How Banks Can Prepare for Emergencies While Meeting Compliance

How Banks Can Prepare for Emergencies While Meeting Compliance

How Banks Can Prepare for Emergencies While Meeting ComplianceBanking institutions must ensure that all of their people, facilities and assets are secure and fully equipped to handle emergency situations, but often, they do not have a comprehensive emergency preparedness program to coordinate fire evacuation and life safety efforts in occupied administrative facilities. These gaps expose banks to legal and regulatory risks while exposing employees and third party tenants to unsafe working conditions.

How does a large financial institution with several locations across an expansive geographical area manage emergency situations while staying in compliance? Banks can accomplish this by actively engaging employees and implementing the proper tools to address emergency preparedness in a cost effective and efficient manner.

Emergency Preparedness Challenges

A good emergency preparedness program provides a complete solution for all planning, preparation and compliance. Banks face many challenges when implementing an emergency preparedness program:

  • Expertise. Banks don’t have a security expert on every site to survey the facility and create an emergency preparedness program.
  • Manpower. Banking offices are often short staffed to fulfill the labor needed to implement roles.
  • Technology. Banks struggle with updating the large quantity of action plans implemented across their many locations and maintaining an accurate response team database.
  • Meeting compliance. Banks have insufficient reporting, tracking and monitoring capabilities, as well as no way to audit and track compliance.

While many large financial institutions have emergency preparedness programs, they may be on paper or on one person’s PC, and each location may be managing their programs differently. To combat the challenges mentioned, financial institutions can implement a hosted security platform that can dynamically manage emergency action plans and audit all tasks related to emergency preparedness, training, drilling and plan maintenance.  

How it Works

Each location must complete a site survey to collect building-specific fire and life safety data, train emergency response teams annually, perform semi-annual drills and maintain plans to ensure on-going compliance.

The actual emergency action plan (EAP) can be implemented from a master template, but altered by region or site purpose. A central database collects, defines and manages all emergency response teams, and provides reporting capabilities for audit purposes.

A banking facility may implement several emergency response teams depending on size.  Typically, one team is assigned per floor or per a designated amount of square footage, using existing employees who are assigned specific roles within the team. Roles can include first aiders, fire marshals, stair wardens or customized roles defined by the facility, noting that some roles require training and/or certification. Software tracks all emergency response team roles, and can determine the exact location of emergency response team members during an emergency.

This software updates, maintains and publishes emergency response team plans, allowing all bank employees and vendors across a large geographical footprint seamless access to critical information such as floor plans, evacuation routes, critical documents and emergency response teams. This allows large financial facilities to manage emergency response teams by exception.  The software identifies any holes in the team by interfacing with the HR database and automatically notifies team members of overdue drills, training and certification expirations.

Web-hosted software also helps financial institutions maintain U.S. OSHA code compliance along with many international, state and local fire and emergency preparedness codes.

Communicating critical messages is crucial during an emergency; therefore, banks must have the ability to push out mass notifications to emergency response team members, all employees and designated groups to communicate important messages.  Attachments, including instructions or relocation maps, can be sent to communicate emergency instructions more clearly.

Large financial institutions cannot afford business disruptions. Imagine the money lost after evacuating a 30 floor high rise for four hours? By not being prepared to react to an emergency, a company can potentially lose millions of dollars for even the smallest disruption. Implementing an emergency preparedness program with a trained and compliant emergency response team reduces business disruptions, saving potentially millions of dollars.

About the Author

Kim Rahfaldt is Director of Media Relations at AMAG Technology, Inc., based in Torrance, Calif.

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