Posted by: Angela Petersen, Vice President, Business Continuity for Zions Bank
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Angela Peterson do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.
On April 17, 2012, the State of Utah participated in the Great Utah ShakeOut the largest simulated earthquake exercise in the state’s history. Several members of my organization were fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the state simulation cell during the exercise. What a great opportunity to strengthen both our knowledge of the operation of the state during a crisis, as well as our organizational response plans and how we can better respond during an event.
Through the actual experience, and being able to spend time talking with our FEMA regional representatives about their past response to significant events, I am able to take away practical knowledge that will be used to benefit my organization.
One of the most important messages I will take back deals with communications. As a financial institution, we have always known that our customers are the most important focus of our recovery. The exercise reinforced the importance of pre-planning for communications following a significant event.
Making sure we deliver messaging through every aspect of the business will make all the difference in our ability to respond effectively. This means we need to talk more about what we would expect to hear from our clients and employees, and prepare ourselves with the methodology to effectively disburse messages and ensure they are communicated as uniformly as possible.
An organization’s understanding that it is not “business as usual” when it comes to customer service is vitally important. The staff we have on hand today to handle customer and media-based inquiries will need to become more robust following an event. The stresses of not only the situation but also the repeated requests for information quickly take a toll on people.
The exercise reinforced my belief in the need to pre-plan a communications staff and train for these types of situations. It is one of the greatest steps an organization can take to reduce their reputational risks following an event.
Overall, I believe each member of the business community owes it to their employees, as well as their customers to build a plan that not only encompasses the business function, but the human element of business as well. Our being prepared to sustain ourselves and our respective businesses while the state focuses on placing critical response measures in place is vitally important. Basically, we need to do our part to be prepared now.
I congratulate the State of Utah for a well-run exercise, and thank its leaders for their encouragement of private sector business and community involvement in the exercise, and for the ever-present message of preparedness.