Lessons from Haiti

| January 22, 2010

The on-going crisis in Haiti is a stark reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness.  Both OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 require that an organization establish, implement and maintain procedures to “identify the potential for emergency situations” in order to be ready and prepared to respond to these situations when they arise (section 4.4.7).

I have been working for several years with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to help local businesses prepare for disasters.  In our area, the Florida west coast, the disaster we fear is a major hurricane.  As part of these efforts, we developed and presented a series of interactive workshops covering emergency planning, risk assessment and disaster preparedness. 

If you want to be prepared, the following points are key –

  • Prioritization of Efforts – It is impossible to address every need at the same time.  Before a disaster strikes, you need to define your risks and establish what your recovery priorities are going to be and then, when disaster strikes, act accordingly.
  • Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities – To repurpose an adage from cooking (i.e. “Too many cooks spoil the pudding.”) – too many bosses creates chaos.  Someone must be in charge and that has to be clear to everyone.
  • Communication is Key – Without clear communication, you are likely to have incomplete response actions, wasted duplication of efforts and run the risk of festering anger, outrage and violence in those who are impacted by the disaster event.
  • Protecting Your Responders – Heroics look good for TV but should be discouraged. Having responders taking unnecessary risks adds to the ultimate “body count” of those impacted by the disaster.

If you haven’t reviewed your emergency preparedness plans yet this year, pull them out and review them now.  While you are at it, update those emergency contact lists, chances are they are out of date.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)



Category: Emergency Preparedness

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