Creating a Disaster Policy

Find out how you can create an agreed response policy for your company, which can be implemented in an emergency.

“In the immediate aftermath of a disaster our key consideration would always be the safety of our employees, suppliers and their families and assessing the damage to our business"

- Jacquie Leonard,
CSR Project Manager at Marks and Spencer
As highlighted in the 'Where to start - planning for a disaster' section, you must make sure that you have an agreed response policy in place, which can be implemented by your emergency response team with Board level backing.

As with any policy that addresses future events that are out of your company’s control, you must keep the content simple and, where possible, robust.

Policy considerations

The first thing your response team should do when drawing up a policy, is to agree on the key questions your particular company needs to answer when responding to any individual incident. By way of guidance, here are three fundamental considerations:

  • Do we have enough information to respond? - this includes information available via the media and websites such as AlertNet, www.alertnet.org, coordinated by Reuters Foundation, and information collated from local managers and business partners on the ground

  • How directly relevant is the disaster or emergency to our business? - do we have staff or business assets in the affected area?

  • What are the likely expectations from our staff, customers, the general public and the media?

For many companies, such as Marks & Spencer, there is logical step by step process that they follow when considering how to respond to a emergency situation:

“In the immediate aftermath of a disaster our key consideration would always be the safety of our employees, suppliers and their families and assessing the damage to our business”, says Jacquie Leonard, CSR Project Manager at Marks and Spencer

"We then consider if we should make a commitment to offer support. This support is determined by whether our employees, supply base or customers are affected and whether they want us to offer support. When determining how to support we always think about the real needs of those affected and the timelines for delivery so that we are sure that we can make a real and lasting difference. For example this could be cash or gifts in kind or both at different times."

Policy Content

In the "Where to Start, Planning Stage" section of this site, a step by step approach is offered to help you plan how your company responds to future incidents. This step by step guidance can also be used to establish a basic framework for your actual policy. For example, as a simple starting point, you might want your policy to include a statement that your “response is fundamentally considered and coordinated by a central team, supported by senior managers and communicated to all staff.”

Building on this framework you will then need to include information connected to any existing partnerships your company has with humanitarian organisations, or a statement that reflects your company’s stance on humanitarian organisations with which they will or will not be associated. For example, some companies choose not to support religious or political organisations - this type of detail needs to be acknowledged in your response policy.

Evaluation and Measurement

Another area of interest for companies, and one which should be reflected in your policy, is connected to how you measure and evaluate your activities. It is sensible to establish with any humanitarian organisation you support, how the activity you are supporting is to be evaluated. Will the process be evaluated by them, or by you? What will be the time scales? Many organisations, and especially the members of the DEC, will already have detailed evaluation processes in place that you can use to report on to your stakeholders, and so it is important to confirm this in advance if possible.

You may already have general reporting practices yourself that you can also use to report on your emergency responses as a company. Following the Tsunami disaster, Diageo were able to use the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) model to capture their response as a company.