Industrial facilities are continually challenged to maintain compliant, up-to-date, and effective response plans. Companies willing to embrace proven innovative tools are often the ones that outperform their counterparts. Long before tablet computers and smartphones, industrial companies composed and shared multiple binder-bound response plans. These formidable plan binders, which are still used in large numbers today, were/are printed and reprinted for responders, auditors, inspectors, and stakeholders, and were mailed to multiple agencies for regulatory approval. Fortunately, technology provides a solution to the countless challenges associated with maintaining multiple plans types often required of industrial facilities.
The notion of a securely accessible emergency response planning system capable of adapting to a company’s every location, regulatory requirement, and plan type is within reach to many companies. Web-based, database driven planning systems have proven to enhance compliance and ease plan maintenance demands. Before companies assimilate to planning software, maintaining multiple plans can be challenging when:
- A company has multiple facilities with various planning requirements
- The template put forth by the company did not allow for the facility-specific information required for regulatory compliance
- Plan updates result in “version confusion” or lack of data consistency
- Known quantities of hazardous materials varied and fluctuated, depending on facility and operational status
Companies strive to stretch budgets, boost response planning efficiency, and minimize the negative reputation associated with non-compliance. However, incorporating new software is often seen as an expensive and questionable expense. If processes are working, why change them? That same question can be asked of other archaic entities that simplified challenges, encouraged productivity, and minimized efforts. What would your enterprise be like today if technological advancements were not incorporated into corporate structures?
A comprehensive planning system should identify the resources required to effectively manage potential hazards, document necessary response actions, and fulfill multiple compliance mandates. Upgrading to web-based planning software will enable emergency managers across an enterprise to;
- Reduce the need for multiple plans
- Minimize administrative costs
- Simplify plan reviews
- Minimize discrepancies across various plans
- Streamline response directives from one source
Company leadership and EHS teams must evaluate the case for integrating response planning software across an enterprise. Below are key questions that may help determine if an enterprise-wide response planning system is right for your company:
- Do you have more than one facility that is governed by regulatory requirements?
- Are individual facilities required to comply with multiple agencies requirements?
- How do you integrate frequently evolving regulatory requirements across your various facilities?
- How often are you audited and would you be ready if an auditor appeared tomorrow?
- Have audits result in fines or violations?
- Do you have multiple versions of plans, leading to “version confusion”?
- Does employee turnover rate create inaccuracies in your response plans?
- How effectively do you handle contact information updates and verification?
- Are your plans updated quarterly or annually?
- Do you plans address site operational hazards, risks, and threats?
- Is there repetitive information in multiple plans at multiple facilities?
- Do plans include site-specific criteria for provisional tiered responses?
- Do spill trajectory maps mimic local observations and historical tendencies?
- Do your personnel and responders have access to your existing plans?
- Have plot plans and area mapping been integrated with the most recent GIS data and knowledge?
- Do all sites have plans, or have you recently gone through a merger or acquisition?
- Do responses reflect lessons learned and exercise findings?
- Do local responders have access to your most up-to-date emergency response plan?
- Are your plans updated quarterly or annually, and how do you integrate new regulatory requirements.
- How much time is dedicated to maintaining, updating, and distributing your plans?
- Can you use your existing plan to expedite training?
- Do you have a record of changes and revisions?