Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Key elements for successful planning

How are the key stages required to prepare an emergency plan carried out in practice? Watch emergency planning expert John Lee to find out more.
My name’s John Lee and I’ve been working in the Emergency Planning and Preparedness arena for circa 15 years at senior level across utilities, including gas, water and electricity, into the financial sector and more recently in retail, working for a very large retailer, spread across the UK. I became involved in it because of my fascination around risk management, from there I moved into a specialisation of business continuity and crisis management. I’ve been involved in a number of incidents where I’ve led and responded, and I think that has introduced me more into the benefit that good emergency planning and preparedness can bring an organisation.
In my experience, the key elements of developing the emergency plan, is around the purpose of the plan and getting those stakeholders bought in to actually the reasons why they need that plan. I think once that’s agreed, you need to be crystal-clear on the scope, because there is always a risk that the plan, that people perceive the plan to try and address every eventuality, so you need to keep that scope tight, and then also the roles and responsibilities. People need to understand what’s expected of them, but then the plan needs to support them on that journey.
That will be supported with a clear structure of how the incident will be initiated, as well as then as you go throughout the incident, how those roles may evolve, may change or be replaced with duty persons if it’s over 24 hours a day. I think once you’ve got that, part of the key structure to make the plan work, is you must have appropriate support. No-one will thank you if they are starving on a Sunday afternoon when you haven’t looked out for their welfare, both mental and physical, and the environment they are working in.
Then without a doubt, you must then rehearse and test the planning and keep it up-to-date and I think if you kept those core elements in, you will have a successful plan that is owned by the business and is relevant when it is required. So, in my experience when I’ve developed emergency plans for organisations, the first thing I’ve looked at is what are the risks the business is facing and from there I’ve understood how they are structured in the organisation and who are those key stake-holders that need to be engaged for this emergency plan. When you have those components in place, you’ll have buy in for emergency preparedness.
The next step will then be to understand where they are on their maturity curve. So, if they are very immature and say on a scale of 1 and they want to get to a level 5, you then have an understanding of how much work will be required to move them along their emergency preparedness journey. The key elements of making it a success has been around the relevance of the plan, the culture of the organisation and then how you keep emergency preparedness alive and kicking within the business.
So, regarding relevance, I think this is really where the practitioner needs to take the time to understand the business and the risks they face; understand where the emergency plan is going to add the best value. Culture in all the organisations I’ve worked in, heroic recovery has been the standard response. An incident will occur that may have been preventable, huge numbers of people will come together and all help to try and resolve the issue. It will be done in an effective response, but it will not be very efficient. That is where the emergency plan has the best value. Regarding keeping it alive, the practitioner really needs to be mindful of understanding how the business operates.
Not everyone is going to want an 80-page plan, some people are going to want 4 simple steps of what to do next and they will need to access that via their phone or their tablet, so you really need to be mindful to work alongside the way the business works, day to day. The best way to gain buy-in for emergency arrangements in an organisation is to take the time to understand the business areas needs and risks. From there you can demonstrate the value add that emergency planning can bring to help that business to continually operate during times of a disruption.
Keeping emergency plans alive in an organisation can be a challenge, but there are a number of steps you can take to make sure that they remain relevant and front of mind and that is achieved by making sure that those people have a role in the plan are trained and looked after. It isn’t about catching anyone out, it is about giving confidence to individuals in the business who will know their responsibilities when an emergency occurs. The second one is bringing all those individuals together to exercise them in a larger-scale exercise and then thirdly when that is over, you can promote the findings and the experiences across the wider organisation, to demonstrate that you’ve taken emergency planning seriously.
When I moved into the emergency planning arena,
I wish I was told the following: The first one is you must be resilient, because emergency planning is not always at the front of peoples’ minds in the business. You will be greatly helped if the business has suffered a large-scale incident because people will be thinking of it. The next thing is you really need to understand who your stake-holders are and take the time to understand their business areas and their concerns. From there, gain that buy-in, and then start to develop those plans, train the individuals who’s involved, rehearse the wider plan and continually review it to keep it front of mind.
If you have all those components, and you take the time to keep the plan relevant, you’ll be successful on emergency planning.

You have now seen some of the key stages required to prepare an emergency plan. How is this carried out in practice?

John Lee currently works with the John Lewis Partnership, where he is responsible for developing the organisation’s capability to respond to disruptive challenges. He has also carried out similar roles in Coventry Building Society, Severn Trent Water, and the National Grid.

Watch this interview in which he shares what he thinks are the key elements in preparing an emergency plan.

Your task

  • Who might be the stakeholders for an emergency plan in your organisation?
  • How would you improve stakeholder buy-in?
  • Do you think that there are any other important challenges that are not covered in this interview?
This article is from the free online

Emergency Planning and Preparedness: An Introduction

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now