Emergency Preparedness

What Happens When it is Time to Restart the Engine?

Thoughts and Analysis by Tom Henkey
Director of Emergency Management, Titan Security Group

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has had an enormous impact on American businesses. The overall economy, and the private sector in particular, is resuming operations in fits and starts. This uncertainty has sent the stock market into an unprecedented state of whipsaw ups and downs.

Much has been written about the disease itself, about mitigation and containment efforts, and about where to find the most current information on the outbreak. There can be no question that we are still in midst of an extended coronavirus outbreak that is likely to include one or more additional waves of widespread illness.

And yet it is not too early in this crisis to begin considering what the recovery phase will entail. Like all disease outbreaks before it – even worldwide pandemics – this coronavirus will reach a peak before its impact begins to decline. That decline could be due to the virus going dormant, to new and more effective treatment of symptoms, or ultimately due to an effective vaccine. Or our society could simply learn to live with it, adapting to a new seasonal risk to public health with social distancing and other mitigation measures.

This much is clear: at some point, we’ll need to get back to some semblance of normal. Kids will return to schools and employees will return to work. Store shelves will be fully restocked and supply chains will realign.

But what will that “normalcy” look like? And how do we get there?

The recovery process begins long before such steps actually occur. It is born during preparedness and prevention phases, and during continuity planning efforts prior to any emergency, such as a disease outbreak. It continues through the mitigation and response phases of emergency management, gaining steam as stakeholders express a need and desire to resume full operations.

The recovery process truly begins with taking an honest assessment of current status and needs. This has already begun even while the response phase is ongoing, still very much in the midst of the crisis event. Yet it might be best thought of as an “exit strategy” for transitioning towards normalized business operations in a controlled manner. Even if an organization has lagged behind in making such preparations prior to an incident or disruption, much progress can be made even late in the game. A few considerations:

  • Identify core and essential functions. Prioritize absolutely key functions and activities that must be completed. This process will make it much easier to set specific objectives for when and how to achieve crucial organizational goals.
  • Consider an internal Recovery Team. Designate a small group of operational professionals to achieve the core recovery objectives. A willingness to actively share expertise facility-wide or organization-wide matter as much as title or rank.
  • Solidify your supply chain. Logistics is clearly one of the most important elements during any crisis. This initial recovery phase is the time to audit and improve the supply chain for critical materials – vital insurance against future disruptions.
  • Contact key representatives to gauge intent and expectations. You know who your “go-to” points of contact are for every tenant or stakeholder. Now is the time to proactively reach out to get input on their plans and needs for ramping up business.
  • Establish distancing measures for building common areas. Social distancing will be a part of the recovery process. Effectively communicating expectations may include elements such as email blasts, floor markings, and additional signage.
  • Pre-determine trigger points for resuming services/staffing levels. Use this period of relative calm to set later decision points, such as when to add supporting staff, to allow access to common areas, to adjust access-control restrictions, etc.
  • Assemble welcome-back messaging and expectations. This is also the time to control the message that employees and customers receive as they return to work, by crafting specific communications using your desired tone and content.

Finally, when it is time to go full-speed once again, you’ll likely require further assistance. Helpful federal resources include:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continuity planning


Helpful professional organizations include:

Business Resumption Planners Association of Chicago

Business Continuity Planners Association

Disaster Recovery Institute

As always, if you “See Something, Say Something”. For life-threatening emergencies, call 911. To report suspicious activity, call 855-RPRT-2-S4 (855-777-8274).

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