How to Prepare Your Team for 2021's Natural Disasters
Last month the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that natural disasters happen three times more often today, than they did in the 1970s.
“At no other point in history have [we] faced more hazards such as megafires, extreme weather... and emerging biological threats, as during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor have they been seen at such frequency, intensity, and complexity,” the agency said in a new report .
In the face of these threats, many organizations are not fully prepared a natural disaster. With hurricane season beginning June 1, and warmer weather bringing the increased threat of tornados and wild fires, now is the ideal time to consider whether your team is prepared, regardless of their location and access to your network and resources.
Stage a Mock Disaster
Mock disaster scenarios are extremely helpful in assessing your preparation for a natural disaster, identifying gaps in your plan and making the necessary adjustments.
Here are a few steps to help guide your drill:
- Aggregate and distribute your emergency plans. At least a few days in advance of your drill, make sure your team has access to emergency plans and critical content that will be required for the scenario.
- Organize your team, in person, or virtually. Make sure all relevant stakeholders participate in the mock disaster. Depending on the size of your organization, you might need a full day to complete the entire exercise.
- Prepare for the worst. For mock disaster scenarios, many organizations assume the worst—for example, a Category 5 hurricane with severe wind and rain, and coastal and inland flooding, or a wildfire that flared up overnight, cutting off access to your warehouse and third-shift team. By preparing for the worst, you’ll ensure all your bases are covered.
- Assess hazards and response. Have a full list of the potential hazards associated with your scenario. Walk your team through each step of the response—especially those that may be difficult to actually conduct during the mock scenario, such as fully evacuating the building or collaborating with local authorities. You should also confirm evacuation routes and check to make sure all supplies, including first-aid kits, are ready.
- Activate emergency team. This is one of the most important steps. Here, your emergency team will mobilize and position all emergency equipment, provide water, medical care and other needs to stakeholders; and complete other tasks to help ensure continuity of operations.
- Notify stakeholders. Practice notifying employees and other stakeholders of the emergency. This includes individuals in your facility, as well as business partners, customers, and vendors to make sure that your communication method works as expected.
- Coordinate with local authorities. In a real emergency, you may need to coordinate with local police or fire and rescue as part of your response. If your emergency team is responsible for a large number of people, be sure to have a plan in place for reaching the appropriate authorities.
- Evacuate or shelter in place. Depending on the official directive, you will likely evacuate or shelter in place during a natural disaster. It’s important to practice this part of the scenario, especially if you did not face a natural disaster in 2020, as COVID-19 has changed the guidelines for sheltering in place.
Although there are many steps involved, staging mock disaster scenarios can be a simple process when completed with an issue and crisis management software platform, like In Case of Crisis 365. The platform can organize and distribute your critical content, activate your crisis team, launch the scenario, notify employees, and other key stakeholders, help you coordinate with local authorities and provide critical instructions, checklists and workflows to your team.
Last year, we put together a three-page guide, and a 12-page white paper with information on preparing for natural disasters while also navigating a pandemic. These resources are available for download here:
- Natural Disaster Preparedness in the Era of COVID-19 Guide
- Natural Disaster Preparedness in the Era of COVID-19 White Paper
By taking your emergency team through these key steps, you will be able to assess the effectiveness of your emergency plans. If you discover any vulnerabilities or “not workings,” now is the time to rectify them. By making the necessary adjustments today, you will be better prepared to for the 2021 natural disaster season and ensure your organization and its employees are well protected.