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Katrina’s lesson: Update your crisis-management plan

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Hurricane Katrina's devastation woke up many employers to the need to revisit their disaster plans.

Risk: Even if you drafted a plan after the 9/11 attacks, you may find it's already outdated.

Action: Earn kudos from your boss by launching an effort to draft (or update) crisis-management and continuity plans.

When employers across the Gulf Coast region scrambled last month to put to-gether the pieces of their battered organizations, some were more prepared than others.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had prompted many U.S. employers to establish business-continuity and disaster plans. But surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of smaller companies still didn't have such plans as of this year.

Even if you did write a plan after 9/11, it may be time to update it, as technology has advanced and we've learned more about disaster planning. Plus, your vendors, suppliers and outsourcing partners may not have disaster plans in place, which means a catastrophe like Katrina thousands of miles away could hurt your organization.

Here are seven key pieces to a crisis-management plan, which you can coordinate with the appropriate departments:

1. Establish a procedure for notifying employees, suppliers, customers and clients in case of an emergency. Designate one person to handle media questions.

2. Scout out alternative locations and equipment before you need them. Such planning saved many Gulf Coast employers. Look into reciprocal arrangements with other businesses to share computers and work space.

3. Identify important business functions that must resume immediately. Determine what's needed to restart them as quickly as possible.

4. Keep duplicates of both computerized and written records. Maintain copies of up-to-date inventory, customer lists and other important contacts in a secure off-site location. Create an "evacuation box" containing important documents that you may need to grab in case of emergency.

5. Plan escape routes, post them and give copies to employees. Designate a meeting place outside the building.

6. Ask suppliers, subcontractors and outsourcing partners if they have disaster plans and whether they test them. List alternate suppliers that have continuity plans.

7. Update your disaster plan as you upgrade technology. Make managers aware of your plan. Test safety features (fire alarm, first-aid kits, etc.) once a year.

Online resource: Access a free booklet, Emergency Management Guide For Business & Industry, at www.fema.gov/library/bizindex.shtm or by calling (202) 646-4600.

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