Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Employer responsibilities?


There is a debate going on LinkedIn's "BCMIX - Business Continuity Management Information eXchange" (

The thread has the rather long title of "U. Delaware: First Responders will report to duty but need assistance with family support and resources and thorough protective equipment training, UD discovered in Mid-Atlantic regional study."

The essence of the thread is "what needs to be done for employees to assure they will report to work" and is linked to a ScienceDaily article titled "Emergency Workers Will Respond: Study Shows First Responders Will Report to Duty, but Need Assistance With Family Matters" at

OK, having gottern all the source references out of the way, I will offer my list of things I think an employer should consider:

    This should come as NO surprise to any risk management practitioner. Most people will justifiably worry about their kin before their job. To mitigate that, we have primary and alternate responders. That lessens the load on all responders - jobs can be handed off after short shifts. We also must be concerned with burn-out and management must recognize this danger and avoid it by limiting work to a reasonable-under-the-circumstances time, say 12 hours, 16 maximum, and require at least an 8-hour "off" period. This must be cast into Policy and Procedures concrete (along with other "event-related P&Ps). Organizations, realizing responders - both local and at an alternate site - need family time (just as soldiers need R&R), need to get this into P&Ps long before an event so that everyone knows what to expect.

Two ladies whom I respect joined in as follows:

Lady #1: The suggestion which emerged was actually that the employers of the first responders help prepare the families in advance and organize support and resources for spouses.

Lady #2, adding to Lady #1"s comment, noted "This is why a 'critical worker support plan' is needed. If we don't build it, they won't come. Would you? Work is a paycheck. It has no chance of competing with the people we love or the need to reestablish family security ASAP. Even when work is a 'calling', there's a breaking point."

Lady #1 is an attorney with interests in Strategic Assessment & Conciliation .

Lady #2 is a business continuity planner for a government agency.

My comment to the ladies - and I really like these two people - was as follows:

    OK - so HR and management need to be involved (as well as unions if they are present) to determine - and publicize - what the organization will do for the staff re family support; e.g., hand-deliver checks to IDed-by-staff kin, who is considered "kin" (may be determined by law), medical/health insurance assistance and perhaps transportation to/from medical facilities; maybe supermarket runs (some families have only one vehicle and public transportation either is distant {bus, train lines} or expensive {taxis}) or reimbursement for transport charges. The foregoing is NOT "all inclusive" by any means. IMO, HR always needs to be involved in all risk management planning.

Here Lady #2 responds that "if you have been through a major disaster, from a hurricane to wildfire to tornado to 9/11, what is really needed to get critical staff in to work is a company commitment to such things as:

and then she proceded to list her requirements; my responses are included

    - evacuate staff's families ahead of rising water or spreading flame

      (jg) That's the employee's responsibility. The organization may offer to assist with transportation, housing, and other per diem subsidies, but in this economy, I would doubt it. It is more likely to evacuate/relocate staff WITH family to the alternate site.

    - send out crews, commercial if necessary, to

    -board windows

      (jg) Home owner's responsibility. I have accordion shutters, my neighbors "board up" using metal or ply board (a PITA in the wind). I doubt there are enough contractors in the area to meet the demand by people who are unable to DIY (absentee owners, high-floor condo owners, invalids, etc.) The days of the Company Town (McGill NV), when the company sent out a guy to change a light bulb, are long gone.

    -cover damaged structures with tarps and plastic

      (jg) Home owner's responsibility. The insurance company will argue that the home owner should mitigate damage by covering holes, but if the owner is one of the above or cannot beg, borrow, buy, or steal a tarpaulin or ladder sufficient to reach the rood, or if the winds are dangerously strong, in the end, the insurer will pay to close the hole and repair related damage. (Common event where I live.)

    -salvage homes from water, mud, smoke, fire

      (jg) Home owner's responsibility. The employer may have a list of "approved" vendors (if not, FEMA and the state do) and the approved vendors may give a discount to the employee, but contracting for the work, supervising the work, inspecting the work, and paying for the work is not a corporate responsibility.

    -install portable generators

      (jg) Home owner's responsibility. Someone would have to stockpile hundreds of generators, make sure they functioned and were fueled - and what about fuel; who is supposed to see that the tank is topped off (and how big a tank is needed?). Most assuredly not a company responsibility.

    -remove fallen trees and debris from homes, power lines (when the power company refuses)

      (jg) Debris removal from public areas (streets, sidewalks) is a government function. Debris removal from private property is the (you guessed it) home owner's responsibility.
      I have NEVER seen any power company anywhere - and I have "lived around" - refuse to deal with downed wires, live or not, nor have I ever encountered a gas company that didn't respond to a reported/suspected leak. Maybe in NYC or California, but not in VA (Dominion's really good) or Florida (FP&L is excellent) .

    - deliver MRE's, water, dry ice, and survival goods

      (jg) Staples (food, water, ice) normally are provided by do-gooder agencies - Salvation Army, ARC, etc.; Procter & Gamble brings in the laundromat-on-wheels (great idea, BTW). As for MREs, if you MUST have MREs, please avoid the self-heating ones (LaBriute as example). They are a storage fire hazard (ask the U.S. Army). My Own Meals are, according to the firm's owner, edible cold (and she personally samples them that way - the lady is one of my sources).

    - evacuate, house and aid reclamation for families whose housing is destroyed

      (jg) Partially addressed above (first of your dash lines). Otherwise the home owner's responsibility - doing battle with the insurance companies. A generous employer may give some (paid? unpaid?) time off to battle the insurers.

    - ensure electronic deposit of paychecks and reimbursement checks (although notoriously after 9/11 one financial services company suspended all salary and other payments to the families of hundreds of dead workers)

      (jg) How can electronic deposits be "ensured" if the WWW is down at any point: the check writer's, the financial institution. How much will be paid? Logged hours? Previous pay period (typical), average for year? (With differences cleared up later.) Since I cannot guarantee electronic fund transfer, I might write a check or issue a voucher/promissory note, but to whom shall I gave the document? Spouse who may be estranged? "Significant other?" Who may be considered a "partner" might be determined by local law. I covered this in my post.

    - coordinate searches of hospitals and morgues for injured and dead staff and family

      (jg) The do-gooder agencies already do this; the employee can contact them; this is not an employer function.

    - provide medivac and crisis transport of injured, dying and dead staff and family.

      (jg) Most employers, other than the Federal government, lack suitable aircraft and ground transport for this function; even if the employer wanted to take on the task, there probably are insufficient vehicles to move injured. Moving the dead is something that can be done only after a Coroner/Medical Examiner/doctor declares the person deceased, in which case the government or funeral home would move the body; this is not an employer function, even in "normal" times.

    That's what people are really doing back at home. It's no walk in the park.

I don't know of any organization, anywhere, with the possible exception of government-funded agencies, who provide what Lady #1 thinks employers should provide.

I include employee welfare in all my plans, but I stop short of what I term "employer socilaism," a term I hasten to add that Lady #1 empathetically rejects.

So the question to followers of this blog: Are Lady #1's expectations - I won't call them "demands" - realistic for any non-government-funded organization?

Does anyone know of any non-government-funded organization that satisfy Lady #1's wishes?

Either way, the address is JohnGlennMBCI at gmail dot com.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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