Saturday, May 23, 2009

Conference Notes (Part 4 of 7) Staff

Staffing was, surprisingly, a big issue at the conference. When it comes right down to it, after a disaster if your staff doesn't show up, you are out of business. If you are a critical care provider (hospital, law enforcement, electric company, etc) and your staff doesn't show up, we are all out of business. Here's how to make sure your staff is ready for a disaster (and if you ARE the staff, you may want to make sure your employer has these bases covered):
  • All staff need to have a "go bag"--one for the home and one for the office. Who knows, they may end up stranded for a couple of days at the office and if they are already self-contained, that is one less thing you as an employer need to worry about.
  • All staff need to have family disaster plans in place. When the flu hit and schools were closed for a few days in our area, the biggest problem employers had was staff who could not come to work because their kids could not go to school. Everyone who is responsible for kids, pets, or the elderly should have a triple redundant plan for child care, animal care, and elderly care if for some reason they end up staying extra hours or days at work.
  • All staff need to know the company disaster plan and drill it frequently. If you have 200 staff members, you don't want to be up to your elbows in a crisis and have every one of the 200 staffers calling you for instruction. They need to know what to do, who to contact, and how to help without going to the head of the company.
  • Consider tele-commuting options and use them often--during "regular" times and during times of disaster--if possible.
  • Have multiple ways to contact employees and for them to contact your company during a disaster. Many critical facilities have a half dozen ways to contact their employees (home phone, cell phone, email, Twitter, blast fax, HAM call sign, etc); some even have the employee's homes plotted on a map so in a crisis, someone can pick up the employee from home if necessary. On the flip side, your employees need to be able to get information from you during a disaster. It is a good idea to have a number of people who can update the company website or blog to provide disaster instruction, you may also want to have a 1-800 phone number staff can call for updates, signage at the office, etc.
  • Have a good understanding of your employee's needs (ie: a single mom with five kids and a sick mom that she takes care of) so that you as the employer can look at alternatives if you need that employee (ie: if most of your employees have small children, you may want to set up on-site child care during a disaster).
  • Also, know as much as you can about your employee's skills/hobbies/etc. If one of your senior guys is also a HAM radio aficionado, you definitely want to know that and include this person in your disaster plans both in their current position and in communications position that they can also help out with. Be sure to write this down as you may not be around during the disaster and your incident commander will definitely want to know this information.
  • Jumble your staff around occasionally. Often times people get so locked into the rhythm of their normal job, that when a disaster strikes and they need to think on their feet and fill in at a different department, they either freeze or become quite useless. If this is just part of the normal job, the change doesn't come as such a surprise when they really do need to take on other job functions.
  • Consider job action sheets. Each job should have a "job action sheet" in case someone from another facility, a volunteer, or a temp agency comes in to help. At least they can get the basics of the job done without needing too much help this way.
  • You need a system for tracking hours and resources during a disaster in order to get reimbursed by FEMA or other programs afterwards.
  • Some ways to get the staff you need after a disaster: perform only essential functions and reassign other staff members, call back personnel, add an "essential personnel" clause in staff contracts, and/or borrow staff from similar businesses that weren't impacted by the disaster.
  • Consider credentialing if this is necessary for your organization. There are a number of high tech systems that have been developed for just this purpose. After a disaster, loonies tend to come out of the woodwork. People show up and say they are doctors or nurses and want to help however they aren't--this is bad. Others may show up and say they are law enforcement personnel who want to help, firefighters, the FBI--you name it and someone has probably tried to grab some glory without having the credentials. During a disaster, these people can sometimes slip through the cracks and cause more problems than you already have so institute a good credentialing system before you need it.
  • Put everyone to work. Develop a way to manage volunteers prior to the disaster. It is a bit overwhelming when 100 people show up to help and you have never managed one volunteer before let alone a whole bunch of them. Traffic control, runners, scribes (if your computers are down and you need to write all of your records it's nice to have scribes), simple clean-up, etc. are all jobs that volunteers can do.
  • Have a way for your staff to access your facility if it happens to be in lockdown when they arrive.
  • Have provisions for the staff. If you have a kitchen in your facility, you are ahead of the game. If you have a simple office, consider storing some emergency food, water, blankets, flashlights, etc. for staff to use in an emergency.
  • Create a staff disaster guide and provide it to staff annually. This guidebook will include everything--contact information, location of emergency provisions, security policies and procedures, etc.
  • Work with your local Red Cross or Department of Emergency Management. These groups have lots of resources for staff training and disaster preparedness. Also check and see if there is an industry group in your area that focuses on disaster preparedness and join it.


  1. I used to work in a Co. that the common practise was NEPOTISM.

    There was a License boiler engineer that he never was giving the chance to perform. Instead a 22 yr old kid was hire and place to attend the boiler, of course, this kid was the son in law of the supervisor. Another mechanic was a machine shop instructor license by the state and he knew drafting but there was another person related to the engineer and he was the official drafmen but in the eleven years I work there he never made a print. We had three licensed Ham radio operators, none of them were allowed to handle the little radios (2 meter). only the brother and the cousin of the engineer.

    I can give you many examples but the point is that only Co's that dont practise Nepotism will succed assigning the right person for the right job.

    Its funny because we had janitors that were better mechanics and machinist than the relatives that got the positions.

    Great post.

  2. Good point. It is common practice in many organizations to place people according to their degree or their ability to play well with others instead of getting the best person for the job. What many don't realize is that it is the secretary or janitor who know everything about everything and can often fix any problem without a title, fanfare, or fuss.