4) The Goal is Getting Back to Normal
Normalcy is one of the goals but it can’t be the only one. You don’t have to live in a state of constant hypervigilance, but you do need to learn from your organization’s preparation, response, and recovery efforts to enable an even smoother process the next time a problem arises.
Bring key decision-makers together to gather unvarnished, honest observations about your organization’s successes and failures in this area. The results of this meeting should be reflected in an updated emergency action plan so that next time you’re using proven effective procedures.
Meanwhile, your facilities team will also assist with the physical recovery efforts – either pitching in with repairs or preparing a replacement space. Now you must communicate with engineers, vendors, and other professionals to ensure your space can house the same functions it did pre-disaster, says Anthony Pizzitola, a disaster recovery and facility professional. That’s why it’s so important to make connections with those people long before an emergency rears its head – once calls start coming in after a disaster, you’ll be hard-pressed to find help.
“Have vendors lined up who can make immediate repairs,” Pizzitola recommends. “Know financially where you’re going to be standing and contact the insurance company beforehand.”
You also need to continually account for the resources used during the emergency for two reasons, Tom Mitchell notes, reflecting on his Hurricane Katrina experiences during his military service as chief of civil engineer emergency management at HQ Air Education and Training Command. It’s essential to document the cost of recovery so you can budget for replacements and repairs. Also, your resources should be restored to their pre-disaster state, a step often overlooked after the worst is over.
“Replenish any supplies you may have used during the recovery period, even if it’s just water that was stored for personnel condition response operations or people in your emergency operations center,” Mitchell adds. “A lot of people don’t think about that because they’re just happy to be past the problem.”
5) You’re Immune from Repeat Mistakes
Otherwise well-prepared organizations may underestimate their vulnerability to man-made and technological disasters and small-scale emergencies, Tom Mitchell notes, even if there are adequate plans for weather issues.
“A lot of organizations don’t anticipate civil disturbances as something they should plan for,” Mitchell says. “Unless you have a lot of medical emergencies, a lot of people don’t think about what happens if somebody slips on the ice outside of your building, like one of your employees.”
When the immediate emergency is over and recovery is underway, you’re not in the clear. In fact, the biggest challenge you face after a disaster may be your own complacency, Tom Mitchell continues. Resist the temptation to let your guard down – a disaster can strike the same place twice , and the absence of a recent major threat doesn’t mean you’ll never endure an adverse event.
“Gen. George S. Patton once said, ‘Those who fail to plan are planning to fail’ and ‘No plan survives first contact,’” Mitchell says. “No one can completely anticipate the cascading effects a potential threat will have, but there are preparatory steps you can take in advance.
“Emergencies have a habit of causing panic. Panic is driven by fear, and part of that fear is not knowing what’s going on or what to do. If you can mitigate the probability of that occurring, you have a higher probability of ensuring there’s order during a chaotic situation.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.