Supporting your employees during a major emergency

The recent terror attacks in Brussels once again filled our screens with images of hundreds of frightened and shocked people caught up in tragedy whilst trying to go about their daily lives. Whilst the emergency services and government agencies swing rapidly into action to support those directly impacted by emergencies like this, what happens to the tens of thousands of people outside the immediate area, suddenly unable to use the transport and communications networks they rely on? Many people will carry on to offices and workplaces to take stock with their colleagues. Employers might, therefore, find themselves needing to respond to the impacts of the emergency, even if they aren't directly affected.

What would your business do in that situation?

Here are six of the key areas we think you should consider building into your response plan to help manage the impacts of employees seeking refuge from an emergency:

  1. Share information - One of the immediate impacts of a no-notice emergency is lack of clarity around what is happening, and what people should do. Consider using emails, announcements and staff meetings to reinforce key messages issued by the emergency services, especially if people are asked to shelter in place.

  2. Review physical security - Are your premises at risk of being affected? Review physical security protocols in line with official advice and be prepared to put in place temporary access arrangements (for example, closing some entrances, asking people to stay away from windows etc.) to protect those within the building.

  3. Provide wellbeing services - Employees may be in shock, have minor injuries and be keen to find out about friends and loved ones.  Ensure your onsite first aid teams are ready to support staff, encourage staff to use landline phones to contact relatives and also consider subscribing to an employee wellbeing service, that could provide emotional support in the short and longer term.

  4. Arrange alternative transport/accommodation - Transport networks may be out of use for some time, and you will need to consider how to help get employees home safely - for example booking taxis, arranging hotel rooms as appropriate.

  5. Provide refreshments - Popping out to the cafe round the corner at lunchtime may not be an option and you will need to work out how to provide refreshments for your teams. Whilst larger sites may be able to open up on-site canteen services, businesses of any size may want to consider keeping a stock of bottled water and long life snacks for use in an emergency.

  6. Consider the wider community - Your employees might not be the only people nearby who need your help. You could make a phone line, refreshments and somewhere safe to wait available to neighbours and members of the public.

Of course, it's not just terror attacks that can see businesses find themselves in this situation. Major power failures, severe weather, transport disruption and communications disruption amongst others could all see businesses called upon to do what they can to support their employees, and the wider community. Preparing your response in advance can make all the difference.

Rob Doran is the Owner and Director of Black Dog Crisis Management, working with businesses, the emergency services and the voluntary sector to build resilience capability.