Why Every Business Should Have a COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan, “Essential” or Not

Keith Butler, LEED AP

As stay-at-home orders are lifted, learn how COVID-specific emergency action plan can help all types of businesses.

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Over the last several weeks, many countries have issued stay-at-home mandates while exempting essential businesses like grocery stores, utilities, manufacturers and their respective supply chains. Now, regions around the world are evaluating their timelines and criteria for re-opening non-essential businesses such as salons, retail stores and restaurants.

While there is no single approach for opening these businesses, it will be imperative for them to keep the focus on the global goal of flattening the curve while also providing services as we begin the transition back to everyday life. To achieve these goals, essential and non-essential businesses need to take three steps.

Step 1: Develop a specific COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan

Staying in business is one thing. Staying in business during a global pandemic is something much more complex. Business operators must think beyond the emergency management plans you may have developed and then put on a shelf. It’s never too late, or early, to start response planning. Employers looking to protect their employees, assets and property, while beginning to restart operations or bring people back to the office, should look to develop, enhance or implement a comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan. The plan should include the following key phases:

  1. Prevention + Mitigation: The intelligence and information sharing protocols and protective actions to remain operational
  2. Preparedness: Supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), training and communications tactics to be used
  3. Response: The activities that comprise the COVID-19 response and how they impact operations
  4. Recovery: The communication and tactical procedures that help resume normal operations after an incident

Step 2: Train all employees how to implement the plan

This is not the time to create a plan just to “create a plan.” The COVID-19 crisis is evolving on an almost hourly basis and even experts are at odds on how long it will last. It’s critical that all employees who play a vital role in the action plan are properly trained to implement it immediately and on an ongoing basis. This includes a description of how employees will be informed of the contents of the plan and trained in their roles and responsibilities. Every business will need to confirm employees have the necessary tools and capabilities that will be needed to enact the plan. It is also critical to validate that emergency notification systems, whether they are basic or extremely complex, are in place and tested on a routine basis.

Step 3: Identify and designate someone in charge

A person or team, such as a Pandemic Response Team, needs to be accountable for the proper execution of your pandemic plan on a daily basis. The team would be responsible for rapid decision making, monitoring, enforcing and reporting compliance concerns related to the COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan. The team would also be responsible for communications, both internal and external. There might be people currently within your organization to fulfill this role, but you may need to look to bring in external resources if you don’t have the skill sets in-house.

The Public Counts on Your Business

Our essential and non-essential businesses play an important role in communities across the globe. It’s imperative you're able to stay in operation through the pandemic or return safely when restrictions are lifted.

This will only be possible if businesses act in a responsible manner and continue to flatten the curve. The COVID-19 outbreak has propelled organizations to reflect on their preparation and develop an emergency action plan that enables them to prepare, mitigate and respond to the unexpected.

Reach out to us to understand the potential impact of COVID-19 and benchmark your plans against industry peers, ensuring that you are meeting — or exceeding — the expectations of the public.

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