Updating Your Emergency Plan
Ever since The Really Big One article appeared in the New Yorker this summer, I haven’t been able to look at my disaster preparedness the same.

For those of you who haven’t read the article, I’ll give you the cliff notes. The writer Kathryn Schulz says there is a one in ten chance an extremely large earthquake will take place in the Pacific Northwest in the not-too-distant future. It would trigger a tsunami large enough to flatten everything west of I-5 from Washington to California.

Creating a plan

Companies can’t run out and by a tsunami disaster preparedness kit, but they can be ready for a wide variety of emergencies, from flooding to fire, and from human error to hurricanes. Do you have an emergency plan?

If you have no plan, you should consider preparing one. Existing OSHA, SARA Title III, and numerous state regulations call for all facilities to meet a number of Emergency Preparedness/Crisis Management requirements. Videos like Emergency Planning can help organizations meet those requirements.

Also Ready.gov provides five steps in developing a preparedness program:

1. Program Management.  Organize, develop and administer your preparedness program. Also, identify current regulations

2. Planning. Gather information about hazards and assess risks, conduct a business impact analysis and examine how you will prevent hazards and risks.

3. Implementation. Write a preparedness plan addressing: resource management, emergency response, business continuity, crisis communication, information technology, employee assistance, and more

4. Testting and Exercises. Test and evaluate your plan. Create different types of exercise and use the results to evaluate your plan

5. Program Improvement. Decide when your program needs to be reviewed. Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed, and updates made.

Updating a Plan

If you are updating your plan, good for you!

LeadingAge suggests “A first step in updating your disaster plan is assessment. Identifying the hazards, risks and assets for the plan can change from time to time.

If possible, bring in outside evaluators to walk through your facility and assess potential hazards, including assessing the likelihood of disasters that could happen because of your location (nearness to an airport, railroad line, and river or manufacturing facility, for example) or circumstance.

As you are updating the disaster preparedness plan, make sure it addresses each possibility (potential exposure to weather, transportation, power outages, violent acts, etc.).

A second step is identifying potential responses. Risk management involves prioritizing the risks (from freight rail lines and chemical spills) and then developing strategies and responses for dealing with them."

Whether your starting from scratch or updating an existing plan, do not put it off. Even through we may not know when "the really big one" is coming, we can be certain emergencies happen when you least expect them. 

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.