Contingency planning and emergency preparedness
are essential - they are not “cheap insurance”, or are they unnecessary pessimism.
Organizations that practice contingency and emergency planning are more likely
to survive a crisis. Disaster planning increases the likelihood that organizations,
especially smaller organizations, survive.
Systemic Solutions offers coaching and training in most
aspects of emergency planning. This support is especially relevant to assisting smaller
organizations, who often risk more than larger organizations; yet are less
likely to invest the time, effort, and resources for emergency preparedness.
Emergency plans are good business
sense. Following a disaster, the first organizations "back on line" are
often well positioned to create a lot of new business...
Some basic questions for all organizations and businesses are:
- Which key people are needed for the organization to function?
- Which key resources are needed for the organization to survive?
- What could disrupt these people or resources?
- What plans are already in place?
Fire Plans may be legal
requirements. An organization sited on low ground or below a dam may also have a Flood Plan.
Some organizations have Tornado Plans, Hurricane Plans and Bomb Alert Plans.
Other types of crisis include events such as loss of
critical suppliers, bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy, or threats of hostile
takeover. Equally important, and often ignored, are plans for the
mental health of staff following a crisis. Is psychiatric or professional
psychological assistance needed - or is individual coaching adequate for
assisting staff to regain "balance"?
In a crisis, success depends as much on "people skills"
as on professional competence. Soulwork Systemic Coaching provides guidance and
objectivity needed for crisis environments. Poor "people skills" can
threaten careers, and even organizations. Soulwork coaching offers
opportunities to improve leadership and teamwork skills.
Emergency Planning can provide unexpected benefits. Creating
and exercising contingency plans causes managers to consider the critical
aspects of their departments, which may identify opportunities to
become more efficient.
1. Big Picture
Make a skeleton plan or a goal walk
or a mind map, and start filling in the spaces. Consider what can go wrong:
is the organization vulnerable to fire, flood, tornado, disease, workplace
violence, hurricane, bomb threats, the loss of key employees, burglary,
computer crash - or what?
2. Critical Situations
Identify which situations are most relevant to the organization, and
develop contingency plans for those situations first, with less detailed
plans for less likely events.
3. Contingency Team
Select a contingency planning team. Include people with many perspectives on
the company’s vulnerabilities. For example, include someone with detailed
knowledge of the building and any computer network. Include department
managers and a human resources representative.
4. Contact Staff
List all staff names, and alternate ways that people can
communicate with each other. Include home phone numbers, pager numbers,
non-work e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers. The more ways to contact
staff should disaster strike, the better. Keep the list updated.
Consider setting up a “phoneout tree” that can be activated in a crisis.
5. Designate Authority
Designate a single decision-maker and an alternate. Those persons must know the steps to
take in various crises, and how to reach staff and other essential contacts
(police specialists, fire department, clients, customers, etc). Inform staff who
will give directions during times of chaos.
6. Chain of command
Consider a clear chain of command and authority. Consider military chain of
command, or that of governmental succession; and how to apply that
for the organization. If key people are missing, who will make decisions?
7. List Vulnerabilities
Make a checklist. Do you work in an office with no alarm system? Might
layoffs occur sometime in the future? What if all telephones are disconnected?
What if a key supplier can’t move shipments? What if the intranet or internet is
"down"? Consider what could go wrong. Many scenarios will be specific
to certain organizations. Consider how each one of those situations would affect
core activities, revenue streams, customer service and staff.
8. Alternative Workspace
Can employees work out of their homes? Will another company share their facilities until
space at a new location is rented and equipped? Get answers now, and be
9. Backup Information
Most people back up computer data. Where are your important papers and files
– both print and electronic? Do you have recently backed data up off site?
10. Backup Knowledge
In smaller organizations, assets may be largely vested in a key individuals.
Model the expertise and skills of those individuals and pass it on.
Interview the key people and create educational materials. Start coaching,
training or mentoring programs of knowledge management. Document and educate
staff in that essential knowledge. A Systemic Coach skilled in Expert Modeling,
who can model and duplicate expert performance.
11. Essential Resources
What’s needed to keep the organization running in a crisis? If
part of an organization shuts down, where would revenue flow come
from? What people, equipment, space, supplies, or services
are needed to keep revenue flowing during a business disruption?
12. Hire a Coach
As the contingency plan develops, hire a consultant to check the plans –
someone familiar with emergency preparedness who can help streamline the
plan while identifying critical holes in it. A Systemic Coach skilled in
emergency procedures may also edit emergency manuals, present emergency
preparedness training and liaise with local authorities.
13. Educate Staff
Once a plan is in place, write manuals and educate staff. Arrange
seminars and visits by emergency workers, police and fire officials,
etc. Let staff know that their familiarity with disaster procedures
will be tested at random times.
14. Exercise Contingencies
Simulate some crisis scenarios. Shut down systems and monitor how staff react.
Perhaps call the director of one location and tell them to disconnect from all
electronic communication. What happens at other locations? What happens if you
shut down a main computer system? What would people do if there was a disease
scare? Simulate the loss of some key employees.
Disaster preparedness and response is needed
by all organizations, yet is especially important in small
organizations, where each person matters more to company survival.
Create realistic plans, regularly test the plans with drills and ensure that everyone in the
organization knows how to respond.
For more on disaster planning and training, go to:
For information on Refugee Resettlement and coaching, go to:
For international emergency resources, go to:
coaching and training throughout emergency planning, contact us.
Plagiarism is theft © Martyn Carruthers
2002, 2009 All
|Martyn Carruthers served on Royal Navy nuclear
submarines during the Cold War. He was health physics and
safety officer at English and Canadian nuclear power stations, and Radiation
Protection Officer for the Canadian government, where he worked with Public Health
and Emergency Measures organizations. Martyn founded Soulwork
Systemic Solutions, a
complete system of coaching.