Emergency Planning and Preparedness for Corporate Offices: Part 2

How to assess, qualify and hire an emergency preparedness planner

[Editor's Note: This is the second part of a series of articles from Walter Ulmer, president of REMLU Inc., an emergency preparedness firm. His first article presented a checklist on emergency preparedness, this article addresses choosing an emergency preparedness planner and his third article will help walk you through the creation of your emergency response plan. Related articles are linked at the bottom of this story.]

You are faced with the dilemma which many corporate-level security officials are faced: increasing emergency preparedness requirements arising from local, state and federal directives along with growing client inquiries over specific preparedness policies in your corporation require you to "shore up" your emergency preparedness. Yet, you have insufficient time to organize, coordinate, integrate and validate a realistic emergency preparedness plan for your company.

You have identified a number of options. You might take on the task of emergency preparedness planning yourself, but you are already swamped dealing with day-to-day security challenges. You had hoped for additional funding to establish a position of Director of Emergency Preparedness, but your company is not authorizing any new positions at this time. None of your colleagues have the experience (or the time) to take on the additional role of developing and coordinating your emergency preparedness program. Your solution? Outsource; hire a consultant to develop your emergency preparedness plan.

There is a broad spectrum of companies offering emergency preparedness planning services. At one end of the spectrum reside former first-responders who are technical experts and have usually had experience with incident response. Normally, they have specialized experience in technical and/or tactical level training, incident command and control and, in some cases, risk analysis and assessment. Few at this end of the spectrum have a breadth of planning experience outside of their respective technical areas.

At the other end of the spectrum lie strategic-level firms that have top-level officials who bring name recognition to their product. While some have operational-level planning experience, many have most of their experience in strategic-level policymaking and may never have had the experience of rolling up their sleeves and sitting around a table to hash out emergency preparedness protocols. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes lies the person you are looking for. This article considers what that person (or team) should look like.

Developing your requirements:
Just what exactly are you looking for?

Before you begin the process of hiring a planner, you may need to spend some time defining exactly what products and services you require. Are you looking for a risk assessment? A physical security plan? A review of existing plans? Development of an emergency preparedness strategy? Development of emergency response protocols for your organization? Facilitation for your own planning process? Perhaps you are looking for an exercise program to coordinate your plan with other agencies or someone to train your employees on existing procedures. There is, indeed, a difference between security programs and emergency preparedness programs. The former is generally associated with physical security, access control and incident prevention; the latter is a much broader preparation, response and mitigation program of which physical security and access control are an important part.

Whatever your requirements, the major difference between many planning consultancies is their methodology. Many so-called preparedness planners use a "cookie-cutter" approach: through a series of meetings and interviews with company officials, they gather information and develop a plan for you. The document, in all its glory, sits in a three-ring binder on your shelf. No one, with the exception of yourself, is familiar with the plan and many don't even know it exists. While this appears to be an efficient method of "planning" and certainly minimizes time requirements on the company's staff, it develops a document that is likely useless during an emergency.

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