Small to medium business tips: dealing with workplace emergencies such as earthquakes

Emergency mind-map provided by | click to enlarge

It feels wrong to have to write a blog post like this. After all, how great would it be to exist in a world where the threat of earthquakes or other natural disasters are just that - a threat and not a reality. However, after the events of the past week, there is only so much burying your head in the sand one can do.

The topic of keeping safe in emergencies is one not new to us here in 'Dojo, we are pretty serious about Health & Safety when it comes to our team and the humans that call BizDojo home and have plans in place for all sorts of eventualities. But when it comes to topics like this, it isn’t all about us. This in mind we have put this blog together to help you, whoever you may be and wherever you may be placed to keep you and your team safe. Think we missed something important? Reach out to us on Twitter or the comments below and we will add it in.

What can you do to make your business more prepared for emergencies right now?
You may be a small business that has thought about this subject before but does not know where to start, or you may be a business located outside of perceived “emergency hot zones”. In which case, the advice from Dave Greenberg emergency management consultant and resident from Wellington BizDojo is something to heed. Dave says that the one thing you should be thinking and doing today to prepare is frankly “ANYTHING”. Taking a measure by measure approach Dave suggests “if people take one action a day (or week) they will be better prepared whenever an emergency strikes”. 

Creating a plan to keep safe

Dave suggests we think logically - “30 seconds after an emergency strikes, what do you want to have? What would you want to know and who would you want to be with? These are the things you need to keep in mind when preparing.” For most, an emergency preparedness plan will involve plans they make personally and ones they make involving their workplace. If you are unsure where to start, Dave suggests checking out the website, and his own website Dave also suggests taking a holistic approach because “wherever you live in the country, you need to plan for emergencies ranging from medical emergencies to flooding to power outages to earthquakes.”

You need to define what you want to happen in a natural disaster and what your priorities are. After an emergency or natural disaster, Dave suggests we stop, and assess what could cause us danger. Assess the situation you find yourself in, figure out a plan and execute on it. Your priorities? 

1. Personal safety, 2. Preserve life, 3. Get help, 4. Contain escalation - if someone is panicking give them a job to keep them busy e.g. looking for an ambulance or boiling water. 5. Maintain order and 6. care for the sick and injured. 

Residents of BizDojo Auckland, Blerter are experts on Health & Safety and feel having a thorough evacuation plan, which is clearly communicated to your team and revisited with them regularly is key. “Many types of emergencies can require you to evacuate your office quickly. Make sure you have an evacuation plan and your team is familiar with it. Maybe run through is as part of your team meeting every now and then or, even better, have a quick and easy way for people to access it when they need it most.” Post the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, Civil Defence New Zealand have advised that a Fire Evacuation policy does not work well in an Earthquake setting, so it is important to have specific plans in place for a variety of circumstances.

Planning an earthquake evacuation plan: see this page on The Ministry of Civil Defence website
Planning a fire evacuation plan: see this page on The NZ Fire Service website
Planning a Tsunami evacuation plan: see this page on The Auckland Civil Defence website,  this page on the Wellington City Council website, this page on the Christchurch City Council website or contact your local council to see if you are at risk.

Keep your communication lines as open as possible
“Whether an emergency happens during working hours or after hours, you will probably want to check-in with your people to make sure everyone is safe and help those who are not. Have a plan for how you will do so quickly (emails and text messages can easily become time-consuming) - and make sure your people know how you will reach out to them and what response you are expecting. BTW, this is what Blerter’s new RollCall functionality is all about.“  - Lisa Jansen, Blerter

Update your staff emergency contact lists:
In an emergency you want to be able to check your team is OK, and to keep your business running. The thing is, it isn't enough to just have mobile numbers. The 2011 Christchurch Earthquake taught us that mobile networks can experience overloading, so think about alternative numbers, details of partners or parents, email addresses, home addresses - hell maybe even a twitter handle. Plan for every eventuality.

Make sure you know how to contact your key business contacts too:
So you know how to contact Al from Accounts in an emergency? Choice. In order for you to keep your business afloat, you should also create a list of emergency contacts for your key customers and suppliers.

Make sure your information is kept in multiple places.
Backup to the cloud, keep a drive safe, and print out some of the important stuff. Keep your bases covered.

Build resilience into your business
Wherever possible you are going to want to be in a position where you can keep trading post emergency. This said, we know just how busy owners of startups and small/medium businesses are - and the idea of planning for continuity post-disaster can feel too much. Thankfully the guys from Get Prepared have made it easy. Head over to their website to walk through their guide and download their online resources, including their It’s Easy - Prepared Business Edition, Business Continuity Plan and Sensitive Business Information Register.

Anya helps hone Brand & Marketing for BizDojo you can find her on twitter here