According to FEMA, “Preparedness is achieved and maintained through a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and taking corrective action.“ In order to achieve these strategic and tactical environmental, health, and safety (EHS) goals, specific FEMA identified core capabilities can be incorporated into the emergency management program.
In this 5-part series, Applying FEMA's Core Capabilities to Corporate EHS Programs, we will explore the 31 core capabilities identified by FEMA and how they apply to the private sector. The 31 components catalog distinct emergency preparedness elements utilized in national preparedness efforts and frameworks and are broken up into five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. However, the first three FEMA critical capabilities encompass all of the five mission areas. As a result, a successful EHS program should begin with the following core concepts:
Planning: “Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community as appropriate in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.”
The first critical step in reaching preparedness goals is environmental, health and safety planning. A consistent, company-wide emergency response planning structure delivers common processes for assessing, prioritizing, and responding to incidents. These predetermined procedures provide a consistent structure to an EHS program.
Streamlining the systematic process structure enables a cohesive emergency response from company and external responders, from prevention to recovery. With a detailed plan in place, response objectives and preparedness goals can be met with coordinated operational support and integrated incident response.
Public Information and Warning: “Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard, as well as the actions being taken and the assistance being made available, as appropriate.”
The execution of a solid communication plan should begin in the planning phase, not on the verge of, during, or in the aftermath of a disaster. Through planning, a communication plan can be fully integrated into the overall disaster or incident response plan. Communications planning may include contact verifications, training awareness, exercise coordination, incident activation, response notifications, public relations, and other site-specific needs. These efforts must be timely, accurate, and conclusive to bolster the overall company strategic and tactical preparedness objectives.
However, the lines of two-way communication must extend beyond the planning phase. Effective communications is the bridge to stabilizing a crisis situation. An EHS program must include a communication framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the decision-making processes to allow for an effective response and recovery, while maximizing safety and minimizing impacts.
As technology and communication methods evolve, companies must make an effort to incorporate accepted systematic formats, mainstream methodology, and digital response tactics into EHS programs. This may mean implementing communications methods through satellite radios, social media, smart phones, and/or cloud-based technologies. Companies must develop processes to assess incoming and outgoing information from multiple sources, organize it systematically, display and relay applicable information for logistical value, communicate essential information to appropriate parties, and store response data in the event it is necessary for further communications.
Operational Coordination: “Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.”
Companies should focus its EHS preparedness efforts around the Incident Command System (ICS), which provides the structure for effective management of response resources. The ICS is a standardized management concept designed to enable an integrated response, despite its complexity, response demands, and jurisdictional boundaries.
By integrating a commonly accepted organizational structure and characteristics into a company EHS program, preparedness, communications, training, exercises, and response operations can be coordinated within a unified command. The unified command allows stakeholders, responders, and agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.
The development, comprehension, and practical application of the ICS and an interoperable communications plan streamlines procedures, clarifies responsible parties and reporting relationships, and eliminated confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives and authorities.
The next blog, Part 2 of the series, will address the core capabilities related to prevention and protection.
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.