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Key Considerations for Employers: Steps to Take in the Event of a Terrorist Attack

The new normal for Americans since September 11, 2001 is the unfortunate reality that terrorism and the threat of an attack are part of the fabric of our lives. Time and again we are jolted into this reality when fresh attacks occur – from the Paris and Belgium incidents to the one right in our backyard in San Bernardino last December where 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured at work by a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center. These people were at work attending a holiday party and training event when their lives were cut short.

As employers, it’s our responsibility to remain proactive in helping to keep employees safe. This includes mitigating on-the-job hazards and preventing workplace violence with strong loss control measures and risk management strategies, and, yes, even having in place a robust crisis management plan in the event of a terrorist attack occurring at your premises or nearby. As part of our commitment to protecting the manufacturing industry, Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services (PMIS) recently attended a webinar on “Steps to Take During a Terrorist Event” sponsored by insurer AIG. We’d like to share several of the key takeaways from the webinar with you, including how to implement preparatory measures.

Have established plans and procedures in place. Design emergency preparedness plans to also be geared toward a well-coordinated response to terrorist attacks. If you don’t already have a disaster plan encompassing various types of disasters, consider developing and implementing an emergency response plan that addresses acts of terror as well as natural disasters and violence. Employers who already have plans in place for violence and natural disasters should update those plans and revise them to respond to warnings and/or the occurrence of an imminent terrorist attack. Include evacuation routes, processes for involving the police, and the development of an emergency contact list.

Plans also need to be made to back up paper and electronic files at a pre-arranged secure offsite location or locations. Responsibilities and identification of successor personnel for essential tasks must be assigned. Basic supplies (including water, food, and first-aid supplies) should be maintained and stored in the event an evacuation is not possible. Employees who travel frequently as part of their job must be educated as to safety measures and company policies involving dangerous circumstances. Be sure a business recovery and continuity plan is also in place.

Employees should know what’s expected. When employees have the right information in hand, they will be able to act appropriately in an emergency. HR needs to work closely with your shop’s management and supervisors to ensure that employees understand what they should do in the event of an actual attack, as well as what the firm’s expectations are.

Train employees on what is considered suspicious activity. It can be difficult to know what is considered normal or abnormal activity. Provide employees with clear examples of what should put them on alert and what they should do about it (call a manager, law enforcement, security personnel, etc.) The National Terror Alert website provides guidance to help you get started.

Strengthen buildings and other structures against potential attacks. For existing workplaces, a number of relatively simple and inexpensive steps are available to make your shop less vulnerable to an attack. Some of these are as simple as requiring trucks and vehicles to be parked some distance away from the workplace. Hang heavy curtains above windows rather than installing expensive laminated safety glass to minimize injury from flying glass; place signs in stairwells at floor level so they can be seen by those crawling to avoid smoke; rearrange seating so that workers are located in safer, sheltered internal spaces; if possible, use “safe rooms” inside multi-storied buildings as a means to protect employees during an attack; install durable locks and hardware; use closed-circuit TV to observe activities on and around the premises; maintain a log of all visitors by name, date and time; and inspect all incoming mail at a secure location.

Act quickly at the time of the incident. The more quickly a company can act to address threats and help employees, the better. Communicating with employees is vital during an attack and/or incident. If you don’t fill the gap, others will—but often with incomplete, faulty or inflammatory information. Be sure to have a message ready to communicate and, if need be, communicate with families.

Also, immediately deploy HR staff along with counselors from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If the employer doesn’t have an EAP program, you can contact local therapists to assist. If an employee is traumatized by the event and is seeking medical care, the employee may be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Have alternative work schedules in place. Many crisis management and business continuity plans include changes to employees’ current work schedules or locations. During an emergency, employers may be forced to close temporarily. Some employees may not be able to do any work if the shop is closed. Others may be able to continue working (non-machine operators) but must work from home. Another issue that can arise is if employees are called in and asked to work extra hours after an emergency to clean up or get machinery or computer systems up and running again. All of these scenarios bring up wage and hour issues, such as overtime, and need to be addressed.

Update insurance policies. Ensure your manufacturing business is protected by having the correct policies in place to cover terrorist threats. One option is terrorism risk insurance. Furthermore, insurance companies can often provide quality resources for developing proper plans and procedures to ensure both the business and employees are prepared, no matter what.

Being prepared ahead of time and having a plan in place is key for businesses to survive a crisis and keep a company up and running. PMIS provides the manufacturing industry with sound and industry-specific insurance solutions, loss control and risk management to protect you today and into the future. For information about our portfolio of insurance products and for assistance in developing a crisis management plan, please contact us at 855.910.5788.

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