Emergency Planning and Preparedness for Corporate Offices: Part 1

Planning guidelines for corporate offices and commercial real estate corporations

[Editor's Note: This is the first part of a series of articles from Walter Ulmer, president of Remlu Inc., an emergency preparedness firm based out of Washington, D.C. His forthcoming articles will include advice on how to create your emergency response plan and tips on selecting an emergency planning consultant.]

"Plans are nothing. Planning is everything." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Many commercial real estate corporations and corporate facilities have adequate physical security systems and life safety procedures in place for their buildings: systems which address access control and video monitoring, operating procedures for building/property security guards, and life safety directives which ensure compliance with local laws and regulations. In fact, many individual properties have begun to develop "all-hazards" plans which address not only fire safety procedures, but implement wider incident response procedures and protocols. Within many commercial real estate companies, however, there continues to be a dearth of corporate-level preparedness planning. While strides have been made in many areas, work is still needed planning for and coordinating the corporate response.

Developing a corporate level emergency preparedness plan is different in both scope and focus than is creating an individual property/building emergency action plan. At the building level, emphasis is on execution (hence the term "action plan" to describe a building's emergency plan). The process focuses on developing building-specific response protocols and ensuring staff competence.

At the corporate level, however, emphasis should be on pre-incident guidance and post-incident management. The plan has two primary functions:

- First, it provides corporate policy and procedural requirements to individual buildings (or, for larger corporations, cities/regions as well) to be established before and during an emergency

- Second, it specifies corporate-level management and staff operating procedures during emergencies.

This article is intended to be a guide for corporate-level commercial real estate emergency preparedness planning. It's useful whether you're a building owner or a stand-alone company owning an office setting. It provides a selection of planning considerations and is intended to be a planning guide only, summarizing planning areas involved in developing senior-level guidance throughout the organization. Without a dedicated planning program, however; any planning effort will not be fully effective.


__Does your plan have a clear and concise introduction which establishes its purpose, priority, scope, goals and objectives?

__Does your introduction clearly state responsibility for administering (developing, coordinating and maintaining) your emergency preparedness program and your preparedness plan?

__Does your introduction specify priorities during an emergency?


__Have you assembled all local, state and federal references (laws, guidelines, regulations, ordnances, etc.)?

__Have you identified a team member to be responsible for maintaining current references?

__Have you developed procedures for ensuring periodic review or references to ensure currency?


__Have you identified all outside sources of authority (local, state, federal) which may impact on your plan?

__Have you identified and understand the scope of authority for outside authorities?

__Have you clearly articulated the source(s) of authority for positions within your organization?

__Have you designated a "chain of authority" which clearly articulates authority in the event of personnel absences?

__Have you designated primary and alternate plan activation authority?


__Have you developed necessary groups and teams for planning and plan execution?

__Have you identified membership for each group/team?

__Have you identified functions and responsibilities for each group/team?

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