In following with my previous article about contingency planning to keep your business running, this piece details the three steps you should take to write an emergency plan for your coaching business.
1. Be Prepared
Preparedness is the rather clunky term used to describe how ready you are to act if the worst happens. Specific action you need to take will depend on what disasters or emergencies you are likely to face. Your local climate will have a big impact. If you are in a hurricane zone, you will need to put different plans in place from those made by people who regularly experience blizzards, for example.
My father lives in a village which floods most years. There is a quaint little pub by the river that has hooks along the walls. All the glasses and bottles behind the bar are stored at shoulder height. When a flood warning comes, they hook up the furniture. Once the water subsides, they hose everything down and open up again. It’s rudimentary but effective.
Your government or local authority will almost certainly have done much of this thinking for you. It may even have training or advice prepared for small businesses. Preparedness really is about thinking through scenarios that might impact your work. This might not directly do with your own office building—a chemical spill in the neighboring street may still mean you have to evacuate, for example. It’s worth considering what response you’d need for fire, extreme weather, medical emergency, pandemic or security threat.
2. Check your Communications
When I get a power cut, my fancy phones don’t work. I bought an old-fashioned, plug-in type to overcome that problem, and then, too late, I realized my numbers were all stored in the digital phone memory.
It may sound basic, but it is worth creating a list of key clients’ and colleagues’ numbers as well as numbers—including your account numbers—for utility services like gas, electricity and water. Keep a printed copy in places like your car or home.
Your emergency plan needs to include protocols about who to inform and when, who makes decisions and how they are cascaded. If you work in a shared building, have a conversation with the management team about roles and responsibilities. Get to know the security desk and make sure your co-workers know who the first-aid responders and fire officers are.
For those of us with clients attending our workplace, our plans need to include visitors. What systems are in place to account for everyone in the building? Before a plane takes off, the safety announcement includes a demonstration of the emergency exits. We should be as careful with anyone who is unfamiliar with the layout of our workplace.
Also bear in mind that in major emergencies, mobile phone and Internet networks can be affected. Local radio stations still serve an important community service at these times, both for helping you communicate and for keeping you informed.
3. Practice your Plan
My friend in New Zealand has regular earthquake drills at her work. You may have a legal responsibility to do fire or other drills in your office block. But what if you work from home? It’s worth taking time to think through how you can easily and safely get out. The general advice is to think through two evacuation routes; some local fire brigades offer a home-visit service to advise you.
The emergency scenarios we are thinking through may not directly affect us: a security alert causing traffic delays or an outbreak of food poisoning at our client’s offices. We can and should still plan for their impact where possible.
Our ICF Core Coaching Competencies encourage us to “dance in the moment.” With that flexible yet mindful approach, we can develop plans that allow us a sense of safety without fear and being prepared without being worried. Thinking through planned solutions, knowing our systems and protocols allows us to focus on our main role as coaches.
Mary Anna Wright Ph.D., PCC works with coaches from around the world, helping them develop their businesses and deepen their coaching skills. She runs regular mentor programs that support coaches applying for ICF Credentials, and she also does some coach supervision. Her coaching focuses on leadership development, particularly for communications managers in the nonprofit sector. Five years ago, Mary Anna left a successful PR career in London and moved to her family farm in Donegal, Ireland. She was welcomed by ICF Ireland and is a past President of the Chapter. Learn more at www.maryannawright.com.
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