A recently released study entitled Staging and Performing Emergencies: The Role of Exercises in UK Preparedness states that comprehensive exercises are essential for an effective response to various types of emergencies. Just as incidents vary in scale, duration, and complexity, training and response exercises need to be inclusive of site specific threats and risks. Authors Dr Ben Anderson and Dr Peter Adey of the report told Science Omega magazine that there are three core reasons why exercises are beneficial and increase the likelihood of an effective response.
- Collaboration Rehearsal: Exercises enable separate organizations to collaborate in a real-world simulation of an incident. Organizations that operate separately on a day-to-day basis must collaborate on procedures that would be necessary in an actual emergency. Dr. Anderson states, “Exercises allow organizations the opportunity to work together, both formally, in terms of enabling various protocols or communication procedures to be used, and informally, in terms of getting to know the organizational culture of other bodies”.
- Test strategies and plans: Exercises allow the various strategic response components to be tested. Through real-world exercise scenarios, companies can evaluate procedures and plans before the real event.
- Confirm roles and responsibilities: Exercises reveal response competencies. Employees and responders must have a thorough understanding of required roles and responsibilities in order to react effectively, make timely decisions, and perform appropriate actions within high-pressure emergency situations.
Response plan exercises may incorporate on-site operational responders. The typical staffed operational responder is trained for defensive reactions, not to terminate the release. Their main function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading and prevent exposures. The ability to terminate a release may require a higher level of training.
A response effort by trained emergency personnel or other designated responders (i.e., fire brigade, mutual aid groups, local fire departments), would then go into effect. An event that requires outside emergency assistance can be, but is not limited to, an uncontrolled release of a hazardous material, fire, explosion, and serious injury or illness to personnel where there is a potential risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens.
If a facility has hazardous material on-site, HAZWOPER training may be necessary. The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) applies to specific groups of employers and their employees. Employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, are required to obtain HAZWOPER training.
OHSA mandates that individuals who work in the following areas must complete the standard HAZWOPER training.
- General site workers: Individuals, such as equipment operators, general laborers and supervisory personnel, who are engaged in hazardous substance removal or other activities which expose or potentially expose workers to hazardous substances and health.
- Operations crew: Individuals involved in hazardous wastes that are conducted at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities regulated by 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA; or by agencies under agreement with U.S.E.P.A. to implement RCRA regulations.
- Emergency response operations team: Those directly involved in responding to the releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard.
There are various training levels with HAZWOPER. Training levels should reflect the type of work and the potential hazard involved in the work.
- 40-hour HAZWOPER Training: Those individuals directly involved in the cleaning up of hazardous materials, its storage, or its transportation should take the 40-hour HAZWOPER course. The 40 hour course is required for the safety of workers at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
- 24-hour HAZWOPER Training: Appropriate training for those who are less directly involved with uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (such as, but not limited to, ground water monitoring, land surveying, or geophysical surveying).
- 8-hour HAZWOPER Training: Managers are required to attain the same level of training (either the 40-hour or 24-hour training) as those they supervise, and an additional 8 hours.
There are numerous sources for OSHA-based HAZWOPER training, from community colleges to private consultants. However, companies must insure that the trainer teaches the required material and provides certification to the students. The certification is assigned to the employee, not the employer. Because of this, individuals must receive the full training mandated, not just those areas that are covered at the current work site.
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.