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Planning for emergencies as a business manager

Each day the news seems to trumpet another disaster for businesses.Whether man made or natural an emergency that shuts downs business can cost a huge amount and most importantly result in loss of life unless a significant and comprehensive plan in is in place. Recent examples include when hurricanes blasted through South Florida causing more than $25 billion in damages or a fire at a food processing plant that resulted in 25 deaths, a company out of business and a small town devastated.Or this last winter when a blizzard shut down much of the East Coast for days. More than 150 lives were lost and millions of dollars in damages incurred. The good news is this business and industry can limit injuries and damages and return more quickly to normal operations if they plan ahead.

One of the first steps in planning for emergencies is understanding what type of emergency to plan for. An emergency is defined as any unplanned event that can cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, customers or the public; or that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the facility's financial standing or public image. Obviously, there are numerous events can be "emergencies," including but not limited to:

Hazardous materials incident
Flood or flash flood
Winter storm
Communications failure
Radiological accident
Civil disturbance
Loss of key supplier or customer

After understanding what an emergency is than emergency management comes into play. Emergency management is defined as the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from an emergency. It is crucial for the business manager to understand that emergency management is a dynamic process. Planning, though vital is not the only component.It is equally important to begin training, conducting drills, testing equipment and coordinating activities with the community.These are all equal parts in the overall emergency management plan.

There are basically four steps that any business manager can use to develop and implement a business emergency plan.These are:

1. Form a team. The size of the emergency planning team will depend on the facility's operations, requirements and resources. It is best to involve a group of people because:
- It encourages participation and gets more people invested in the process.
- It increases the amount of time and energy team members are able to give.
- It enhances the visibility and stature of the emergency planning process.
- It provides for a broad perspective on the affected issues.
One of the best ways to form an effective team is to determine who can be an active member and who can serve in an advisory capacity. On most teams, one or two people will be doing the bulk of the work. At the very least, you should obtain input from all functional areas.
2. Establish the authority of the planning team. It is vitally important to demonstrate management's commitment and promote an atmosphere of cooperation by "authorizing" the planning group to take the steps necessary to develop a plan. This group should be led by the chief executive or a plant manager. It is also helpful to establish a clear line of authority between group members and the group leader.
3. Have a mission statement for the team. One of the best ways to do this is to have the chief executive or plant manager issue a mission statement to demonstrate the company's commitment to emergency management. The mission statement should:
- Define the purpose of the plan and indicate that it will involve the entire organization
- Define the authority and structure of the planning group
4. Establish a schedule and budget. By establishing a work schedule and planning deadlines than team members are given an incentive to accomplish goals. The project timelines can be modified as priorities become more clearly defined. In addition it is important to develop an initial budget for such things as research, printing, seminars, consulting services and other expenses that may be necessary during the development process.

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