Critical Preparations You Need (but hope you never have to use)
After waking up bright and early, my morning routine consists of a little breakfast, coffee and catching some news on the television before I head out to the office. Pretty standard. Sometimes, however, I am hesitant to turn on the news. Sometimes, I just want to leave the TV off. With recent headlines concerning terror overseas and humanitarian crises here at home, sometimes I just want to tune out the world and not think about all the bad things that can happen. But things happen. Accidents happen. Extreme weather happens. And, unfortunately, public violence and acts of terror happen too.
Maybe one day we will be able to predict the future so our Emergency Action Plan becomes obsolete and we can prevent emergencies from happening (anyone like the television show Person of Interest?), but for now our best defense against dangerous situations is to have a complete and well-thought out Emergency Action Plan. It’s easy to say “sure, I’m prepared” but are you really?
Is your Emergency Action Plan ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice?
If you are, great! You are ahead of the game. If not, please keep scrolling down because today, I am going to take you through some critical preparations you will have wanted to make to your Emergency Action Plan if disaster strikes. Being proactive about emergency preparedness can save you time, money and, even more importantly, it can ensure the safety and well-being of your tenants, staff and customers during a crisis.
What are some critical preparations I need to take to have in order to have a solid Emergency Action Plan?
Let’s start at the beginning. The first and most basic preparation is to develop a crisis communication strategy that will be useful to your organization and accompany your shopping center’s Emergency Action Plan. A great resource for emergency planning is Ready.gov. Additionally, Jonathan Bernstein’s The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications outlines critical pre-crisis and post-crisis steps you can apply to your Shopping Center.
Your Emergency Action Plan should include a contingency strategy for a variety of situations. Start by making a list. Two columns: Emergencies and Actions. Each emergency may require specific responses. Think extreme weather, power outages, acts of terror, a fire, riot or shooting — these are not pleasant things to think about but it is a necessity for Shopping Centers who hold the public’s trust to keep them safe.
The next steps are to identify key personnel and a logical chain of command for crisis communications and who will make the call to implement your Emergency Action Plan. A Shopping Center’s tenants and staff will inevitably work extended hours and have several shifts. Make sure you have identified at least a primary and secondary person for important roles to cover any absences or shift changes. Make sure your tenants and staff know who has the authority to make decisions and give orders and who is responsible for sending emergency notifications and other crisis communications.
Once you have established a well-developed emergency and communication plan and identified key personnel, your next steps are training and testing — both of which are vital to the success of your Emergency Action Plan. Your next steps are training and testing — both of which are vital to the success of your Emergency Action Plan. No, that sentence isn’t repeated by accident. I want to make sure I have your attention. Training and testing your Emergency Action Plan is where most people fail. It is imperative to make sure your Emergency Action Plan is understood by your workforce. Your Shopping Center should hold emergency preparedness training for new tenants and regularly schedule refresher training. If possible, set aside a time to hold emergency preparedness drills for reinforcement. As a result, you will be able to see if your Emergency Action Plan has any gaps that need to be addressed before a real emergency occurs.
Testing your communication systems goes hand and hand with training. A Mass Notification System is a great complement to a Shopping Center’s Emergency Action Plan and, if used, should be tested for several reasons. First, routine testing helps determine if your contact database is up-to-date. If test messages are undeliverable or have low readership, it may be time to request updated contact information from your tenants and staff. Testing also helps reinforce training and creates awareness about how tenants would receive information during an actual crisis situation.
What kind of emergency notification systems are available to help improve my shopping center’s Emergency Action Plan?
Pockestop’s RedFlag Mass Notification System is a wonderful complement to your center’s emergency planning efforts. If your Shopping Center plans to use a Mass Notification System as part of their Emergency Action Plan communication strategy, make sure you hold proper training on the system itself. Identify administrators and designate specific people who will use the system during an emergency. When creating a strategy for a variety of emergency situations, take the time to write pre-loaded messages that correspond with each critical situation. Being able to access pre-written notifications will save you time during an actual disaster. Lastly, plan for post crisis communications as well. Keeping your tenants and staff — and other stakeholders — informed after the emergency will help minimize rumors and keep information flowing.
It will take more than a little time and effort on your part to put together a robust Emergency Action Plan and make these critical preparations to ensure you’re ready. The time and effort spent will be worth it — especially if you click on the television one morning to discover a crisis unfolding at your Shopping Center. Life is unpredictable and public places especially cannot afford to be unprepared. The good news is you can start today. Take a look at the resources I mentioned above and take the time to make the critical preparations I described and you will be on your way.
Where can I learn more about mass notification systems and my shopping center’s Emergency Action Plan?
Visit www.pocketstop.com to learn more about our operational communication solutions including the RedFlag Mass Notification System.