Tag: negligence

Do you have a solid Business Contingency Plan?

Every project needs a safety plan as part of a solid contingency plan
Safety and security as part of the plan?

Since my goal for summer is a series of simpler Advisories, here’s another quiz – this one, for business owners. The quiz isn’t just a quiz, though. It’s designed to kick-start a “to-do” list (for all that free time you have this summer!).

The quiz is meant to get you thinking about your Business Contingency Plan. How solid is it, really?

Does it need reviewing? Updating? Maybe even completion because a few pieces are missing? Every improvement you make will give your business a better chance of avoiding an emergency and making it through if something does happen. We all know by now that without a workable plan, ANY emergency could blow up into a full-fledged disaster. Nobody needs that!

Let’s start with key elements of a solid business contingency plan. For example, does your Plan include  . . .

  • Evacuation policies (Who turns off what? Who keeps track?)
  • Adequate Shelter in Place supplies (What supplies? Where stored? How managed?)
  • Procedures for Work-from-Home employees (Equipment? Software? Security?)

Your Plan may be complete, but is it up to date? For example:

  • Have you updated your list of threats? New ones emerge every day! Cyber threats and financial challenges seem to be at the top of the list these days.
  • Does your communications plan alert not just employees and employee families but other key players (customers, suppliers, regulators, etc.)? What if the emergency happens over the weekend or on a vacation day? A solid business contingency plan takes a look at the latest communications technologies. They are impressive!
  • Given recent dangerous workplace incidents, should you update your security plan?

Often overlooked: Does your Plan consider Key Personnel?

  • Does every key position have someone trained as back-up? That includes you, as owner!
  • If a whole specialized team is suddenly knocked out (gets sick, for example), do you know where you’d hire a team of replacements – and where you’d put them?
  • Who understands what the competition might do if your business closes? Is that person prepared with appropriate public relations messages?

Where’s the money going to come from in an emergency?

  • How will you pay employees if the business is shut down? (Do they all have to be paid?)
  • How will you deal with rent, utilities, etc. (Can any be cancelled, at least temporarily?)
  • Will a business interruption trigger any fines for delays, broken contracts, etc.?

Does your Plan address potential legal exposure?

Are you doing what other owners in your industry are doing when it comes to planning for emergencies? If you don’t have a solid plan, could you be blamed for “negligent failure to plan?” You don’t need a lawsuit on top of your emergency!

This quiz is not a complete review!  There are many, many more questions that can be asked to help identify a solid business contingency plan. We hope that the quiz has reassured you. If it hasn’t, perhaps your “to-do” list now includes setting up a meeting with your emergency management team, or your insurance agent or attorney.

Did too many of these quiz questions make you uneasy?

You may want to take a closer look at your Plan. For easy-to-follow guidance, we recommend our latest book, Back Up and Running.

Book: Back Up and Running - DIY Emergency Preparedness Planning for Small Business

More like a workbook than a text, Back Up and Running is written for business owners without any contingency plan. It covers all the basics using a 10-day schedule.

One of the experts who reviewed the book described it as “VERY high level.” I take that to be a polite way of saying it sticks to the basics and doesn’t get off into detailed weeds. . . which is exactly what it was meant to be! Take a look a the the book here, on Amazon. For $10, you may find yourself relieved – or inspired. Either way, a worthwhile investment.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. As always, let us know what “hit the spot!” when it comes to your business!

P.P.S. If you’re interested in other Advisories for business owners, you might find these useful:

Emergency Preparedness for Meeting Planners

Emergency preparedness for meeting planners
This your meeting? Are you ready — for food poisoning, an accident, fire?

It’s a rare business that doesn’t host a meeting once in a while. While businesses are shut down as a result of the pandemic, this list may not apply! But as soon as you get back to face-to-face meetings, it will. So hang on to it!

Your meeting might be for marketing or educational purposes, or maybe to celebrate a holiday or having reached a company milestone.

Whatever the purpose, if you are the meeting planner, you have a long to-do list to be sure everything goes as planned. Even the simplest meeting needs decisions made about date and time, venue, food, invitations, theme and decorations, sign-in procedures, advertising and publicity, entertainment, audio-visual, vendors, etc.  

Our question for today:

Does your meeting to-do list include planning for emergencies?

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that we are constantly on the lookout for good emergency preparedness resources. And we look not just for ideas for family planning, but also for small business and, in particular, for neighborhood teams.

This Advisory will be useful for all three groups. But it is particularly vital for businesses, because . . .

If something goes badly wrong at your business meeting, and you could have prepared for it, you will be blamed. And you may be sued.

Please note: we are not attorneys, and this Advisory is not meant to give legal advice. Please consult with qualified professionals for detailed recommendations for your business and your meeting.

As you get ready to meet with those professionals, being ready with questions will save time and money. Here are some questions to start with.

1 – Is there a law that we must have a disaster preparedness plan for every meeting?

At Emergency Plan Guide we have never found a legal requirement on emergency preparedness for meeting planners. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t one!  Your professional advisers may have found it. Ask.

But at the same time we have read enough horror stories to know that people sue no matter what

They may claim that you should have let them know in advance that it was a dangerous neighborhood, that the venue was open to access from outside, that there was no internet security, that a storm was threatened, that medical aid was not immediately available, etc., etc. They will claim you were negligent.

2 – How do we protect ourselves if there is no clear-cut law?

Recent well-known lawsuits seem to have revolved around the legal concept of “Duty of Care.” The Legal Dictionary at Law.com defines Duty of Care this way: “a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use. “

There’s a second legal term we also see connected with this same topic: “Standard of Care.” It is closely tied to “Duty of Care.” 

Basically, this is the “standard” that a reasonable person with the same qualifications would follow in a similar circumstance. As you might imagine, a professional would have a higher standard than a non-professional.

Here’s the challenge. Law.com adds:  “The problem is that the “standard” is often a subjective issue upon which reasonable people can differ.”

Not too helpful! 

Still, we already know that it just makes sense to prepare for emergencies to the best level you can.

3 – So what does a reasonable person do when planning a meeting?

These are my recommendations. They are similar to preparing for emergencies in your own home or business.

I see these as basic steps:

  • Evaluate your OWN level of preparedness. Who from your company will be there, what skills do they have, how ready will they be to respond to an emergency? What gaps do you find?
  • Identify risks for this particular event: geographic location and specific room or building, threats from weather and/or people (attendees or outsiders), security issues, availability of emergency medical personnel, cyber-security policies, firearms policies, alcohol policies, etc.
  • For each risk, confer with your business partners and then decide on who will respond and how. Make it clear who is responsible for what. Will any of the partners need to budget for additional personnel or equipment? List whom to call and all names and numbers. Decide who will interact with the news media or other officials, etc.
  • Confirm appropriate insurance coverages, yours and your meeting business partners.  
  • Write down and update your plan. Document your planning meetings. Share your decisions as appropriate in your marketing materials, since attendees deserve to know you have considered their safety in your planning. Document how everything went at the meeting.

This written document shows that you were attentive, prudent and thorough. This can be your very best protection against claims of negligence.

More resources on emergency preparedness for meeting planners

A while ago I attended a 2-hour training session sponsored by Meetings Today. The title was: Risk Management – Best Practices for Meetings and Events. The presenter, Brenda Rivers, also put out a 30-minute podcast on the Duty of Care. You may be able to find the podcast here: https://www.meetingstoday.com/magazines/article-details/articleid/32549/title/duty-of-care-keeping-safe

Meetings Today has also published a comprehensive template for meeting planners. If you have any responsibility for planning meetings, you may wish to download it for future reference. Here’s the link: https://www.meetingstoday.com/newsevents/industrynews/industrynewsdetails/articleid/31923/title/emergency-response-plan-template-for-planners

If you consider yourself to be a professional meeting planner, or just an enthusiastic meeting planner, please find out more about this topic!

Best of luck,

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Joe and I consider ourselves “enthusiastic meeting planners.”  Together, we have been responsible for literally hundreds of meetings for professional associations, Rotary International, neighborhood outreach for energy efficiency, and, of course, our local emergency response group. You can find one of our neighborhood group meeting planning Advisories here, recently updated.

And if you’re serious about putting on a successful meeting, check out this book from Alex Genadinik. There are a number of books available about planning events, of course, including those on starting a business as an event planner. I recommend this one because of Genadinik’s marketing emphasis.

No Valid Excuse for Negligence


Lawsuit for negligence

If you are prepared for emergencies at home, and have a survival kit at work and at least one in the car – Congratulations!

(I don’t think you’d be reading this if you didn’t have at least some of those kits!)

Now, if you are a business owner, manager, or business board member, I don’t make the same preparedness assumptions. In fact, my assumption based on national statistics is that you are NOT prepared for a workplace emergency!

Today, having no plan might be considered negligence!

The word for the unprepared business owner is — Watch out!

Joe and I just finished putting finishing touches on the fourth book of our Disaster Survival Guide Series. This book is aimed at owners and employees in small businesses (or larger ones, for that matter).

One thing that pops out of is that the list of threats for family preparedness is nowhere near as long as the list of threats for business. Our list of threats for families has something like 59 items on it. Our current list of threats for businesses has reached 83!

And as I added a couple more items to the business list, I knew I wanted to get some information out to you today. It can’t wait until the book is published!

This Advisory isn’t the whole story, of course, but I hope it will at least start you thinking about the . . .

You run the risk of being sued for not having a plan.

One thing we have found out about small business owners — they know their businesses better than anyone. They also are often short on money and time and suspicious of “experts” telling them what to do.

These may be some of the reasons that many new businesses delay getting valuable accounting and legal advice. And they postpone planning for emergencies, too. For new businesses, perhaps that’s understandable. But what we know is that the majority of even mature small businesses postpone planning for emergencies!

If an emergency DOES hit, even a new or an established company that survives the disaster could be destroyed by a lawsuit brought after the fact.

Some examples of legal risks associated with preparedness.

You’ll recognize these examples of not-so-rare situations where owners could be sued. Picture yourself . . .

  • You know that an ex-employee has threatened retaliation, but you don’t warn current employees or make any changes to the way people can get into your building. The ex-employee shows up and shoots 3 people before killing himself.
  • It’s common knowledge that the back-up generators for your business are essential – but unreliable. When disaster hits, all equipment shuts down, and a number of employees and customers are injured.
  • Your emergency plan recognizes the risk of flooding at your location, but doesn’t include plans for how to keep dangerous chemicals from contaminating the neighborhood. Hurricane Harvey hits with historic levels of rain and the neighborhood is inundated with contamination from your plant.

All three of these “examples” are taken from actual news reports. I found others describing similar circumstances. (See the P.S. for the outcomes.)

Here’s the negligence argument that applies in all these cases.

“Employers can be considered negligent if they do not take reasonable steps to eliminate or diminish known or reasonably foreseeable risks that could cause harm.”

From our standpoint, this definition has three key concepts:

  1. The employer is liable. As the owner of the business, you are that employer. Senior managers and Board Members could be caught up in this, too.
  2. To protect the company, you need to be aware of known or reasonably foreseeable risks. And,
  3. You must have taken reasonable steps to eliminate or diminish those risks.

Ask yourself: Does your company have an emergency plan? Even with a plan, how well are you positioned right now to protect your business from lawsuits that involve preparedness?

Our book is designed to give you sources to help you determine your potential vulnerabilities and thereby help you avoid them. You can wait to get a copy as soon as it come out (maybe next month?) but I couldn’t wait until then to share some of this vital information with you.

And you shouldn’t wait, either, to make a commitment to emergency preparedness for your business. You can start right now by reviewing a couple of our earlier Advisories.

As always, seek qualified legal advice for your particular questions. We are NOT licensed legal professionals.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. In the three legal “examples” above, each business lost the lawsuit brought against it.

UPDATE as of JULY, 2018 — the book is now available at Amazon. Here’s the direct link: Emergency Preparedness for Small Business.