THE MAGAZINE

No Lights, No Camera, Just Action

By E. Floyd Phelps, CPP

The company has just hired a new security director.

He reports to work bright and early for his first day, gets the usual welcome tour, and begins to acclimate himself. At his first meeting with his assistant, they talk about the company’s priorities and problems the department is currently working on. Among the many questions he asks is: “Do we have an emergency plan?”

“Sure,” the assistant says. After digging around for a minute or so, he finds a large bound volume in the back of a file cabinet. The new executive has just realized that the emergency plan is probably the organization’s best-kept secret. Not a good sign.

Emergency response and disaster management plans must be updated and rehearsed regularly if they are to be of any value. Unfortunately, as in this case, they are often filed away until someone asks about them or until the day when they are really needed.

Cities and companies that take emergency planning and business continuity seriously know better. They conduct exercises regularly, usually rotating between simple tabletop simulations and full-blown exercises, culminating with interactive exercises that involve other agencies.

 Let’s look at how security managers can go about setting up an exercise for their own company. For the sake of our discussion, we’ll assume that staff has had the appropriate training during the year. The objective of the exercise is to test both the effectiveness of staff training and the plan itself. Because frequency is the best way to achieve that objective, training should occur in some form at least once every three months.

Exercises do not have to be time-consuming. Employees learn better in short, lively training sessions. Short sessions are also easier to fit into everyone’s schedule. All employees, including upper management, should be involved. Each department should write its own specific training manual and schedule exercises to rehearse it.

Senior management needs to be aware of its responsibilities in an emergency. Human resources, legal, IT, and finance directors as well as the CEO will all have different roles to play.

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