Protecting Your People Post Pandemic—with a Plan
What are you and your employees feeling while coping with the COVID-19 crisis—disruption, uncertainty, fear, sadness, stress, anxiety, empathy, community, cooperation, or a combination of any, all, or other emotions? A devastating emergency like the coronavirus pandemic teaches us how important it is to work together. In all emergencies, we must integrate individual functions with multi-entity operations. That means we have to collaborate internally with all departments of our organization as well as externally with first responders like police, fire, public and mental health, and medical services in order to protect our employees.
Especially during May’s Mental Health Awareness month, business psychologist Dino Signore, PhD puts our emotions in perspective in 8 steps to navigating uncertainty. “We want to regulate our emotions and behavior when it’s appropriate and to surrender when it’s not,” he writes. “A psychological term, ‘surrender,’ shouldn’t be mistaken for helplessness, giving up or becoming a victim. Instead, surrendering means you make the decision to let go of things you cannot control and focus on the things you can control.”
So what can you do during these uncertain times? You can focus on controlling your response and recovery efforts to the pandemic and its impact on your operations and employees by creating or enhancing a holistic all-hazards emergency management plan (EMP). In fact, the EMP not only addresses your response and recovery initiatives but also the prevention/mitigation and preparedness measures you’ll need for the next emergency you’ll face.
An Emergency Management Plan Covers All Hazards
Before, during, and after emergencies caused by all hazards including weather, criminal activity, accidents, and public health crises, a plan implements the four phases of emergency management as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA to prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability, and help restore operations.
Phase 1: Prevention and Mitigation
Prevention and mitigation includes any activities that are preventative, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or mitigate the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Beginning with an assessment of your current security capabilities, you’ll identify what you have and what you need. By reviewing the physical security measures, security technologies, policies, procedures, incident reporting protocols, emergency management documents, and personnel staffing and support, you’ll also understand your level of risk and how your workplace exposes your employees to potential harm.
Think about your organization and how well you protect employees with:
- Physical measures including barriers, keys, locks, fencing, and landscaping
- Technical systems including cameras, card readers, alarms, and biometrics
- Procedural processes including active shooter plans, workplace violence policies, and background screening
- Personnel support including from your security department, security officers, and liaison with first responders.
Phase 2: Preparedness
Preparedness details the measures you need to prepare for an emergency and an updated plan details how you can properly prepare, plan, and train to respond to a crisis. If your organization has an emergency management plan and you train your employees on it, your people will know what to do when they face the unexpected. After determining the resources and skill sets you need from internal partners including security, legal, emergency management, and HR and external stakeholders including police, fire, and emergency medical, you can establish a training curriculum that prepares your workforce for their roles and responsibilities during an event and how they will coordinate and integrate with first responders.
Training is at the heart of preparedness—active shooter and fire drills familiarize employees with the emergency evacuation routes, safe rooms, and lockdown and weather event exercises involve stocking items like water, food, and blankets for shelter-in-place. Your training strategy focuses on how employee activities, building management, daily operations, access control, visitor management, emergency preparedness, and incident response work together to ensure safety during and after an emergency.
Phase 3: Response
A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey in April found that most organizations were not prepared to respond to the pandemic and 1/3 did not have an EMP—making them vulnerable to loss of productivity, operational lapses, and potential tragic injuries or death to any emergency they will face. We’ve heard that some organizations have downloaded their plans from the Internet, haven’t updated their plans for years, or don’t train their employees on the plan. Those are not holistic all hazards EMPs.
In order to keep your employees safe, your EMP must be customized to your location and:
- Specifically identify evacuation routes, assembly areas, and safe rooms
- Outline roles your emergency management team will assume in an emergency
- Coordinate with first responders, specifically police and fire
- Ensure effective communication with employees, first responders, and stakeholders
A comprehensive plan focuses on many more areas you’ll need to consider to accomplish your mission of protecting your people.
Phase 4: Recovery
Because all emergency incidents cause disruption, possibly across an entire enterprise or institution, an effective recovery strategy and continuity of operations planning will increase resiliency and ensure you can continue to provide essential functions and services during and after an emergency.
How soon will you recover from an incident? You need to determine your organization’s competency level for mitigating an emergency:
- Do you have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or mutual aid agreements (MAAs) in place with public and private organizations to provide the necessary resources?
- Do your strategies align with the four phases of emergency management (prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery)?
- Do you have a property-specific emergency management plan in full compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS)?
- Through either training or an actual event, are you constantly reviewing the effectiveness of your plan by testing, reviewing, evaluating, modifying, implementing, and repeating the cycle?
- Do you have a process in place to implement an after action review to identify lessons learned from the current crisis and apply them to your updated plan to address all hazards?
We’re Here to Help
You are committed to protecting your employees. We can work with you to construct a tailored emergency management plan that does just that. Or we can discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation. Contact me at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 and together we can ensure a safe workplace where your employees can do their best work.