In the first 20 weeks of 2018, the United States experienced 22 school shootings. Devastating tornadoes in the Southeast and two major winter storms cost over $1 billion each and killed at least 34 people in only the first three months of the year. And an often unpublicized and overlooked threat to American lives, workplace violence affects over 2 million victims each year and costs businesses $36 billion annually.
The age of crisis is officially here. And now businesses have to ask the tough question: “Are we prepared when disaster strikes?” All too often, the answer is: “No, not even close.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses never reopen after a natural disaster, and of those that do, only 29% are still operating two years later. Even for businesses with some semblance of disaster recovery planning, technology dominates the budget and discussion.
In a survey of 1,000 IT professionals, seven in 10 respondents said they had an incomplete disaster recovery (DR) plan, and less than half of those surveyed had tested the plan. Many organizations are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in data recovery and security measures to prevent catastrophic loss in times of crisis. But is data more important than human capital?
As longtime partners in helping businesses recover in the aftermath of traumatic events, EAPs are no strangers to crisis. For EAPs, serving to protect the well-being and mental health of the people impacted has always been top priority. This new age of crisis calls for EAPs to do more, think beyond standard CIR efforts, and become strategic partners in crisis readiness.
Five Unique Ways the EAP Can Help Businesses Prepare for Crisis
In the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, workplace shooting, robbery, untimely death of an employee, or any critical incident, the EAP is known for providing prompt and professional critical incident response services to all affected, most notably through coordination and delivery of critical incident stress debriefings (CISDs).
Most EAPs wait to be notified of a critical incident, and then begin critical incident response procedures. While this hallmark service is invaluable to clients in need, there is an even more important step EAPs can take in protecting clients’ businesses and employees’ lives. Instead of waiting, EAPs can be ahead of crisis by providing a combination of unique pre-planning solutions and proactive support.
1. Conduct a Vulnerability Audit
Is there a plan in case of disaster? Does the plan address a wide range of threats? Preparation for earthquakes or wildfires in Southern California is critical, but will not be useful to management and employees in the event of a violent shooting at work. By offering clients a comprehensive vulnerability audit up front, the EAP can help in identifying a full scope of risks and address any gaps in coverage.
2. Build a Crisis Response Team
While it is nearly impossible to plan for every potential threat, there is one major pre-planning solution that works for any situation: identifying the team that will take the lead when disaster strikes, and making sure everyone on the team knows exactly what to do. The EAP should already have a strong internal crisis response team, but should also identify a core group of key stakeholders on the brokerage and client side and build a cross-functional crisis response team. This team can address potential threats, identify response plans, build communication strategies, and assure everyone on the team has a clear understanding of roles and action steps in times of crisis.
3. Modernize Crisis Training and Education
Based on the vulnerability audit and customized crisis plan, the EAP can deliver the training and education necessary to assure the crisis response team, all employees and family members have a clear understanding of what to expect in the event of a critical situation. Training can cover everything from “How to Lead in Times of Crisis” for management, to “How to Talk to Children about Traumatic Events” for employees and families. Beyond on-site services, EAP crisis trainings should be accessible 24/7, available in brief video format, and easily shareable for maximum reach.
4. Implement Proactive Crisis Communications
As soon as news broke of Hurricane Harvey hitting the shores of Texas, ACI Specialty Benefits identified and reached out to over 300 impacted clients to initiate critical incident response and support services as part of ACI’s EAP. One client location reported 20 employees had lost their homes, and ACI was proactive in reaching out to each employee directly to provide clinical support and emergency resources specific to their circumstances. Instead of waiting to be notified of a critical incident, EAPs should be able to track global events, immediately identify all potential locations impacted, and proactively reach out to clients to initiate crisis response solutions as quickly as possible.
5. Capture Crisis Data and Outcomes
In recent years, the EAP has experienced record-breaking increases in CIR requests and support services. As an example, ACI Specialty Benefits experienced an 82% increase in EAP clients’ critical incident events, a 199% increase in critical incident stress debriefing hours, and a 93% increase in crisis consultation hours from 2016 to 2017. EAPs should have strong data gathering tools in place to assess crisis trends, report on specific events and outcomes, and grow provider network or offer new solutions based on data-driven analysis.
Responding to Crises
The EAP is built on relationships with clients, and those relationships are built on trust. Through heartbreaking national tragedies and unimaginable events, EAPs have been trusted with taking care of employees’ lives—and in many cases, saving lives. When disaster strikes, up to 15% of survivors experience an increase in mental health issues. By delivering stronger crisis pre-planning and post-trauma support, the EAP can reduce the potential for mental health issues from escalating, and make a more meaningful impact in helping clients protect their employees, families, and livelihood.
In April 2017, ACI Specialty Benefits responded to a shooting that occurred at a client location in Florida. An assailant who had been terminated earlier that day returned to the worksite and shot and killed two managers working there before taking his own life. Due to the national publicity of the event, the impact was widespread across multiple client locations nationwide.
The manager knew to call the EAP, but had no idea how to deal with such a devastating and shocking incident. ACI’s Vice President of Client Partnerships, Gilbert Manzano, immediately took the lead. By asking all the right questions to assess the situation, working around crime scene parameters, partnering with law enforcement, and providing comprehensive around-the-clock support—the manager tasked with leading her workforce through this crisis was empowered and reassured.
Multiple providers were available for on-site, same-day counseling sessions within 90 minutes of the incident, and ACI coordinated services around on-site evacuations and an ongoing criminal investigation. In total, 11 crisis counselors, 30 CISDs, and 154 hours of service were provided over the course of 12 days.
In the weeks following the incident, the Global Vice President of Human Resources shared, “Thank you all at ACI so very much, we could not have made it through this without you all.”
As the experts in mental and behavioral health, the EAP is responsible for leading clients through traumatic events and helping clients restore organizational stability and strengthen resilience as quickly as possible.
With decades of experience in helping businesses navigate critical incidents, the EAP is uniquely positioned to expand, enhance and evolve services in crisis preparedness, crisis response, and crisis resilience. This opportunity requires the EAP to grow from provider to partner, service coordinator to leader, and to not simply have a seat at the disaster planning table— but to drive the discussion.
Learn how ACI’s Crisis Ready program can provide comprehensive pre-planning and custom crisis support to help your organization prepare for and survive critical incidents, natural disasters and traumatic events. Request a free vulnerability audit today.