Emergency planning: where to start

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By Carla Lynn
March 27, 2020
4 min read
Emergency planning – Carla Lynn

A year ago, you may have seemed irrational to lay out an emergency plan specifically for a pandemic. Fast-forward to today and you probably wish you had one on hand. 

First things first: no, you can’t lay out a plan for every possible disaster. Not only is that an enormous task too big for a person, but thanks to Murphy’s Law the one event you didn’t plan for will most likely occur. That doesn’t mean you can’t lay out a generic plan that guides you with regards to processes to follow when a large-scale emergency (like a global pandemic) hits, however. 

If you’re looking for a tool to help you in the here and now, specifically during the COVID-19 crisis, please head to KPMG’s pandemic planning guide

To workshop something a bit more general, please stay right here. 

How to create an emergency plan 

Being prepared for the worst is a key element in building resiliency. Not only will a plan guide you on how to respond, but also to recover from hazards. 

If we’re going to deep-dive into emergency planning, it’s best to look at the places that are required by law to have one at the ready – hospitals.  

The California Hospital Preparedness Program is an initiative focused on developing emergency planning skills for hospitals in California. They create toolkits, courses, and develop a variety of resources for disasters of all shapes and sizes.  

They require all hospitals to have an emergency operations plan, which is an all-hazards approach to managing a crisis. The critical elements of this plan are: 

  • Communications 
  • Resources and assets 
  • Safety and security 
  • Utilities 
  • Clinical support activities 

Of course, depending on your industry some of these may not be applicable to you. Simply change them out to fit your organization. One thing that can’t be taken away, however, is communications.

A promising idea would be to structure your elements around the different departments in your organization. This way when you appoint your emergency team, you can include members of the executive team heading up each department to oversee and action urgent tasks and enable cross-departmental collaboration. 

The goal is to set several actions underneath each critical element. You won’t fill all the leaks in one go, so set time aside every day to go over the relevance of each task and add as you go. Don’t forget to ask input from each department, they are the experts in their field and will supply insightful perspectives. 

In the end, you’ll end up with something to act as a guide and to-do list when an emergency strikes. 

Building resiliency 

After winning a Nobel Prize in 2016 for his work on creating molecular machines, chemist Ben Feringa said to strategy professor Nathan Furr

“If you deal with uncertainty you will fail … Allow yourself to feel the frustration for a few hours or a few days. But then ask yourself: What can I learn from it? What is the next step that I can be working on? Get resilient at handling the frustration that comes with uncertainty.” 

There’s a trick to turning uncertainty into opportunity, and it’s all about how you frame your situation. Are you seeing obstacles as a stop sign, or a chance to learn and grow? 

study in 2014 found that participants who were actively journaling events in their lives with a positive outlook were much happier and more engaged in their lives. 

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting journaling in the office (although it could be an interesting experiment.) At the start of the year, IC CEO, Rob Nikkel published an article around ways to foster workplace resilience. These are day-to-day acts that have formed part of our workplace culture to alleviate stress, increase morale and reduce wasted time.  

Going forward 

As in life, both good and adverse events will happen to people and businesses. Whether it’s a hurricane or pandemic there are simply things that you can’t control. What is in your power, however, is to be prepared for the worst, as well as your outlook on those challenges. 

After all, superheroes wouldn’t be super if it wasn’t for them overcoming any and all obstacles …  

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By Carla Lynn

Carla Lynn was a former Intranet Connections teammate.