How many times have we waited too long to address something to later learn our procrastination ended up creating more work and heartache in the end?
This is a daily experience for many businesses pushing off activities which may on the surface seem unimportant or trivial in the moment but lack thereof in the wrong circumstances creates havoc on the business’ leaders and employees alike. Havoc also likes to bring with it a loss of time and funds for what that’s worth.
Enter the Emergency Response Plan (ERP); also referred to as an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
If you’ve ever seen an ERP, or been lucky enough [heavy sarcasm here] to be a part of the team putting one together, you know firsthand this exercise is no walk in the park. A thorough and well-rounded ERP can easily exceed 60 pages in length, we’ve seen them over 200 pages, covering everything from natural disaster planning to emergency health services and of course the latest business challenge - pandemics. Many also include Continuity of Operations Plan (COOPs) which address situations like when employees can’t come to the office but the show must go on. Sound familiar?
Gosh, ERP’s seem pretty important, right?
Exactly, then why is it so many companies, especially companies under 100 employees, don’t have an ERP in place. Not only do they not have a formal document and list of procedures to rely on when the sky falls, little to none of their employees have ever been trained in what to do should an emergency occur.
This is business gambling at its finest hour. Without a plan in place we are accepting an incredible amount of unnecessary risk.
Why do companies choose to put off business planning which includes ERP related procedures and documents? The survey says the #1 answer is ‘they didn’t think they needed it because it [an emergency] wouldn’t happen to them’. Other reasons why companies don’t have an ERP in place is they didn’t know they need one or they’re fire fighting [bad pun given the context of this article] other business needs which require immediate attention.
Whatever the reason may be which has led you to push off implementing an ERP just know this – should the proverbial crap hit the fan putting your business, operations, employees or facility in crisis mode, know that your company and or its directors could be held accountable for a lack of planning or action – especially if lives are at risk.
This is certainly a grim reality and one which isn’t fun to think about.
Let’s hope you’re in a position where you’ve been lucky enough to not experience any emergency or critical situations and therefore haven’t had to activate an emergency plan. If that’s the case we not so subtly suggest you consider the following:
Given the events of 2020 its understandable for businesses and their employees to be on edge about the unknowns ahead of us. Planning ahead of time for possible risks reduces our likelihood that risk develops into a situation which puts our employees or the company in danger. It’s always better to plan and have the plan never go into action than to be unprepared and regret it later on.
In January of this year we were contacted by a company to help create their first ERP as they had just experienced an emergency situation where an employee, we’ll call her Tina, fainted at the office in a common area. Another employee, let’s call him Josh, found her conscious but noticeably shaken up and still on the ground. Josh stayed by Tina’s side and called the paramedics with Tina’s approval. He stayed with her, providing support and comfort until the paramedics arrived; long and short Tina turned out to be okay, she had fainted due to overheating.
A couple months later I asked the company’s VP of Ops about the outcome of the situation to which she shared, “we were lucky Josh of all people found her, Josh was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) when he was in college and jumped right into action. If it had been anyone else, including me, we would have been unprepared not knowing what to do. We had no plan in place whatsoever to deal with a situation like this. Needless to say we’re lucky things ended without further incident and thankful the situation wasn’t worse for Tina. Interestingly enough, Tina and Josh now officially chair our emergency prep team.”
This company got a wakeup call and got lucky the situation wasn’t any worse. Prior to this incident they had no plan in place, no process to deal with crisis’ or emergency situations. Their business and employees were left to chance in dealing with critical moments, moments which can be the difference between life and death.
As Denis Waitley says, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
The names and situations described above have been changed to protect the identify and privacy of the company and individuals involved.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to get an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in place. The ERP acts as a guide providing step by step procedures for emergency situations. Not having a plan in place means you and your company are accepting a potential large amount of risk, risk which isn’t necessary.
Put on your activity list for immediate attention to implement step #1 in this article: Get an ERP type plan in place IMMEDIATELY; even if the plan you put in place initially is a couple pages worth of emergency preparedness, you’ll still be better off than a company that has nothing. The bare minimum requirements should include facility evacuation, emergency health and utility dangers protocols; include heavy equipment/ chemical hazard protocols should they apply.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a medical device consulting firm, providing end to end engineering and compliance services. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years and has been recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.