It’s 2 a.m. and the phone rings…

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It seems like there have been a multitude of events in the news lately that would require a company to put its Emergency Response Plan (ERP) into action. Unfortunately, 2 a.m. with an event unfolding is no time to realize that your program is weak and out-of-date or, worse yet, non-existent.

Having an ERP is almost like admitting that you haven’t done everything you can to be accident free or that you can’t manage all your risks. Every business, no matter what risks they incur, should have an ERP. What would you do if you experienced a natural disaster at your work place and had to initiate a recovery plan? Without some kind of plan, you’ll be shooting in the dark on what to do. Whether it’s an airplane crash, toxic waste spill, tornado, or earthquake, an ERP serves the same purpose. If you don’t have one, get busy and start working on one!

For those that already have a plan, when was the last time you reviewed it? One of my roles with JDA is to serve as a tech writer on manual system revision projects. I have reviewed a variety of ERPs in which company contact personnel listed in the ERP were no longer with the company or that the telephone numbers had changed. If it hadn’t been for the manual revision project, the ERP would have been fairly useless and outdated documents that would have been of little value in the event of real disaster event.

A company should review its ERP at least once annually if not twice a year. Also, if conditions dictate a review or revision do it. Events such as headquarters office address change, personnel changes, new phone systems/numbers and new software programs, etc. warrant a review. Having a current ERP is a great first step but you also need to practice to make sure that your program functions according to the plan. A disaster is not the first time you want your response actually “testing” your ERP. At least once a year, perform an unannounced TEST emergency. Initiate the chain and observe. Afterwards, conduct a post ERP test debrief to discuss how things went and any positives or negatives discovered. Take this information into account and update your ERP procedures manual.

No one wants something to happen, but when it does wouldn’t you rather be prepared?

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