National Preparedness Month (NPM) continues as we near the end of September and although NPM is coming to a close, emergency preparedness is a continual improvement process. I hope you will take this opportunity to think about preparedness initiatives for your organization. The final topic for NPM has to do with practicing for an emergency. Anyone who has participated in activities involving teamwork—from music to sports to emergency drills—knows that practice is the best way to achieve your goals and execute strategies effectively under stressful circumstances. Best laid plans can fall to pieces if an organization’s personnel are unfamiliar with the strategy and expectations for business continuity and disaster recovery. Practicing your emergency action plans and flushing out problems and discrepancies prior to an event will result in a more successful outcome during a real-life event.
But success is not just about practice. Knowing your organization’s vulnerabilities is key to building a successful business continuity program. One of the best ways to practice for an emergency is to run a tabletop exercise. Located in Houston, ImpactWeather has a hurricane risk. Each year we run a tabletop exercise with our Incident Management Team and we make it a point to focus on the decision-making process during an emergency situation such as a landfalling hurricane. In most organizations, roles and personnel change, so it’s important that team members new to the Incident Management Team (Crisis Management Team, Incident Support Team, etc) are familiar with their responsibilities and expectations during an emergency.
It’s also important to test your internal Emergency Notification System so that all employees are familiar with the notifications and will respond appropriately during an event. Having an updated list of contact information is also a key component of effectively testing the notification system. The digital age allows notifications to be sent via SMS text, email, work phone, personal cell phone, and even social media. Defining the notification system that works best for your organization will depend on your own specific needs, however, the practice of testing is universally recommended.
A word about Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA): Do you ever receive emergency alerts on your smart phone or other wireless device and wonder where they originate? These alerts include a special tone and vibration, both of which are repeated twice. The WEA messages are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. They are free of charge and include alerts for extreme weather and other threatening emergencies in your area, AMBER Alerts and Presidential Alerts during a national emergency. It’s interesting to note you can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. All this and more information can be found on the FEMA website for Wireless Emergency Alerts.
National Preparedness Month is designed to spur you into action; to begin designing an emergency plan, to drill one that already exists, to open a dialogue with your employees and Incident Management Team and more. September is drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to delay or ignore your preparedness planning.