Emergency Planning? Get Training Involved Early!
Could your organization continue to function if your corporate headquarters were destroyed? What would happen if 50% of your workforce phoned in sick, or an ice storm froze your supply chain? Those are some of the "what-if's" the emergency management plan must address.
Training is mentioned in almost every emergency plan – generally in the context of awareness training for employees. And while awareness training is key to the plan's implementation, Training can – and should – play a much more integral role in emergency management planning.
Here are some areas where Training can play a key role if involved early enough in the planning process.
Training for prevention and mitigation
The best emergency management plans take a proactive approach, with primary emphasis on prevention and mitigation. Consider:
- Is the organization placing enough emphasis on – and putting enough resources behind – its safety and security training? This is a good time to assess employees' and contractors' current skills, certifications, and work practices and plan to shore up inadequacies.
- How will existing training be evaluated and updated to incorporate new considerations identified in the emergency management planning process? Do a consistency-check to ensure that the right message is conveyed throughout the organization.
- Will employees need new skills to cope with emergencies? If the emergency plan calls for less face-to-face contact to reduce contagion during a flu outbreak, for example, some employees may need to learn how to manage conference calls or Web meetings. Do an analysis to find those skill gaps and close them.
Training for redundant capabilities
If an emergency shuts down a manufacturing line, can you move that operation to a different plant for awhile? What about other essential business functions? What if your comptroller – or, for that matter, your training director – were out sick for weeks?
Consider cross-training to build in redundancy for critical skills. Training can assist in the design, development and implementation of a cross-training program that includes periodic updates to ensure that those backup resources are ready to step up if the need arises.
Practical guidance on training delivery
The organization's emergency management planning team must be aware of the current capacity for training delivery. For example, you might develop an e-course on "Guidelines for Working from Home" during an emergency. But if your LMS can't handle hundreds of simultaneous hits, many employees won't be able to access that course. You'll need an alternate delivery method – or you'll need to beef up your LMS capabilities.
There are other training delivery issues the planning team must consider:
- If a flu epidemic is imminent, you probably don't want to hold group meetings to discuss how to limit its spread. Especially if the trainer is coughing...
- In a crisis, there may be power outages; you may not be able to rely on your PowerPoint presentation. Build in fall-back approaches. At Prometheus, we often provide a "Plan B" set of bare-bones instructor notes for use if the media show can't go on.
- You cannot rely on the availability of one specific trainer in an emergency. Facilitated training must be documented well enough to be handed off to a backup trainer if necessary.
Early Training involvement lets the team identify and address those potential problems upfront.
Rollout training that keeps on rolling
Everyone needs to know exactly what is expected during an emergency. And they need to know that before the emergency occurs. Training should be actively involved in developing a strong, effective rollout plan that will get the right level of training to the right people at the right time. The rollout plan should also address:
- Regular refresher training to maintain knowledge and skills
- Regular training evaluation and updates as the emergency plan evolves
- Policies and processes for delivering the training to new hires and contractors, as necessary
Clearinghouse for at-hand training resources
Training can become a resource for relevant courses and curricula that are already out there. There is excellent training available from American Red Cross, FEMA, CDC, and other organizations and agencies. And there's a lot of not-so-great stuff out there, too. Training can vet such potential resources, and make the most appropriate ones available to the people who need them.
Here at Prometheus, we may specify a FEMA course, for example, but we also develop a custom application worksheet that helps learners apply that generic content within the context of their own workplace and job responsibilities. When we provide the URL link we also give clear instructions on how to navigate the host site, locate the right course, register to receive certification, and submit the certificate to receive internal credit for course completion.
Resource for effective drills and exercises
This is an area where Training's expertise can really shine! Having a plan on paper is one thing – having a plan that works when you need it is another. It may sound great to have everyone assemble in the cafeteria for instructions during an emergency, but how many people will actually go there when the alarm sounds? How long would it take to get everyone there? Will they all fit in the room? Can the speaker be heard in that room? Can mobility-impaired personnel get there safely?
Training can offer practical, performance-focused guidance for drills, exercises, simulations, tabletops and other tools to help validate, improve, and finally roll out the emergency plan.
Evaluation and feedback
Training can help drive a performance-based approach to emergency planning, developing the assessment tools and certification criteria that put teeth into the plan.
Heady stuff, what Training can do! The key is early and active Training involvement in the emergency management planning process.
Want to learn more about emergency management? This site provides some good links: http://emergency.cdc.gov/