Every company, whether an industrial enterprise or a large office building management group, must operate profitably and ensure the safety of its employees, yet comply with a complex array of federal, state and local regulations. A lack of response planning and neglectful preparedness efforts can result in regulatory compliance fines, infrastructure damage, a negative public perception, and possibly a government-mandated shutdown of operations. While response plan requirements vary by industry, operation, and applicable regulations, utilizing these four preparedness elements can lay the foundation for a basic response planning program.
1. Emergency Response Plan: Every effort should be made to include processes and procedures to respond to the most likely emergency scenarios relevant to your site. Depending on industry, operations, and site hazards, companies may be required to submit specialized response plans to one or a variety of federal regulatory agencies.
Emergency responses plans need to serve a specific response purpose and meet explicit planning objectives. Below is a list of some basic planning objectives that may be relevant to your facility:
- Establish site-specific emergency response procedures for each potential threat, risk or emergency scenario. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Medical emergencies
- Hazardous releases
- Severe weather
- Security issues
- Design an emergency response team framework and assign personnel to fill primary and alternate roles.
- Define notification and emergency response team activation procedures.
- Establish communication procedures and a primary and alternate Emergency Operations Center location.
- Identify and quantify necessary response equipment
- Ensure emergency response team personnel receive applicable and required training.
- Establish mitigation procedures and protective actions to safeguard the health and safety of on-site personnel and nearby communities.
- Identify and ensure availability of responders and supply chain resources.
- Maintain compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal requirements for environmental hazards, response plans, and training requirements.
- Integrate best practices and lessons learned from past training and exercises, actual emergencies, and incident reviews.
2. Fire Pre plan: The purpose of the pre fire emergency plans is to ensure a coordinated, expedient, and safe response in the event of a fire. The information listed in a fire pre-plan, such as floor plan(s) and details of on-site hazardous material(s), may also required by multiple agencies (OSHA, DOT, EPA, USCG) as part of an overall emergency response plan. However, specific fire fighting information, such as construction details, hydrant, and utility valve locations may be useful to responders if highlighted in a stand-alone format and shared with responders prior to an emergency.
Having up-to-date information readily available, and available to knowledgeable responders 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 the sooner facility operations can be restored to “business as usual”.
3. Business Continuity: Companies should establish methods to preserve critical business processes during adverse conditions to ensure operational viability and minimize the potential of lost revenues. Failure to develop an effective business continuity plan can lead to costly and devastating impacts, often affecting the long-term viability of a company.
The following business continuity planning cycle should be incorporated into every business process in order to reduce the duration of a disruption during an emergency.
- PLAN: Identify the following -
- Potential risks/threats
- Trigger events
- Impacted business processes/activities
- Incident response structure
- Warning and communication process
- Recovery time objectives
- ESTABLISH: Define the following -
- Parameters of business continuity strategy
- Communication and documentation processes
- Training requirements
- Detailed employee/ vendor contact information
- Supplier dependencies and alternate resources
- Initiate response checklists
- Activate relocation strategies of critical processes
- OPERATE: Manage critical processes and recovery time objectives.
- Equipment requirements
- Primary and alternate facility details
- Application and software requirements
- MAINTAIN: Update key details and associated processes as deficiencies and inaccuracies are identified
- CONTINUALLY IMPROVE: Incorporate lessons learned into the plans and training and periodically evaluate critical business processes to ensure that evolving businesses practices are captured.
4. Crisis Management Plan: When incidents occur, a crisis management plan (CMP) can minimize the escalation effect; such as a company’s short and long-term reputation, adverse financial performance, and overall impingement of company longevity. The associated level of preparedness may mean the difference between a crisis averted and an exhaustive corporate disaster.
The following concepts should be utilized to generate an effective crisis management plan:
- PREDICT: Identify all potential threats to “business as usual” operations. This can range from incidents requiring an emergency response to human resource controversies.
- POSITION: Determine what your position or viewpoint will be on potential issues.
- PREVENT: Take preventive measures to avert emergency situations and proactively deter negative perceptions. This includes generating effective response procedures and recovery processes for a variety of potential threats..
- PLAN: If mitigation efforts fail or an emergency situation arises, prepare a plan for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. This may include identifying and communicating with media, and all audiences that may be affected by each crisis situation.
- PERSEVERE: Follow your plan and communicate company positions and ongoing activities to counteract the incident. Proactive efforts, honesty, empathy, and preparedness will assist in maintaining company viability and reputation.
- EVALUATE: If the CMP is enacted, review the results to determine if adjustments should be made.