by Jeff Hamilton
An important part of any company’s emergency response plan, and overall business continuity approach, is encouraging employees to get prepared at home. If employees are prepared at home and know their families are safe, there is a greater likelihood that they will be more willing to remain on site or come back into work to support your company’s response and recovery activities after a disaster.
Many companies are highlighting their Employee Personal Preparedness Programs. For many companies this means encouraging employees to “get a kit”, holding safety fairs where employees can a buy kit, and/or giving away emergency supplies.
We know that in the work environment “effective” emergency response includes many facets, just one of which is supplies. Similarly, for an employee to get “effectively” prepared at home, it is about more than just purchasing a home emergency kit.
The same elements that are important in planning and preparing for emergencies in a corporate environment are also important for preparing at home, it is just the scale that changes. Effective emergency response has four core elements: awareness, plans, supplies, and practice. These same four elements need to be fostered and encouraged as part of your Employee Personal Preparedness Program.
Employees getting prepared at home need to do their own version of a threat assessment. While there are definitely major known threats such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados, employees also need to also look at the nuances of where they live. Are there additional threats such as wildfires or flooding that may be particular to where their home is located? Or perhaps there is a nearby chemical plant or freeway that could be a source of danger?
As part of your program help employees gain and expand their awareness. There are a number of website that can help employees identify possible risks at home. One great resource is the Institute for Business and Home Safety, which has a tool that provides risk insights based on zip code.
Once employees have an awareness and understanding of their risks, then comes the planning. Part of developing a plan is to get informed about how to react to various events. Plans need to include what the “response” will be for the various types of risks, how the family will communicate in an emergency, and what the evacuation routes are both for getting out of the house and out of the area.
This type of planning can be intimidating and uncomfortable for those not used to it. Your Employee Personal Preparedness Program needs to address both the why and how of planning at home.
The type and quantity of supplies needed are dependent on the plans and types of risks. For example, a winter storm in Hawaii is very different from one in North Dakota, where temperature are likely to be below freezing; therefore, the supplies needed for storms in Hawaii are different than those in North Dakota. This is perhaps an obvious example, but it illustrates how generic supply lists have pitfalls.
There are a number of supply checklists available online, some even have customized lists for different risks and geographic areas, but most of these checklists don’t consider the “metrics” for determining how much. For example, a common reference is “enough food for 3 days,” but how much food does this actually mean? This type of uncertainty hinders the preparedness process because it does not provide a clear starting point from which to begin the decision making process.
Your program can help employees gain some clarity by referencing metrics such as the basal metabolic rate (BMR), calculations for which can easily be found online. The BMR determines how many calories a person utilizes on a daily basis based on their age, height, gender, and weight. When thinking about emergency supplies, this amount should be adjusted up to include an allowance for the additional physical activity and stress that is often associated with emergencies. In general, about 2400 calories per day is a good target number for most adults.
Other metrics your program can help employees gain insight into and understand of can include water for hydration versus sanitation needs, average fuel use by generators, and general battery shelf life.
Finally, and perhaps the most important part of being prepared at home is to practice as a family. Practice helps identify weaknesses in plans and missing supplies, while also embedding the knowledge of what to do in an emergency.
As part of your program, give your employees ideas and inspirations about how to make practice seem less like an awkward chore and more like an engaging activity. Here are a couple of ideas you can share with your employees.
• Learn evacuation routes by taking new routes when driving too or from work, school, the gym, or the grocery store. This can even be taken up another notch by identifying useful resources such as gas stations and hotels located along the route.
• Test emergency shelter supplies by having a campout in the backyard.
• Call an earthquake drill during dinner when everyone is already sitting together at the table.
In today’s world of technology and social media there are many ways you can empower your employees to come up with their own ideas about how to practice their emergency plans and share them with co-workers.
An effective Employee Personal Preparedness Program goes beyond simply encouraging employees to buy a kit, it proactively empowers them with the tools and resources to get prepared, providing clarity where possible for a process that by its very nature includes a lot of uncertainty. Just like the steps a business goes through to prepare for an “effective response,” so to should your Employee Personal Preparedness Program be built on the core framework of awareness, plans, supplies, and practice.