Accounting for the Critical Variable in Emergency Response — People, Part 2
In the first installment of this two-part series, we introduced the critical point in emergency response – people. The question is: if there aren’t enough employees on hand to fulfill an organization’s mission during a crisis, how can you respond? In this portion, we outline how best to help your employees prepare for disaster, which, in turn, prepares them to return to work faster and help your organization in return.
There are five key areas of personal resilience or preparedness that will improve employee recovery time: Personal, Financial, Emergency, Household and Legal. Once these categories are fully acknowledged, accommodated and planned for, an integrated plan is in place which both fundamentally empowers the individual and dovetails synergistically with the employer’s existing overall emergency response planning.
Risk management is a task to minimize exposure, whereas organizational resilience is a competitive strategy, capitalizing on people as the fundamental building block of resilience, helping organizations act proactively to improve their 3Rs: Robustness, Resourcefulness and Rapid Recovery. Bottom line: organizational resilience is a smart investment with a high return.
Undeniably, people are the linchpin; yet according to Forrester, 75 percent of all emergency plans in place do not support personal resilience. And according to FEMA’s Preparedness in America Survey, released in June of 2009, we know that only 1 percent of the population has a complete second set of identification and that only 2 percent have documented their financial accounts or assets. Couple this report with the American Red Cross statistic that only 7 percent of Americans have taken any basic preparedness steps (meaning that some 93 percent of our workforce is not ready or resilient, that 93 percent of our community is not ready or resilient, and that 93 percent of our supply chain is not ready or resilient), factor in that 39 percent of small businesses have no continuity plan at all, we are left with one disruptive event that economically impacts an entire community. In a word, we are left with an economic domino effect, where if an individual can’t recover, the community can’t recover, and businesses don’t have customers. So revenue quits flowing, which means no tax revenue at the local, state or federal levels.
So, we need a paradigm shift which enables organizations to transform interdependence from a liability to a net asset, before, during and following a disaster.
Elements of a comprehensive Personal Resilience program
The first task is to incorporate individual preparedness within the standard emergency planning process within the organization. An effective program should follow a standards-compliant “plan, do, check, act” model.
Since integrating personal resilience with organizational emergency planning invariably requires individuals to learn and adopt new habits, the learning management system should encompass efficient company-wide training, capitalizing on capabilities like interactive workshops, supported by robust data collection software to identify, gather and collate all of the personal data required.
The standard training should be designed to help an individual actually create a dynamic plan. For instance, the program shouldn’t merely indicate that an individual needs to know his Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) number to program his weather radio. Rather, because disaster recovery is S.A.M.E.-dependent, the client should be instructed that he needs to know it, and then be asked to click a link which takes him directly to his geographic S.A.M.E. number so that it is displayed and can be recorded. This type of hands-on preparatory training is instrumental in reducing chaos during a real crisis.
Equally important, the workshop should be customizable, so as to include the organization’s plans specific to the employee and his individual role and responsibilities. The logic is simple: whether or not an employee is managing a job that requires years of training or experience, prolonged absences can have unpredictable consequences that are challenging for any organization to manage, even in normal situations. A multi-week course should be offered, guided by an expert in personal resilience. This will allow time for the employee and his family to prepare their own personal resilience plan, under the tutelage of a resilience expert. If the organization prefers, the course should have the flexibility to be taught within a train-the trainer scenario. Designed correctly, all of these options should be part of a turnkey, automated, learning management system that helps ensure the right people are available to minimize disruptions during and following a continuity event. For anyone who has witnessed or lived through role conflicts during a disaster, this resilience education is designed to minimize if not prevent the chaos.
The system should also incorporate robust reporting capabilities, allowing management to extract pre-programmed reports or to create customized reports for export into commonly utilized formats like HTML, PDF, CSV, Excel, Word, OpenOffice or RTF. With this capability in place, reports can then be automatically generated and emailed to a predetermined set of stakeholders, as an integral component of the Plan, Do, Check, Act protocol.
The bottom line
Leading global reinsurer Swiss Re reported that, in 2011, total economic losses to society due to disasters (both insured and uninsured) reached an unprecedented $370 billion, compared with $226 billion in 2010. Contributing to the record year was the earthquake in Japan, which accounted for 57 percent of the world’s losses. With insured losses accounting for only $116 billion last year, the lion’s share of the $370 billion was borne by the private sector, to include individuals. It is important to note that economic losses only capture part of the picture. Although losses are measured in dollars, these numbers do not indicate the time it takes to rebuild a community or the human toll of a disaster. Whether it is a natural or a man-made disruptive event, financial losses are inextricably linked to human suffering.
Given that first responders comprise only 1 percent of the U.S. population, and that their availability is unquestionably critical to stemming human as well as property losses, it is in every community’s best interest to guarantee the personal resilience of this small group, including their families. Correspondingly, since 85 percent of America’s critical infrastructure key resources are in the hands of the private sector, it also makes good business sense to similarly safeguard the resilience of individuals who occupy key positions in these 18 all-important segments of the U.S. economy. If Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness is designed to protect the American way of life, plans and policies must especially focus on small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses make up some 97 percent of employers, contributing to almost half of the U.S. payroll, and are historically the most vulnerable to disasters.
In the end, only when organizational resilience is strategically and functionally linked to the personal preparedness of individual employees within any organization’s contingency plan can disaster recovery and business continuity plans be truly effective. When disaster strikes, individual employee availability is the essential linchpin to the delivery of critical services, rapid recovery and organizational survival.