a year to ensure they are current and effective.
Overall, these tips should assist your organization and employees in better preparing for a variety of potential incidents, allowing your organization to remain resilient in the face of any emergency.