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The final stage of emergency and disaster planning: recovery

May 22, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Michael J. Burns

Disasters come in many forms. The only thing they have in common is their surprise nature. Last month’s bombings in Boston and explosion in West, Texas gave way to this month’s terrible tornadoes. But in all of these cases, once the immediate danger and emergency response is past, you have to bring about recovery. Recovery and Business Continuity is the next stage of disaster planning. What is Recovery comprised of?

As suggested by the state of Virginia’s Business Emergency Survival Toolkit, first it is workplace safety.

Disasters can cause toxic and/or explosive materials to spill and contaminate water, soil and property. There are hazards that go along with cleaning up the seemingly innocuous debris in and around your business—fallen trees, building materials, personal property and sediment can present their own dangers.

The following are safety tips for your workplace cleanup:

  • Avoid skin contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • Do not walk through flowing water.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires.
  • Turn off your electricity when you return to your business.
  • Keep listening to your battery-powered radio for news.
  • Work safely and smartly.
  • Be alert for gas leaks.
  • Use alternate heat sources safely.
  • Damp, porous materials might be a hazard.   

Second, consider the impact of a disaster or crisis on your employees’ mental health and well being. Depending on the nature and severity of the disaster, it may be wise to enlist the services of crisis counselors for your employees. Individuals respond differently to disasters. A crisis can lead to stress, and employees might not know how to respond to it. Mental health experts say that stress might not surface for weeks or months after the disaster, and can take many different forms:

  • Anger
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Inability to manage daily activities
  • A dazed or disoriented appearance

Last but not least in the recovery stage of an emergency or crisis, keep in mind that employees can quickly fall into financial crises of their own if there is any interruption in the company’s ability to make payroll. Business considerations regarding payroll include the following:

  • How will the company pay staff if operations have been affected by the disaster?
  • Will staff wages and salaries continue to be paid if employees cannot immediately return to work following a disaster?
  • Will the business pay for personal time off to recover from a disaster?
  • How soon should employees be required to return to work following an emergency?
  • Will a program or relief fund be available to assist employees who are affected by a disaster?

HR departments should have these elements of emergency planning in place to ensure that the company and its employees are ready to get the business going again in as short a time as possible.

For more information on Emergency Planning, contact ASE.

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