Feb 29, 2024
Apr 9, 2024

Why you need an emergency preparedness plan

In the post, we break down why every workplace needs an emergency preparedness plan and how modern tools and strategies can protect your business from unexpected onsite incidents.
Envoy logoGiulianno Lopez
Content Marketing Manager
Marketing Specialist
Why you need an emergency preparedness plan

People are returning to the office en masse. By the end of this year, 90% of companies plan to implement a return-to-office (RTO) policy. Yet, as more companies transition back to office environments after years of relying on legacy, manual, and customized solutions, IT, physical security, and facility management leaders are confronting significant challenges. The pressure is mounting for them to modernize systems that no longer scale or address the dynamic needs of today's workplace.

Increased concerns over security have emerged as more folks come back to the office. But, this shift is creating more ambiguity. Accurately predicting who'll be in the office is more difficult in this new era of distributed work models. Without a concrete plan and a flexible modern system in place, companies may struggle to instill the confidence needed to ensure the safety and security of their employees and onsite visitors.

What is an Emergency Preparedness Plan?

An emergency preparedness plan is a strategy developed by a company to guide actions and decisions during unexpected onsite incidents. Think of it as a playbook for what to do when things go wrong, with the goal of protecting people, assets, and operations from potential threats.

For example, imagine a fire breaks out in a building. An effective emergency preparedness plan would include clear evacuation routes marked out beforehand, regular fire drills to ensure everyone knows what to do, and designated meeting points outside the building to account for all occupants. Ironing out the details of this process can also ensure you accurately account for all those folks onsite and streamline roll calls. This organized approach helps everyone act quickly and calmly, significantly reducing the risk of injury or worse.

Risks of not having an emergency preparedness plan

Not having a plan can leave companies vulnerable to a broader range of risks. This includes everything from physical harm to employees and visitors to significant financial losses and damage to the company's reputation. Below are a few more specific examples:

  • Employee safety risks. Without a predefined strategy, companies may be unable to protect their employees effectively from harm or ensure quick and safe evacuation during emergencies. This absence of planning can also create a sense of insecurity among employees, affecting their overall well-being and productivity.
  • Financial liability. Companies without a plan are also exposed to a number of financial risks. These include direct costs like fines, legal fees, and increased operational expenses—as well as indirect costs such as lost revenue, increased insurance premiums, and damage to reputation. For example, a company lacking a plan during a natural disaster might suffer more extensive property damage and operational disruptions. They may face costly repairs and lost income as a result.
  • Compliance violations. Several compliance standards explicitly require businesses to have emergency preparedness plans in place. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that companies be prepared for potential emergencies. Similarly, specific state laws, such as California's Senate Bill 553, require employers to develop workplace violence prevention plans as part of broader safety and health prevention measures. Not being in compliance can result in fines, penalties, and even legal actions against your company.
  • Reputational harm. Employee safety is a top priority. When businesses fail to protect their team during emergencies, it can lead to unhappy employees and high turnover. This dissatisfaction can also make it hard to hire good talent (i.e., bad Glassdoor reviews) and harm customer trust. Companies that maintain operations during crises are seen more positively by both customers and employees.

What your emergency preparedness plan must include

A successful emergency preparedness plan is multifaceted. They require careful planning, the right tools, and continuous improvement. Omitting any aspect can lead to disastrous consequences. Modern technologies play a crucial role in putting these plans into action. For example, the Austin Disaster Relief Network's use of a visitor management system (VMS) like Envoy enabled a more efficient mobilization of volunteers and resources during emergencies.

Below are a few specific examples of what you should include in your preparedness plan:

  • Real-time visitor and employee log. During critical situations, you need to know who's in the building to facilitate quicker evacuations and to help emergency services respond effectively. Real-time data ensures everyone is accounted for. Tools like Envoy provide in-the-moment visibility by tracking entries and exits via digital check-ins (through kiosks, apps, or QR codes). This makes the process of checking in folks and capturing live occupancy data efficient, accurate, and secure.
  • Automatic emergency alerts. Time is of the essence in the event of an emergency. Automatic notifications enable rapid, customized communication via the channels your employees already use (e.g., Slack and Microsoft Teams). These alerts can provide vital information, including evacuation routes, lockdown steps, or weather warnings during emergencies. Solutions that integrate access control and alarm systems can also facilitate automatic notifications. They can trigger alerts based on specific security events or other scenarios the VMS detects.
  • The ability for employees to mark themselves safe. VMS solutions like Envoy allow employees to confirm their safety during emergencies through various channels like SMS, email, and mobile apps. All your employees need to do is click a link to show they are safe. From there, Envoy automatically updates their status for your security team's roll call. This way, you can more quickly identify if anyone needs additional assistance. This efficient communication is vital for reducing response times and directing aid effectively.
  • Interactive workplace maps. During an emergency, interactive workplace maps can provide a real-time overview of your office or facility's layout. With Envoy, these maps can be accessed via mobile devices, allowing employees to quickly identify their current location in relation to exits, safety equipment, and designated safe zones. Maps can also be updated in real-time to reflect changes in the environment, such as blocked passages or areas to avoid.  
  • Physical access control. These systems are key in emergencies for three main reasons: they limit entry to dangerous areas, keep track of everyone's location for safety, and guide orderly evacuations. During an emergency, physical access control systems can be programmed to perform specific actions, such as unlocking all doors to facilitate evacuation or locking down certain areas to prevent unauthorized access. Furthermore, they can generate reports after the fact to review who was in the building at the time. This helps with roll calls and ensuring everyone's safety.
  • Real-time tracking. A VMS with real-time reporting capabilities can provide you with up-to-date information about who's onsite. With Envoy, you can automatically capture and store contact details from visitors. Envoy can also sync with your identity provider (IdP), like Okta, to ensure all your employees' contact information is accurate and current. You can use this information to ensure that everyone has been safely evacuated.
  • Reporting and analytics. Many visitor management systems also come with reporting and analytics capabilities, making it easier to track and analyze visitor data. This includes visitor frequency, check-in and check-out times, and emergency evacuation data. Companies can leverage this data to enhance emergency procedures and strengthen overall security decisions. This can also be used to make informed decisions about your overall workplace security strategy.

Tying it together with a visitor management platform

A VMS can better prepare you for tackling today's workplace security challenges head-on. They act as a vital first line of defense for your business. Take Envoy, for example. This VMS allows you to screen visitors and confirm their identities through features like ID verification and blocklists, preventing unauthorized access. More importantly, these platforms integrate with other workplace tools, creating a robust security infrastructure that prepares you for future unknown threats. By leveraging the latest innovations, companies can ensure their security measures stay modern and resilient.

For more insights, check out our workplace preparedness playbook for further advice and insights into developing your own emergency preparedness plan.

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Giulianno LopezEnvoy logo
Giulianno Lopez

Giulianno Lopez is a Content Marketing Manager here at Envoy, where he specializes in crafting content centered around workplace management.
When he's not working, you can find him at Golden Gate Park training for his next race.

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