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DEVELOPING AN EMERGENCY DISASTER PLAN

July 28, 2011

There is a Japanese famous proverb, “If you are prepared, you don’t have to worry”.  Therefore, it is important to be organized in advance for emergency situations.  If emergency procedures are not prepared, risk increases such as, a communication delay ensuring and verifying the safety of your employees and outside systems (police and rescue team etc.).  Examples of emergency situations can be small-scale fires and earthquakes to a disaster, such as flood caused by typhoon, tornado and heavy rain.  Also, memorable for most people, synchronized terrorist attacks in 2001, Swine Flu in 2009 and the oil spill by British Petroleum (BP) in 2010, etc. are examples of large-scale disasters.  Is your company prepared for these types of emergency situations? 

Policies and Procedures in Writing

Regardless of the industry and the size of each employer, it is the responsibility of all employers to assume unexpected emergency situations in advance and to be prepared because employers need to provide safe workplaces for their employees.  Therefore, in addition to regular business operation safety programs, employers should prepare, update and keep an emergency business closing policy, evacuation procedures, written documents about data protection and operational procedures for clients and all business related operations.

Important points to be considered when preparing written policies and procedures

Although it is important for employers to have policies and procedures for safety standards and emergency situations, it is meaningless if the contents are not fully understandable by all employees.  It is critical to have policies and procedures that reflect the employer’s industry and company size.  Otherwise, applying those policies and procedures during an emergency may not be applicable.   For the reasons mentioned above, it is essential for employers to ensure written policies and procedures are carefully and clearly written.

For preparation of ensuring and verifying the safety of your employees

Although policies and procedures at the time of emergency situations vary based on size and nature of the emergency, the first responsibility of employers is to ensure the safety of employees.  It is necessary for all employers to collect and manage contact information of all employees (home address, home telephone number, cellular phone number, e-mail address and emergency contact information). 

However, employers need to be very careful to select employees in charge of managing this information.  For example, if employers distribute this information as “a contact information list for emergency situations” to all employees, this might lead to privacy issues where the employer may become liable for this breach of privacy.  Human Resources personnel should be the only individuals who retain, request updates and manage the distribution of this information as a rule.  Employers should release only necessary information to employees’ bosses and designated management in emergency situations on an “as needed” basis.

Summary

Keeping written policies and procedures is fundamental for employers to take the first step to developing emergencydisaster plans.  Employers should maintain clearly written policies and procedures for all employees and conduct regular meetings and/or training for employees.  Regardless of the size of your company, periodic fire drills, ensuring measures for emergency situations by management (HR department) and preparation and stocking of necessities should always be in the forefront of the employers’ mind.  Companies with clearly documented and tested emergency disaster plans should be able to minimize damage and risk when emergency situations occur. June 2011.

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