Five Tips for Writing Effective Emergency/Disaster Plan
National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster and emergency planning now and throughout the year. Preparing for natural disasters can greatly reduce the risks to health and the environment. Hurricanes or floods can contaminate drinking water sources. Forest fires or volcanoes harm air quality. Tornadoes or earthquakes, by damaging factories or storage facilities, can release contaminants where people live or into the environment.
Sites can plan ahead to protect health for staff and residents. An emergency or disaster-preparedness plan can help you mitigate chaos and damage to your site should an emergency or disaster strike. Though you may not have control over whether an emergency or disaster will occur, you can control, to some extent, how you, your staff, and your residents will respond to one. If you have a carefully thought-out plan that your staff and residents are aware of, you’ll be more likely to avoid a panic situation.
We’ll give you five tips for writing an effective emergency/disaster plan for your site. These tips are designed to help you better prepare your community for emergencies and disasters so that you can minimize injuries and damage to your site, your staff, your residents, and your important data.
Create Contact Book/List/Tree
Create a contact list or phone tree outlining a relay system of phone calls. It should contain the names, addresses, and home and work telephone numbers of the people you’ll want to reach if an emergency or disaster is about to occur or has occurred. Your list should include:
- Your employees;
- Your site owner;
- Your site’s insurance agent;
- Your site’s contractors;
- Chief mechanics you use (including computer repair services);
- Your site’s attorney; and
- Each resident’s contact information (paying special attention to children, elderly residents, those with special needs—such as the hearing- or sight-impaired, or those with mobility impairments—non-English-speaking residents, single working parents with latchkey kids, and residents without vehicles).
Keep copies of this information at your site office and at safe locations away from the site. That way, you’ll have access to it in case your office is destroyed or becomes inaccessible. In addition, have numbers and, if applicable, directions handy to FEMA, the fire department, hospitals, the police department, utilities, the local Red Cross, and local shelters.
Install Communication System
Make sure your site installs a good communication system—such as a public address system. That way, you can communicate easily and effectively with residents and any of the community’s visitors in case of an emergency or disaster. You’ll also need an effective way to communicate with your staff members at the site—such as with two-way radios, because cell phones may be inoperable.
Back Up Computer Data
Make sure you install backup systems for your computer data, such as digital versions of leases and financial information. You should back up the data frequently to keep it current. Be aware that your computers and data could get damaged in a disaster, or your equipment could get stolen if looters come into your site.
Distribute Emergency Handbook
Prepare and distribute a handbook of emergency procedures that your residents should keep and review. The handbook should describe your role during emergencies and disasters. It should also tell residents how they should respond during those emergencies and disasters. The handbook should contain telephone numbers and contact names for residents to call in case of specific emergencies. Although the initial handbook will take time to create, it won’t take long to update or to modify it for other sites you may manage.
You can get lots of information about emergency and disaster procedures from local, state, and federal agencies. The information found from these sources will address emergencies and disasters most likely to affect your site. You should also find out whether your site’s insurers conduct annual safety inspections. If they do, schedule one for your site.
Keep Important Keys Accessible
Make sure master keys to all apartments, garages, and other spaces are readily accessible in case of an emergency or disaster. For example, you may need to enter a resident’s apartment to rescue someone or to stop a fire. Also, consider keeping handy copies of keys needed to open your office’s furniture such as file cabinets and desk drawers so that you can quickly get to or remove information that’s locked away.