Emergencies can occur anytime and anywhere. An emergency can evolve in scope and impact by its very nature, which makes it unpredictable. Therefore, protecting lives, the environment and property requires advanced planning and preparation.

Considering that several decisions need to be taken quickly when an emergency first arises and that the chain of command may not be available to make a decision, it is important to have a disaster management program in place.

Understanding disaster management

Disasters come in various forms. Industrial explosions or structural failures are examples of disasters that are caused by human mistakes. Earthquakes and droughts are examples of physical events that result in natural disasters. Armed conflicts and epidemics are examples of complex disasters.

Regardless of their shape, disasters cause community disruption and can have a significant negative impact on people, property, businesses and the environment.

The practice of efficiently anticipating and responding to calamities is known as disaster management. The top management must strategically organize resources to reduce the damage caused by disasters. It also entails a systematic strategy for managing the responsibilities of the disaster’s five phases: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.  

Disaster management phases

If no action plan is implemented, the disaster could result in businesses closing down and never resuming operations. Fortunately, organizations can protect their employees, properties and bottom line by considering the five phases of disaster management, as explained below.

Prevention

The prevention phase entails any action taken to prevent natural, technological or human-made hazards from happening. Although organizations cannot prevent all hazards, they can take some actions to reduce the impact. For instance, building under strict planning and design standards can prevent a structure from collapsing.

Mitigation

The mitigation phase takes place before a disaster occurs. It is a cost-effective method that reduces damage or hazard impact. The phase starts by identifying the risks through physical risk assessment.

If the risks are higher, then urgent mitigation efforts can be put in place targeting hazard-specific vulnerabilities. For instance, if a risk assessment shows that an external disaster such as flooding is likely, then mitigation strategies can be put in place to decrease the risk and consequences – for example, availing food, medical support and communication channels. Organizations can buy insurance policies to protect themselves from lawsuits if employees are injured in the workplace.

Preparedness

Planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising and reviewing, including corrective action, are all continuous phases of preparation that increase a community or organization’s ability to respond to a disaster. The preparedness phase focuses on responding to dangers, incidents and emergencies. Training and emergency preparedness strategies improve a community or organization’s capacity to react to a disaster.

Some preparedness strategies may include creating mutual aid agreements and memorandums of understanding, training for emergency responders and concerned citizens or employees, holding catastrophe drills to refresh training and test capabilities, and launching all-hazards education campaigns.

Response

The response phase entails actions taken right before, during and after a hazard impact to save lives, minimize financial losses, and ease suffering. Organizations can do more through the activation of an emergency operations center. They can evacuate people facing threats, provide mass shelters and care, organize emergency rescue and medical care, and conduct firefighting, including reestablishing operations at the organizational level.

Recovery

The recovery phase entails activities that continue beyond the emergency period and aims to rebuild after a disaster. It occurs concurrently with regular operations and aims to return operations to normalcy by repairing and restoring social and economic damage. It can take a long time before concluding.

Examples of the recovery phase include rebuilding structures or roads, debris cleanup, financial assistance for affected individuals, and reducing vulnerability to future disasters.

Benefits of an emergency management system

Unfortunately, many businesses develop a disaster management program after an incident occurs. As a result, they are caught unprepared, and the effects result in the business suffering. Having a disaster management system in place can sometimes feel like a secondary need, but it brings many benefits, as outlined below.

Demonstrate a commitment to safety

Having an emergency management system in place guarantees employee safety. By establishing measures to counter threats, employees feel that the organization puts their safety and security at the forefront.

The opposite is also true. When workers feel that their safety is neglected, they will likely leave the organization, which, in turn, will affect business performance and productivity.  

Additionally, employees will feel more confident knowing that their positions won’t terminate abruptly in the event of a disaster. Knowing that their jobs are secure is the greatest employee motivation to push them to always give their best effort.

It builds their loyalty and will to invest in their work, go the extra mile, and innovate new ideas. Besides, loyal employees are always happy and productive.

Improve regulatory compliance

Disaster preparedness is vital in ensuring that businesses have all the regulatory requirements in order. During the preparedness phase, businesses ensure that they align regulations with corresponding response plans and components.

As a result, they can identify deficiencies and avoid unnecessary fines and penalties or mandatory closure.

Businesses should also check if they have all the necessary equipment, assembly points, and trained staff for an emergency. Understanding the loopholes gives the management time to plan and acquire all the necessary equipment and offer training.

The management must also ensure that they have created a safe workplace for their employees. Disaster preparedness protects businesses from expensive litigations and lawsuits that can ruin them financially.

Standardized response techniques

An emergency response system that is consistent throughout the organization can provide site-specific information and management-approved procedures. Standardization creates a shared understanding of intended actions by enabling employees and responders to understand their roles and responsibilities across an enterprise.

Responders can be helped in assessing, prioritizing and responding to situations by consistent, site-specific approaches.

Reduce or eliminate incidents through risk assessments

Organizations can take measures to reduce or even eliminate the possibility of an emergency when prospective dangers and risks are identified. The use of updated safety protocols, equipment acquisition and employee training are some examples of mitigation measures.

Additionally, the state of your building or site could affect your response’s safety or efficacy. Therefore, you should change or eliminate conditions that endanger residents, the environment, infrastructure and neighboring communities.

The risk assessment procedure can be used to find circumstances that might trigger emergencies.

Integrate technology

Response plans have been ineffective in the past because they needed to be updated. Businesses have met a lot of challenges keeping up with the administrative duties of response plans.

However, due to the advent of cutting-edge software, it is now easier to maintain and update response plans, saving time and money.

Cost-effective

Undoubtedly, regulatory fines, prolonged response operations, and the overall consequences of an incident are often more expensive than proactive compliance measures, safety programs, training and exercises, and response and resiliency planning.

Increase business value

A company’s value largely depends on its capacity to endure adverse conditions. An excellent catastrophe preparedness plan for a business makes it a more valuable and trustworthy investment than others.

A growing need for disaster management professionals

Due to global climate change, the world is likely to experience more natural disasters. People should also anticipate more epidemics as infectious diseases have increased. Water scarcity, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters will likely elevate ecological threats and result in human and animal displacement. 

Fortunately, there is hope despite the disturbing news. Disaster management experts have the skills to conduct life-saving response and recovery efforts for future catastrophes and lessen the suffering and losses.

If you are considering taking a course in disaster management, you are on track as you qualify for a wealth of job options. Public, private and non-profit organizations hire disaster management experts for various positions. Government agencies and departments also hire disaster management professionals to handle search-and-rescue missions and contain infectious diseases.

However, to equip yourself with the right skills, enroll for a Graduate Diploma in Emergency Management from a reputable institution such as Wilfrid Laurier University Online. Experienced public safety professionals developed this course to align with the current public safety initiatives. It delivers practical knowledge in emergency management, which is applicable in office and field settings.

Key elements to effective disaster management

Most businesses continue to fall short of disaster planning and preparedness. Lack of adequate and strategic preparation leaves room for serious consequences that put employees, customers and the community at risk. However, adopting these key components to an effective emergency management plan reduces or eliminates the associated risks.

Clear communication

Sometimes, organizations tend to withhold information about a potential disaster from their employees, associates and the public, thinking that it might harm the business. However, this approach needs to be corrected. Businesses should prove their commitment to offering a safe and secure working environment by being open and honest. 

Talking openly about the threat could have far less of an effect on the business perception than people learning about it after the information leaks. When employees and the public receive correct information from the management, they are likely to act according to the plan.

Therefore, everyone in the organization should be informed about a disaster to manage an emergency effectively. Clear communication puts all stakeholders on the same page and makes initiating a response and recovery plan easier.

Comprehensive training

Emergency training prepares employees for emergencies and ensures that every individual understands what to do in case of an incident. Comprehensive training helps them follow emergency protocols to reduce physical injuries or fatalities.

Training also improves the trainee’s level of confidence in case of a dangerous situation, makes them feel more assured of their capabilities, and gives them the courage to remember all the steps taught during training drills.

Comprehensive training also empowers trainees to utilize safety resources correctly. For instance, during emergency training, employees are taught how to use a fire extinguisher and how each type is used for different fire incidences.

Training is also a long-term investment, as it increases employee retention. Putting safety measures in place increases staff loyalty and triggers higher productivity and better turnover.

Proper leadership

Most organizations take disaster preparedness as a secondary pursuit to the day-to-day demands of operating a business. However, this notion needs to be corrected as it’s misguided.

The ability to keep the business running depends on many factors, one being identifying and mitigating all possible disaster causes. When disaster strikes, operations are halted, customers are not served, and the business records losses.

Operating during a disaster is a welcome move, as it generates uninterrupted revenue. However, to do so, the management must devote enough resources toward disaster preparedness.

There must be streamlined strategies that will prevent the business operations from getting out of control. For instance, the leadership can set up an effective emergency management department and have an insurance policy to keep things in place even during difficult situations.

A comprehensive disaster management plan

An emergency response program should be comprehensive to meet your specific business needs. It should look at the big picture and include small details to fully determine the risks and hazards to your operations.

It should also be developed using available resources, as it must be key to people’s safety, environmental and property safety, and business continuity. It should also be developed under the industry’s best practices by experts with the skills, resources and expertise to develop effective disaster management systems for any industry. 

Disaster can wreak havoc on an entire community or organization in an instant. If not properly equipped to respond, communities or businesses can suffer huge losses, injuries or, even worse, death. Therefore, having a disaster management system in place is an excellent way to ensure that disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery are made strategically and that the impact is reduced or eliminated.

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