Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Emergency Preparedness

September 19, 2010

If we prepare ahead of time for different types of disruptive events, we will be better prepared to handle emergencies if and when they actually occur.

This is good management: Not doing so these days would be considered unacceptable or even negligent.

There are many different kinds of emergencies — tornadoes, hurricanes, terrorism, floods, blizzards, biological outbreaks, tsunamis, etc. — and preparation depends on the type of facility and its location.

Illness In The Workplace

What do you do when people come to work sick?

This is a real issue because people do come to work sick for various reasons, and it''s something for which there needs to be an understood and enforced policy.

Another aspect of this is your backup plan; how do you rearrange staffing assignments when different numbers of, or different skill level, individuals are out sick or absent from work?

You have to plan ahead and have a written policy as to what happens when 10 percent, 50 percent or more of your workers or supervisors are not on the job as expected.

Work, life and responsibilities go on: The key is having a written and implementable plan to guide you and others that makes it possible to get as much of your critical work done, regardless of the situation.

That''s what emergency preparedness is all about.

Planning And Preparation

Some may think that emergency preparedness is only for large companies and corporations; however, disasters and the unexpected happen to all sizes and types of organizations.

In larger companies, you probably have an emergency plan already in place.

If you don''t have a plan, your safety department or the local health department can assist or at least refer you to other agencies that can assist you.

You can also talk to other similar facilities or do a search on the Internet for more information and for sample emergency preparedness plans.

Bottom line, this is something you need to plan ahead for and, if you don''t have a plan, now is the time to develop at least a starting place, as you can always revise and upgrade your plan once you get the basics on paper.

Put It In Writing

This is key: Your plan must be in writing.

A disaster plan is not something you can do off the top of your head, and if you are not available, the plan must be able to be implemented by whoever is on the job at the time the plan is put into practice.

In an emergency, waiting for the boss or other key staff to show up is not an option.

Your plan needs to be as detailed as possible and needs to deal with such issues as who will do what and when.

Once you have a plan, run a test by doing a mock drill.

A mock drill is just like a fire drill: Go through the motions so your staff will have practiced ahead of time how to respond and meet the needs of the organization.

The drill will help you identify flaws or gaps in your plan ahead of time so they can be corrected.

Involve Everyone

Don''t forget to plan for interruptions in your normal supply chain.

What if you can''t get paper products, gloves, disinfectants or other items delivered?

It makes sense to maintain an emergency stock of some items and supplies.

Involve your suppliers in this process, as they may have ideas and can give you some insight as to how they can assist you if needed.

But, don''t count on them; be prepared to operate independently of all your outside suppliers.

They may face the same problems that you do and they may be far less prepared than you are to deal with the challenges.

Involve everyone with whom you interact.

Emergency planning is not something that you do alone or in the dark.

To make a plan work, everyone involved must have input and know what is expected of them.

After a disaster strikes and you have implemented your plan, go back and take a closer look at how it worked.

This is the time to make changes to the plan so you will be better prepared for the next emergency that comes your way.

Emergency plans should be reviewed at least every 24 months for possible updating and revision.

The better prepared you are, the better the chances are that everyone will survive your next emergency.

Good luck, be prepared and stay safe.

The International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute®.