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The Ultimate Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Management

Thinking about emergency situations and how they might affect your organization is not always at the top of your mind. However, being unprepared for the wide variety of situations that could disrupt your operations spells disaster.

Emergency management takes a comprehensive look at preparing for disasters and other hazards that are most likely to occur—specific to your organization and location—that pose the highest threat level or potential impact on your business continuity.

Every organization should have an Emergency Management and Preparedness plan to deal with several potential issues. When people think of emergency situations, they often consider natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or power outages. But an Emergency Management and Preparedness consultant can also craft action plans and robust training for issues like emerging infectious diseases (such as COVID-19 or H1N1), mass shootings, fires, and cyber-attacks, to name a few.

The Five Key Components of Emergency and Disaster Management

Emergency Management (or EM) is responsible for the overall management and implementation of each of these five critical components:

  1. Business continuity: an organization’s ability to maintain critical functions during or immediately after a disaster
  2. Disaster recovery: the method an organization uses to gain access to IT infrastructure and primary functions after a disaster
  3. Emergency response: an organization’s immediate reaction to a disaster to identify and mitigate risks
  4. Resource management: the process used to find, retain, restore, or distribute necessary resources to maintain critical functions after a disaster
  5. Situational awareness: an understanding of all the components of the organization and of the disaster that affect the ability to maintain normal operating functions

Through the management of facilitating business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency response, resource management, and situational awareness, EM also provides disaster preparedness education programs to community groups like schools, businesses, and municipalities to promote community resilience.

Often, an EM Consultant will aid these critical infrastructure organizations and partner with agencies to design and update preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery plans to maintain a high level of readiness for communities. EM also helps to maintain and coordinate the distribution of vital resources and coordinates a damage assessment after disasters to initiate a recovery process.

Furthermore, EM designs, develops, and implements a variety of training and exercise programs to test the capabilities of emergency responders. EM can work closely with the response community to schedule and implement training required for all levels of emergency management certification—from businesses to non-profits to public sector operations.

The 5 Phases of Emergency and Disaster Management

In addition to the five key components of EM, there are also five primary phases of EM that control the way we respond to or stave off emergency situations.

1. Prevention

The first goal of any Emergency Response Plan or EM Consultant is to prevent disasters that might occur and that we can control. A perfect example of a disaster that we could potentially control is a cyber-attack. With the proper IT infrastructure to protect privacy combined with employee education, we can stop most—if not all—cyber-attacks in their tracks.

2. Mitigation

The mitigation phase of an Emergency Response Plan is much like what it sounds: the process or steps taken to ease the burden and future effects of a foreseeable disaster. Mitigation can look like having the processes and resources to quickly move to remote work for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of infectious disease or investing in the ability to own and quickly deploy generators or other backup energy sources in the case of a power outage.

3. Preparedness

A major component of any Emergency Response Plan is to maintain a high level of preparedness for any catastrophe that might impact your business or community. Maintaining preparedness means your organization goes through a constant cycle of organizing, planning, training, and evaluating your emergency plans. In action, this might mean quarterly or monthly assessments of your different emergency plans and required annual training for employees on a variety of safety topics.

4. Response

The response phase plays a pivotal role during any emergency. Who, what, how, when, and where responses are deployed are all vital to mitigating against unnecessary risk and loss of profit, and it may even potentially save lives. During a disaster response, an organization may deploy pre-planned resources, alternative communication methods, and potentially evacuate individuals, depending on the circumstance.

5. Recovery

Recovery is a very important phase in emergency management and occurs immediately after the response phase. During recovery, whoever manages emergencies or disasters works to get affected parties back to normal as quickly as possible. This phase includes assessing damage, restoring normal organizational functions, rebuilding any damaged assets, and assessing and evaluating your preparedness and response to the situation for future reevaluation of your Emergency Response Plan.

What Is Emergency Management Consulting?

Emergency Management consultants are your emergency management partners. They conduct detailed analyses of your current emergency preparedness programs and create future programs to fit your specific business or organizational needs.

Some of the plans and procedures a consultant might help create are emergency response plans, business continuity plans, emergency response run books, and emergency preparedness governance policies.

Beyond creating action plans, a consultant also develops, conducts, and evaluates emergency response training through activities such as tabletop exercises, functional exercises, full-scall exercises and drills, and even games to help make certain your team is ready to respond to emergency situations in every way they might need to.

Typically, an agency or company hires an EM consultant to perform any number of the five phases of emergency management. As a staff augmentation position—either as an embedded employee within a company or as an outside contributor—an EM consultant will coordinate tasks with an organization’s existing preparedness staff. Usually, EM consultants are hired to perform a very specific set of tasks related to assessments, planning, training, or exercises that a company has decided to prioritize for the time being. Regardless of how your organization utilizes an EM consultant, they will bolster your existing preparedness programs and provide insights to improve your readiness to deal with emergencies.

Why Is Emergency Management Necessary?

Research shows that nearly 75% of business that do not properly prepare for emergencies will fail within three years of a major disaster. With so much at stake, not having robust EM plans can literally break your business.

Preparing and planning for disasters significantly reduces the time it takes for normal operations to return post-incident and the threat to life and property that might occur during any number of emergencies.

The question is not whether you should prepare for emergencies. The question is, how comprehensively will you prepare for them, and how well will you be able to protect your people and your assets from the inevitable?

Further Resources

Do you have systems in place for responding to and preparing for emergencies? Our comprehensive suite of emergency management services covers everything from preparedness services to recovery services and can help you begin the process of protecting your valued resources.

If you would like to consult with Emergency Preparedness and Management experts, reach out to GP Strategies for more information.

About the Authors

David Ziegler
David H. Ziegler Sr. is Vice President at GP strategies Corporation (GP) who’s teams provide program management, vendor management, human capital management, engineering, and emergency management services to Federal, State and Local Government agencies. David was project manager responsible for operating the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and recovery efforts for the city of New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina (2005-07) and is project manager for two DoD Chemical Weapon Destruction Facilities located in Colorado and Kentucky. He holds a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) and bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Eastern University (St. David’s, PA). He is a graduate from Williamson College of the Trades (Media, PA) with an associate degree in Machine Technology & is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

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