Boots on the Ground
Updated: Jan 21
Prepare your on-site employees for natural disasters and emergencies with advanced planning and training.
By: Anne Aleman, Director of Education & Resources, ConnexFM
Effective emergency preparedness programs require the organization’s leadership to understand their importance and dedicate the proper resources in advance. When a disaster occurs, knocking communications offline or blocking access to the facility, a business continuity plan helps to identify the required resources to remain operational. Emergency preparedness programs assist to develop alternative solutions before any of the requirements are disrupted by disaster.
In my experience as a Facilities Manager for one of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies, clear communication is key for everyone understanding the current situation and the role everyone plays before, during, and after the emergency. Staying informed of potential disasters aimed at specific site locations is important, but obtaining accurate information from company leadership, like that recommended by OSHA, will direct the on-site employees on how to respond.
On-site employees often become the organization’s “boots on the ground” during a natural disaster. To support employees in advance, the organization can offer disaster preparedness training, which reduces fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters, including:
Evacuation plans - plans should be posted and easily visible, depicting where to go if you need to exit the store, mall, or shopping center in an emergency. Plans should include the path to take and the location to gather outside the store. Be sure to make new associates aware of these plans when joining the team. FMs can work with the landlord to build site-specific plans.
Employee contact information - the store managers should have an up-to-date list of all associates and their contact information in case they, or their families, need to be reached in an emergency. Each manager should have a copy of the contact list easily accessible in the store and at home. Confirming associates are safe and able to return to work is part of the business continuity plan. The employee contact list should include the following for each associate:
Home and cell phone number
Storm instructions – provide a checklist to prepare in advance and during a major storm. This could be for a hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, flood, or very heavy thunderstorms. Instructions may include the use of suppliers to prepare the store as well as items the store employees should do. The instructions should also include what to do when you return to the store after a major storm.
Knowledge of assets – Facilities must inventory their assets and understand both the capabilities and limitations ahead of any natural disaster. Relying upon outside help like government agencies and other local resources to provide relief during a large-scale emergency is not always an option. Acquiring generators and the use of supplier partners to stage support resources can keep facilities operational, protected, and minimize damage.
Included in your membership, the ConnexFM Online Courses explore the most important facets of facilities management - including Disaster and Emergency Management.
The "Building Your FM Department" course features Emergency Response Management as one of the nine available modules.
The "Competencies of Facilities Management in Multi-Site & Retail," details how to execute a disaster management plan.