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Common Emergency Plan Errors
Get it Right! © Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching & Soulwork Therapy

Many emergency and disaster recovery plans contain errors.
Emergency plans that fail often have one or more flaws.

Contingency Planning

Effective emergency plans include accurate directions for quickly assessing risks, communicating  damage, identifying needed resources and dispatching them to needed locations, minimizing congestion and cleaning up the mess afterwards. And handling politicians and the media ...

To provide effective emergency plans:

  • Regularly re-train employees
  • Regularly update contingency plans
  • Regularly test employee capabilities
  • Regularly re-define the role of emergency operating centers
  • Regularly re-examine all aspects of emergency preparedness
  • Regularly ensure that emergency drills closely depict real-life crises

Having reviewed and tested many emergency plans, the key flaws I most often find are:

  1. Emergency plans are too complex
  2. Contingency plans are not organized
  3. Disaster plans are generic or too detailed
  4. The emergency coordinators are untrained
  5. Alternates are not identified or not accurate

1. Emergency plans are too complex

Electronic emergency plans can become a problem in a disaster.

  • What knowledge is required to access the emergency planning documents?
  • Will computers be accessible to those who need them - in a power failure?
  • Will the applications that access and view the plans be running?
  • Will current versions of the documents be available?
  • Do emergency staff know how to find what they need in documents?
  • Have key people exercised and rehearsed the emergency plans?

Store off-site, easily accessible paper copies of current emergency plans.

2. Contingency plans are not organized

Poorly documented disaster planning may be worse than useless. In a crisis, people waste valuable time searching for information.

Does your contingency plan provide essential information for each crisis? Or is it just a binder of jumbled information from many sources?

  • Keep information that is used only for planning in a separate binder
  • Organize information in a logical flow of how it will be used in a crisis
  • Assemble essential information for the right people in the right sequence

The size of your company determines how many documents are needed. A small organization in one location may only need a single document that contains all emergency information. A large company with multiple locations needs an executive document, a company plan, sub-plans and many supportive documents.

  • Executive summary

Your executive summary should be a concise guide that informs upper management what to do immediately in a disaster. Executive summaries can spell out who is responsible for what and should include removable copies of key information pages that show current telephone numbers and alternate contact information that may needed in a disaster.

  • Emergency plan

Your emergency plan should provide key policies about generic disasters. Executives can also use it to plan long-term recovery efforts. An emergency plan should create clear pictures of how the organization should respond to generic disasters.

3. Disaster plans are too generic or too detailed

A generic crisis management plan may look good on paper. But a generic plan based on false or incomplete assumptions will fail in a disaster. Although a generic plan may be a useful planning tool, have it carefully scrutinized by all stakeholders and regularly test it to ensure that it works.

  • Overly detailed plans can cause delays during a disaster
  • The true “worst case” scenario may not have been identified
  • Emergency plans document critical functions in too much detail

A real disaster will rarely match an anticipated disaster, and any plan will likely have serious gaps. Therefore, focus initially on worst case scenarios.

4. Alternates are not accurately identified

Disaster recovery plans can quickly become out of date, with changes in regulations, personnel, vendors and clients. Part of emergency planning is continually validating contact information for essential staff and their alternates, and planning other means for reaching those people should the primary contacting methods fail.

  • Expect telephone networks to be jammed
  • List alternate telephone numbers, and those of alternates
  • In a crisis, many people will try to contact executives and managers

5. Is the emergency coordinator competent?

What is your evidence of competence? Will you wait for an emergency to find out? Who arranges and participates in training, exercises and drills? Knowing what to do and how to do it is only part of this ... will that person be obeyed? Who is respected? Who has authority to solve problems? Who has experience and a track record? Who can monitor and coach your people?


Who could have expected THAT to happen?

Imagine yourself in disaster recovery - depending on emergency plans with even one of these problems. One error may result in lives being lost, property being damaged and the organization becoming incapacitated - needlessly. There will be enough unexpected problems without preventable errors.

Before that happens - check each contingency plan for errors and help minimize your organization’s risk. Create, test and adjust effective recovery plans!

Online Crisis Coaching & Emergency Training

Martyn Carruthers was a paramedic and served on nuclear submarines during the Cold War (Royal Navy). He was a health physics and safety officer at nuclear power stations, and Radiation Protection Officer for the Canadian government, where he worked with industry, public health and emergency measures organizations. Martyn later founded a complete system of individual, family and team coaching, including professional training.

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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email