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We already face an overwhelming array of hazards and threats every year, but according to weather predictions, the strength of hurricanes could double by 2050. With the prospect of more dangerous and destructive storms and natural disasters in our future, we need to proactively prepare to protect our people and physical assets.
With the hurricanes devastating Florida and Texas, and the wild fires plaguing Montana, it’s even more critical for organizations to establish a Crisis and Emergency Management (CEM) Team and training programs formulated to actively engage employees. Employees are often provided with an emergency procedures document, but short of the legally-required fire alarm drills, we do not put these procedures into practice for the clear majority of our employees. Indeed, many companies take the “compliance approach.” They falsely believe that an emergency procedures pamphlet provides employees with the tools to respond to emergencies.
Even companies who take a more active role in planning tabletop exercises or larger scale simulations generally do not involve all employees. They only involve those employees on the Emergency Management Team (EMT) and rely on their remaining staff to remember procedures, follow instructions, and standby until the EMT communicates a response. This approach might have worked prior to social media and instant access to information, but today, employees are not as keen to merely standby and wait. This environment benefits from more transparency and inclusion.
One of the primary goals of CEM Programs is to be understood by all involved. When an event arises, employees should already know the process and understand the procedures to follow. To act in an emergency, employees need to develop muscle memory through practice. In addition, employees are our eyes and ears on the ground. If we train them to look for abnormal situations and encourage them to report these situations through an easy, efficient process (via an App, for example), they can warn the CEM Team of incidents in advance.
Everyone must feel some level of ownership in a Crisis Management Program. Companies can increase ownership by communicating more about their CEM initiatives and plans to protect its people, as well as conducting simulations involving more employees.
I was part of a dynamic Crisis and Emergency Management Team for an energy company based in the United Arab Emirates, and the following recommendations on how to involve more employees in your CEM Program are attributed to my experience on that team.
GETTING EMPLOYEES INVOLVED:
We, as security practitioners, must actively engage our employees in the process and keep them updated on our CEM efforts. This offers reassurance that the company has a method to address situations and a team to actively prepare for different hazards.
Angela J. Osborne is the regional director for the Security and Technology Consulting group in the Guidepost Solutions Washington, D.C office. She specializes in conducting threat assessments, performing security risk assessments, and assisting clients in crisis management training, simulations, and program development.