Editor’s note: As we ended a difficult and unique year and entered a new one, the Training Industry editorial team asked learning leaders to write in with their reflections on 2020 and predictions for 2021. This series, “What’s Changed and What Hasn’t?: Taking Stock of 2020 and Planning for 2021,” is the result. Plus, don’t miss our infographic, “5 Tips for Turning 2020 Disarray Into 2021 Direction: Insights From Learning Leaders,” which shares insights from the series.

Emergency risk management is central to containing costs, keeping people safe, and enabling organizations and facilities to run smoothly. Last year, this capability was pushed to its limits for the many organizations using inadequate emergency management response strategies. Without the capability and understanding to fully measure and assess the risk at hand, response teams were unable to prepare for, respond to and mitigate expected and unexpected risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the most important takeaways from 2020 for organizations across all industries is the importance of taking a step back to evaluate which processes and procedures enabled them to confront the challenges of last year head on. Although addressing the risks associated with COVID-19 was top of mind in 2020, companies, organizations and communities still needed to address how they can efficiently train teams to respond to other risks that could affect operations. These risks include the growing intensity of natural disasters, acts of violence and equipment failure coinciding with COVID-19.

Here are three ways to use the lessons of 2020 to improve risk management responses:

1. Continue to Enhance Mitigation Strategies

It is essential for organizations to continue to invest in their preparedness strategies and technology to protect people, businesses, structures and entire communities. Additionally, by enhancing their preparedness strategies, emergency managers can learn from current or previous incidents and better train teams on how to prepare for and respond to future emergencies. Then, they can accelerate recovery more effectively.

To create a robust preparedness strategy and an overall emergency action plan, organizations should continually train risk management teams on how to identify and assess risks and adjust their plans to prepare for any incident, emergency or disaster that might occur. These processes should include (but are not limited to):

  • Establishing an incident command center for the coordination of response and communications.
  • Developing procedures for coordinating critical event response across multiple locations.
  • Compiling the use of all forms, including incident reports and insurance forms.
  • Seeking input on the preparedness plan from all community stakeholders, including law enforcement, fire, medical and hospital, and public health institutions.

A comprehensive critical incident management plan that is informed by these preparedness strategies, used in conjunction with an effective emergency management technology platform, are essential to improving response rates and recovery.

2. Remain Flexible

As data will continue to be a cornerstone of risk mitigation, it is essential to train team members on how to interpret that data and track and monitor changing situations to improve their situational awareness. This training will help risk teams remain flexible and quick to respond when situations change and able to implement new measures swiftly when needed. In fact, the more quickly and effectively an organization responds to a crisis, the less costly it will be.

3. Leverage Technology for Effective Incident Response

It’s important to implement a crisis and incident management platform and then train key team members on it. Developing this situational awareness to assess risks, minimize input and manage response can enhance mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery capabilities. This type of technology gives organizations real-time views — or a common operating picture — of incidents and situations that helps to safeguard people, protect property and maintain business continuity. An added benefit is that risk teams will be able to use the platform on a day-to-day basis to record all types of events, incidents and activities that occur, including:

  • Facility status tracking
  • Incident action plans
  • Fast and effective communication
  • Event management and monitoring
  • Incident tracking and reporting
  • Internal and external stakeholder collaboration

Although there are now effective vaccines, and recovery from COVID seems likely in 2021, organizations will need to continue to enhance their emergency risk management strategies with both COVID-19 and natural and man-made disasters in mind. By thoroughly reviewing processes, procedures and data associated with the responses from last year and making adjustments in their training processes, organizations can enhance their response and improve their recovery in 2021.