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Only as Strong as...

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It's natural to want to focus on our strong points, but when it comes to developing preparedness plans, it's at least as beneficial to take a hard look at our weakest links.

September 2017 marks the 14th annual observance of National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US Department of Homeland Security.

Much of the focus for the themed month centers around being ready to deal with emergencies and disasters at home, but the occasion also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies at work.

Most businesses already have (and all should have) plans in place to deal with weather emergencies and hazardous materials. But it's just as important to have a documented response in place for things like accidents and acts of violence by people.

To do so, FEMA recommends conducting a risk assessment -- a process of identifying potential hazards, assessing vulnerabilities and considering both their potential impacts and likelihood of occurring.
Such points could range from deficiencies in the way a structure is built to its security to its fire protection or HVAC system.

Examples include things like not having a working sprinkler system to limit damage in the event of a fire, or having an inadequate system in place to alert authorities when there is one.

As important as it is, a risk assessment is just one subset of the five points FEMA prescribes in developing a preparedness program at work:
•Program Management
◦Organize, develop and administer your preparedness program
◦Identify regulations that establish minimum requirements for your program
•Planning
◦Gather information about hazards and assess risks
◦Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)
◦Examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks
•Implementation
Write a preparedness plan addressing:
◦Resource management
◦Emergency response
◦Crisis communications
◦Business continuity
◦Information technology
◦Employee assistance
◦Incident management
◦Training
•Testing and Exercises
◦Test and evaluate your plan
◦Define different types of exercises
◦Learn how to conduct exercises
◦Use exercise results to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan
•Program Improvement
◦Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed
◦Discover methods to evaluate the preparedness program
◦Utilize the review to make necessary changes and plan improvements

What's in your plan?

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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