National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is held each September to encourage Americans to make sure they are prepared for disasters or emergencies both at home and in the workplace. According to FEMA, knowing what to do before, during, and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count. And when it comes to businesses, how quickly a company is able to get back to business after a disaster often depends on emergency planning and preparation done before the disaster strikes.
Businesses make efforts to ensure the safety of their employees on a daily basis, but there are additional steps that can be taken to prepare for the less common potential hazards that can affect businesses on a larger scale. Natural disasters – like tornados, floods, power outages – or wipespread illness such as the H1N1 flu pandemic are some examples. In addition to being prepared for these, businesses should also have plans for human-caused hazards (violence or terrorist attacks) and technology-related hazards (equipment failure).
It is crucial for businesses to implement an emergency response plan. In creating this plan, businesses define what their emergency response team is expected to do during an emergency (evacuate employees and visitors, provide first aid, etc.) and identify any regulations covered by your plan (OSHA, fire code, etc.). FEMA offers a free guide to help businesses create their own emergency response plan.
Having the proper supplies in an emergency is also an important part of being prepared. Businesses should communicate to employees about what emergency supplies the company can feasibly provide, and which ones individuals should consider keeping on hand. FEMA recommends the following items be included in every emergency supply kit for businesses:
- Water – If it is feasible, store one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation (3-day minimum supply)
- Food – non-perishable (3-day minimum supply)
- Battery-Powered Radio
- Battery-Powered Flashlight
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle – to signal for help
- Disposable Respirators or “Dust Masks”
- Moist Towelettes, Garbage Bags, and Plastic Ties – for sanitation
- Wrench or Pliers – to turn off utilities
- Can Opener
- Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape – to “seal the room”
Still don’t know where to start? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is hosting a series of free webinars on business preparedness planning. The half-hour webinars will be presented at 2 p.m., Eastern Time, each Wednesday in September.