Each week Americans learn of disastrous events caused by nature and human tragedy. The constant, graphic media coverage of tragedy and crisis, often called “disaster porn,” keeps disaster at the forefront of American workers’ minds and creates an atmosphere of anxiety, distraction and uncertainty in the workplace. While many of the events are not new to life experiences; tornadoes, floods, fire and shootings, each event takes a toll on the workforce, both emotionally and financially, as employees and family members react to unimaginable realities.
Additionally, workplace violence is estimated to cost American business $120 billion a year. The average jury award, in subsequent liability cases where the employer failed to take proactive, preventive measures under the 1996 OSHA guidelines, is $3.1 million per person, per incident.[i]
As employers face emerging threats on all fronts, brokers and consultants are perfectly positioned to help businesses prepare for and build resilience to catastrophe.
Building Resilience to Catastrophe
In consulting with employers on disaster preparedness and response, brokers can begin by discussing threat assessment: the practice of taking pre-emptive steps to prevent and prepare for disaster or tragedy, and following up with proactive and positive response in its aftermath. Threat Assessment services are a growing component of contemporary Employee Assistance Programs, which also offer Critical Incident Response (CIR) services, including Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and counseling that are essential in effectively managing crisis. With longstanding expertise in risk management, brokers and consultants will be the ultimate resource to help employers navigate threat assessment needs, options, and best practices.
Threat Assessment Overview
- A complete EAP Threat Assessment program starts with the creation of a formal Threat Assessment Team (TAT), including the employer’s human resources, security, and employee assistance personnel.
- The team performs a vulnerability audit, to assess any potential weaknesses, especially in regard to natural disasters.
- A plan to effectively address vulnerable areas is then detailed, including policies and procedures.
- A strong communication strategy and training for key personnel and employees should be conducted.
- In the event of a tragedy, the EAP offers comprehensive recovery services, including counseling, emergency referrals, professional support for business and personal needs, and follow-up with employees.
Casualty and property insurance brokers may recognize some of these steps as risk management measures. Yet EAP Threat Assessment Plans fill a coverage gap by shepherding a complete and cohesive plan from beginning to end, helping to educate and train employees on policies and procedures, as well as on resources to help pick up the pieces in the event of natural disaster, critical incidents and tragedy. Brokers on both property and benefit sides of the consulting spectrum must become subject matter experts to help companies survive and recover from unexpected tragedies.
Four Questions Brokers can ask their Clients to Develop a Custom Threat Assessment Benefit
Only 53% of U.S. employers report having a disaster plan in place[ii]. Brokers and consultants can help employers custom-build or fine-tune disaster plans by simply starting the conversation with a series of questions.
- Is there a plan in case of disaster? Many companies have some level of an insurance-required disaster plan. An EAP Threat Assessment component would help the company take the plan a step further by identifying additional vulnerabilities, providing for frequent plan review, and organizing comprehensive employee training.
- Does the plan address a wide variety of potential threats? Preparation for earthquakes in Southern California is critical, but will not be useful to management and employees in the event of a wildfire evacuation or a domestic violence shooting at work. With an EAP Threat Assessment plan, a full scope of vulnerabilities can be identified, and first-responders are often invited to address every possible contingency.
- How is information communicated to employees? A cohesive Threat Assessment program provides for frequent and diverse employee training meetings, including effective training for managers to know how to lead during times of crisis.
- Are professional resources available to mediate the effects of a crisis? Strong EAP plans provide emergency referrals for housing, childcare, clothing, transportation, and personal needs during crisis recovery; as well as counseling and additional professional support in the days, weeks and months following critical incidents.
As businesses become more aware of the rising need for comprehensive Threat Assessment Programs, brokers will be the bridge to helping companies save lives and mitigate the effects of crisis.
A mourner outside the Accent Sign Company in Bryn Mawr, Minnesota in 2012 after five employees had been fatally shot, said, “In situations like this, we all feel so helpless . . .”[iii] EAP Threat Assessment components take the “helpless” out of disasters, giving both employers and employees tools to prepare for and recover from disaster with resilience.
Ann D. Clark, Ph.D., is the CEO of ACI Specialty Benefits, a San Diego, California-based corporation that offers employee assistance programs as well as wellness, student assistance, concierge and work/life services to corporations worldwide. Before founding the firm 31 years ago, Clark taught in schools in Kentucky and Wisconsin, was a college professor and served as director of education at the New Mexico ICF/IID and as statewide director for Child Abuse Services. She is a frequent media contributor, motivational speaker and author whose latest books are Workplace Warfare and Women & Recovery: Sex, Sobriety and Stepping Up. Clark received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed postdoctorate research on alcoholism and sexuality at the University of New Mexico.
[i] Whitehead, Shelly, “Killings at Job Sites Soaring,” The Cincinnati Post, November 12, 2004, page A10.
[ii] “How Prepared is Your Workplace for a Potential Disaster?” last modified May 22, 2012, http://thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com/2012/05/22/how-prepared-is-your-workplace-for-a-potential-disaster/.
[iii] “Minneapolis workplace shooting leaves 6 dead, including gunman,” My Fox9.com video, 3:07 PM, September 27, 2012, http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/19659885/minneapolis-office-shooting-chestnut-ave.