Emergency Planning and Preparedness for Corporate Offices: Part 1

Dec. 21, 2004
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?

__Have you identified liaison teams necessary for liaison with outside agencies?


__Have you identified roles and responsibilities for each position within your organization?

__Does your plan list roles and responsibilities by position and by function?

__Does your plan assign primary and alternate responsibility for each function?


__Does your plan provide adequate guidance to area managers and building/property managers as to what must be included in their emergency action plans?


__Does your organization during an emergency differ from your normal organization?

__Have you developed an organizational chart which depicts internal relationships during an emergency and becomes effective upon plan activation?

__Have you developed an organizational chart which depicts relationships with external organizations?


__Do you maintain current contact information for all individuals within your organization?

__For those who consent, do you have information regarding next of kin?

__Have you established "call trees" which address all possible types of plan and/or emergency operations center activation?

__Have you designated a frequency with which contact information must be updated?

__Have you designated policies for periodic "testing" of the emergency contact notification systems?


__How do you "activate" your plan?

__Does your plan articulate authority for plan activation?

__Does your plan articulate criteria for plan activation?

__Can your plan be activated in various levels? (i.e. partial, full).

__Is your plan activation sequence easy to understand? (i.e. in checklist format?)

__Does your plan address de-activation criteria?

__How often do you practice partial and/or full plan activation?


__Have you conducted a realistic and understandable hazard/risk assessment for each property and region/city?

__Has your hazard/risk assessment been conducted in accordance with prevailing guidance from state and federal agencies?

__Does your hazard/risk assessment take into effect incidents which occur outside your properties but may impact negatively on your properties?

__Have senior corporate officials been apprised of your hazard assessment? Have they been updated if it changes?


__Does your plan contain information on the federal Department of Homeland Security Threat Advisory System?

__Does your plan contain information on any state or local threat advisory systems?

__Have you developed protocols and procedures to be able to adapt your corporations (and individual building/property) emergency preparedness posture to reflect changes in the federal and/or state/local threat advisories?


__Have you identified all local, state and federal agencies (including local military bases/facilities) with which you may have to interact during an emergency?

__Have you identified all private agencies, companies, corporations with which you may have to interact during an emergency?

__Have you established primary and alternate points of contact for all public and private agencies?

__Have you included any of these agencies in your planning and exercise processes?

__To what level have you coordinated your plan with each agency?


__Have you identified all possible forms of communications that can be used during an emergency?

__Have you developed your communications plan using a requirements-based analysis?

__Have you selected and prioritized those forms of communications to be used? Primary, alternate, tertiary?

__Have you identified which forms of communications designated for use during an emergency are used routinely during non-emergency situations?

__Have you identified those forms of communications designated for use during an emergency which are not routinely used on a daily basis? Have you developed a training plan for use of these devices?

__Have you identified known communications "voids" either internally within your organization or externally with outside public and private agencies?


__Did you use a requirements-based analysis to determine supplies and equipment required for your emergency preparedness plan?

__Have you identified primary and alternate responsibility for ordering, storing, maintaining and distributing supplies and equipment?

__Have you identified all ancillary items needed to maintain and/or operate supplies and equipment?

__Do you have contractual mechanisms in place for rapid procurement of items required during an emergency, but not stocked? (For example: additional fuel, food/water, etc.).

__Do you have memorandums of agreement in place for use of privately owned facilities?

__Do you have quick access to neighborhood maps and CAD diagrams for all of your properties?


__From where will you manage emergencies at the corporate level?

__Who, realistically, can be expected to participate in corporate emergency management?

__Have you determined EOC functions?

__Have you determined EOC staffing?

__Have you determined EOC activation criteria? Activation authority?

__Have you articulated requirements for partial and full activation?

__Have you identified communications requirements for EOC?

__Have you identified primary and alternate EOC locations?

__Have you identified supplies/equipment requirements for EOC?

__Have you determined length of shifts for EOC staffing?

__Have you identified liaison/staffing requirements for any public and private agencies for representation in your EOC?

__Have you accounted for human needs (water, food, personal hygiene, sleep, break) for your EOC?

__What are the minimum power requirements to operate your primary and alternate EOCs? What are your sources of back-up power?

__Who is responsible for maintaining the EOCs?

__How often do you practice EOC activation?

__How often do you conduct EOC exercises?

__What types of charts, maps, graphic and visual aids do you require in your EOC?


__If you have sufficient transportation assets which can be used during an emergency, have you identified all assets available?

__Have you identified primary and alternate drivers/operators for each vehicle?

__Have you developed clear instructions for vehicle pick-up and dispatch?

__Do you have a plan to "lock down" vehicles immediately upon an emergency, so as to ensure their availability for use?

__Have you designated the authority to dispatch or recall vehicles during an emergency?

__Do you keep a spare set of vehicle keys at a central location to be used if necessary during an emergency?

__For operators who may have to operate equipment under duress (contamination, smoke, etc.), have they been trained to operate with required equipment?

__Have you designated dedicated vehicles to transport senior corporate officials?


__What is your strategy to keep other tenants apprised of your emergency preparedness initiatives?

__How do you communicate with tenants before an emergency? During an emergency?

__What guidance have you given to areas/regions and/or properties/buildings for notification of tenants during emergencies?

__To what level do you standardize building announcements to tenants?

__What legal considerations are involved when notifying tenants?

__How can tenants participate in the emergency preparedness planning process?


__Have you developed a public information strategy?

__Have you developed a media relations strategy?

__Have you developed a media response plan?

__Have you developed policies for who may and may not discuss the emergency with the media?

__Have all personnel designated to provide information to the media been trained?


__How often is your preparedness plan reviewed and updated?

__How often do you conduct exercises? Tabletop? Decision making? Rehearsals? Drills? Who are the participants?

__How often are unannounced plan activations conducted? By whom?

__How is emergency preparedness-specific training conducted?

About the Author: Walter F. Ulmer III is president of Remlu, Inc. (www.remluinc.com). a veteran-owned small business dedicated to emergency preparedness planning and exercise development and delivery. He holds a bachelors degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master of science in administration from Central Michigan University. He has over 25 years national and international planning and exercise development experience, ranging from the planning of military operations to developing preparedness plans for private corporations. He has developed emergency plans for military facilities, local jurisdictions, health departments, colleges and universities, high-rise buildings and security service companies. He is currently an adjunct instructor for the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center and in this capacity presents emergency preparedness planning seminars to senior emergency management officials and elected officials throughout the United States. He is also a member of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) New York City High-Rise Emergency Action Planning Task Force.