Emergency Management should be a continuous cycle of mitigating risk, response planning, training employees, and exercising plans. It is imperative to understand and address plausible scenarios and inherent employee actions, intentions, and perceptions surrounding a potential incident in order to plan effectively. Once every aspect of a potential scenario is defined, a mitigation process should be implemented with the intent to eliminate risk, minimize the potential for escalation, and reduce overall impacts.
As history has proven, not all risks can be averted. Many natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or wildfires, can occur with little or no warning. If your facility experiences a natural disaster, the incident can alter the day-to-day operations for an extended period. Natural disaster mitigation measures often stem from preparedness and response planning efforts, and site-specific business continuity plans. When mitigation opportunities and preparedness efforts merge, the impacts to employees, operations, and the environment can be minimized even in the case of a natural disaster.
Disasters and emergency incidents can also stem from Internet or power outages, intentional harm, security issues, human error, supply breakdowns, and on-site hazardous materials. Each facility has its own unique associated risks, therefore targeted, site-specific analyses must be conducted. Once every scenario has been identified for probability and likelihood, and dedicated risk mitigation measures and processes have been prioritized and implemented, implications and business disruptions can be minimized.
Companies should evaluate the following risk mitigation measures in order to heighten preparedness levels:
1. Identify potential arrangements and assets that can directly minimize the impact of the associated threat. Evaluate current arrangements and assets to determine if they are sufficient to eliminate incidents or assist in a more timely response. Examples include: purchasing backup generator, identifying alternate critical suppliers, increasing computer security measures, purchase equipment and/or contract cleanup companies (such as tree, snow, and hazardous material removal), etc.
2. Identify effective facility procedures that may minimize risks. Response evaluations from employees, responders, and industry counterparts can identify “lessons learned”, revealing potential procedural mitigation opportunities. Examples include; routine data backups, shut-off or shut-down procedures, evacuation processes, training specifics, etc.
3. Estimate the cost for implementation of mitigation measures specific to each process and prioritize budgeting, as necessary. A corporate level commitment to preparedness in conjunction with a “lessons learned” mitigation approach can result in improved response capabilities and lessen the impacts of disasters.
4. Identify and update the recovery point objectives to determine what minimum processes need to be “up and running” to conduct business. This includes a time frame breakdown of specifics that need to be recovered in order to minimize impacts. Examples include: data backups, employees levels, supply chain requirements, etc.
5. Revise and update response and continuity plans if mitigation measures are fully implemented, tested, and successful.
6. Evaluate and update the “Likelihood Level” based on sound data and adjust mitigation efforts as necessary. Examples include impending hurricane, terrorist threats, computer security updates, and large scale local event.
Determine the duration of the mitigation and evaluate a review or audit calendar. Specific mitigated safety processes and response procedures that are currently effective may need adjustments or updates based on improved technology or lessons learned.
Once mitigation efforts have been optimized for implementation, there may be site-specific elements regarding location, operations, and response efforts that cannot be altered. In this case, specific safety processes and response procedures must be developed for each hazard and associated risks in order to minimize potential impacts.
Mitigating the response planning process should incorporate the following:
- Form a collaborative team: Engage essential personnel in the planning process to identify and mitigate planning gaps, response capabilities, and necessary internal and external resources for an improved response.
- A core planning team typically includes an emergency manager or security manager, a hazard mitigation expert, local jurisdictions, and any additional available planning experts.
- Re-evaluate Hazards and Risks: Perform a vulnerability assessment for the purposes of determining priorities, and developing processes and procedures. Understanding the consequences of a potential incident can help prioritize resources and response efforts. It is helpful to assess local jurisdiction’s planning framework to highlight geographical threats. Potential facility hazards and risks may include, but are not limited to:
- Natural Hazards
- Technological Hazards
- Chemical Hazards
- Infrastructure Hazards
- Human Hazards
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