Natural Disasters and Emergency Preparedness in The Workplace

With natural disasters being so commonplace these days, preparedness is not an option or a luxury; it is a necessity. Many such disasters occur with little to no warning, while in other instances—such as hurricanes—there can be a few days to a week’s warning. In either case, the time to prepare is now.

Often the emphasis on disaster preparedness is focused on homeowners and families. But businesses, particularly small businesses, are highly susceptible to the devastating impacts of natural disasters as well.

What Kind of Equipment Do I Need in Order to Prepare for Natural Disasters?

Emergency preparedness looks different for different companies. It also depends on what part of the world you are in and what types of natural disasters are most prevalent. Depending on your business’ scope of work, the materials you work with, and your exposure to natural events, you could need any number of different pieces of equipment.

You need to consider how you will:

  • Safeguard flammable liquids and hazardous materials that are on site
  • Ensure that you have adequate fuel for your generators and other equipment
  • Store your emergency preparedness equipment
  • Contain spills
  • Provide basic hygiene for your workers

Be prepared when disaster strikes

Natural disasters can strike at any time, causing temporary power outages and other hazards. The aftermath could include infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and serious injuries. Being prepared can make unplanned events easier to handle and keep you safe.

View the full guide on Natural Disaster Preparedness: Safely Manage Power Outages and Other Hazards.

The Effects of Natural Disasters on Businesses

Here’s a closer look at the effects of natural disasters on businesses:

  • Supply Chain Disruptions: Efficient and reliable supply chains are critical to the success of a company. Natural disasters can affect roads, bridges, and airports which means moving goods and services in affected areas is impossible.
  • Communication Barriers: When natural disasters destroy power stations, cell towers, and optical fiber lines, communicating with staff through is difficult or impossible.
  • Damaged Buildings: Significant damage to commercial buildings leading to costly repairs and loss of revenue.
  • Loss of Equipment: The cost of replacing damaged equipment, in addition to funding renovations, can cripple a business’s efforts to reopen.
  • Loss of Personnel: Injuries, relocations, and even deaths due to disasters can suddenly reduce a well-trained workforce.
  • Loss of Clients: Natural disasters often cause people to move away from the affected area and clients are often focused on their own recovery.

Safety Measures During Natural Catastrophes

The first step is to create a natural disaster action plan also known as an emergency action plan (EAP). The EAP should include the following steps:

  • Identify Critical Assets: This includes physical equipment, data, and personal needed in order to stay in business. Identify those critical assets and list them.
  • List Possible Disasters: Think about the types of disasters that can affect the business.  This can be fire, tornado, flooding, etc. Rank them in order of likelihood.
  • Plan to Protect Your Critical Assets: Think about how each disaster would affect your critical assets. List methods on how to protect them or find alternative solutions if you have to do without them.
  • Make a Plan for Employees: Have an idea for what employees should do in any kind of emergency. Make it clear on where they go, what they need to do, and how to keep them safe.
  • Make a Communication Plan: Develop a system for keeping everyone’s contact information and backup contact information up-to-date.
  • Back-Up Systems and Data: This applies even if your company is not a tech firm. Client data, reports, financial information, or other digital assets are critical business operations. Backup everything on a regular basis in multiple locations.
  • Alternative Location: If the main business location is out of commission for a while, you will need a new base location in order to coordinate recovery efforts. Don’t wait until the disaster strikes to find a temporary location.
  • Test the Plan: Practice makes perfect. Simulate an emergency so that all employees have training and practice. Appoint leaders and extensively train and brief them on what to do. These leaders can help other employees to follow the plan. Practice the plan regularly and refine it as needed.
This article republished with permission from Justrite.
View our other blog posts on Effective Safety Programs.

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