THE BLOG
08/23/2012 11:55 am ET Updated Oct 23, 2012

Demonstration Preparedness: Is Your Business Ready?

The approaching Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and other large-scale events, should have business leaders on alert. Regardless of the motivation, intention or political affiliation of demonstrators, the potential for increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic requires an organization's keen attention, before, during and after an event. Freedom of expression is recognized as our birthright but that must be carefully balanced with public safety.

While protestors have a right to demonstrate, business owners also have rights, and a responsibility to their employees and visitors. When large crowds gather outside your work environment, individuals inside may be at risk if the event spirals out of control. A strong leadership culture and an ongoing commitment to safety and security are essential during these events. By preparing ahead of time for rallies, demonstrations or large public gatherings, organizations can better protect their employees and their property.

Expect the Unexpected
Event and demonstration preparedness plans should be developed in concert with emergency and disaster preparedness initiatives. Emergencies happen every day and no business is immune. Does your company have a building evacuation plan in the event of a threat to employees or property? Is it practiced? The consequence of a disorganized evacuation can be confusion, injury and property damage. When developing a building evacuation plan, it is important to consider all situations where an evacuation may be necessary and ensure a clear chain of command with team members authorized to order the evacuation and account for all personnel.

Business continuity planning is also critical. If a demonstration or any other event disrupts your normal business operations, do you have contingency plans that include alternative or virtual work sites, off-site storage of critical data and emergency communication channels? These measures cannot be successfully developed when an emergency occurs. Plan now so that you are prepared to best meet your commitments to your employees, clients and other stakeholders.

Keep Aware and Connected
Ensuring situational awareness of ongoing threats and world events is crucial. Implement a system that ensures all employees and contractors are alerted when threats exist and emergency procedures are activated. The responsibility for situational awareness should extend beyond senior leadership and the security team. It is important that all staff is encouraged to immediately report suspicious activity or threats. This is true not just during demonstrations and protests but at all times. Create a culture of accountability and awareness to promote a safe work environment. 'If you see something, say something' is a mantra that should be encouraged throughout an organization.

Planning Ahead Pays Off
By keeping in touch with planned events and collaborating with local law enforcement, your organization will be able to take precautionary steps to increase security when needed. An ongoing commitment to safety and security will help ensure that you can prepare for and respond to threats to your business. Even if your organization is an unlikely target, an event in your general vicinity could impact you.

When you have the luxury of advanced knowledge of a demonstration, protest or other event, all possible measures must be taken to help ensure safety and security. Make sure all closed-circuit televisions and cameras are operational. If possible, instruct employees to telecommute if there is a concern for their safety. Make secure parking or transportation arrangements for employees that need to be on-site. Enforce strict access control policies and communicate procedural changes to employees. Identify circumstances that may prompt facility lock-downs and ensure that emergency kits are on hand with supplies for all employees.

The majority of protests are peaceful with law abiding citizens demonstrating in a public forum. However, a tranquil gathering can morph from calm to chaos in seconds, making the need for preparedness essential. The safety of your employees can be impacted by so much more than what is happening inside your facility. By recognizing all potential threats, including those that can arise from demonstrations and protests, you can create a comprehensive preparedness plan.

For more information on protecting your building during a demonstration, visit the following resources:

Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA):
website.

FEMA/DHS:
website.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration website.

AlliedBarton Security Resource Center website.