In the event of an emergency which has severely affected building occupation, such as a fire, flood or the discovery of asbestos, it is absolutely critical for organisations to be fully operational again as fast as possible to minimise the impact on service provision and its future. And it is often more effective to have staff working where they were previously than on split sites to maintain efficiency, co-ordination and communications.
Contingency planning for emergency situations
An up-to-date and accessible disaster recovery plan is essential to ensure any company or operation is as prepared as it can be for a crisis. The most important advice to heed is not to wait until a building has been lost to take these steps as emergencies are very pressurised situations.
A plan should include:
- A detailed inventory
- Media liaison guide
- An immediate action plan
- An emergency contacts list for suppliers, insurers, service providers and other key business contacts
- Instructions if key pieces of equipment are destroyed
- Back-up plans for IT and what to do if data storage or back-up devices are destroyed
- A building recovery plan containing a site review, access and groundwork detailing, and space requirements.
A vital part of being prepared for an emergency and ensuring operations can get up and running as quickly as possible, is working with an expert provider of building solutions. Creating a positive working environment in a high quality interim building will help in the retention of key staff during a difficult period.
A good modular building supplier, such as Portakabin, has a wealth of expertise and experience in disaster recovery for buildings and can act as a trusted advisor, helping companies create a comprehensive plan.
Considerations to look for in contingency planning for buildings are:
- Does the building supplier know how to mobilise a team of experts to meet your emergency accommodation needs?
- What track record does the supplier have in disaster recovery?
- Will you have a local response and be able to benefit from immediate and ongoing advice, support and help in sorting out an interim building solution very quickly? Will that supplier be able to visit your site at weekends or out-of-hours if the emergency demands it?
- Will the supplier sort everything out to allow you to focus on the other crisis issues – such as developing the permanent solution? Areas to be taken care of for the interim building will include liaison with the planning authorities, groundworks, power and other services, emergency generator provision if power lines have been damaged, supply of appropriate office furniture, security and fire alarm systems, installation of air conditioning if required, and provision of data communications.
- Do you trust the supplier to deliver on time or even faster in a crisis situation? Be aware that your team is unlikely to have the time to look at multiple building suppliers for a disaster recovery project and so needs complete confidence in delivery on time and on budget.
The worst has happened. Now what?
1. Addressing the immediate need
The priority immediately after a crisis that has taken out all or part of a company’s premises is to keep the business operating. If a building has been completely lost, there may be no need for any further buildings. The business can relocate to a vacant facility on another site.
Often, however, not all buildings are damaged so an additional block or unit will need to be rapidly put in place to accommodate key staff and allow continuity.
A large team of people may need to be accommodated or if staff can work from home or from another location for a short period, a small temporary building – such as a single modular building (SMB) – may be sufficient for the team which needs to remain on site to help with the recovery project.
Depending on the complexity of the requirement, SMBs can be sited in a matter of days – and sometimes even in just a few hours – and give an immediate, short-term solution. This type of building can be very useful for example, while smoke damage is addressed in the existing building in a matter of weeks.
2. Building solutions for the medium term
Management will need time to plan the next stage. How long will the interim accommodation be required for? Is it cost effective to refurbish or rebuild or should the business relocate elsewhere permanently? How long will the building contractor need for the rebuild or repair programme? This could easily be between six and 12 months.
A modular building can then be put in place to recreate classrooms for use during the rebuild programme – and these facilities can actually offer a much enhanced working environment for pupils.
Modular buildings built to 60-year permanent standards can be hired – and can give the company the opportunity to try out new ways of working before the rebuild is finalised. Could hot desking, open plan or cellular staff rooms be a better option? These different approaches to space planning can easily be incorporated into a modular design.
When looking at a modular building for interim use, consider the advantages and the quality of working environment it can create. Accommodation can be ‘flexed’ up or down, which is useful if there are several phases of a rebuild to be handed over at different times. If the damaged buildings have to be completely rebuilt, the interim solution needs to be attuned to the company’s specific way of working.