Tips to help companies prepare for emergencies.
By Rich Cordivari, Vice President, Learning & Development, AlliedBarton Security Services
The attempted car bombing in Times Square in May penetrated the nation’s consciousness, awakening fear and uncertainty as people go about their daily lives. While police and Federal and State governments are working hard to keep us safe, it’s paramount that each and every one of us— whether we are in the heart of the Big Apple or in a rural area—be aware that if we “see something, say something.” Everyone needs to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately. In the case of the alleged Times Square terrorism attempt, it was the vigilance of a quick-thinking street vendor, who witnessed smoke coming from an SUV and alerted police that likely helped save hundreds of lives.
While one’s instinct may be to run and hide when faced with the potential of unseen dangers, the reality is that thousands of New Yorkers arrived at their Times Square offices ready for business on the first work day following the aborted car bombing. People cannot live in fear, and our best defense is to take action when something does not look right and to be prepared for the unexpected.
The day-to-day demands of running a business often push disaster management off of many business owners’ radar. Meeting payroll, generating new business, and keeping employees engaged are their primary focus. However, whether it’s preparing for acts of terror or extreme weather, disaster management can’t be ignored. As the vice president of Learning & Development at America’s largest physical security services company and a former police officer, I offer the following tips to help companies prepare for emergencies:
Disaster Planning Matters:Many businesses are under-prepared should a disaster strike them directly or indirectly. A disaster likely will cut off a company’s support and supply lines, making it difficult for it to continue with its business while recovery takes place. Proactive companies conduct vulnerability surveys, verifying safe shelters and identifying alternative operation centers. Security technology, including streaming video, remote alarm monitoring, and off-site security personnel can provide vigilant protection from a safe distance.
Conduct Threat Assessments:When determining what security program would be most effective, it is important to first engage in a comprehensive threat assessment. This assessment provides an evaluation of the location based on the crime rate in the community, the potential for violent behavior among employees and visitors, and the attractiveness of the facility for potential criminal activity. Is the company conducting criminal background checks and reference checks on contractors? Is there an established procedure for tracking office keys and access cards for staff members? Are all vendors and visitors being adequately screened, and is their identity being verified? There are many questions to ask and important information to gather as part of a comprehensive assessment. Upon completion of a threat assessment, it can be determined what processes, procedures, and equipment are needed to protect employees, visitors, and building assets. The challenge is to achieve effective security while preserving a friendly and welcoming facility.
See Something, Say Something:Ensure that your employees are observant and vigilant on the job and even on their way to work. Awareness programs can reinforce good observation skills on the part of your employees and help them better identify what is and is not out of place in their environment. If there is a stray tote bag tucked under the bus or subway seat, report it to the local police. If a stranger walks into the office without having been identified by your front desk security personnel, ensure that is reported immediately to the appropriate person. Vehicles abandoned in the right of way should be reported to local authorities immediately. These situations can be completely innocent, but they also could be very dangerous and are worth a call to the local police.
Emergency Planning Is Key:An organization is prepared if it ensures emergency procedures are in place for all types of emergencies. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security promotes business emergency preparedness through its Ready campaign, which is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Companies interested in more information about business preparedness can visit www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY. Materials, including sample business continuity plans, are available to help Americans be prepared.
Get Up and Go Gear:It’s not a bad idea for employees to have emergency “grab-and-go” gear at the office. Portable knapsacks can be stocked with an extra set of eyeglasses and house keys, cash, a copy of your emergency plan, Metrocard or other mass transportation cards, a spare credit card, prescription medications, whistle, a pair of comfortable shoes or sneakers, portable radio, flashlight, and a standard first-aid kit. The kit should include three-days of food and water rations such as bottled water, protein bars, and dried food. Emergency respiratory smoke hoods are designed to assist in the safe exit from contaminated environments. Stash extra batteries for your cell phone, radio, and flashlight into your knapsack for use during power failures. Kits containing money, credit cards, or any personal identifying information should be stored in a secure location. Of course, the level of complexity for these types of kits depends on the perceived level of potential for an emergency.
Communicate and Go:In the eye and immediate aftermath of an actual terrorist attack, outbound communications will be severely restricted. Make sure employees have a copy of the emergency plan, which includes evacuation instructions, meeting places, important phone numbers, and notification protocols. If you are unable to connect with business associates due to down phone lines, it’s important to follow your plan and get to your agreed upon off-site location.
While our workplaces often are protected by devoted police and security officers and efficient alarm systems, each individual also must take an active role in maintaining a safe work environment. Staying consciously aware of your surroundings and recognizing any potential hazards at work will significantly reduce risks. Additionally, as businesses make reminding employees of the need to vigilant and prepared a priority, the result is a more concerted effort to keep our country safe.
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Rich Cordivari is vice president of Learning & Development for AlliedBarton Security Services, www.alliedbarton.com, the industry’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel. Cordivari has more than three decades of experience in law enforcement, security, training, and development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.