Effective mitigation can often prevent emergencies or minimize their impacts. Mitigation requires a thorough understanding of the potential risks, procedures, regulatory compliance, lessons learned, and operational goals. It is often difficult to quantify and financially justify preparedness mitigation initiatives, however, taking action in the present can often reduce human, environments, and financial consequences in the future.
It is often impractical for companies to spend relentlessly on emergency management mitigation efforts. Operations must remain profitable and margins maintained for corporate viability. Despite that a disaster can strike at any time, potential human, environmental, and financial impacts are often difficult to predict. For optimal financial benefit, mitigation efforts should meet certain key operational and response objectives. Ideally, mitigation efforts should eliminate or lessen the strategic cost of an incident, and reduce the tactical effort of regulatory compliance. Mitigation efforts should, at a minimum:
- Reduce the likelihood of incidents
- Improve the ability to respond to incidents
- Improve the casualty and harm conditions through faster rescues and accident avoidance
- Strengthen infrastructure against failure
- Improve corporate reputation through intent and safety investment
- Reduce projected downtime
- Improve asset utilization
- Solidify supply chain availability
Disaster preparedness mitigation measures should also be integrated into corporate and site-specific response planning and corporate preparedness initiatives. Incorporating upgraded communication methods, technologies, response procedures, and lessons learned can improve the overall functionality of response plans. Response planning mitigation measures may include, but are not limited to:
- Automating response planning through tracking, updating, and management
- Facilitating the ability to update plans across locations, sites, rigs, geographies through updated technology
- Automating regulatory compliance components and response planning activities
- Reducing the compliance and safety resource consumption
- Enabling HSE departments, emergency managers, and compliance specialists to spend less time on administrative duties, maintaining plans, reviewing compliance, and reporting
- Automating governance and controls
- Optimizing and coordinating drills, testing, and actual emergency responses
Identifying and prioritizing mitigation efforts can be challenging. Below are a series of discussion provoking questions that can assist in mitigation assessments. Although not industry specific, these points may identify which areas of preparedness should be mitigated in order to ensure best emergency management practices are in place (NOTE: These suggested discussion points do not address all mandated planning requirements. Please refer to your operations-specific requirements to ensure regulatory compliance.)
- What are the current high-risk activities at the location?
- Can high-risk tasks or conditions be mitigated? (The higher the probability and severity of risk, the higher the emphasis should be on corrective actions)
- Have sensitive areas been identified and potential consequences been assessed?
- Did risk assessment utilize realistic scenarios to define spill and release volumes and locations?
- Are employees made aware of hazards associated with specific workplace process, materials, or location(s)?
- What agencies and specific regulations apply to my location(s)?
- If applicable, have safety data sheets (SDSs) been updated per operations and properties included in the planning process?
- Have inspections taken place or regulatory audits been performed? If so, have non-compliant issues been mitigated?
- When will an internal compliance audit(s) be conducted and how will findings be prioritized for mitigation?
- Is personnel training up-to-date and compliant with site-specific requirements?
- Are clear procedures in place to notify, assess, and initiate a response?
- Are individual responders and their contact information verified for accuracy?
- Can approved stakeholders easily access response plans?
- Have response times and limitations been identified?
- Do response elements address necessary updates, such as site construction, personnel changes, and supply chain changes?
- Have internal and external communication methods been identified in the plan, and are they accurate?
- Are communications backup systems available and described in the plan?
- Are staff roles and responsibilities current, specific, and communicated?
- Have “best practice” strategies and response procedures been identified and implemented?
- Are processes and procedures identified in the plan to assess and monitor size, shape, type, location, and movement of a spill or release?
- If applicable, have tactical response details been included and verified for incidents that expand beyond the confines of the facility?
- If applicable, do spill trajectory estimates and maps mimic current local observations, potential weather scenarios, and historical tendencies?
- Have sensitive areas been identified and prioritized for protection?
- Do plans include specific criteria for provisional tiered responses?
- Are waste management and demobilization processes accurate and communicated?
- Have processes been established for updating planning information?
- Have updated plot plans and area mapping been integrated with accurate GIS data?
- Are contracts, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and other appropriate agreements and documentation in place?
- Has exercise feedback/lessons learned been incorporated into plan revisions?
- Are training and exercise records, and applicable regulatory required documentation up-to-date and accessible?
- Are necessary Incident Command (ICS) forms and company paperwork readily available for response documentation?