When we think disaster, we typically imagine tornado sirens blaring or floodwaters rising. But not all disasters are caused by Mother Nature. An employee choking on a bagel in the breakroom. An electrical fire caused by faulty wiring. A hazardous material spill. Terrorist activity. All of these things qualify as a disaster – and while you can’t plan when they happen, you can be prepared for them.
As administrative professionals, a lot of that preparation falls on our shoulders. Developing a proactive approach to all the what-ifs you may face can help you stay calm in an emergency, aid those in need, and ultimately get your business back up and running as soon as possible.
Know What to Prepare For
You probably don’t need to worry about a volcano erupting in mid-town Manhattan or a hurricane bearing down on you in the Pacific Northwest, but nowhere on earth is disaster-free. The Red Cross has prepared an exhaustive list of the types of disasters you may face and what to do about them.
Be realistic about the kinds of disasters you might experience and how to prepare for them. If you work near a river, you should have a plan to deal with potential flooding. If your office is in a large city or high crime area, you should think about how you’d deal with a break-in, robbery, or active shooter situation.
You can’t realistically plan for every single contingency – and you don’t need to. Having a basic disaster plan in place is better than no disaster plan at all.
Get Your Disaster Procedures in Order
Whether you’re writing a procedure for how to route the mail or safely evacuate the building in the event of a fire, the process remains the same. A procedure is a procedure, no matter how big or small.
Sample disaster procedures you may want to include in your manual are:
- Medical emergency procedures: Include numbers for local hospitals, office personnel who are certified in CPR or first aid, who to notify and in what order, and where to find employee information such as emergency contact numbers.
- Utility shutoff procedures: Include the location of the shutoff valves, as well as a detailed procedure on how to properly cut the power, gas, or water.
- Fire extinguisher procedures: Include locations and types of extinguishers, and a tutorial on how to use them.
- Evacuation procedures: Include detailed maps for each floor, clearly marking stairwells and emergency exits.
- Lockdown procedures: Include information on how to communicate the lockdown, who to notify, and what to do when the all-clear or evacuate order is given.
Once you complete your disaster procedures, share them with your executive, colleagues, and other office members. In a true emergency, there may not be time to read through the procedures; it’s best if everyone familiarizes themselves with the instructions beforehand.
Use Your Resources
There are plenty of disaster planning resources available. Some of my favorites include:
Most of these sites also offer mobile apps that can give you up-to-date notifications, warnings, and information – before, during, and after a disaster.
You should also download apps specific to your region. Do an internet search on the keywords “disaster planning” followed by the area you live or work in to find out what your community, city, and state has to offer. Make sure you enable push notifications for apps you trust so you can get important emergency alerts.
Your professional network can be another great resource. Start a conversation about what safety plans and procedures they have in place, and share your own with them.
Disasters typically don’t call ahead to let you know they’re on their way. It’s up to you to proactively plan for their arrival. When you know what to prepare for, create procedures to guide you and your colleagues, and use the resources at your disposal, you’ll be ready to weather the (real or metaphorical) storm!
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.