Planning? Here's the trick.

Not all emergency plans are created equal.  Calling something a “plan” doesn’t make it one.  Real planning should go into its creation – not simply filling in blanks in a template, or copying a pile of lists to an appendix. A viable emergency plan is actionable, applicable to any dire event, and effective under all circumstances.  It should be accessible, practiced and up-to-date. If not; it might not be a plan; it may simply be a document. Engagement with those that will action the plan ensures knowledge and the all-important ‘buy-in’. Therefore, the act of planning is more valuable than the plan itself.


I have, during my career in emergency management, encountered many a client who waits patiently whilst I examine their facility, interview staff, inspect emergency warning systems and equipment, and analyse the risks inherent to their operational environment and then, perhaps weeks later, when I deliver a customised emergency response procedures manual, are elated at the results.

What generally happens next is the amazing part. The glossy new emergency procedures manual is placed on a shelf in the manager’s office to take pride of place next to other compliance documentation, booklets and/or manuals. If only the author has seen the plan, or, nobody but the boss has a copy, it will be very difficult to implement in an emergency.  Especially if the author or boss isn’t available!

The manual (plan) needs to be in the hands of the person entrusted to act on behalf of the facility when things go awry – the Chief Warden.

Having a consultant apply expertise to the planning process is a wise move but involving staff and management in the planning process is a masterstroke. By taking part in the planning process, everyone has an insight into the formation of procedures, it creates awareness of the procedures and most importantly, it promotes buy-in from those very people that the plan and procedures seeks to protect.

You already know this. Recall a time when a friend explained a plan to get together on the weekend or a travel itinerary for a holiday. Unless you were part of the planning process you take on board only key points of the plan; the rest is seemingly unimportant detail. Take for instance, your friend intends to pick you up on Saturday to drive you out to lunch at an amazing restaurant that has an award winning menu with stunning views and quirky waiters and your friend has warned you that the traffic can be bad of an afternoon for that part of town, let alone finding somewhere to park the car, and so on and so on. What are you most likely to remember about the arrangements (plan)?

Probably key points like, friend; pick up; be ready by midday.

If you are putting together contingencies for your business or organisation it’s worth remembering that a plan doesn’t accomplish anything. Endeavours succeed or fail on the abilities of people to enact that plan.

And that relies on them knowing what to do, and how to do it?