Is your place of business located in a multi-tenant building? It’s important that you take this fact in to account when creating your Emergency Management Plan.
Consider the following situation: You’re on the 15th floor of your building. A tenant on the 4th floor has a deadly workplace violence incident. Police, fire, and other law enforcement and first responders are on the scene. There is chaos. There is fear. Your own employees are panicked.
It would be great if the building as a whole had an Emergency Action Plan that covers incidents in the building. It would be doubly great if building management has shared that plan with you, one of the tenants. But let’s face it – this probably isn’t the situation in your multi-tenant office building. You need to have a plan of your own for your own emergencies and also for building-wide emergencies.
But don’t forget to share your Emergency Action Plan with building management, local law enforcement, first responders, and other authorities. You don’t want to have an Emergency Action Plan that conflicts with one written by building management – that would cause even more chaos and fear. There needs to be communication in a multi-tenant office building.
Continue to follow along with us as we talk more about Emergency Action Plans and things to consider while writing yours.
I’m sure you have a fire evacuation plan at your place of business. In fact, you probably drill the evacuation procedures occasionally. That’s great, considering it’s a federal regulation. So it’s good that you have a plan to keep employees safe in the eventuality of a fire. But did you know that the regulation saying you need to have a fire evacuation plan also regulates that you have an emergency action plan? Do you understand the difference between them?
Consider, for a moment, this scenario: An armed gunman comes into your lobby threatening to shoot people. Your emergency plan dictates that someone gets on the intercom system to announce, “There’s a shooter in the building. Everyone follow the fire evacuation plan.” Think about how absurd this situation is. You are announcing to the shooter that everyone is about to come to the lobby! How convenient – he can just stay put and shoot at hundreds of people in just a few moments. Hopefully you can see how irrational this plan is.
The sad fact is that most emergency action plans are written exactly like this. You NEED a plan for emergencies that goes above and beyond fire. This plan needs to be drawn up by professionals who understand your building layout, your company policies and procedures, and your security system. Without a plan, chaos will ensue.
Continue to follow us over the next few days and we think about what factors to include in a good Emergency Action Plan.
If you’ve been following along with us over the course of the past few weeks, you’ve thought about some of the stranger (and less likely) situations that may arise in an emergency situation. To review, we’ve talked about:
- Servers and electrical distribution equipment
- Food spoilage
- Lease issues
- Paper files, laptops, and desktops
- Active shooters
- Lockdown situations
Hopefully your business will never encounter these problems. Hopefully your business will be successful and carry on thriving for many years to come. But you need to do a Business Impact Analysis and you need to create a Business Continuity Plan. It’s just good business sense.
Please, when you create, write, review, or update your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan, don’t forget about these unusual situations. You can’t answer questions like these by sitting down for 20 minutes and brainstorming what you’d do. You can’t just “wing it” and hope everything works out. You need to have professionals who are experts in business continuity planning help you write a business impact analysis and create a business continuity plan.
You also need to write an Emergency Action Plan so that your business is prepared for what to do during an emergency. In light of recent national and world events, this is more important than ever before to have a risk assessment done and create an Emergency Action Plan. Continue following us as we move on to discussing Emergency Management Plans and why you also probably suck at writing one of those.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, many office buildings were flooded. Flooding is bad. Flooding with seawater? Even worse. You want to know why? Because a lot of these office buildings had all of their servers and electrical distribution equipment in the basement. With all of your systems located in the basement, a flooded basement becomes more like a business crisis. Also? After 6 months of no power getting to these units, batteries start to leak toxic gases. A bad situation became even worse.
Now we’re not saying that your business continuity plan or business impact analysis can do anything to prevent or account for something like this. If you have a business continuity plan, it surely covers dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster like a hurricane. The issue with these particular hurricanes wasn’t that the buildings themselves were structurally damaged. The issue was that tenants couldn’t move back in for over 6 months because the electrical equipment in the basement was a hazard, and it needed to be cleaned up, replaced, remediated, etc.
A business continuity plan that covers just the bare bones of IT (like Mr. Smith works remotely, Mr. Grey works at home, Ms. Franks is on call, and Mr. Boot moves to the Chicago office) isn’t going to cut it here. These people may be out of the office for half a year. They may need new computers, phones, supplies. They need a place to work for the next 6 months. Do your business continuity plan and business impact analysis take extended evacuations into account? The IT aspect of your business continuity plan and business impact analysis needs to go beyond which of your IT guys works from home after a hurricane.
Continue to follow us as we wrap up this extended discussion about business continuity plans and business impact analyses. Hopefully you have realized that there are unusual situations that most business continuity plans and business impact analyses don’t take into account.
Consider the following situation: A major hurricane comes through your city and devastates part of the city and you will need to move out of your building for a number of months. Hopefully you have a business impact analysis and a business continuity plan that cover the situation where employees can work remotely and business can continue apace during this time. Great. You’re on the right track.
Now consider this: Your lease dictates that you still pay rent on your business space, even when you’re not occupying the space. Even when NO ONE is occupying space in the building. Even when they building is off limits for 6 months. We’ve seen this happen after Hurricane Sandy.
Have you examined and reviewed your lease recently? Do your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan say anything about the cost associated with moving office for 6 months? Does it say anything about paying rent during this period?
We are not suggesting you need to re-negotiate your lease. What we are suggesting is that you need to include your lease and associated costs in your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan. Don’t forget about these things.
Continue to follow us as we discuss other unusual situations that you probably haven’t thought about when it comes to your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan.
It’s scary – Paris, Beirut, Bagdad – all in 24 hours. We should definitely mourn the loss of life in these places during the past weekend. We should also mourn the loss of life in other places where terrorism strikes.
After the shock of these events has subsided, the logical question is to ask how you, the individual, can protect yourself. This is a normal reaction to terrorist events.
The truth is that the best thing you can do at your place of business, your child’s school, or your place of worship is to have a PLAN IN PLACE in the event that a terrorist incident occurs. Think about what would happen if an armed gunman or a suicide bomber entered your place of work – someone may sound an alarm and everyone would follow the fire escape plan. Good idea? Is it a good idea to have everyone congregate in the lobby or right outside the building, as is usual for fire escape plans? Think about it for just a moment – there’s a guy with a bomb whose overriding goal is to cause mass casualty, and your fire escape plan gives him exactly what he wants, huge numbers of people all congregated in one place. Just to be clear – this is a terrible plan. A fire evacuation plan is great for fire but not great for active shooters or bomb threats.
Your place of business needs to have a plan in place for what to do in a situation like this. This is called an Emergency Action Plan, and it goes far above and beyond a simple fire evacuation plan. A proper Emergency Action Plan will have different plans for different scenarios – fire, cataclysmic weather, active shooter, or maybe even an irate parent or client.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Think about having a risk assessment done for your place of business. Ask your child’s school administration if they’ve ever done a risk assessment and if they have an Emergency Action Plan (NOT just a fire evacuation plan). Ask the security guards at the front desk of your multi-story office building if there is an Emergency Action Plan for the building. Ask your boss if there is one for your company. Don’t be afraid to speak up at your place of business or your child’s school and ask about a risk assessment and an Emergency Action Plan.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the Paris Attacks. Sadly we see this play out all too often. The new “norm&” is terrorist attacks intent on killing as many as possible. Have a plan. Be aware.
As with all situations of this matter, information is fluidly changing as the situation continues to develop. A full review of the situation will be possible once law enforcement is able to complete clearing the scene, establishing control, and can conduct an investigation.
Do you backup all of your computer files and data? Most likely your IT department has some plan for keeping files backed up. In fact, your business continuity plan (if you have one) probably has some notes regarding IT and backing up files. That’s great. It really is.
But what if your employees need to evacuate the building or can’t get to work because of a natural disaster. They leave their laptops there. Their desktop computers are left too. They leave their paper files on their desks. Maybe you’ve even been diligent enough to send your paper files to a records management or document storage company. That’s great. But people have current papers on their desks. Current files on their computers.
If you can’t get back in to your building for an extended period of time, even if it’s just a week or two, what is your plan for your data and papers that have been left in the office? Papers and laptops and desktops and phones are all safe and will be there when you’re able to get back in the building, but what do you do for the week or two or more when no one is allowed to access the building?
What if you’re out of the building for 6 months? You have to buy your employees new laptops, desktops, phone lines. Maybe your business impact analysis and/or business continuity plan covers these types of costs. It should. And if it does, good for you. But also make sure that you’ve got some plan for how you will deal with people having to set up new computers, retrieve files, emails, client contacts, current contracts, projects, and documents. You get the point. This is the type of situation where, unless you’ve lived through it, you don’t even think to include something like this in a business impact analysis and/or business continuity plan.
Continue to follow us to reflect on other issues you’ve probably never considered for your business impact analysis and business continuity plan.
Consider the following situation: a major natural disaster devastates your city. Your people were prepared to evacuate or not come to work, and your business continuity plan actually has a contingency plan in place for being out of the building for 4 weeks.
Major remediation needs to be completed in the building, and your company is actually running quite smoothly in remote locations (because you had a solid business continuity plan in place before the disaster). Great!
Four weeks later the building is back in working order and people start to move back in. What is that smell?! Have you ever thought about what happens to foodstuff during a month-long period without electricity? Yup, all those apples on people’s desks are rotten. All those sandwiches in the refrigerator (that hasn’t had power for a month) are now beyond recognition. All those cookies and cakes that people brought in for the holiday season? Homes for ants now.
This scenario may seem absurd, but believe us, we have seen this first hand, and it is something you would never think of until you step back in to that office, open your desk drawer, and cringe at the rotten banana that’s been there for 28 days.
When you write and review your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan, you need to think about the process for moving back in to your building after an extended period. Over the next few days we’ll look at some other issues that result when you don’t plan ahead for moving back in to your building.
Continue to follow us as we talk more about making sure your business impact analysis and your business continuity plan are rock solid.