Posts Tagged ‘business continuation’


More Lessons from Harvey

Monday, September 25th, 2017
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Hurricane, downed power lines

 

And now from Irma and Maria . . .

[Note: Please consider using this Advisory as the agenda for a meeting of your neighborhood emergency response team, and include this information in a neighborhood or church newsletter. Share it online. This is information we ALL need to consider!]

The last couple of weeks have been so full of stories about and from hurricane victims that I hesitate to add to the outpouring. But I feel I can’t just sit back and wait for things to settle down. So, here is a continuation of my earlier Advisory on Lessons from Harvey – The First Week.

This Advisory adds observations from Irma and Maria, too.

1. Still the most likely emergency: no power

Texas update: A week after Harvey, I checked the Entergy Texas website. The recurring language (my italics!):

“Power has been restored to all customers in the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey except for customers served by flood damaged equipment, areas that are still flooded, and areas impacted by [specific] substation outages.”

Even as late as last week – nearly 4 weeks after the storm struck —  4,000 were still without power.

Florida update: The outages in Florida from Hurricane Irma were even more widespread. At its height, the power outages affected “62% of the state’s 10.5 million households.”  News reports from five days ago (9-17-2017) say that about 20,000 homes are still dark.

Puerto Rico update: “Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was knocked offline during the storm and the island is facing months without power.”

You have got to be asking yourself,  “How would we fare without power?”

First, it’s important to realize that as an ordinary resident, even after the rain is gone YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN POWER PROBLEMS. That’s why utility teams came to Florida from as far as California to help! These teams have to . . .

  • De-energize dangerous fallen power lines, remove trees from lines, put up new poles, etc. The image above is typical of the mess to be cleared up.
  • Inspect and repair or replace meters that have been flooded.
  • Wait for YOU to get repairs made to your house – repairs that pass inspections — before they can turn the power back on.

All this takes days and days, if not weeks.

Last week, we looked at how to choose battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. If you haven’t got your emergency lighting in place yet, head there now. Shelves will be empty if you wait until something happens.

Turning to a generator for longer-term power needs is a completely different decision. We’ve studied this option a number of times, and our neighborhood emergency team purchased a generator some years ago. Questions we had to answer:

  • What would be the limited PURPOSE of the generator? It can’t run everything in a home or office.
  • What size is best? Where would a generator be kept? (Remember in Texas that the back-up generators for the chemical plant were themselves destroyed by the flood.)
  • How much fuel would it need, and where would fuel be stored?

Get professional assistance before making this decision. Here’s an Advisory from earlier this year, with more background information. http://emergencyplanguide.org/portable-generator-safety-update/

And another Advisory focusing on preparing for a power outage in a business setting. http://emergencyplanguide.org/power-outage-at-work/

2. Hidden water problems?

Whenever a disaster involves water, there are additional concerns besides simply having enough water for survivors to drink.

Health care professionals are watching in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma for longer-term health issues including . . .

  • Pollution from sewage. Every image we see of people wading through flood water should make you cringe! These people may be coming directly into contact with sewage. Even the entire water system may have been contaminated. Diseases from sewage pollution can result in death.
  • Chemical pollution. In Texas we all got a powerful lesson about the dangers associated with oil and chemical pollution of water supplies. These dangers are usually not immediate, but could emerge as cancer years after the incident.
  • Mold. Again, when flood water finally withdraws, mold can grow. It’s the danger of mold that prompts people to throw out not just furniture but entire floors and walls, or to abandon their home altogether.
  • Mosquitoes. Standing water after the flood is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus increases the chance of viruses like Zika and West Nile and fevers like dengue and chikungunya. Patrol your property and neighborhood and get rid of standing water.

Emergency preparations thus include not just supplies of clean water but also knowledge to help you identify a potential health problem related to polluted water.

3. What about rebuilding after the power comes back on?

Do you have enough money to rebuild your home if it is destroyed by floods? Probably not. That’s where insurance comes in.

Check out this lengthy Advisory about flood insurance. http://emergencyplanguide.org/flood-damage-not-covered-by-insurance/

If there is any chance that you could be hit by heavy rains, flooding or storm surge, you should be asking:

  • What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?
  • Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?
  • Where do I get flood insurance?
  • Does the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have maximum limits? (Hint: YES)
  • What is covered by NFIP?
  • What isn’t covered?

Whether or not your flood insurance is adequate, given what we’ve seen lately, or whether you should even get insurance, depends on YOUR answers to the questions above.

Note: There’s a lot in the news lately about the flood insurance program being CUT BACK. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

If you have questions about flood insurance for your home, start with the Advisory mentioned above and then talk to your insurance agent.

4. How will businesses fare?

Even if you’re not a business owner, the impact of a huge storm on the local economy will impact you, too.

According to Scott Teel, Senior Director of Communications for Agility Recover Solutions, in most cases it takes a business about 14 days to recover from a natural disaster. FEMA ads some more, and very sobering, statistics: about 40 percent of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Fourteen days is a long time . . .

First, there’s the flood or the rain that causes the business to shut down, sometimes even a couple of days before the storm actually hits. Then the storm hits; over the three-five days of these recent hurricanes we’ve seen restaurants flooded, fishing boats tossed and destroyed, hotels torn apart.

Even if the building itself isn’t damaged, any business that requires electricity to operate or accepts payment via credit card – like that restaurant, a bank, a gas station, you name it! – will lose revenue during a power outage.

During the shut-down, the business will likely lose employees unless it has funds to pay them for this down time. It will likely lose customers, who are forced to look elsewhere for suppliers to keep their own enterprises going.

What can a business do to protect itself?

  1. Some businesses have a disaster plan that gives owners and employees an understanding of what it will take to carry on essential functions. Naturally, these folks have a better chance of making it through.
  2. Other companies’ plans go so far as to maintain arrangements for the company to move to an alternate location to carry on these essential functions. (As you can imagine, these plans can become pricey.)
  3. Some businesses carry special Business Continuation Insurance that will help, although too great a delay in getting payments can still mean the demise of the business.

If your company doesn’t yet have a disaster plan, you can get started building one using our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan. Request your free copy here. http://emergencyplanguide.org/no-business-continuation-plan-is-a-threat-in-itself/

OK, that’s enough for now.

Our first look at recent disasters talked about immediate issues – having enough water, supplies, and an evacuation kit. This second look brings up some of the longer-term issues that may arise: power outages, health concerns, insurances.

It all goes to reinforce what we have learned at Emergency Plan Guide – when the emergency hits, it’s too late to do any planning or preparing!

Do what you can now to prepare. Whatever you do will serve you better than having done nothing.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, thanks for sharing.

 

 

Will Your Business Survive a Disaster?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017
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You arrive at work the morning after a big storm . . .

Storm damage

So you say you’re just an employee, and business continuity isNot my job!”

Think Again. Your job is all about business continuity!

You should already know these statistics about businesses hit by a disaster:

  • If you can’t get the doors re-opened within 10 days, your business has little chance of surviving.
  • In fact, about 40% of companies hit by natural disasters never do re-open.
  • And for small businesses, the chances of going under are even greater because not only is the workplace damaged or destroyed, but local customers have been hit by the storm, too.

OK, those are statistics. But stick with the scenario a bit longer.

Big storm hits – and thankfully you get through unharmed. Your family is shaken, but safe and back together. Unfortunately, your workplace was leveled just like in the image above. So now, the real emergency begins, because . . .

If the business shuts down, how will you get paid?

If you’ve never really thought about it, here are some things to know that will make a difference to the answer.

  1. Are you paid on an hourly basis and eligible for overtime? Or are you “exempt” from overtime?
  2. How long is the business likely to be down?
  3. Can you work from home?
  4. Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that will help?
  5. Do you have a personal retirement plan – 401(k) – that you could borrow from?

As you can imagine, answers to these questions may vary company by company, and state by state, but here are some general guidelines.

If you have questions, please do not rely on this Advisory; check with your employer for specific answers. (This Advisory should help you know what questions to start with!)

What your employer is required to do

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/), employers must pay covered non-exempt employees for hours worked, and overtime to those workers who work more than 40 hours in one week. So, if you work, expect to get paid. If you DON’T work because a disaster shuts down the business, don’t expect to get paid.

If you are a salaried employee, and the business is shut down for less than a week, you will probably get paid for that time. However, your employer may deduct those days from your leave bank. If the business is closed for a full workweek, your employer isn’t required to pay you.

If the workplace is completely destroyed from the disaster, you may be eligible for unemployment while you look for work or the company is being re-built.

If the company re-opens, but you can’t make it back to work because your own home has been damaged, or someone in your family has been injured, your absence is considered “a personal day” and it will be counted against your leave bank or deducted from your salary.

Your employer may have set up an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) that in addition to referrals and counseling might provide short-term financial help – perhaps advancement on future wages. Note my use of the word “might” in that sentence . . .

What you may have to do

You may be called upon to work from home while the business gets back on its feet. If you can function from home, you’ll be compensated – either for the hours worked, for by the week. Questions to ask: “How will my work from home be monitored? Is there a minimum number of hours I’ll have to work to get paid?”

If your home or other property is damaged in the disaster, make an insurance claim as soon as possible. Your policy may be able to provide money for what are called “additional living expenses.”

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan, you may be able to get a hardship distribution or a hardship loan, with few penalties.

If the disaster is big enough

If the governor of your state requests and is granted “Disaster Relief,” your company may be eligible for special loans or grants from the government or Small Business Association. You and your family may be eligible for FEMA assistance, too. In both cases, there will be some delay before you get any money, and how you use the proceeds may be restricted. Be sure you know what you are signing up for!

Does your employer have more resources?

The guidelines we’ve listed here are minimums prescribed by the federal government. Your state may have other requirements.

And of course your employer may have more resources and be able to pay you a lot more than the minimums.

Still, if the disaster is big enough that the company goes completely out of business, your finances will very quickly be impacted, too.

What’s the best answer?

Of course, you can’t predict a disaster, but the more you and your company prepare, the better the chances you’ll make it through the disaster and get back up and running before it’s too late.

So, even if emergency planning isn’t part of your official job description, find out what your employer has done about it. It’s possible that you could help improve whatever plan exists.

We have resources right here at Emergency Plan Guide. Use the search bar to find specific topics, or click on Business Planning in the Build Your Survival Skills section of the sidebar to page through some of the recent Advisories specifically for business owners and employees.

And watch for more on this topic!*

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

*Our 2017 Simple Business Continuation Plan is about a week away from completion! If you’re a subscriber to the Advisories, you’ll be at the top of the list to get the announcement.

 

What Will You Take When You Evacuate?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
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We watched the movie “Sully” last week. Talk about emergency response!

Sully tells the story of the emergency landing of a commercial airliner on the Hudson River in New York in 2009. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger brought the plane down on the water after engines were lost when the plane hit a flock of geese.

Two great moments from the film.

The day after the movie we used it at our neighborhood meeting to highlight crisp and clear emergency radio communications.

Remember when Sully was asked if he wanted to attempt a landing at Teterboro (NJ), and we all knew that it was just too far given how low they were, how they were losing altitude, how the motors wouldn’t re-start, etc.?

Sully responded to the complicated situation and to the question with just one word: “Unable.”

The movie had another wonderful moment that inspired me to write today. At the last minute, after Sully had checked the entire sinking plane twice to be sure no passengers were left, he made his way back up to the cockpit. He grabbed a clipboard, then turned and jumped out of the plane.

I don’t know what that clipboard had on it.

But it was obviously important. And since everything he and co-pilot Stiles had done so far was “by the book,” grabbing that clipboard was obviously on his list.

And thus today’s Advisory.

If YOU have to evacuate your office or workplace, what would YOU take with you?

Do you have a list? Below is one you can start with. I say “start with,” because obviously every business setting is slightly different.

But every business, no matter how big or small, has certain legal obligations to its employees.

And when the business needs to restart after the evacuation, in the same location or in a different one, it will need certain vital information. Your list needs to have your company’s vital info on it.

What to take in an emergency evacuation

If you would like a full-size copy of the list, click here.

Action Item: Build a customized list.

Again, I recommend that you use this list only as a start. Take the time at your business to build a customized list. Some thoughts:

  • Keep it to one page! Use big print, simple language and the words you use in YOUR business.
  • You may want one list for employees and a different list for management.
  • Be sure employees keep their list handy/visible at all times.
  • You may want to assign certain employees as monitors to be sure certain areas of the office or workplace get evacuated.
  • You may also want to add to certain lists instructions about systems or machinery that need to be SHUT DOWN in the case of an evacuation.

We all use lists for everyday activities. But they work particularly well in the case of an emergency, when people can be rattled and in a hurry. Put some time into building your “What to take” list for your business, and you’ll feel and be safer.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. The list, and this Advisory, assume you have a more comprehensive Business Continuity of Business Continuation Plan. If you haven’t really started to build one yet, sign up for our Advisories, because we’ll soon be announcing the 2917 version of our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan.

 

Small Business No Brainer?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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“News Item–If you own or work for a small business the odds of it surviving a major earthquake or weather event are 50/50 at best.”

Ignoring Reality of Small Business Disaster

Ignoring reality?

Around our household we have an item that we brand as “the ecology.” It’s actually a “sanitized” word for the sometimes-yukky vegetable garbage destined for the compost pile.

In the world of business, similar sanitizing goes on around the mess that can occur after a major disaster.

The first sanitized term that comes to mind is “Business Continuity.” “Business Continuation” runs a close second. By and large, these expressions are unfamiliar to employees and may be only vaguely understood by owners. (“Something to do with insurance?”)

When a catastrophe can result from something as simple as a backhoe cutting communications lines, it makes no sense to ignore emergency preparedness!

“Sanitizing” the way we think or talk about survival is plain foolish.

A Major Flaw

Large corporations put a great deal of effort into plans to preserve data and – in theory – protect their employees and physical premises. Whether or not their cumbersome plans are even read by staff is questionable, and the subject of another article.

When it comes to small businesses, only about 35% have even a rudimentary plan for how to prepare for and recover from an emergency. (Employee surveys show that employees are aware of this lack.)

Even when a small business does have a Continuation or Continuity Plan, most totally overlook their major asset: their people.

The False Assumption

Business owners seem to be operating on the assumption that their employees and suppliers will continue to be available in an emergency.

“We’ll just pitch in, clean up and get back to business.”

The reality is that everyone impacted by a catastrophe will be preoccupied with their own priorities. The business will take second place and may not even come into focus for hours or days.

It’s no wonder that most small or local businesses simply never reopen their doors after an emergency, or shut them down permanently within a couple of years.

Plugging the Hole

While there is no silver bullet, there are ways to improve your chances of survival. One of the best ways is also often the least expensive. It’s called CERT.

Many cities in the U.S. have an emergency management department and many provide free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, in conjunction with FEMA. If your city doesn’t offer the training, it is on line at the FEMA site. (https://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams/about-community-emergency-response-team)

An astute business owner or senior manager recognizes the conflict of priorities between work and family. Supporting CERT training for employees has benefits for all:

  • CERT training starts with security for the family. The sooner employees are confident that their families are O.K., the faster they can turn their attention back to work.
  • The same survival skills learned in CERT work for neighborhood groups and work teams.
  • A CERT-trained employee is likely to have honed communication and teamwork skills that benefit many areas of the business’s day-to-day operations.

Everybody Wins With CERT Training

Why are city and county governments so willing to put on this training for businesses and communities at little or no cost?

Simple. Trained citizens and prepared businesses have a 500% better chance of survival in a catastrophe.

That means less pressure on the First Responders and Disaster Recovery Operations in the aftermath. It means fewer deaths from “spontaneous” untrained volunteer efforts. And the big benefit is the continued tax revenues that support the community.

No matter how you look at it, Business Continuation Planning and CERT training for citizens and employees is a win-win situation. It should be a no brainer for any business owner.

Ready to start the conversation about emergency training in your own business?

We’ve put together a one-page pdf to get you started. It’s free.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Value of Employees . . . Before and After a Disaster

Saturday, November 8th, 2014
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If you’ve been following this blog for the past several weeks you know that we’re big on coordinating Personal Survival Plans with Business Emergency Planning.

The reasoning is simple . . .

Businesses depend on their Employees and Employees depend on their Employers.

But it’s pretty well known that most small businesses don’t have adequate Emergency Response Plans.  (Only around 67% have any plan at all.)

Small businesses never reopen after a disaster.

The future of your business?

Worse, statistics show that following a catastrophe, half of the businesses affected NEVER re-open their doors!

Why are businesses at such high risk?

  1. Owner attitude.

First is the attitude of some owners that they’d rather just cope with an emergency when it hits rather than make any plans to prevent or mitigate it. (We have to ask, if this is you or your boss, are you really a business person?)

  1. Emotional impact.

A second factor to business survival is that a major emergency has a dual emotional impact on employees.

Beyond their direct experience at the workplace, with damage and possible injuries, is the safety of their family members who may have been affected, too – but are spread out in the community somewhere.

Since communications are likely to be disrupted, employees will want to leave the workplace immediately to check on their loved ones. Once they disappear, the business has little chance of maintaining critical functions.

Improve the odds: integrate personal emergency planning with business survival planning.

Anything the business principals can do to facilitate employees’ family and neighborhood emergency planning will work to the benefit of all concerned.

One way to begin is by making sure that all employees have adequate Personal Family Survival Plans. This includes:

  • Personally-tailored survival kits at home
  • Kits at work and/or in their cars
  • Communication Plans for family members.

Take advantage of holiday timing.

Now might be a way to kick-start this by seizing on the holiday spirit.

Since we do not advocate buying pre-made, one-size-fits-all, survival kits — which typically include a lot of useless (or low quality) items – we strongly recommend that you consider getting them started with an empty backpack like this one from Amazon. It is big enough, but not too big, and has the advantage of opening from the top to give easy access to everything inside.  And if your company gift policy limits employee gifts to a maximum of $25, you’re in luck!  (Click on the image to get full details, price, etc.  Different colors have different prices.)

As a gift, the survival kit meets important criteria.

  1. It’s meaningful.

Every step that an employer can take to help employees prepare their own personal disaster plan will be meaningful for both.

  1. It’s personal.

Some people really like clothing with logos, or parties, but others don’t appreciate those gifts at all! Candy? Cheese? Wine? These all depend on people’s personal tastes.

The survival kit is a backpack waiting to be filled with items that the employee chooses!

How to add value to this gift.

The business can use the survival kit to kick-start a more in-depth discussion of preparedness. Setting up an emergency supplies fair at lunch or after work, for example, can improve the odds of employees actually building their kits.

The business can do even more by adding an item to go into the kit – for example, a flashlight or solar-powered or hand-crank radio. Here’s a link to our updated list of the top 10 survival kit items.

And an additional benefit. . .

If your business is one of the 37% of businesses without any business continuation plan at all, this whole campaign could be the impetus to get a company plan started!

If this idea makes sense, you can head directly to Amazon to take a look. Here’s the link: Fuel Top Loader Cargo Backpack (Black)

And if you want to talk over some ideas of how best to present the backpacks to your employees, or how to speak to your employer about providing them to the workforce — just give us a call.  We have a lot of good experience with “employee gifts” that we will be happy to share!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I mean that about the call!

 

 

 

 

“Phone home!” VOIP for Business Continuity

Monday, August 11th, 2014
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Remember 1982? E.T. had a problem! He’d been accidentally left behind by his family of extra-terrestrials. In the film, he built a communicator that magically reached them through space, and he was able to “go home.”

Voice over Internet Protocol, business continuity
Today, you won’t have to invent a new device on the spot if communications go down at your business.

VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has some magical features you may be able to plug into immediately.

Imagine this scenario.

Your business is located in the center of an area where a severe storm has crippled communications. Phone lines are down, cell towers are down, electricity is out.

Your business is “dead in the water!” How long can it survive if customers, suppliers or the bank can’t get through?

VOIP may mean they WILL get through!

Because it is based on the cloud, if you or one of your employees can access the internet from anywhere, you can still conduct business. With VOIP, all you have to do is get online to your account and reprogram your service to allow employees to work from home or from any remote location. For example, with VOIP you can:

  • If possible, physically take your phones with you when you evacuate the office and plug them in at a new location.
  • Forward the office main line to ring to your personal home or mobile phone.
  • Forward lines to home computers to handle voicemail and for softphone (internet) calls.
  • Add temporary extra lines to handle a higher volume of emergency calls.
  • Add new greetings to let callers know office hours have changed.
  • Set up conference or teleconference calls.

Get set up before the emergency.

Naturally, you need to have your plan in advance for re-programming the system in an emergency. And everyone needs to know how to use all the features of the system.

(Consider having everyone work from home from time to time – maybe just a half-day? – to practice.)

There are a number of VOIP services; prices start at 10/mo.; most are around $25/mo. and depend on features, number of lines, number of minutes you need, whether you call internationally, etc. You can check some of them out here: http://voip-service-review.toptenreviews.com/

VOIP has become an important option to consider for business communications and continuity. Check it out for YOUR business.

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

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Emergency Preparedness Vocabulary for Business

Friday, February 1st, 2013
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More words to know!

The more you read about Disaster Recovery and Emergency Preparedness, the more abbreviations and acronyms you come across. Many of them are already in use in business – like KISS , or Keep It Simple Stupid. But as in every industry, some words creep in that are not explained, and that you are simply expected to know. If you don’t know them, you feel stupid or confused or both.

Here are some of the common words I’ve come across in dealing with preparedness in the workplace. (It’s a companion piece to our earlier list of emergency preparedness vocabulary.)

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good start for talking with or or writing to industry professionals!

Risk Analysis Chart

Simple tool for assessing risks facing the business

Business Acronyms and Definitions

BAU – Business As Usual. If this is the state you want to return to AFTER the emergency, then it’s considered something positive. However, BAU is often used when projecting what the future will be like if we go on with BAU instead of making suggested changes.

BIA – Business Impact Analysis. One step in the process of building an Emergency Preparedness Plan. It describes and measures what would happen to the different business functions in the event of an accident, disaster or emergency. The analysis covers both financial impacts as well as non-financial impacts, such as loss of customer or supplier confidence, etc.

BP — Best Practices. Methods or techniques that have shown the best results over time and around the country (or world) and that have become the standard for the industry.

CBCP – Certified Business Continuity Professional. This is the most well-known certification in the industry. It is offered by DRI International (Originally the Disaster Recovery Institute). The certification requires more than two years of experience, with proven expertise in five different subject areas, and requires continuing education.

DR/BC — Disaster Recovery/Business Continuation. These two expressions are often used together, but DR seems more closely tied to the protection and restoration of data and information technology systems, whereas BC refers to the whole business.

KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. A classic reminder for educators, salespeople and for those who design Emergency Plans!

RA – Risk Analysis. Risk analysis is one of the first steps to building an Emergency Plan. Risks are identified and rated by likelihood and by likely impact, often using a matrix showing frequency/importance.

RM – Risk Management. This is closely tied to Risk Analysis, and typically covers actions the organization can take to prevent or lessen the risks identified in the analysis.

SME – Subject Matter Expert.  You? Your local Fire Chief? Head of a department? Facilities manager? Whoever knows the most about the topic/risk/equipment/impact under discussion!

SOW – Statement of Work. If your organization decides to hire a consultant to help in developing your Emergency Plan, you’ll likely ask for, or actually provide yourself as part of the consulting contract, a statement of work that outlines exactly what is to be done by the contractor.

Action Item: This is a list that can easily be shared with co-workers or with your boss. It will give everyone a sense of confidence in dealing with Emergency Preparedness, particularly if it is a new subject.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team