Unprecedented. Unrelenting. Unexpected. The speed and impact of the initial surge of COVID-19 in the United States took many by surprise, resulting in a significant loss of life as well as the upheaval of our way of life. As the months have passed, however, much has been learned about the virus and our collective response to it.
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase, this is a critical time to review your actions in March and April so that you may identify gaps in processes and procedures and be better equipped and organized. Emergency and crisis response plans should be a part of every organization, and should be thorough, flexible, and regularly updated.
If you haven’t already done so, convene a meeting within your organization, and have an honest conversation about what has and hasn’t worked these last few months. Whether you are a mom & pop store or a multi-million-dollar corporation, addressing the inadequacies of your current system is the only way to improve and ensure you are prepared for future crises, whatever they may be.
Questions to Ask:
- What supplies did you run out of, and what supplies were difficult to acquire? During recent months, there have been shortages of everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators to cleaning supplies and toilet paper. While we are beginning to better grasp the volumes needed to respond to this type of crisis, there are still difficulties securing some products. In the coming months, there will be ongoing efforts to restock depleted inventories, so planning will be critical to ensure you have what you need to operate in times of crisis. In these conversations, focus first on the supplies you need to keep things running safely.
- What is the current process for purchasing essential supplies for your organization, and are there back-up supplier options that can be used in a crisis? Gather this information now, and if possible, connect with suppliers to build relationships in advance.
- Are there emergency resources available to acquire supplies, particularly those necessary for employee health and safety? Are there local or national industry groups that can guide how to locate items or to help redistribute supplies? Make sure you’re aware of all programs available in your industry and community before you need it.
- How did your organization receive critical information during the crisis, and from whom? Make sure you are receiving updates from all key city, county, state and federal organizations, as well as from any relevant industry groups. Information changes quickly during a crisis, and ensuring you have the most up-to-date information about products, resources, and requirements can make all the difference.
- How did we share information during the crisis, and how often? Did employees feel they were well-informed, and that they had what they needed to do their work safely and effectively? Sharing information and being transparent is a key to building trust with both employees and customers, particularly during crisis when things are changing rapidly. Make sure you are listening to the feedback you receive and building on the opportunity to improve your processes.
- How did other companies and organization in your industry or your community respond? Reach out to your networks to get a better grasp of what worked well for them and consider incorporating their best practices into your plans going forward. There are lessons that can be learned across industries, and the sharing of ideas can help us all improve going forward. Developing community and industry partnerships can help in all aspects of crisis response and combining resources can help can allow for increased purchasing power and access to additional resources.
While we are not yet on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, the first wave of the virus is providing significant education. If we start preparedness efforts now, we can be in a better position to respond to the ongoing challenges and future events.