Organizational resilience: Planning is key for mitigating vulnerability to disaster

By Ryan Searles 

Catastrophic events and workplace violence have become ever-increasing threats at our public institutions and workplaces. As an expert in security and force protection, I spend a great deal of time consulting with my clients on such emergency preparedness, which I break down into three key areas: prevention, response, and post-event recovery 

Here’s a brief look at each area. 

Prevention: No emergency or violent event is 100-percent avoidable, but the name of the game is mitigation. If you can prevent the majority of threatening events from happening, and mitigate the effects of events you can’t control, your organization will be exposed to substantially less risk. For our clients, prevention begins with a vulnerability/gap analysis, which assesses an institution’s physical security, employee security, risk, material security, and many more areas.  

Part of an overall organization security assessment, a vulnerability/gap analysis is designed to find deficiencies in an institution’s or business’s security processes and is an essential for the safety of its people, brand, operationsand functionsOnce the gaps are found it is up to the organization to then close theby implementing new or updated policies, proceduresand security measures, or taking other actions.  

After the initial assessment and resolution of deficiencies, I recommend a follow-up assessment within one year. If no major changes to the organization or its processes have occurredfuture assessments then can be scheduled every two to three years 

Response: How quickly and efficiently we respond to emergencies of different types can make all the difference in the level of severityTherefore, training and awareness are essential for getting your staff ready to respond. In addition to knowing how to respond, they must also practice that response through drills and rehearsals that help condition them to respond appropriately when their minds and bodies are under stress. It is important to remember there are different types of drills for different emergencies. The way we should respond for a fire is not the same way we should respond for an active threat such as a shooter 

I recommend educating your staff twice each year on various emergencies and conducting drills every quarter.  

Post Event Recovery: The recovery process after an event can be long and emotionally difficultbut there are preparations you can take to make it easier. Your employees, students, residents, patients, etc., must be your top priority. Do you have bereavement or other counseling available? Do you have casualty assistance available? Priority No. 2 is getting your business, plant, school, etc., back up and operational.  

I conduct tabletop exercises with my clients’ leadership teams to ensure their organization is prepared for the recovery following any event. These exercises identify critical needs, processes, roles, and responsibilities during recovery and serves as their business continuity plan. Such exercises should be conducted quarterly until they run smoothly and then repeated twice each year after that. 

If you can engage your organization in successfully executing these crucial planning steps, any threat or emergency you might encounter can be better managed and less traumatic for your operations and, more importantly, for your people.