The propaganda films of the 1950s had something to teach us after all. Sure, it may be absurd to suggest that a school desk will protect you from a nuclear blast (duck and cover!), but there is a value in preparing for worst-case scenarios.
Small and medium-sized businesses are often under the misconception that emergency planning represents an unnecessary cost, explains Adrian Gordon, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness. Yet proper planning can actually make the difference between profit and a lost business in the event of a crisis.
Protecting People and Equipment
Emergency planning begins by identifying any potential hazards and risks that a fleet may face, ranging from natural disasters that can cut off fuel supplies, to closed borders, to flu pandemics that could sideline a large portion of its staff, or more localized issues such as crashed computer systems.
Once the potential threats are identified, it's important to take any possible steps to mitigate the risks, Gordon says. That can involve training office staff to help control fires and administer first aid, or ensuring that contact sheets for employees are kept up to date.
Everyone needs to know their specific roles in the time of a crisis, Gordon adds, referring to the importance of creating a formal team to meet such challenges. "Find people who are doers. A manager or leader in a normal operating environment is very often not the person to manage a crisis. You have to make decisions with often very little information, and you have to make them quickly."
They're important steps that make business sense. Prepared fleets, after all, can actually gain market share at a time of disaster, says Guy Robertson, an emergency management consultant based in Vancouver. Successful fleets serving areas hit by Hurricane Katrina immediately knew to re-route truckers through areas where there were more opportunities to refuel, and encouraged them to head to the pumps more often, he says as an example.
Insurance is obviously just one form of protection to consider.
Yet the solutions aren't limited to the movement of a truck. Drivers with medical issues such as asthma should be encouraged to customize First Aid kits with additional medication in case they get stranded, Robertson says. And an uninterrupted line of communication can be protected with something as simple as a toll-free number in addition to in-cab satellite systems.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked steps in emergency planning is the need to protect proprietary information such as payroll systems and employee files, which can be scattered between company servers or individual PCs, Gordon adds.
Robertson suggests that such data should be backed up every quarter, although there are affordable services that allow it to be backed up every day. "It's five or six keystrokes. Big deal," he says, referring to the ease of the process. "It's all completed through the ether. If you lose that data, depending on the company and its financials, it could mean bankruptcy."
Backing up such information is only part of the equation, however. Be sure to test the systems on a regular basis to ensure the data can be restored.
The testing will help identify single points of failure, whether they're in the form of equipment, or a part of the process that's only understood by a single person, Gordon says.
"It's not the plan itself that's as important as the whole process: if you have a plan that's up-to-date and regularly tested, everyone involved becomes familiar with [procedures for] crisis situations."
It's simply a matter of being prepared.
Guidelines and templates for emergency planning are available at www.ccep.ca.
The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors that is representative of stakeholders from the Canadian trucking industry. With the conviction that the best human resources skills and practices are essential to the attainment of excellence by the Canadian trucking industry, the mission of the Council is "to assist the Canadian trucking industry to recruit, train and retain the human resources needed to meet current and long-term requirements."
For more information, go to www.cthrc.com.