What The Office Taught us About Emergency Preparedness – Part 3

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“Use the surge of fear and adrenaline to sharpen your decision-making,” – Dwight K. Schrute, The Office (Season 5, Episode 14).

If you have attended a Firestorm webinar or a live training session by Chief Security Officer, Jason Russell, you know that when faced with an emergency, people do not use the surge of fear and adrenaline to sharpen their decision-making skills. Instead, they fall to their level of training.

Although satirical in nature, Season 5, Episode 14 of the NBC television show, The Office, displayed chaos in response to a simulated crisis situation. Dunder Mifflin Salesman and volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy, Dwight, fabricates a fire to test the emergency response of his colleagues. Watch the full scene here.

The response: Hysteria, confusion, panic, and fear.

These are not words you want associated with your employees’ reactions to a crisis. How do you avoid mass confusion? By planning and training for crises before one strikes.

Emergency Planning

Emergency planning involves the development of comprehensive emergency plans that focus on concepts for response. No two emergencies are the same, therefore, overly complex emergency plans that have narrowly detailed responses for each emergency should be avoided. Many organizations have the tendency to think more is better with emergency plans. The simpler the concepts in the plan, the more likely staff will be to read the plan and retain the information. The structure of an emergency plan is critical to ensure that command and control of an incident is handled.

The two most common issues with emergency response are:
• Determining who is in charge
• Determining how everyone involved in the response is communicating

Both issues were demonstrated in The Office scene when employees ignored Dwight’s emergency protocol steps, and lacked efficient communication skills by yelling and running for exit points.

Once an emergency plan is developed, training and testing are essential for the plan’s success. Training, in addition to making all with your organization aware of their duties under the plan, should increase awareness of preparedness issues and result in an efficient and effective response and recovery process. Testing will demonstrate areas where plans require modification.

Critical Incident Training

Critical Incident Training is the most overlooked step in creating a comprehensive preparedness strategy. A robust training regimen for any organization should include both live and table top exercises that are done with a consistent level of frequency, variety, and intensity. After-action assessments of the training exercises should also be included as part of the regimen. Training participants should include all internal entities who will have a responsibility in responding to an incident. Whenever possible, external entities such as police, fire, and medical first responders should also be trained.

Prior to introducing a critical incident training regimen to an organization, consideration should be given to enlisting the assistance of experts to help create the training scenarios, as well as develop appropriate response protocols.
The purpose of preparation is not to instill paranoia. When done properly, preparation should reduce the fear of an event and provide an organization with the confidence they will know how to effectively respond to and recover from any emergency.

Firestorm is always, and will remain, a resource in times of emergency. We encourage your organization to establish a plan prior to an event occurring. Not sure where to start? We can help with that. Contact us and we’ll set you on the right path.

Read part one of this series: What ‘The Office’ Taught Us About Workplace Safety – Domestic Violence (pt. 1)

Read part two of this series: What ‘The Office’ has Taught us about Crisis Communication

Three-Stage Exercise to Test Your Organization’s Workplace Violence Response Plan
Are you the first person in your organization? Performing in your Finest Hour
Under the gun – An interview with Jason Russell
Can terrorism or lone wolf attacks be prevented? An interview with former Secret Service Agent, Jason Russell

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