How prepared is your organization in the event of an emergency or disaster?

What might seem like a simple, straightforward question is often a very complex issue to answer.

September 2015 marks the twelfth annual National Preparedness Month. A central goal of the observance is educating the public on how to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. This year’s theme is “Don't Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”

Much of the focus of each year’s observance is on being ready to deal with emergencies and disasters at home, but the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies at work. In 2004, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unveiled Ready Business, an extension of the national Ready campaign that focuses on business preparedness. The business preparedness section of the website Ready.gov recommends that the planning process take an “all hazards” approach. That is, taking into account different types of threats and hazards and their likelihood of occurring.

As part of the planning process, the website recommends developing strategies for prevention/deterrence and risk mitigation. This should include threats or hazards that can be classified as probable as well as hazards that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption or environmental impact.

Developing an all hazards preparedness plan includes identifying potential hazards, assessing vulnerabilities and considering potential impacts. A risk assessment identifies threats or hazards and opportunities for hazard prevention, deterrence, and risk mitigation. Human injuries should be the consideration of highest priority in a risk assessment, of course, but other assets in the assessment could range from buildings and machinery to raw materials and finished products.

In conducting a risk assessment, the Ready.gov recommends looking for vulnerabilities, or weaknesses, that would make an asset more susceptible to (and contribute to the severity of) damage from a hazard. Such vulnerabilities could range from deficiencies in the way a structure is built to its security or protection system. A simple example of such a deficiency is not having a working sprinkler system in place to limit damage in the event of a fire.

For more information on putting together emergency plans for the workplace, visit http://www.ready.gov/business