With the increasing risk of natural disasters, accidents, and terrorism disrupting business operations in many parts of the country, facility managers in charge of safety and security are beginning to look for better ways to build more comprehensive and customized emergency response plans. Not only do they want these plans to be easily updated, communicated, and implemented, but they also want them to describe in great detail how each type of emergency will be handled during preparation, response, and follow-up.
Because of these requirements, many professionals are investing in emergency planning software to help them develop response plans that will cover all aspects of an emergency: response, recovery, crisis management, and COOP (a continuity of operations procedure).
Emergency software allows you to use templates to build scenario plans that meet specific situations. The resulting plans are housed in a much smaller physical report, as well as online.
These plans can meet the requirements of a high-rise commercial building in a dense downtown area, or a mixed-use building in a residential or suburban setting. They can also help you address the six steps of a risk management program:
- Identify risk exposure.
- Evaluate risk potential.
- Rank and prioritize risks.
- Determine and implement control actions.
- Evaluate and revise actions and techniques.
- Risk management practices in the fire service.
Another important component of emergency planning software is the creation of “what-if” scenarios before and during a response. Practicing and training are the only ways to ensure that all personnel who implement these plans will do it effectively.
An Example of Quality Software
One software program currently on the market, for example, takes all of the facility manager’s information and uses it to provide an emergency response plan using a top-down emergency management approach. It includes several visual drill-down menu capabilities. And the technology behind it ensures that the paper documents are still accessible through links embedded in the plans, allowing facility managers to add, edit, and delete information on a timely basis. The software also offers an 11- by 17-inch visual paper chart with a front-and-back, colored response plan. The software uses everyday computer tools that already exist on your computer to edit and maintain the plan.
Once a facility manager submits his/her company documents, the software company returns an almost-complete draft version. No document created is more than 2 megabytes, so they can be forwarded via e-mail and carried on a PDA.
Facility managers have the capability to share their plans with other key stakeholders, such as police, fire, or government agencies, over multiple formats. Their plans are hosted and backed up at secure facilities to ensure that critical planning will continue during an emergency.
There are many emergency response planning software programs to choose from. A review of these products will uncover a software tool that addresses your needs.
Linda Watson is principal security consultant at Whirlaway Group LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.