The tragic and senseless death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial in Ottawa last month served as a shock to many Canadians and will have ramifications for years to come in a lot of the things we take for granted, even in the workplace. While many of us are familiar with the urban office building, fire drills, we are far less prepared or even fathom practicing an emergency situation like a lockdown as we experienced in the urban office core of Ottawa the day of the shooting.
It probably goes without saying that US organizations are far more used to these scenarios than their Canadian counterparts and may have better evolved communication plans and practices as a result. Ironically, and sadly perhaps, the next generation of business leaders and workers are also better prepared since their schools are now practicing lockdowns and how to handle similar situations. Many of today’s Canadian organizations and business leaders, however, do not appear to be so prepared.
While Business Continuity Plans for most medium and large organizations are in place, many have not been dusted off or updated, often due to budget cuts and perhaps a sense of complacency. Many will have contemplated a pandemic like H1N1, but not a lockdown in a fluid urban office setting.
As independent contractors, it’s also important to be prepared and have a plan for such emergencies, especially if you’re at a client site where there is no clear plan. One very simple way to do this is to know your Basic Emergency Plan for any situation. For example:
Perform a preliminary assessment.
Evaluate the risks to determine your next steps.
Develop a communication plan.
After the dust has settled, evaluate the situation and determine what you could have done better. Document your ideas and develop a preventative plan.
In the above, when an emergency strikes, steps 1 to 3 will happen almost immediately. One of the most evident and clear observations I had first-hand in Ottawa last month, however, was the absence of reliable information that was needed to go through these steps.
Ironically, in today’s age of ubiquitous and lightning fast information at our finger tips, the flip side of that phenomenon was also true. All information — right or wrong — gets out. The day became a track meet of what we soon found out was misinformation courtesy of Twitter, Facebook and even other more traditional mediums available on desktops. “Two shooters”, “three shooters “, “another shooting at a nearby mall”, “shooter(s) on roof tops,” and “stay away from windows” were just some of the scenarios that gained speed throughout the day. People would have had to sift through all of this and determine for themselves if it was safe to leave a building, if they should close their blinds or if their children should leave school.
This only seems to be getting more challenging in today’s technology-driven world and filtering through information isn’t going to get any easier. What you can do is research your local media outlets and determine which one you trust the most and stick to just that (Tip: this probably shouldn’t be Facebook). Also, ask yourself a few important questions now:
Do you know your client’s emergency plans?
What about your agency’s?
Will you follow all of their procedures, or follow your own when you feel it’s safer?
What’s your family’s emergency communication plan?
As most urban buildings already do with the basic fire drill, organizations and independent contractors alike also need to ensure they have a plan for all emergency situations and lockdowns. It’s nearly impossible to predict every scenario, but the more basic preparation you take, the easier it will be to take on the unexpected emergencies. Do you have a Basic Emergency Plan? How much have you prepared? Share your strategies with our readers in the comments below.