be known until it’s already here. In other
words, the degree of risk in and of itself is
reliant on the perception of preparedness.
Business continuity planning addresses
this dimension of professional risk, but
does it address the dimension of personal
risk? This question can be answered using
the same hazards analysis rubric commonly used to identify potential hazards
during disaster planning.
What hazards may happen?
Another way to structure the question would be, “What hazards threaten
employee’s personal life?” So instead
of putting in terms like “hurricane,” or
“earthquake,” phrases like “responding
to the company emergency response plan
would mean my children would be left at
home alone until I return,” or “responding
to the company emergency response plan
would mean I wouldn’t be able to care for
an elderly family member” would be put
in their place. Other concerns might be the
anxiety of not knowing where their family
members are and if they are safe, or what
would happen to their home if the power
were all of a sudden be shut off. Pet care,
meal preparation, and bill paying can also
be added to the list. These are all important
concerns that are unique to the individual
Collecting this type of information is
going to take more than a few work sessions from the disaster management team.
Administrators, or emergency planning
committee members, should take the
time to interview or otherwise encourage communication about an employee’s
potential personal needs during a disaster.
Perhaps an open discussion forum during
an employee meeting or distribution of a
questionnaire might provide an adequate
list. Respectively probing into these needs
not only strengthens the bond between
management and employee, but also builds
trust among them that the company is
taking care of things. Once a comprehensive list of “hazards” has been developed,
the planning team can then brainstorm
strategies to address what issues can be
solved and what issues cannot.
What resources exist now to
address these identified hazards?
For example, in the case of childcare
during a disaster, does the company have
the physical space, the certified care providers, and the necessary food, clothing,
and sleeping arrangements to accommodate a drop-off for the employees’ children?
Or can the company allocate funding for
emergency childcare during a disaster with
a company that already provides the service
and can react in a timely fashion? Or perhaps the company can allocate resources to
act as a point of contact so that employees
can receive timely and accurate updates
on their family members. Care for elderly
family members can also be handled with
the same regard. Perhaps home visits can
also be arranged by rotating employees
on shift, a buddy system, and even an
appointed liaison are additional options
businesses can use to ease employee’s
fears. Out of the box thinking will enhance
the development of solving complex issues.
How can the company mitigate
Some solutions to the employee’s personal issues can be handled by the business,
and some may not. But that doesn’t mean
the issues are any less important nor will
it mean any less affect on the employee.
An alternative to placing the burden on
the business to come up with solutions is
to provide alternative recommendations
that employees can take advantage of
on their own. One compromise that is in
existence now as a common hiring practice is for the employee to provide contact
information in the event of an emergency.
The compromise is simple – the business
will make every attempt to make the contact if the employee makes every attempt
to keep the information current. The same
attempts can be made, for example, for
elderly family members that can be contacted in the event an employee is called
to action from a emergency response plan.
Sometimes this is the simplest step a business can take to ensure complete focus of
the employee. In other words the employee
will make their own arrangements for care
of the family, but that reassuring contact
will make all the difference in the world.
At this juncture of the planning process
it is important to take into consideration
the company’s essential functions because
it may completely change the approach to
individual employee’s needs. For exam-
ple, if an essential function of a business
is customer support over the telephone or
computer, and that essential function is
addressed in the emergency response plan
by having employees work at home, then
daycare/elderly care is essentially taken
care of. Conversely, if the preservation of
essential functions dictates an alternative
location, then employee personal concerns
may actually be created.
Develop a finalized policy and
The last step is to develop a finalized
policy and procedure either as a stand-alone document or annexed into an existing emergency response plan. This plan
should also be reviewed on a timely basis
with intervals dependant on its components and always available for employee
review and input.
Even the most meticulous and well
planned business continuity and emergency response plans will only be as effective as the employees that are involved in
it. Unfortunately, not every hazard can be
planned for, but any plan will fail if no one
reports for duty or is constantly distracted
by worry and fear about things in their
lives. Businesses that address the personal
dimensions of their employees, however,
will enjoy improved communication,
trust, and commitment to its survivability
after a disaster.