Emergency managers and public health officials are always preparing for a wide variety of unforeseen incidents and disasters. Unfortunately, just as businesses across the nation are beginning to reopen, recent events in Arizona are approaching what could reasonably be called a “perfect storm” situation.
As of this week, the state has reached two unfortunate milestones: COVID-19 cases have spiked to new record numbers, and the Bush Fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in Arizona history, burning more than 150,000 acres. So far, no buildings have been damaged but a number of roads have been closed and hundreds have been told to evacuate, with thousands more advised to be on standby to evacuate.
Continued concerns about the spread of COVID-19 are complicating the process of providing shelter for those who are being evacuated. Due to the pandemic, overnight stays in shelters are no longer permitted and officials must pay for lodging for evacuees. Additionally, screening efforts are now performed before anyone enters a shelter, and everyone is required to wear a mask.
Unprecedented Need for Business Emergency Management
Current circumstances have brought to light a need like never before for businesses and other organizations, leadership teams, and emergency response teams to consider their emergency preparedness and action plans to keep employees, customers, suppliers and business partners safe while also focusing on facilities safety and business continuity.
In times of crisis, among the most important capabilities for businesses is to have situational awareness of all conditions and the ability to track and communicate with everyone involved, from employees to emergency management and other local, state or federal officials.
Communication is critical for businesses during a natural disaster and requires the capabilities to share information and data quickly, in real time with all stakeholders, including team members and employees as well as fire or law enforcement first responders and local, state and federal emergency management agencies.
Many businesses and organizations, as well as public agencies, use an emergency management technology platform that gives them the tools they need to have a complete common operating picture or real-time view of the current situation, which can be used on a day-to-day basis and is invaluable during a crisis.
This type of technology supports emergency response activities including receiving and disseminating important information and situation reports, monitoring facilities status, tracking personnel and deployment of equipment, monitoring shelter availability, receiving or sending requests for resources, and communicating with all stakeholders.
Businesses and organizations should revisit preparedness plans on a consistent basis, including revising or updating action plans, checklists, response guides and other processes that are specific to the unique needs of the organization and industry requirements. An emergency management platform also helps with comprehensive critical incident management planning by providing the necessary capabilities to help assess risks and adjust plans to prepare for any incident, emergency or disaster.
Critical incident plans should include specific information, processes and procedures such as:
- Risk assessments to identify potential emergency threats;
- Key personnel who will be involved in emergency response and their roles;
- Stakeholders and local and state agencies that will be involved;
- Specific plans, procedures and protocols for response and recovery;
- An incident command center for coordination of response and communications;
- Procedures for coordinating critical incident response across multiple locations;
- Processes for evacuation, shelter, sheltering-in-place or lockdown of facilities;
- Forms to be used during different responses, including incident reports; and
- Input from all stakeholders.
Reopening Businesses with Pandemic-Specific Workflows and Crisis Response Readiness
For businesses in Arizona, many of the potential worries and complexities about reopening for normal operations in the wake of COVID-19 have become all too real, and somewhat of a cautionary tale for the rest of the country.
With coronavirus cases on the rise and wildfires spreading across the state, Arizona is dealing with many of these concerns about how to proceed with reopening processes while protecting health and safety and responding to other critical incidents or emergencies that may occur.
Reopening for business requires clear and detailed procedures for protecting the health of employees, staff or customers. There’s little room for allowing details to fall through the cracks, so an effective incident management platform is more important than ever.
Effective processes and solutions are needed to help business leaders quickly gain complete situational awareness to keep their people safe, manage return-to-operations requirements, mitigate risks and prepare for critical incidents — now and in the future.
Robert Watson is CEO of Juvare, a worldwide leader in emergency preparedness and critical incident management and response technology. Juvare solutions empower corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, healthcare facilities and volunteer organizations to leverage real-time data to manage incidents faster and more efficiently, protecting people, property, and brands. Juvare is working hard to support our partners in emergency management and local, state and federal agencies in response to the Arizona wildfires – many of whom are coordinating response efforts using Juvare technologies such as WebEOC.