Eighty-eight percent of facility professionals consider their workplaces better prepared for an emergency situation than in 2001, while fewer than 2 percent consider their workplaces less prepared, a recent International Facility Management Association (IFMA) survey reveals. Additionally, 91 percent of facility professionals report having emergency evacuation procedures in place, while 80 percent say their organization has a crisis communication and disaster recovery plan.

Conducted Sept. 6-9, the survey of more than 400 facility managers offers a snapshot of where disaster preparedness stands nearly 10 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Survey respondents report that since 2001, their organizations have implemented more formalized emergency-preparedness planning (84 percent), enhanced communications with staff (81 percent), enhanced security measures (70 percent), and increased simulation drills (52 percent). Others report increasing the number of personnel whose primary responsibility is business-continuity planning, as well as planning more for natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, in addition to man-made security threats.

“People are now more aware that both natural and man-made disasters happen frequently,” a survey respondent said, “and that emergency preparations are not ‘busy work’ or being done in vain.”

Some of those surveyed cite recent natural disasters as an opportunity to test existing emergency-preparedness plans.

“With Hurricane Irene going through our site, we had very little preparation to do because we have an emergency-preparedness plan in place and just had to implement it,” one facility manager said. “It worked very well.”

The major obstacles to implementing emergency and disaster recovery plans, respondents report, are other priorities taking precedence (61 percent), lack of personnel (41 percent), and lack of funding (40 percent). Others note a sense of “complacency of end users, staff, and guests,” a “lack of a sense of urgency,” and difficulty in getting everyone to “think emergency.”

“It is still difficult to engage the average employee on matters of preparedness and security under ‘normal’ operating conditions,” a survey participant said. “The further away we get from an emergency situation, the more resistance there is to preparation, drills, and recruitment of volunteers for disaster preparation.”

In spite of those obstacles, those surveyed largely report making progress in emergency-preparedness and business-continuity planning since 2001, while noting more work needs to be done.

“Although we are better prepared for emergencies than 10 years ago, there is still plenty of room for improvement,” one survey respondent said.

One response summarizes what many of those surveyed highlight as emergency-preparedness best practices: “Find the best information available, get the support of top management, help your people implement the plan, keep on practicing the plan, and make adjustments as needed to keep it effective.”

For the full results of IFMA’s emergency-preparedness survey, write to communications@ifma.org.