You don’t have to go back to the tragic events of 9/11 to understand why emergency planning is critical. But every time we have any number of people in a single office building or major commercial facility, we have – and I mean all of us, including building management, corporate tenants and trusted security advisors – an enormously important responsibility. We must ensure that we are taking every possible step to protect the safety and welfare of every employee, tenant or visitor who steps into the complex.

The evidence is on the newsstand every day. For me, it’s hard as an expert in this arena to scan the coverage without unconsciously reading between the lines – looking for signs that the strategic and tactical steps that could have prevented the event were botched or not followed. At any time, employees, tenants or visitors could be impacted – either directly or indirectly – by an emergency of some kind. It could be a medical emergency or a fire. It could be a utility failure or a hazardous material or chemical spill. It could be a natural disaster. Or it could be something more sinister – like a bomb threat. A suspicious package. An armed intruder. Or an incident involving workplace violence. These risks are real – and addressing them requires our acute, sustained and coordinated attention. But by themselves, our care, concern and good intentions are not enough. Foresight and planning are crucial. As an independent security advisor to major commercial real estate corporations, owners of Class A office buildings and large Fortune 1000 anchor tenants, I regularly recommend to our clients that all employees and tenants physically present in a given office complex or facility must embrace a shared understanding about exactly how they can contribute – even in small ways – to addressing the four phases of emergency management and their critical emergency-related imperatives:

  1. Preventing emergencies and mitigating the risks of their occurrence;
  2. Preparing to handle an incident;
  3. Responding to an incident; and,
  4. Recovering from an incident.

I point out that these imperatives cannot be met without a plan – a clear, comprehensive and detailed Emergency Management Plan – tailored specifically to the circumstances unique to each office complex or facility. I explain that the plan must be designed in a way that is fully aligned and integrated with the expectations and knowledge of the first responders – police, fire, EMTs, tactical SWAT teams – who will converge on the facility during these events. This helps me sleep at night. This is how I bring value to our clients and their people. “If we embrace these plans,” I emphasize, “and help your people hold themselves responsible, as individuals, for understanding the plans’ framework and what their precise roles might be should an event occur – you will prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability and help restore normal business operations quickly when unfortunate events do occur.”