Faculty Advisor: Establishing an Emergency Response Plan

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Q: I am having problems getting commitments from my internal partners regarding establishing emergency response plans. Can you give me some advice on communicating with key business managers about the value of developing a coordinated response plan in advance of an incident?

Of course, it is always important to get support from the “top of the house.” Obtaining strong active commitment from other key managers is crucial; without it, it can delay the implementation of a comprehensive emergency management program.  We suggest an informal “sit down” with each of the business managers (e.g., legal, finance, marketing, human resources, public affairs, operations. etc.) within the company to discuss how they view their respective role in preparing and responding to a critical incident impacting the entire company.  For example, if the company is unable to produce “widgets,” how is marketing prepared to handle this – how will they advise customers on when production will resume?  How will the customer base be retained if the company is shut down for a long period of time?  How will public affairs handle inquiries from the public media, employees, and customers?  What role will legal play in preventing or minimizing adverse action against the company?

In other words, each entity within the company should take time to think about what impact a critical incident (e.g., workplace shooting, major explosion, fire or natural disaster) would have on their respective operations. What is their plan to minimize any disruption; what is their role in returning the company to stable operations?  By discussing these issues and concerns on an individual basis with each manager in advance, time can be saved in responding to and assisting the company’s recovery.  It must be remembered that many times these managers may be uncomfortable discussing their concerns and perhaps lack of emergency preparedness or lack of knowledge within a larger group.   Obtaining their early input and understanding of the process will certainly help in developing a program meeting the needs and culture of your company.  Once the individual meetings are completed, a tabletop exercise should be conducted in order to acquaint each manager with the team concept of managing a critical incident.

Answer provided by Radford Jones and Jerome Miller, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty.  
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