Emergency Response Exercises and Scenarios
Disasters are indiscriminate in their targets and any facility may be vulnerable to its effects. In order to effectively respond to these events, whether natural or manmade, employees and responders must be able react effectively to counteract the impacts. Potential life, environmental, or business impacting scenarios require planning, response training, and exercising.
A threat or vulnerability assessment examines threats in terms of probability, likelihood, and magnitude of impact. Once threats are identified, every attempt should be made to mitigate the potential impacts. Mitigation measures can include establishing procedures that would decrease the identified risk and/or recovery time. By completing a threat assessment and risk mitigation, companies can potentially limit their losses in the event of an incident.
Exercising with site-specific and applicable emergency scenarios allows responders to effectively combat threats and efficiently respond to specific emergencies. With continuously changing and evolving threats, it is vital to build flexible response capabilities that will enable a company, to prevent, respond to, and recover from a range of major events.
Exercises should reflect the results of identified threats. Coordinated exercises with probable site-specific scenarios reduce the possibility of conflicting response and restoration methods. Non-coordinated exercises may lead to vastly different preparedness expectations and methodology, communication gaps, and redundancy, which extend reaction time and recovery.
An exercise should reflect a realistic potential scenario, such as a pipeline segment in close proximity to a major waterway or populated area. While challenging exaggerations can be injected into a scenario, unrealistic scenarios can reduce credibility with participants, and diminish the value placed on thoroughly exercising response procedures and actions.
Scenarios must remain site-specific, credible, and test capabilities necessary to respond to the incident(s). Exercises should reflect the possibility that multiple incidents can occur simultaneously or sequentially. Severe weather, earthquakes, and fires are examples of initial threats that can create additional hazards and potential incidents. Companies should be prepared to respond to multiple incidents stemming from a similar hazard, and multiple incidents created from different initiators. These multi-level incidents may require concentric responder coordination and cooperation from across multiple organizations, states, regions, and/or local jurisdictions.
Exercise scenarios should test the following potential Department of Homeland Security response concepts. (The following is not all-inclusive, as site-specific details may require additional attention.)
Prevention or Deterrence: The ability to detect, prevent, preempt, and deter incidents or emergencies.
Infrastructure Protection: The ability to protect critical infrastructure from all threats and hazards.
Preparedness: The ability to plan, organize, and equip personnel to perform their assigned missions to acceptable standards.
Emergency Assessment/Diagnosis: The ability to achieve and maintain a common operating structure, including the ability to detect an incident, determine its impact and likely augmentation, and initiate notifications.
Emergency Management/Response: The ability to control, collect, and contain a hazard, lesson its effects, and conduct environmental monitoring. Mitigation efforts may be implemented before, during, or after an incident
Incident Command System (ICS): The ability to direct, control, and coordinate a response; manage resources; and provide emergency public information with the direction of an Incident Command System.
Evacuation/Shelter: The ability to provide initial warnings to the at-risk population, notify people to shelter-in-place or evacuate, provide evacuation and shelter support; and manage traffic flow to and from the affected area.
Victim Care: The ability to treat victims at the scene, transport patients, and handle, track, and secure human remains. Provide tracking and security of patients’ possessions, potential evidence, and manage mental health.
Investigation/Apprehension: The ability to investigate the cause or source of the incident, and/or cooperate with local authorities for any man made emergencies
Recovery/Remediation: The ability to restore essential business units and/or operations, cleanup the environment and render the affected area safe, provide necessary services to victims and/or the public; and restore a sense of well-being at the facility.
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.