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Small Business Disaster Planning: Integration with Emergency Services

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By Randell Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

Note: This blog post is Part 1 of a series.

If you are the owner of a small- or medium-size business, most likely you do not have time for a business emergency and cannot afford to lose productivity. However, when fire and police departments respond to an emergency at your business, they often do not understand your need to get your business back to normal as soon as possible. In addition, they have little understanding of how your business processes and equipment work and interact.

Why is this the case? It’s because you did not take the time to integrate the actions of these first responders with your business and develop a collaborative relationship with them.

Fire and Police Organizations Need to Be Taught about Your Business

Despite what many business owners believe, fire and police organizations cannot remember every business in the community. They have little to no idea how your business processes work and help you to succeed.

While responders have a basic understanding of safety procedures and perhaps even a mechanical aptitude, they may not understand your highly complex manufacturing processes or the highly specialized chemicals involved in many manufacturing processes. This knowledge is commonly limited to you and your employees.

How to Help First Responders Understand Your Business

What can you do to help firefighters and police understand your business? Invite them to your facility. Many firefighters, for example, are curious and want to understand your business, how it interacts with their operations, and how you can make the disaster recovery process more efficient for you and them. A guided tour of your facilities during which you explain your business will spark conversations that might include essential information from both parties.

One of the conversations that most often occur between business owners and first responders is how and where to shut down a process. As a business owner, you do this every day and do not need any labels or written procedures. However, the steps of your shut-down process could be completely foreign to police and firefighters.

Another topic to discuss with first responders is how you account for the people in your building. Police and firefighters must account for all employees and visitors inside a building during a disaster. With the increase of flexible time and telecommuting, personnel accountability becomes increasingly difficult, so it is useful to develop a head-count plan with first responders’ input.

While these conversations may seem simple, they can lead to useful changes for your business and allow the construction of an incident plan document for your local fire and police departments.

In the next blog post, we will discuss about the elements of creating a fire and police assistance plan.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.