Emergency planning is an ongoing process. Company operations, utilized equipment, and employees are continuously changing. Modifications, expansions, and adjustments need to be incorporated into the emergency response plan to ensure compliance and an accurate and effective response in the event of an emergency. The ever-changing regulatory requirements and plan submittal processes must be observed and applied in order to eliminate the potential for fines.
Corporate emergency preparedness programs and applicable plans need to be reviewed, at a minimum, on an annual basis. However, plan reviews and potential updates should be conducted under the following situations:
- Regulations deem changes are mandatory
- An incident has occurred that highlights new best practices
- A change in the status of current operations
- A change in internal/external response capabilities
- Changes to contact information
- Company merger or acquisition
- Site alterations/renovations
- A vulnerability analysis reveals new risks/threats
- A change in response resources/equipment
A concerted effort is being made in the emergency preparedness industry for companies to embrace new technologies and apply them to their environmental, health, and safety practices. The ability to streamline updates and share real-time incident information allows for a targeted, faster, and efficient response. It is crucial that first responders, company decision makers, and the emergency services community utilize rapid informational measures for situational assessments. However, if the information is out-of date, responders may be at risk, effective response decisions will not be implemented, and regulatory compliance may be compromised.
With web-based technology and an Internet connection, revised information is immediately available to all approved stakeholders. Both paper-based plans and those housed on a company intranet are often out of date with multiple versions in various locations, potentially misinforming the response team. Microsoft Word or PDF documents, a traditionally common format used in response plans, are cumbersome to revise for various plan types and locations. Web based software eliminates” version confusion” and allows responders to apply the most up-to-date and tested processes to a response.
A methodological process should be applied to updating response plans. While tracking systems can itemize applicable federal, state, and local regulations, categorical information should be reviewed for accuracy.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining up-to-date and compliant plans is to update the information in a timely manner. Cyclical response planning checks enable continuous reviews and potential revision opportunities, creating the most efficient and compliant response plan possible. Companies must be aware of the various submission requirements of applicable regulatory agencies regarding revisions and compliance.
Cyclical response plan reviews should include internal response plans and policies, and the following response areas for accuracy and effectiveness:
- Safety and health procedures
- Evacuation plan
- Fire protection plan
- Environmental policies
- Security procedures
- Response procedures
- Communication Plans
- Employee manuals
- Business Continuity plan
- Risk management plan
- Hurricane/Tornado/Flood Plans
- Mutual aid agreements
The review of company emergency response planning documents should include updates from collaborating response groups. Open communications with internal and external responders will ensure plan and response procedures are current, and carried out in accordance with company protocol. Groups to consider in planning reviews include, but are not limited to:
- Local responders fire, police, emergency medical services)
- Government agencies (LEPC, emergency management offices, etc)
- Community organizations (Red Cross, weather services)
- Utility company(s) (gas, electric, public works, telephone)
- Contracted emergency responders
- Neighboring businesses
Establishing readily available up-to-date information has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency. The faster responders can locate, assess, access, and mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained, and operations can be restored to “business as usual”.