Firms Not Prepared for Emergencies

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In South Florida, three-out-of-five decision-makers surveyed stated that their company has suffered from a disaster, yet, one-out-of-five stated that their company hasn't taken any action to plan for future incidents. According to SHRM, employees expect action. In Miami, a local firm has launched a public service project to create a safer, more comfortable and productive environment for companies, their employees, customers, vendors, communities, and visitors. The Weiss Consulting Group is addressing the issue of sparse emergency action planning in businesses. Called "Operation Work-Safe", the goal of the project is for the need for emergency action planning in companies to come alive throughout the community.

as long as you establish a policy of complete openness with agencies such as OSHA, you will usually find that you are given time to correct violations, so long as the violation does not present eminent danger. OSHA will also work with you on implementing creative low or no cost remedies

In South Florida alone, three-out-of-five decision-makers surveyed in 2006 by AT&T stated that their company has suffered from a disaster, which is more than twice that of the national average5. Yet, one-out-of-five decision makers stated that their company hasn't taken any action to plan for future incidents5. Nationally, nearly 30 percent of companies surveyed stated that their company has suffered from a disaster: 19% from extreme weather, 16% from fire, 19% from floods, 10% from earthquakes, 7% from terrorist attacks, and 8% from tornados5.

In a study presented to congress in November of 2005, among 200 small and medium sized enterprises surveyed, it was found that only a quarter had prepared a terrorism contingency plan. Small and medium sized enterprises account for over 90 percent of U.S. firms4.

And employees expect action. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 48 percent of employees have higher expectations for safety/security since 9/11/20012.

So when asked why they haven't started planning, many companies say that their shareholders do not reward them for the preparation. In companies where emergency planning is not rewarded, 60% say that it is because other issues have taken priority, and 43% say that it is because the probability of a major incident is low. This may be in part because sensational incidents in the media represent only a tiny fraction of actual incidents, where the vast majority make no headlines or go unreported. 3, 5, 9

Emergency Action Planning is not rocket science. However, the information available today is so vast and published in different forms from so many sources, many companies become overwhelmed and do not know where to start. Plan development requires intense communication and cooperation among departments within a company and other stakeholders10. If a company has internal issues between management layers, for example, planning can be more difficult.

Some companies fear that the development of emergency plans will expose their firms to penalties if violations are discovered. According to Jay Weiss, President of The Weiss Consulting Group, "My experience is that this is unjustified. Two of the best places to go for help on Emergency Action Planning are OSHA and your local Fire Department. Yet, when one of these names is mentioned, people say 'you're not going to bring them here, are you?' My response is usually something like yes, absolutely, and we're also going to bring in your employees, neighbors, worker's comp insurance provider, and probably your local police department1, 10". Depending on the nature of the business, other agencies such as the EPA may need to be consulted as well. Weiss continues that "as long as you establish a policy of complete openness with agencies such as OSHA, you will usually find that you are given time to correct violations, so long as the violation does not present eminent danger. OSHA will also work with you on implementing creative low or no cost remedies".

BENEFITS

According to the FBI, the benefits of establishing an Emergency Action Plan include a restoration of the sense of security every worker has a right to feel while on a job9, which can in turn reduce missed work days. Some Worker's Compensation Insurance Providers will offer a discount to companies that can show they have implemented a plan.

The benefits to the community include the reduction in future potential human cost, and its impact on future available resources1. Secondary opportunities include the enhancement of the image of our community as a world-class place for business within the Americas.

HELP WITH HOW TO GET STARTED: A FIRM'S CRUSADE FOR EMERGENCY ACTION PLANNING

In Miami, a local firm has launched a public service project to create a safer, more comfortable and productive environment for South Florida companies, their employees, customers, vendors, communities, and visitors.

The Weiss Consulting Group is addressing the issue of sparse emergency action planning in businesses. Called "Operation Work-Safe", the goal of the project is for the need for emergency action planning in companies to come alive throughout the community.

Weiss intends to remove barriers to emergency action planning by creating a BUZZ in the community. By unraveling the components and steps that are involved, companies will see clearer how they can get started planning.

Weiss' approach to creating the buzz is to get the word out through no-cost private meetings and speaking engagements at places such as chambers of commerce, other organizations such as private businesses, non-profits, and government agencies.

Meetings and speaking engagements cover how companies can develop internal incident command structures; the plan components; examples; and entertain questions.

The Weiss Consulting Group is looking for interested agencies, organizations, and various media to spread the word.

BACKGROUND

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a comprehensive system that spells out how a company or facility prevents, prepares for, and responds to an emergency. An Emergency Action Plan captures the steps that are to be followed when something terrible happens, such as a natural disaster, an explosion or attack, a fire, a nearby chemical spill, or an injury. Emergency Action Plans increase employee morale, reduce panic during an incident that otherwise could exacerbate the situation, and increase control that enhances the ability of responders to get to those in need.

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a required of all businesses by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, a division of the US Department of Labor, under 29 CFR 1910.38.

According to Weiss, the typical plan components include the following:

  •     A guide to building policy, injury prevention, and security
  •     On site easy access to reference documents for responders
  •     Procedures to teach and plan evacuation1, 13
  •     Procedures to shelter-in-place1, 12
  •     The Safety Committee14
  •     The Fire Prevention Plan1
  •     A response guide that contains preparation, at-incident, and follow-up procedures for the members of the emergency organization, the general employees and the company. Categories of procedures can include medical; crime, violence, and threats11 ; fire; gas, power, water, chemicals, and explosion; and weather and/or geological

TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PROJECT

To take advantage, please contact Jay Weiss of The Weiss Consulting Group at 305-632-8469, or via email.

REFERENCES

1. Homeland Security. Ready Business Brochure. Ready Business. Retrieved February 17, 2007, from Department of Homeland Security: http://www.ready.gov/business/_downloads/ReadyBusiness-Brochure.pdf

2. Changes Since 9/11. (September 10, 2003). http://www.shrm.org. Socienty for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Retrieved February 18, 2007.

3. PROMOTING PRIVATE SECTOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Hearings before the Committee on Small Business, of the House of Representatives, 109th Congress, 35 (2005) (testimony of MICHAEL CZINKOTA, McDONOUGH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY).

4. PROMOTING PRIVATE SECTOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Hearings before the Committee on Small Business, of the House of Representatives, 109th Congress, 35 (2005) (testimony of Dr. Gary Knight, Florida State Univerity).

5. (2006). AT&T 2006 Business Continuity Study. Western Wats and Opinion Research Corporation. Retrieved February 18, 2007 from http://www.att.com/Common/merger/files/pdf/att_bus_cont_highlights.pdf

6. (2006). Managing business continuity risk: Continuing the Journey. The CPM Group (CPM) and Deloitte & Touche LLP (Deloitte & Touche). Retrieved February 18, 2007 from http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/cda/doc/content/us_assur_2005%20BCM%20SURVEY%20REPORT.pdf

7. PROMOTING PRIVATE SECTOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Hearings before the Committee on Small Business, of the House of Representatives, 109th Congress, 35 (2005) (testimony of NEIL C. LIVINGSTONE, GLOBALOPTIONS, INC).

8. FEMA. Declaration Archives. Retrieved February 18, 2007 from http://www.fema.gov

9. Emerging Trends in Employment and Labor Law: Hearings before the House, Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations. (2002) (testimony of Testimony of Eugene Rugala, Supervisory Special Agent, FBI). Retrieved on February 17, 2007 from http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress02/rugala092602.htm

10. Carl Aylen, Ph.D. and David A. Cole, Ph.D. (2002). The Implications of Behavioral Factors for Effective Building Evacuation Plans and Procedures. National Safety Council / Injury Insights. Retrieved February 17, 2007, from http://www.thecambridgedon.com/NationalSafetyCouncilArticle.pdf

11. National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (US Department of Justice). Workplace Violence Issues In Response. March 1, 2004. Retrieved February 17, 2007 from http://www.fbi.gov/publications/violence.pdf.

12. National Institute for Chemical Studies. Shelter In Place at Your Office: A general guide for preparing a shelter in place plan in the workplace. Retrieved on February 17, 2007 from http://www.nicsinfo.org's Shelter-in-Place Information Center

13. OSHA (US Department of Labor). How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations. 2001. Retrieved on February 17, 2007 from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3088.pdf

14. Oregon OSHA. Safety committees for the real world. March 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2007 from http://www.cbs.state.or.us/external/osha/pdf/pubs/2341.pdf
ABOUT THE WEISS CONSULTING GROUP

Founded in 2000, the Weiss Consulting Group offers companies looking to relocate or expand the knowledge and know-how that is essential in making the initiative a reality. Weiss Consulting Group is headquartered in Miami, Florida. Additional information can be found on the web at http://www.theweissconsultinggroup.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, please contact Jay Weiss at 305-632-8469 (fax: 305-675-6301), or by email.

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