FAQ

Why can’t we just call 911 in an emergency?

You should always call 911. However, emergency responders can be delayed by traffic, severe weather, competing emergencies, distance from your facility, or other obstacles.

The first four minutes of an emergency—just 240 seconds—can make the difference between life and death. You should plan to be on your own during the initial stages of any emergency.

While police, fire and ambulance are the official responders, your employees are the first responders. Can you count on your nearest colleague to save your life?

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That’s crazy. Can’t we always count on 911?

Katrina—and every emergency response exercise conducted nationally and locally—demonstrate that in a major emergency, you’re on your own. The conclusion that, “You’re on your own” has been confirmed by the Mayor of San Francisco (regarding plans for earthquakes), the Secretary of Health & Human Services (on a pandemic), the Director of FEMA—the new one, not the old one—regarding major disasters.

Their commentary regards the first hours or days of an emergency. Did you build your plan with the assumption, “You’re on your own?”

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Yea, but 911 are the first responders who are trained to help me, right?

In reality, ambulance, police and fire officers are not the first responders. They are the official responders. Your employees are your first responders by dint of time and space. If you go down at work, or if a fire starts, the person in the next office, work station or machine is your first responder. How well are they trained and supervised to respond to you?

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We already have an emergency plan. Do we need anything else?

Yes. First, make sure your plan is up to date and up to current standards, including OSHA (every employer must comply) and your state fire code.

Second, make sure all personnel, especially new hires and contract workers, are trained (an OSHA requirement).

Third, test the training by staging drills (check your state fire code). Make any necessary changes to your emergency plan and training.

Fourth, in the vast majority of companies, plans are exclusively about fire and are built to last for just five minutes: get out/get away. That’s it. What about all the other threats besides fire: medical emergency, workplace violence, chemical spills, shelter in place, and many more? What about accounting for everyone? This takes more than five minutes.

Finally, repeat training and staging drills at least once a year.

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Of course we have a plan. It’s that evacuation map on the wall!

Lots of organizations truly believe that the map on the wall is their “plan”.

By the way, most evacuation maps on organizations’ walls are woefully inadequate. Most look like a board game rather than a map. Our standard: successfully directing the first-time visitor to their primary and secondary exit—in a panic—within four seconds.

Can your evacuation map do that?

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Do we really need a headcount? We just go outside with a list and hope for the best.

Hope is not a strategy.

The law requires that you account for everyone in an emergency. You will have to answer the Fire Chief’s question, “Is there anyone left in your building?” Responding, “I don’t know,” won’t cut it. The Chief has to decide if he/she is going to send a young fire officer in 70 lbs of gear and a respirator to search for your employees. If the fire officer is injured or worse, guess who is responsible?
See www.911Headcount.com for a unique solution to this problem for you.

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We have personnel in charge of safety and security. Why should we hire an outside firm?

There are five reasons:

  1. Your safety and security personnel are experts on one facility; we’re experts in hundreds of facilities.You get our insights and solutions from hundreds of office complexes, corporate campuses, high-rises, factories, warehouses and school campuses in industries including Finance, Communications, Manufacturing, Education, Food Processing, Not-for-Profit, International Shipping, Defense Contracting, Insurance, Health Care and more.
  2. It’s a best practice.Your organization hires an accounting firm to audit the books each year. Not because upper management thinks the accounting department is inept, but because it is a best practice. Similarly, hiring an outside safety and security firm to annually audit your emergency planning is a best practice and proper corporate governance.
  3. You get cost effective specialized knowledge. Most budgets and head counts don’t allow for continued education and training in current standards and best practices for specialties like workplace violence, suspicious packages, executive protection, hazmat spills, background checks, sheltering-in-place, premises liability reduction, access control, crisis communications, facility and site clean-up, and more—leaving you needlessly exposed to risk and business interruption. Present-day threats and responses require specialized knowledge. Hiring an outside firm is the most cost effective way to supplement your in-house capability with that specialized knowledge.
  4. You avoid “refrigerator blindness.” That’s when you open the fridge and search and search for the mustard. Exasperated, you yell, “Honey, where’s the mustard?” And Honey walks over and points to the jar in front of your nose. We get refrigerator blindness with things we see every day. An outside firm brings fresh eyes that can spot threats and vulnerabilities that are impossible for familiar eyes to see.
  5. Training has greater impact. Effective personnel training almost always requires an outside authority. Because “no prophet is accepted in his own country,” it’s nearly impossible for in-house staff to be accepted as knowledgeable trainers by their peers or those who are superior in rank.

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Do we have to worry about visitors, too?

Absolutely. Visitors are the least likely to know your facility and the most likely to sue you.

Studies show that visitors are often abandoned by host employees bent on going back to their offices for personal belongings or in the mistaken belief that their visitor is not their problem! Visitors are the most likely to panic or freeze in an emergency. Under the law, you are responsible to get them out and to account for them.

Clients, customers, contractors and temps are all visitors for purposes of planning and liability.

We’re not a manufacturer. Why should we be concerned about OSHA?

OSHA is not a town in Wisconsin.

Please don’t make the expensive assumption that OSHA only cares about worksites with machinery or chemicals.

No matter the nature of your organization, OSHA standards require a written Emergency Action Plan and a separate, written Fire Prevention Plan for every type of workplace with 11 or more people.

It doesn’t matter if yours is an architectural firm or a zoological foundation. OSHA expects you to comply. And OSHA requires that your plan is more thorough than “Get out” and “No space heaters.”

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What’s the minimum required for compliance?

Every organization must comply with OSHA regulations regarding Emergency Action and Fire Prevention plans, plus your state’s fire code. Additional laws, regulations and standards may apply to you. Contact us for an assessment.

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My landlord will take care of this. So, I don’t care!

The building manager’s plan (if there is one) in no way fulfills the tenant’s obligations under federal and state law to plan, train and drill for emergency response. If a building emergency plan were presented to you tomorrow, it will not fulfill your legal obligations under federal or state law.

Under federal and state law, your building owner/manager has little or no obligation to plan for any tenant’s employees for emergency evacuations or any crisis preparation or response; or to train your people. His legal obligation is to his own employees regarding plans and training.

Federal and State laws identify the responsible party as “The Employer.” That’s you, the tenant. You must have your own plan. That’s appropriate. No landlord should tell you how to provide for you employees’ safety.

Under many state laws, your building manager is required to hold evacuation drills for the entire building at least annually.

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Who enforces this stuff?

While there are no “Emergency Plan Police,” OSHA maintains a toll-free hotline for reporting complaints. Last year, OSHA logged 160,000 calls resulting in 45 percent of all OSHA citations. Who calls? OSHA says ex-employees, disgruntled current employees, competitors, and other public agencies phone in complaints. “Even the phone call is free.” OSHA must keep complainants anonymous by law. Firing a complaining employee will result in the organization being prosecuted under federal whistleblower statutes. Very expensive.

States enforce their regulations usually through the Fire Marshal. In many states, the Fire Marshal doesn’t fine you; he just pad locks the front door.

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My headquarters (or parent company) worries about this stuff. We’re just a division (or facility) in a big corporation. So, I don’t care.

OSHA, EPA and all regulatory agencies state that emergency plans must be “site specific.” This makes sense. You can’t cut and paste life safety. You can’t phone in an emergency plan.

It’s transparent and illegal to take a headquarters plan and replace the title page for a division or facility. Compliance officers are not stupid. You can imagine that they don’t appreciate companies that think they are.

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What does non-compliance cost?

OSHA does not have a specific checklist of fines. The amount of any OSHA fine is up to their compliance officers and their supervisors.

One company was fined $20,000 for not having a compliant Emergency Action Plan. Another was fined $125,000 for their non-compliant EAP—then OSHA’s inspection broadened and even more violations were found and cited.

Don’t forget to add the costs of staff time needed to deal with OSHA, your legal fees, and OSHA-initiated negative publicity about your violations.

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Our employees are like a family. Why should we care about workplace violence?

You are more likely to experience workplace violence (2,000,000 incidents per year) than a fire (1,600,000 per year). Every organization installs fire equipment to be ready for a fire, but few are prepared for workplace violence.

No matter how close your employees are, odds are that they have at least one unstable person in their lives—or could become unglued themselves. Consider:

  • Nearly 18 million Americans abuse alcohol
  • 5 to 10 million adults suffer from a severe mental illness
  • 5 to 6 million Americans suffer drug problems
  • 4.29 million adults have served time in prison
  • 1.5 million women and over 830,000 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year
  • Between 850,000 and 500,000 restraining orders are issued each year for domestic violence and abuse cases, respectively
  • Over 500,000 women and 185,000 men are stalked by an intimate partner each year
  • 35% of American households own 192 million firearms

Sources: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Violence Against Women Survey, Department of Justice

No one is immune from laid-off employees, angry customers, troubled spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex’s, relatives, friends, neighbors, or random attackers.

You are required to provide a safe work environment. Workplace violence is a foreseeable circumstance. Policies and training have become a standard.

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Do we have to plan for emergencies other than fires?

Surprisingly, federal and state laws are silent on many threats beyond fire. However, if you don’t plan for all emergencies, the common law regarding “foreseeable circumstances,” “failure to plan,” “failure to train,” and “premises liability” all kick in. These common law practices open you to suit, fines and prosecution. The common law is where juries decide your fate. For example, terrorism is now a “foreseeable circumstance” in New York state and federal courts. Do you want to be the defendant that sets the precedent in your state?

Have you planned, trained and drilled for these threats?

  1. Fire Prevention
  2. Medical emergency
  3. Organization of crisis supervisors
  4. What to do at the Assembly Area
  5. Command/Control/Communications
  6. Chain of command
  7. Bomb threat
  8. Suspicious package
  9. Shelter in place
  10. Chemical spill on highways, local roads and railroad
  11. Mandatory Evacuation order
  12. Suspicious/ violent person
  13. Addressing the Media
  14. Use of vehicles during an emergency
  15. Return to facility
  16. Workplace violence
  17. Severe weather
  18. Gas spill/leak
  19. First aid kits
  20. Disaster Recovery
  21. Terrorism

What would your employees, owners, shareholders, customers and clients say when they learn that you dismissed any or all of these threats? That you hadn’t planned and trained your personnel? Have you done your due diligence? Have you addressed the organization’s exposure to liability? “What were you thinking?”

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How can I persuade the top decision makers to budget for this?

There is a measurable Return on Investment for emergency planning and preparedness. Contact us to help you calculate your ROI.

Also, remember that almost all managements of any corporation, campus, medical facility, non-profit etc. respond to triggers like workplace violence at an organization like yours anywhere in America; or any organization down the street; or Swine Flu; or any emergency that strikes home for them. Use these incidents to persuade your management that your organization’s plan needs creating, updating or expanding. Remember:

A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
A Disaster Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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Is there any proof or are there any metrics on how planning can save us money?

Yes.

  • Thirty percent of organizations that incur a crisis go out of business!
  • Of those businesses in the World Trade Center who did not have a preparedness plan, 6% survived to return to business. Of those who had a preparedness plan, 42% survived to return to business. Proper planning can create a multiplier (7 times!) that can save your business.

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Can we save money on our insurance?

Most probably. Call us. We have saved clients money on their premiums. The work we do can often be self-liquidating.

The cost of initial plans and training are one-time. Saving premiums is forever!

Insurance companies have programs for your house and car that give you a discount on your premiums. But, they don’t have programs for your business. You’ll be shocked to hear that your commercial agent and insurance company do not offer discounts unsolicited by you. However, you can go to the agent and carrier and bear down hard for your discount. You must demonstrate that you have increased your level of preparedness.

That’s where we can help. We give you a preliminary estimate of how much you can save. Then, together, we bear down on your carrier to bring you the reduced premiums.

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Is there a tax incentive for organizations that invest in emergency planning?

Not yet. Join us in lobbying your state and federal elected officials.

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Are we required to do anything after we have our Emergency Action Plan?

Yes. You must train employees and conduct drills at least once a year. Training and drills turn your plan into a reality—and help you see what works and what needs improving.

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Aren’t training and drills the same thing?

Training is like taking driving lessons in an empty parking lot. Drills are like driving on the road with other vehicles.

You can train but never get on the road. You can get on the road without training. But the most effective way to become a skilled driver is to train, then drill.

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We experience false alarms several times a year. Doesn’t that take care of holding drills?

False alarms are not drills. Many state fire codes require that drills address the following:

  • You can safely evacuate all personnel, visitors and contract workers, including any disabled and those who do not speak English
  • You make evacuating the building “a matter of routine”
  • You conduct announced and unannounced drills
  • You can conduct an accurate head count in every assembly area
  • You can confirm that all employees participate in each drill
  • You regularly ask your local emergency services to observe a drill
  • You drill for workplace violence scenarios, medical events, hazardous material spills, sheltering-in-place and other emergencies likely to strike your location
  • You record a drill report for every drill
  • You conduct drills at least annually

Do these sound like your last false alarm?

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How long will it take for you to get us prepared?

We get started the moment our first meeting is scheduled.

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Our emergency plans are posted on our Intranet. We instruct our supervisors and employees to review it once each year. We even require that they electronically sign off on their examination of our plans. That’s enough for training, right?

OSHA requires “hands-on” training and review. Our expert interpretation: you are obliged to train your emergency supervisors with an annual sit-down or walk-through of their duties. Those trained in using fire extinguishers must receive annual classroom orientation and go outside to put out a fire.

In addition, you are legally required to review your emergency plans with employees. This review is typically a 30- to 45-minute session in a classroom setting.

Remember, people respond the way they have been trained, and untrained people either freeze or panic.

You say your plans are available on the company’s computer system; however, it is strongly recommended that screen-based training alone is highly problematic for practical or legal purposes. Can management truly demonstrate that the employee understood the EAP and FPP and is capable of using it in the workplace? Can an employee pass an interview from an OSHA Compliance Officer regarding all the components of your EAP and FPP?

Can Life Safety be truly trained and understood on-screen for a few minutes a year?

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We have MSDS. What does it mean? Why should I care?

Many organizations have MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets in a binder somewhere in their facility. Many companies don’t realize the having MSDS automatically means that the organization must have a Hazard Communications Plan (HazCom) if they are to be compliant with federal law (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200). These companies believe that the binder itself equals compliance. This can be a very expensive mistake. Actually, the binder is the creature of the HazCom. HazCom also requires a written plan; a current list of all hazardous substances on premises; procedures for collecting and updating the MSDS, the appointment of personnel to administer the plan; plus training and more.

HazCom is OSHA’s most cited violation year after year.

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All this talk of emergencies is Chicken Little stuff. We haven’t had any problems. Why should we spend time and money on this?

First, federal law requires that every workplace have an emergency action plan and fire prevention plan. Also, luck is not a strategy. Can you guarantee that an employee or visitor will never experience a medical event on your premises? That there will never be a toxic spill upwind from your facility? That a fire will never break out from a space heater or lightning strike? That an angry ex will never seek revenge, that you’ll never receive a bomb threat, that friction between two co-workers will never escalate into an attack, or that personal injury attorneys will never name you in a lawsuit?

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We aren’t a terrorist target. Why should we pay attention to something that has no chance of affecting us?

Emergency planning isn’t necessarily about terrorism. When you’re prepared for a variety of emergencies, you’re also prepared to respond to a terrorist attack. Terrorists may never target you. But they may target a location in your vicinity, or the railroad, highway or school in your neighborhood. Even though your facility isn’t the target, you could be swept up in the attack and have to respond.

In addition, federal courts and the state of New York have ruled that terrorism is now a “foreseeable circumstance”. It is inevitable that your state will adopt the same standard.

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Will we expose ourselves to legal liabilities by training our people in first aid, CPR and using defibrillators?

Quite the opposite. First aid training may be required in your organization by federal law; and CPR training is recommended. You can expose your organization to liability by ignoring training.

If medical personnel can’t reach your workplace in less than four minutes (240 seconds), then you should have people who are trained in first aid, and adequate first aid supplies, or face the wrath of OSHA and a jury.

The thinking that “no policy and training will keep us out of trouble” is so out of date that it’s dangerous. Juries expect companies to protect their employees. Juries assume you have done the minimum by way of compliance with laws and standards.

“Smack them hard—really hard. That’s how you’re going to make them listen.” This is a quote from a Jury Forman after awarding $10 million to an injured employee from a corporation.

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Our local code requires us to have fire extinguishers, but we don’t train anyone to use them. Are we compliant?

OSHA requires that your Fire Prevention Plan state whether you have a “Do not use” policy or have identified employees who will use your portable fire extinguishers on incipient-stage fires. There are more detailed options, including maintaining your own fire brigade.

If you have designated certain employees to use your fire extinguishers, then they must be trained annually. If you have a written “Do not use” policy, you are obliged to train all of your employees about this policy and your enforcement.

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We are adamant about prohibiting our employees from using fire extinguishers. If we do train, then aren’t we exposed to liability?

No. OSHA permits employers to have a “Do not use” policy regarding portable fire extinguishers. However, you must state this policy in your Emergency Action and Fire Prevention plans. In addition, you must train employees annually about your policy (as part of your Fire Prevention plan training), and enforce this policy with all employees.

Consider the repercussions of a “Do not use” policy. If you have a fire in a waste basket, do you really want no one to put it out and spare you thousands in damage—and possibly save your facility?

We see many managements who wink and nod at their “Do not use” policy, hoping or knowing that someone will use a fire extinguisher. This practice exposes them to OSHA citations and fines, and, if there are injuries or worse, an unsympathetic jury. It also presents the dilemma of taking disciplinary action against anyone who uses a fire extinguisher and becomes the hero who saves your facility.

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Why should our organization care? We’ve been lucky so far!

Luck is not a strategy.

Luck won’t help you much in front of a jury, a compliance officer, your board of directors, the owner(s) of your company, or an employee’s spouse and children.

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What’s our exposure to a lawsuit?

Absent written Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plans plus training and drills, you increase your exposure to a lawsuit. You will be accused of negligence, ignoring “foreseeable circumstances” and “failure to plan,” with plaintiff looking for large money damage awards. Just the opening rounds of motions and legal paper shuffling cost $10,000-$25,000 in fees. That’s before depositions and other legal fees. The senior-staff time to prepare is estimated at the same amount.

“Victory” actually means surrendering to a settlement after exhausting years of your time & money.

Then—of course—there is always the search for a scapegoat in your organization.

“Smack them hard—Really hard. That’s how you’re going to make them listen.” This is a quote from a Jury Forman after awarding $10 million to an injured employee from a corporation.

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What are Command, Control and Communications?

These are the “3 Cs of emergency preparedness” If we have someone in command that can project control of the emergency and can communicate needs and orders—and do so simultaneously—then we are on our way to a successful response. If we don’t have the 3 Cs, we are assured of a defeat in our response.

Does your plan have one, overall leader who is given decision-making authority? Do you have backups to account for travel, vacations and illness? Do you have a chain of command below the leader to extend the leader’s control? Do your supervisors have 2-way radios to move people out? Report the injured? Conduct a headcount? The first system to go in an emergency is electrical power (bringing down your phone system and PA). Next are the cell and push-to-talk systems which will either be damaged or overwhelmed. All three of these systems will go in the first 60 seconds. How will you communicate? 2-way radios can’t be compromised.

If you can’t communicate, you can’t respond.

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What do we do about the disabled? Are we responsible for them?

Every organization is absolutely responsible in an emergency for the disabled while on their premises. That includes employees, visitors, contractors, clients, customers”anyone.

Disabled is defined by law as anyone who is mobility challenged. That includes pregnant women, those on crutches temporarily, those hard of hearing or seeing, the extremely obese, older citizens who move slowly. The mobility challenged are a danger themselves and for everyone behind them in an emergency.

Your organization must make the disabled part of your planning, your training and your drills.

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What’s all this have to do with productivity?

All of these threats—and your ability to respond to them—concern productivity. Any of these threats—including false alarms and hoaxes—affect productivity.

A fire and/or police investigation will instantly close your facility without any regard for your needs. It will be closed for as long as emergency services desires. On top of this, your building can’t be cleared until any damage to the facility is corrected. Every one of your employees will be stunned in any crisis aftermath.

The result: your staff can’t serve customers and clients. To add insult to injury, hard experience demonstrates that demoralized staff is angry regarding what they perceive as management’s lack of preparedness and response.

Too many organizations hope that they will not be affected.

But, hope is not strategy.

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What are the benefits to our doing this right?

  1. Prevention: Identify problems; stop them from hurting you.
    Prevention Saves Your People and Your Money
  2. Crisis Control: Keep a problem from growing into an emergency and then turning into a tragedy
  3. Due Diligence: Be able to tell a family or jury and your insurance company that you were/are committed to prepare and prevent. That you addressed “foreseeable circumstances” and “failure to plan.”
  4. Prevent Productivity Loss: And limit its duration & effects.
  5. Employee Benefit: You signal your staff that you “get it.”
    Emergency Planning is an employee benefit that benefits the employer.
  6. People Respond the Way They Have Been Trained: And untrained people panic. Tell staff what’s expected of them. Planning is essential. But the paper must be made real with training and review for all appropriate skills and scenarios.
  7. Become OSHA & State Fire Code-compliant: Take this as an opportunity to make your workplace not only compliant with the law but a safer and more secure workplace.
  8. Visitor Exposure: Visitors, consultants, temps and contractors are the least likely to know your building and emergency procedures; yet they are the most likely to sue after a crisis.
  9. Low Cost: No increase in headcount. No capital expense. This is about planning and training for your people, not hiring new people or purchasing new equipment.
  10. Corporate Insurance Policy: Protect the company from the voiding of its insurance because of a lack of preparedness and compliance. You may be able to save money on your premiums.
  11. Master Your Disaster: Overall, take command and control of your organization regarding emergency preparedness and crisis response.
  12. Protect the Owners: Overall, protect the owners of the business from suit, fines and ugly compliance orders.
  13. Protect the Senior Management and Board of Directors: Overall, protect managers and directors of the business from suit, fines and ugly compliance orders.

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