When the weather starts to warm up, it’s a sign to refresh with spring cleaning. The Japanese organizing consultant and recent Netflix craze, Marie Kondo, has brought new life to spring cleaning practices. But why stop at home? Your emergency plan also needs annual upkeep to remain functional.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires organizations with more than 10 people have an emergency action plan. After a plan has been in place for over a year, it should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Putting together an emergency plan initially is hard work, and an annual evaluation helps keep that work valuable and relevant. The task of reviewing your plan is less daunting when you do it annually, and these tips make it as straightforward as cleaning out your microwave.
Review the Requirements
Emergency plan requirements are different for each industry. Below are minimum emergency plan requirements that are universal:
- Communication Plan:
- How will your team and staff quickly coordinate during an emergency?
- Do you have a plan to inform all essential stakeholders?
- Are you effectively reaching out to your community with the information they care most about?
- Means of reporting incidents and emergencies to 9-1-1
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape routes
- Procedures and protocols for your community to follow in case of emergency:
- Accounting for all contacts after an emergency
- Special needs and who is responsible for them
- Name or job title of who can be contacted
- Some industries, like healthcare, require evidence that the plan has been reviewed (and updated as necessary) on an annual basis. We recommend this for every industry.
If you want to inform and guide action in your community, you first need to make sure that your internal communication is up to par.
Make sure your internal communication system is simple enough for new users to easily learn. Check that employees feel confident using the system. Are there resources available for new employees learning, or long time team members that need a refresher?
For your alerts or notification systems, check that there is nothing slowing down the process. If a system requires multiple steps to trigger a notification or alert, the system becomes less effective due to the multitude of issues happening during a live emergency. If you are unsure about delays, ask your system provider.
Not everyone can be available for a face-to-face meeting during an emergency. During your spring cleaning review, check that your internal communication system provides the ability to quickly summon key stakeholders to facilitate discussion about next steps. It is best to check for this ability ahead of time instead of realizing in the middle of an incident.
Is your community engaged when you notify them? Reducing alert fatigue is an ongoing battle in a world where multiple services may require external communication with residents in the community. Are members from your community unsubscribing or opting out of communications? They may be experiencing alert fatigue from getting too many non-emergency notifications, which means they could be missing out on crucial information. One way to combat this issue directly is by leveraging SMS opt-ins for specific alerts. Geographic targeting allows emergency managers to cut down on this alert fatigue, and ensures that when residents are notified, they take it seriously.
No matter your type of organization, it is important to know who your emergency plan is protecting. For business, this means the name or job title of every employee. Schools need to have all staff and students on file.
Collecting resident information is one thing, but continually maintaining it and making sure that it will be accurate and accessible in an emergency is another requirement entirely. Checking and aging out old information is beyond a spring cleaning refresh, but now is the time to recognize the problem before it escalates further.
It’s great to have a lot of contact information, but that data can do more harm than good if it isn’t stored and managed properly. Missing or false information about those you protect hinders your emergency plan’s effectiveness. If you’re not feeling confident in your current contact database, there are robust platforms that can help collect traditional information, but also nontraditional information, like special needs. Who in your community requires extra attention during an emergency?
Rave Alert’s integration with Rave Prepare™ means that information is continually verified and updated with six-month freshness checks. Additionally, information is entered by residents, freeing emergency management teams of an ongoing need for manual data entry or cleanup.
If you haven’t already, establish command. Decide who will be in charge of planning, executing, and managing drill issues. Having clear ownership will help everyone feel more prepared for an emergency.
It is recommended to conduct exercises and drills to practice all or some elements of your emergency plan, like emergency escape routes or off-site meetup points. Those who have an active role during a drill need to know the steps to take for staying safe during an incident no matter what.
Running each practice drill in full doesn’t have to be a part of your spring cleaning, but it is a good opportunity to establish when drills will be run or preform a tabletop drill. When you do decide to run a drill, it’s important to alert local authorities, such as police and fire departments. They’ll know there isn’t an actual emergency they need to respond to, and they may be able to provide you with resources or guidance for executing a comprehensive safety drill.
Questions to ask when reviewing your drill:
- Special Needs: Are there any needs or activities of your community that are currently unaccounted for that could affect a drill? Large events, medical requirements, etc.
- Time: Is enough time accounted for your community to execute the drill? Any parts that seem rush or stalled? Opportunities to shorten response time?
- Goals: What will indicate if the drill was a success? Establish a goal, like a quick and calm evacuation, and emphasize the importance of it to your community.
For each exercise or drill, you should assess if there are areas that need to be improved. Errors illustrate where your team needs more practice, or highlights where there may be misinformation or miscommunication among your staff. Correcting these problems would be tricky to do during an actual emergency. Your future self will thank you for identifying these weak points.
Floor Plan Updating
Have any physical layout changes occurred at all since you last updated your emergency plan?
Often a 9-1-1 caller is not very familiar with your facility's layout, so your emergency plan should include floor plan information if it doesn’t already.
Emergencies occurring on school campuses, healthcare, and other properties present first responders with unique challenges, which can impact their ability to provide assistance. Your facilities may be difficult to access. Make a note of any locks, gates, or codes. They can be confusing to navigate once accessed.
Review your floor plans for vulnerable areas that are new or may have been overlooked when the plan was first created. Provide any information about your facilities that you want 9-1-1 and first responders to know, ahead of any emergency.
Spring Cleaning with Preparedness in Mind
As you review your community’s emergency response plan and the best solutions to fit your needs, keep these following factors in mind. They will play a major role in the success or failure of your next emergency response.
It’s great to tackle your messy closets and corners, but spring cleaning your emergency plan benefits your whole community. You don’t need to start from scratch, just make sure your plan is clean and up to date. Preparing for upcoming emergencies requires a look backward at past incidents, and now the time to determine what worked and what didn’t. Don’t wait until your emergency plan has an issue to review it. Annually checking for any dust or cracks in your plan will help the rest of your year run smoothly.
If you’d like any assistance reviewing your current emergency plan, please reach out and we’d be happy to help!
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