In a post-9/11 country, we all know the importance of being ready for any situation. Following the Navy Yard Shooting where a lone gunman killed 12, it became clear you don’t just need an emergency plan for your school or family – you need one for your office, as well. Despite increasing awareness of the risks, many offices remain underprepared for emergency situations, according to a recent survey conducted by Rave Mobile Safety, a corporate security provider.

Emergency Preparedness is an Attitude

It is impossible to plan for every possible threat. And frankly, if we spend too much time thinking of all the threats, it can actually be crippling. What we saw in the aftermath of 9/11 was an attitude behind many who thought quickly and worked together to save as many lives as possible.

We live in a self absorbed world where people retreat to their homes and don’t talk to their neighbors. People also go about their work day, rarely stopping to consider their coworkers. If you’re not worried about your coworker when he is sick, chances are you won’t be thinking twice about their whereabouts the next time the fire alarm goes off.

Being ready to act during an emergency isn’t just about being less self absorbed. It also involves critical thinking skills in a pressure situation. I don’t recommend pulling a “Dwight” and creating a fake emergency situation to see who breaks down the vending machine to load up on snacks or who breaks the conference room window to get out. However, it is important to find ways to sharpen critical thinking skills – it will pay off in more areas than just emergency preparedness.

Emergency Preparedness is a Plan

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s catchy but it’s true. You have to assign emergency preparedness to a team or a department. Rave Mobile Safety’s emergency preparedness survey found the lack of a single department or responsible unit for emergency preparedness was common in many companies. A plan that identifies the major threats and responses needs to be written and communicated company-wide. The plan should be regularly reassessed and tweaked or overhauled. It’s not just a box to check once completed.

Sometimes, putting plans in place is a little bit scary. Realistically, we work in an environment where no one wants to be the one responsible when everything goes wrong. Everyone loves to point fingers. In the wake of a hurricane, disaster relief may have arrived a little faster with better plans or it may have been the same. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Don’t let negativity stop you from creating a plan.

Emergency Preparedness is an Action

So often with plans, once we make them, we think our work is done. With emergency preparedness, the only way to ensure they work or people remember them is to conduct training and talk about about them frequently. PowerPoint presentations are a poor training tool – especially when you just have to click through the slides and sign off upon completion. Do not just email out a powerpoint presentation and call that training.

Break the information down into manageable pieces to distribute to the office. Fire drills and mandatory trainings that physically require employees to walk through the steps to get out of the office building are annoying but extremely helpful to find ways to tweak the plans and improve preparedness.

Preparedness Promotes Safety

The reality is that you never know when an emergency situation will happen, but you can reduce stress and the casualties by being ready. It’s impossible to predict all the possible outcomes or scenarios; however, everything you do to prepare (even if it’s a grassroots effort and not coming from management direction) will help to keep you and your coworkers safe.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.