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Disaster and Emergency Management

With the recent outbreak of COVID 19 and the consequential effect to businesses, it’s important we talk about managing threats from disaster and how to recover from it.

Once a company is established, trading and making money, it tends to stay functional until specific events prevent it from continuing - businesses do not stop working for no reason. Although occasionally they suffer a slow decline to closing, more often a company’s demise is the result of an internal or external mishap that leads to total collapse.

Some of these disasters are predictable, familiar and mostly preventable, whilst others (such as pandemic ie Covid 19) are less obvious and will hit the company when least expected.

“Experts agree that a well-planned disaster recovery approach can be the difference between survival or bankruptcy”

Companies should be aware that the key to survival is planning for emergencies and disasters in advance, rather than reacting in the moment. The only way to do this is to create a documented Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM) plan.

Most DEM plans focus around the same 4 principles:

The model we at Embark recommend you use in order to establish your Disaster and Emergency Management System breaks these principles up further in to 6 simple steps:

Let’s explain each step of the model so you will be proficient at creating your bespoke Disaster and Emergency Management Plan:


External and Internal Factors

Start with identifying your internal and external factors. No two businesses are the same and will be affected by different factors. Read on to see examples of influences you should consider but remember that this is not exhaustive.

The External Environment:

Think about factors that occur outside of the company, totally out of control of the organisation, but could cause internal change.

The Internal Environment

Internal factors refer to events, people, systems, structures and conditions inside the company that are wholly controllable. It is usually the internal environment that will influence organisational activities, employee behaviour, attitudes and decisions


Establish a Disaster and Emergency Policy

This can seem a daunting task but split it down into manageable sections. Just like your Health and Safety Policy, start off with a Statement, then document the Arrangements (the meat of the policy) and then include a Command and Control Chart of Arrangements. As ever, we at Embark are keen to help you and consider ourselves policy writing Jedi’s.

“Remember – policy creation is an ongoing process. It is never finished”

Include in your Statement section:

  • The provision of appropriate human, physical and financial resources

  • A commitment to protect health, safety and welfare of employees, visitors, the public and contractors

  • A requirement to make suitable arrangements to manage disasters and emergencies proactively and reactively

  • A commitment to meet all compliance obligations whether legal or other

  • Consultation with all relevant parties

  • The provision of information, instruction and training for all relevant parties

Include in your Arrangements section:

  • Details for first aid provision

  • Information on facilities

  • Equipment to be used in an emergency situation

  • Detail any monitoring equipment to be used

  • Safe systems of work required

  • The means for ensuring public and contractor safety

  • The means to disseminate information to internal relevant parties

  • The means of providing reports to, or contact external bodies (Media, insurers, local authorities, emergency services

If your business is classed as a major industrial organisation, you should also define arrangements for specific major incidents such as terrorism. Consider human aspects from such incidents too – this may include dealing with dead bodies or seriously injured persons!

The Command and Control Chart of Arrangements is quite simply a hierarchal flow chart of management in the event of a disaster. It should identify the responsible person(s) and define the labour arrangements which are bestowed upon the organisation and the emergency services and anyone else effected by disaster.

*Top tip* – ensure your chart defines three levels of Command and Control:

  • Strategic

  • Operational

  • Tactical

You are now ready to move on to the next stage!


Organise for Disasters and Emergencies

We recommend following the HSG 65 4 C’s approach in order to organise for disasters and emergencies.

Disaster and Emergency Planning

You must now plan for disasters and emergencies. We recommend using a three-stage process to achieve this.

Stage 1

This stage should be completed prior to the event. Work through the following 10 subject headings in order to identify potential emergencies and disasters and decide upon appropriate control strategies:


  1. Identify

  2. Prioritise (Essential, Non-Essential and Important

  3. Analyse

  4. Develop Solutions

  5. Costs (Perform a cost-benefit analysis)

  6. Formalise Documents

  7. Co-ordinate

  8. Test

  9. Update

  10. Communicate


Stage 2

This is the actions you will take during the event. It requires activation of the previously formalised plans and procedures. People with responsibilities listed in the Command and Control chart will be required to co-ordinate the response and exercise control to ensure that impact from disaster / emergency situation is minimised

Stage 3

These are the actions you will take after the event. Investigations should be carried out to identify causes and ensure you have a plan for improvement going forwards. It may be that external agencies such as the HSE, Police, Local Authority etc will need to be involved in this stage. Differing levels of investigation may be carried out in the immediate aftermath, short term, medium term and long term. Business continuity plans should be carried out while investigations are performed.

You have now reached the last principle of your Disaster and Emergency Management System.

Monitor the Disaster and Emergency Plans

You should monitor the effectiveness of your disaster and emergency plans. Monitoring of the plans should follow the same three stages as the planning principle above.

*Top tip* - each stage should be monitored and reviewed pro-actively and reactively.


We recommend the following methods for the different levels of monitoring required:

Audit and Review of the DEM

Perform qualitative or quantitative audits of the DEM. Ensure the audit is comprehensive and covers the DEMS process systematically, in its entirety. We recommend employing external agencies / consultants to perform this but audits can also be conducted in house.

Ensure reviews focus on specific issues which have been identified in order to establish a plan for improvement. Again, external consultants should ideally be employed to conduct reviews. The review can be carried out at the same time of the audit.

It’s a sad fact that a lot of businesses will fold due to the implications of Coronavirus. So many companies would not have considered the devastation to business that a pandemic could cause. With a comprehensive Disaster and Emergency Management System maybe, just maybe, the majority could have survived.

Give Embark a call today so we can help you with your own bespoke Disaster and Emergency Management Plan

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