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How well prepared are you for an emergency or disaster? That’s one of the main questions National Preparedness Month asks of everyone, whether it’s at home or in the workplace.

September 2014 marks the eleventh annual observance of the themed month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the US Department of Homeland Security. This year’s theme is “Be Disaster Aware: Take Action to Prepare.” One goal of Homeland Security is to educate the public — including businesses – on how to prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters, mass casualties, biological and chemical threats, radiation emergencies, and terrorist attacks.

Much of the focus for National Preparedness Month centers around being ready to deal with emergencies and disasters at home, but the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies on the job. Safety at work is a year round priority, so it’s important to periodically review your company’s safety plans and policies. Most businesses have (and all should have) plans in place to deal with weather emergencies and hazardous materials, but what about human-caused events such as accidents, acts of violence by people and acts of terrorism?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists the five steps in developing a preparedness program at work as:

•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

How do your current plans measure up?