Building a Disaster Preparedness Program

September is National Preparedness Month, as recognized by, an official website of the Department of Homeland Security. This year’s slogan, is “Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” Whether you already have a disaster/emergency plan in place or want to implement one, here is a great checklist of steps to reference, that are approved!

  1. Program Management
    • Organize, develop, and administer your preparedness program. It is crucial for everyone on your team to be aware of the preparedness program and the risk involved in not following it completely.
      • Up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen. (Source: Insurance Information Institute)
      • Customers expect delivery of products or services on time. If there is a significant delay, customers may go to a competitor.
    • Identify how much risk your business can tolerate in order to reopen after an emergency. Many risks cannot be insured, so a proper preparedness program may be the only means of managing those risks.
    • Preparedness Plan Policy: A preparedness policy that is consistent with the mission and vision of the business should be written and disseminated by management. The policy should define roles and responsibilities. It should authorize selected employees to develop the program and keep it current. The policy should also define the goals and objectives of the program. Typical goals of the preparedness program include:
      • Protect the safety of employees, visitors, contractors, and others at risk from hazards at the facility. Plan for persons with disabilities and functional needs.
      • Maintain customer service by minimizing interruptions or disruptions of business operations
      • Protect facilities, physical assets, and electronic information
      • Prevent environmental contamination
      • Protect the organization’s brand, image, and reputation
  2. Planning
    • Gather information about hazards and assess risks
      • The planning process should take an “all hazards” approach. There are many different threats or hazards. The probability that a specific hazard will impact your business is hard to determine. That’s why it’s important to consider many different threats and hazards and the likelihood they will occur.
      • Strategies for prevention/deterrence and risk mitigation should be developed as part of the planning process. Threats or hazards that are classified as probable and those hazards that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption or environmental impact should be addressed.
    • Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)
      • The business impact analysis (BIA) identifies time sensitive or critical processes and the financial and operational impacts resulting from disruption of those business processes. The BIA also gathers information about resources requirements to support the time sensitive or critical business processes.
  3. Implementation
    • Implementation of the preparedness program includes identifying and assessing resources, writing plans, developing a system to manage incidents and training employees so they can execute plans.
      • Resource Management: Resources needed for responding to emergencies, continuing business operations, and communicating during and after an incident should be identified and assessed.
      • Emergency Response Plan: Plans to protect people, property, and the environment should be developed. Plans should include evacuation, sheltering in place, and lockdown as well as plans for other types of threats identified during the risk assessment.
      • Crisis Communications Plan: A plan should be established to communicate with employees, customers, the news, media, and stakeholders.
      • Business Continuity Plan: A business continuity plan that includes recovery strategies to overcome the disruption of business should be developed.
      • Information Technology Plan: A plan to recover computer hardware, connectivity, and electronic data to support critical business processes should be developed.
      • Employee Assistance & Support: The business preparedness plan should encourage employees and their families to develop family preparedness plans. Plans should also be developed to support the needs of employees following an incident.
      • Incident Management: An incident management system is needed to define responsibilities and coordinate activities before, during and following an incident.
      • Training: Persons with a defined role in the preparedness program should be trained to do their assigned tasks. All employees should be trained so they can take appropriate protective actions during an emergency.
  4. Testing & Exercises
    • You should conduct testing and exercises to evaluate the effectiveness of your preparedness program, make sure employees know what to do, and find any missing parts.
      • There are many benefits to testing and exercises:
        • Train personnel; clarify roles and responsibilities
        • Reinforce knowledge of procedures, facilities, systems, and equipment
        • Improve individual performance as well as organizational coordination and communications
        • Evaluate policies, plans, procedures, and the knowledge and skills of team members
        • Reveal weaknesses and resource gaps
        • Comply with local laws, codes, and regulations
        • Gain recognition for the emergency management and business continuity program
      • Testing the Plan: You may find that there are parts of your preparedness program that will not work in practice. Consider a recovery strategy that requires relocating to another facility and configuring equipment at that facility. Can equipment at the alternate facility be configured in time to meet the planned recovery time objective? Can alarm systems be heard and understood throughout the building to warn all employees to take protective action? Can members of emergency response or business continuity teams be alerted to respond in the middle of the night? Testing is necessary to determine whether or not the various parts of the preparedness program will work.
      • Exercises: Exercising the preparedness program helps to improve the overall strength of the preparedness program and the ability of team members to perform their roles and to carry out their responsibilities. There are several different types of exercises that can help you to evaluate your program and its capability to protect your employees, facilities, business operations, and the environment.
  5. Program Improvement
    • Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed
    • Discover methods to evaluate the preparedness program
    • Utilize the review to make necessary changes and plan improvements

    BONUS STEP – Priority Service Agreement

    For commercial clients, a very important step to consider when developing your preparedness program is the importance of having at least one Priority Service Agreement in place. Having an agreement in place with one or multiple restoration companies will ensure that you receive priority service in times of disaster. Woodard’s Priority Service Agreement (PSA) also ensures that you have a Work Authorization already on file, eliminating the need for additional paperwork and hassle, and expediting our ability to start the restoration process quickly. Further, Woodard’s PSA also locks in pricing for one year, so you know exactly what you’re going to pay for any services needed in the near future. If you have questions about your existing PSA or signing a new one with Woodard, your Account Manager would be happy to help you!



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