Your Solution for SMART Response Plans

911 Outages - Wake-Up Call for Corporate Response Planning

Posted on Thu, Apr 06, 2017

On two instances in early March, AT&T users in several states were unable to call 911, the most common emergency contact number. According the Federal Communications Commissions’ Public Safety and Homeland Security acting Bureau Chief, Lisa Fowlkes, a preliminary investigation revealed that over 12,000 callers could not reach 911 operators during the outage.  But this is not the first time a 911 outage has occurred.  On April 9, 2014, a 911-call routing facility in Colorado stopped routing calls to eighty-one 911 centers.  According to the 2014 FCC investigation, over 6,600 calls were never connected to emergency operators during that incident.

The 2014 FCC report revealed that the Colorado outage was not an isolated incident or an act of human nature. Ongoing upgrades to the 911 system have resulted in conflicts between newer and older software code. While the investigation continues into the March 2017 outage, it highlights the importance of alternate emergency contact information in emergency response plans.

With this most recent investigation, the FCC prompts the question; “What plans do public safety entities have in place for public notification during 911 outages, including the provision of alternative emergency contact information, and how effective were alternatives.” C-level executives, facility managers and EHS staff should be asking the same questions.

  • What plans does your company have in place for public notification during 911 outages?
  • Do your response plans include alternative emergency contact information?
  • How effective are these alternatives in responding to your needs?

During the initial planning stage and consequential emergency planning reviews, facilities need to assess the impact of the potential emergencies, determine the need for backup or external resources, and confirm contact information. Companies must have adequate resources to effectively address emergency situations. It is critical to identify and include appropriate contact information and backup communication methods in response plans. 

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.  All response plans should provide contact information to ensure the response team members, external resources, and stakeholders have the information needed to make educated decisions. Through pre-planning, a communication plan can be fully integrated into the overall response plan. Unfortunately, confirmation of internal and external communication tends to neglected. It is essential that contact numbers are routinely checked and updated in response plans.

high voltage substation.jpeg

Time is critical during an emergency. An effective response can be compromised if response plans contain wrong or out of service phone numbers. If using an automated call out system, important information may not be received if numbers or e-mails have changed. A scheduled verification system should be put in place to solidify the accuracy of any applicable means of communication (ex: e-mail addresses, cell phone numbers and landlines).

Communication pre-planning should also include, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Notification and Activation methods: Meet with employees and responders to discuss notification and activation methods. Do not assume that responders identify with company communication policies or context of emergencies communications. Through communication, employees can comprehend the safety measures necessary to limit exposures and prevent unnecessary harm.
  2. Contact Verifications: Primary and secondary contact information should be verified for personnel, responsible agencies, and contracted responders. Verification should be conducted on a periodic basis in order to maintain accurate and applicable information.
  3. Strategic Considerations: Establish a strategic framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response.
  4. Stabilization: Effective communications is the bridge to stabilizing a crisis situation. The stabilization phase may include media/public relations. In this 24/7 information age, a communications plan should include informational jurisdiction decisions about what to release, by whom, and when. Information MUST be accurate and timely in order to diffuse rumors.
  5. Recovery: The lines of communications need to remain open to return to a “business as usual” level. In order for a full recovery, communication should include:
  • Accurate damage assessment reports
  • Response personnel reports
  • Demobilization techniques
  • Employee reentry procedures
  • Lessons learned debriefings

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Tags: Communication Plan, corporate preparedness

3 Critical Pre-Planning Elements for Effective Crisis Management Plans

Posted on Thu, Sep 01, 2016

The first hours and days of a crisis situation are the most critical. High pressure environments and atypical events often breed additional chaos and public relations nightmares that can rapidly tarnish a company’s sterling reputation. Whether you're company has a few domestic locations or an extensive international network of offices and facilities, designing a comprehensive Crisis Management Program (CMP) with a means for effective communication is essential to the continued success of your company.

From the minute an incident occurs, a company’s response can be publicly scrutinized and analyzed by the masses. The modern pathways of communication are so quick, companies must have solid communication and crisis management plans. Any response plan should be tested for effectiveness in the planning phase, not on the verge of, during, or in the aftermath of a disaster. Through pre-planning, a communication plan can be fully integrated into the overall crisis management plan and be available at the onset of an incident.

Crisis Communication Planning

Communication pre-planning should include, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Notification methods: The standard "phone tree" has evolved to include a variety of dynamic communication formats. Do not assume that internal and external responders, stakeholders, and those impacts by the crisis scenario identify with current company communication policies, formats, or context of emergencies communications. Pre-planning efforts should include establishing and exercising coordinated notification processes, formats, and various content.

Most professionals have several phone numbers, multiple email addresses, and can receive SMS (text) messages and digital images. As a result, a clear crisis communication notification methodology must be established.

The primary notification of a crisis situation should be made by telephone or radio to ensure leadership has received the critical information to begin response procedures. All known information regarding the scenario should be provided, including but not limited to:

  1. Type of event (technology, fire, explosion, etc.)
  2. Immediate impact
  3. Location of incident
  4. Any casualties or injured parties

In an effort to minimize the communication gap between a company and the general public, companies should establish social media notifications as part of their crisis communication planning. According to a Pew Research Center October 2015 publication entitled “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015”, nearly 65% of American adults utilized at least one social media platform in 2015 compared to only 7% in 2005. As mobile technology is adopted by a greater percentage of society, those statistics should continue to grow.

Utilizing social media as a tool for Corporate Crisis Communications has numerous benefits including, but not limited to:

  • Opens up a dialogue to reduce miscommunication and rumors
  • Informs public of potential threats, impacts, and applicable countermeasures
  • Communicates mobilization of internal coordinating teams, staff, and/or volunteers
  • Improves externally communications with agencies and people affected by the crisis
  • Provides real-time updates and allows company personnel to have a first-person awareness of a situation.
  • Active communication demonstrates that the company values emergency preparedness and response and its implications to the community
  • Eliminates an information bottleneck
Crisis_Management_Plans.jpg

2. Contact Verifications: Primary and secondary contact information should be verified for personnel, responsible agencies, and contracted responders. Verification should be conducted on a periodic basis in order to maintain accurate and applicable information. Communication equipment, such as hand held radios and satellite phones, should be verified as functional and tested periodically to ensure they are available when necessary.

One of the greatest challenges in preparedness and response planning is the continual effort to maintain up-to-date contact database. Dedicated man-hours or an automated cycle of contact verification should be in place as part of the maintenance phase of planning.  A contact verification tool that integrates with a web-based, database driven response plan can save timely maintenance efforts and can eliminate a potential lapse in emergency response. Without valid phone numbers, even a call out system is voided if the contact’s information is inaccurate. Every effort should be made to regularly confirm contact information with partnering entities that are involved in a response.

3. Strategic Considerations: While the specific circumstances will define a crisis response strategy, basic communications processes typically remain consistent. Establishing a systematic framework with checklists and response criteria can guide crisis manager through the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response.

If the crisis warrants, the pre-identified crisis management team would be responsible for developing media strategy, public statements, and key messaging, as well as identifying and briefing one or more spokespersons to deliver the pre-approved messages to media outlets. A specific individual or individuals should be assigned to media/public relations to ensure messaging consistency and information availability.

Emergencies and crisis scenarios do occur and companies must respond swiftly and effectively. There can be a multitude of communication and response details, variables, and eventualities that must be taken into consideration and planned for. Yet, timely responses and proactive communication in the early stages of a crisis can dramatically reduce the negative implications of an emergency scenario.

Corporate Crisis Management

Tags: Crisis Management, Communication Plan

Respond Under Pressure: Emergency Management Communications

Posted on Thu, Oct 29, 2015

In order to effectively respond to emergencies, emergency management teams must establish the ability to receive and transmit information, maintain situational awareness, and communicate within a coordinated emergency response framework. Streamlined communication components are essential to ensure effective emergency management. Communicating timely and accurate information to facility managers, critical decision makers, emergency response teams, stakeholders, contractors, and the public is an important aspect of nearly every emergency management function.

PREPAREDNESS:

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 emergency response plan. Companies must:

  • Develop processes to assess incoming/outgoing information to/from multiple sources
  • Organize information systematically
  • Display and relay applicable information
  • Communicate essential information to appropriate parties
  • Document response data in the event it is necessary for further communications

Communications planning may include verification of emergency contacts, training, exercises, activation procedures, response notifications, public relations, and other site-specific needs. These company efforts must be accurate and conclusive to bolster the overall strategic and tactical preparedness objectives.

Management, employees, and responders should be familiar with emergency communication processes, especially notification and activation procedures. Do not assume that responders identify with current company policies or the context of emergencies communications. Exercises play a crucial role in preparedness, providing opportunities for employees, emergency responders and officials to practice, assess and refine their collective communications capabilities and response expectations. These exercises encourage awareness of alarms, muster requirements, implications of various situations, and response expectations.

RESPONSE:

The notification process begins upon discovery of an emergency situation and notification of appropriate personnel. The initial notifications should be communicated by a company approved method (telephone, alarm, radio, etc.), and all known information should be provided at that time, including, but not limited to:

  • Location
  • Type of event (fire, explosion, etc.)
  • Casualties or injured parties
  • Hazardous material involved, if applicable

Companies must establish a strategic framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response. All pertinent facts and necessary information should be maintained to ensure all emergency management, response personnel, and agencies are quickly notified.

Effective communications is the bridge to stabilizing an emergency situation. Stabilization includes such communication actions as initiating proper notifications, alarms and PA announcements, personnel evacuation, shutdown of systems, obtaining medical assistance, and conferring with appropriate personnel to develop and implement a course of action.

Stabilization also may include media/public relations. In this 24/7 information age, a communications plan should include informational jurisdiction decisions about what to release, by whom, and when. Information MUST be accurate and timely in order to defuse rumors.

RECOVERY:

Recovery begins once the affected area is stabilized, personnel are evacuated and/or accounted for, and the situation is under control or stable. Recovery communications includes damage assessment reporting, interactions with response personnel, removal and disposal of an explosive device or hazardous material, and verifying the safety of an area prior to reentry. The lines of communications need to remain open to return to a “business as usual” level.

MITIGATION AND PREVENTION:

After a declared emergency has been terminated, an oral and written critique of the response should be conducted among the key responders involved.

A post-incident summary of any problems and corrective actions planned or taken to resolve the problem should be included in incident reports. Lines of communication should remain open and action items should be documented and tracked to ensure that corrective actions are completed.

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. Implementing best practice communications methods that relate to satellite radios, social media, smartphones, and/or cloud-based technologies will enable companies to carry out a solid communication plan.

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Tags: Emergency Management, Communication Plan

Why Real-Time Incident Management Systems are Now EXPECTED!

Posted on Thu, Aug 06, 2015

Text messages, Facetime, Skype, live-streaming, and email are just a few of the communications technologies that offer current Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) professionals and responders a unique advantage over their counterparts from years past. Because of the commonality of instantaneous access to communication and information, real-time technology should be incorporated into corporate Incident Management Systems (IMS). From the moment an incident is discovered, the response process of information gathering, assessments, response coordination, and documentation should not be halted by the communication barriers of the past.

The intent of an Incident Management Plan, which should be based on the Incident Command System (ICS), is to define, document, and provide tactical intelligence to those managing and responding to incidents. These plans should guide management, supervisors, employees and contract personnel as to their roles and necessary actions based on the current environment at the incident site. Timely, clear, and concise communication is pivotal. As a result, Incident Management Plans should incorporate:

  • Internal and external communication processes and procedures
  • Accurate contact information, highlighting the preferred method of communication
  • Methodology and protocols for two-way communication with all parties

A two-way information flow breakdown during the chaos of an incident commonly results in a diminished ability to quickly restore the site to “business as usual”. The IMS is the response communication tool that allows users to provide and receive current information enabling those with assigned response roles to carry out swift and appropriate resolutions. Compromised incident response communication often results in jeopardized safety, greater impacts, questionable company reputation, escalated costs, and diminished profits.

Incident Management Systems can be designed to expeditiously facilitate emergency management and coordinate responses through the use of interactive database-driven interfaces and real-time situational displays. Systems with 24/7 web-based access to the incident site information are extremely beneficial to decision makers. With a real-time system in play, emergency managers, on-site responders, as well as approved stakeholders at any location, are more likely to stage an effective and timely response. Providing an instantaneous method of situational awareness provides a means to:

  1. Monitor site response status/scenario
  2. Prioritize the health and safety of staff members and responders based on current information
  3. Aggregate data into a format that enables real-time analysis and decision making
  4. Determine the status and effectiveness of response actions
  5. Modify response strategies, tactics, and objectives based on the information received
  6. Determine the deployment of resources in order to prevent duplication of efforts
  7. Integrate incident response plan contacts and assigned tasks, as necessary
  8. Minimize miscommunications that can delay time sensitive responses
  9. Document stakeholder and agency directives to be used as a reference or learning tool

Despite a real-time communication, best practice processes, and state-of-the-art systems, the incident response will not be successful without a trained response team. Best practices have proven that individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of their response role and responsibilities in exercised scenarios are better prepared to implement a precise, streamlined, and effective response.

Individual incident management responsibilities vary by role and the site-specific scenario. However, the lack of procedural and incident status communication can lead to the mishandling and mismanagement of a response. Real-time communication can benefit general supervisory responsibilities which may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Initial response actions
  • If the situation demands, limit or restrict access to the incident scene and surrounding area
  • Determine or carry out directives regarding required personal protective equipment
  • Request medical assistance, if necessary
  • Identify representatives from each agency for associated responsibility, including communication links and location
  • Verify any substance released and obtain Safety Data Sheets, as necessary
  • If properly trained, identify and isolate source to minimize product loss and potential harm
  • Maintain records and individual logs, as necessary
  • Coordinate required response actions with Incident Commander and local responders
  • Communicate response actions to assigned specialized team members
  • Document all complaints and suspicious occurrences

Preparedness and Emergency Management - TRP Corp

Tags: Incident Management, Communication Plan

6 Goals of Effective Corporate Emergency Management Communication

Posted on Thu, Jun 18, 2015

When the Memorial Day torrential rains hit southeast Texas, smartphones equipped with Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) services were buzzing! WEAs of flash flood alert warnings were sent out by the National Weather Service to thousands of individuals in the affected areas through their smartphones. The idea of instantaneous communication for emergency management alerts is now a reality. However, in order to be effective for companies, corporate emergency management communications must lead to heightened awareness and/or action at the employee or responder level.

“Modern technology has brought us the greatest level of warning dissemination in our lifetime, but even with all that said there’s always going to be that situation where people may not be aware of what’s going on around them,” says Walt Zaleski, the warning coordinator at the National Weather Service’s southern region headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

While WEA technology adds another layer of resiliency to the suite of communication tools, companies must establish and train employees on their specific workplace emergency communications protocols. When employees are aware of corporate communication procedures and the roles that they play in each scenario, necessary responses can be effectively played out. If a widespread incident were to occur in your area, do you have effective communication procedures in place to communicate with employees and/or initiate a response?

If and when an emergency occurs, clear communication is crucial to establish response expectations, which can protect lives, the environment, and the surrounding community. Effective corporate emergency communications should:

  1. Result from accurate data collection
  2. Be timely and current
  3. Remain concise to accurately define the “next step” or necessary tasks
  4. Clarify initial emergency response initiatives, if applicable
  5. Include time parameters and follow up procedures
  6. Be strategic in how tasks should be accomplished

An effective emergency communications strategy must be developed with a commitment from corporate leadership. In the event of an emergency scenario or incident, consistently accurate messages by company representatives alleviate potential anxiety, safeguard employees, and provide a level of credibility. This commitment must include, but is not limited to:

  • Utilizing advanced contact verification procedures: Contact lists should be verified on a regular basis to ensure all information is accurate. If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for notification verification system with email or text message capability that enables the contact to verify their own information through hyperlinks.
  • Establishing a communications strategic framework: Verify necessary checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process for a variety of emergency scenarios and incidents.
  • Optimizing notification procedures: Establish a proven communications methods that will relay information to both internal and external individuals and/or organizations.
  • Testing emergency communications: Ensure communication among site managers and all business units is effective and initiates the required responses.

Successful corporate emergency communications are those that are taken seriously and responded to in a timely and effective manner. Communication procedure training should be included as part of the corporate and site emergency response plans. It may be necessary to cross-train response team members in order to provide extended knowledge in case primary team members are not available. Each team member should have a clear understanding of the procedures for receiving and disseminating information. In case of communication disruption, companies should provide employees training in primary and established secondary communication methods.

Because traditional and social media outlets can disseminate information quickly, public relations personnel should be included in emergency planning and associated exercises. Establishing and committing to communications and public relations efforts define lines of communications with employees and all partners, enables leaders to communicate response efforts and requirements, and ensures that public affairs staff has the training and the tools to be successful to maintain company reputation and client relationships.


TRP Corp Emergency Response Planning Exercises

Tags: Communication Plan

Response Plan Tip: Ensure Processes and Communications Equipment Align

Posted on Thu, Nov 27, 2014

The fastest way to turn an incident, crisis, or emergency into a prolonged disaster is to experience a communications breakdown.  In order to minimize impacts and rapidly respond to circumstances, companies must ensure communication processes and procedures are clearly defined and understood, and associated equipment is functional.

While every effort should be made to train employees on response processes and procedures for probable emergency scenarios relevant to your operations, training employees on initial site-specific responses included in your response plan is fundamental to your emergency management program. The need to swiftly communicate accurate and pertinent information is common to all emergency scenarios, despite operational function. Information, at a minimum should include:

  • Contact number to initiate report and response needs
  • Location of incident
  • Type of incident (medical, fire, oil spill, etc.)
  • Casualties or injured parties

The initial responder, or first person on-scene, will be the first initiator of emergency communications. While this individual may have extensive training and response knowledge, most likely, the initial responder is not specifically trained for response. As a result, all employees should be trained in initial response processes, procedures, and communication expectations.  Individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the communication plan, emergency procedures, and assigned responsibilities are better prepared to implement effective communication and initiate a streamlined response. Detailed information should be readily available to facility personnel to ensure all emergency managers, response personnel, and applicable agencies (ex. National Response Center) are quickly notified in the event of an incident.

Once initial response processes and procedures are established, ongoing communication is critical in order to assess, direct, and respond to the incident. Facilities must have standardized and exercised modes of communicating.  The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) describes standard communications response equipment options that may be used during an incident, emergency, or disaster. The following options range from basic to state-or the art technology:

Runners: Individuals carrying written messages from one location to another. 

LIMITATIONS:

  • Distance and time
  • Requires written information for accuracy
  • Availability
  • Requires familiarity with the area

Landline telephones: Analog and digital phones connected by physical lines. (Note: Some telephone service providers utilize modems for connecting landlines. Check with your individual service provider)

LIMITATIONS
  • Not mobile
  • System overloads easily
  • Network susceptible to physical damage
  • May be affected by power failure

Cellular/Smart phones: Mobile digital phones connected by signals transmitted by cellular towers. Capable of transmitting short messaging service (SMS). In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not.

LIMITATIONS
  • Towers may fail due to power outage or damage
  • System overloads easily
  • Requires knowledge of responder phone numbers
  • May be dependent on landlines

Satellite Phone: Mobile phones that use signals transmitted by satellites.  If other phone systems are down, can only communicate locally with other satellite phones  

LIMITATIONS

  • Expensive
  • Requires visibility to sky or building with compatible antenna
  • Potential diminished voice quality or latency

Two-way radios: Handheld, mobile, or base-station radios used for communicating on radio frequencies; many require licensure by the FCC. Below are a few examples of the different two-way radio types as described by FEMA:

RELIABILITY:

  • Family Radio Service (FRS): Have a very limited range; useful only for intra-team communications
  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS): Have a greater range than FRS radios and signals can be improved with antennas and repeaters
  • Multiple-Use Radio Service (MURS): Only 5 channels available for use
  • Citizen Band (CB): Have 40 channels and affordabl

LIMITATIONS:

  • Family Radio Service (FRS): Cannot alter radio (no antennas) = limited range
  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS):
    • Requires a license (one per family)
    • Intended for family use
    • Some business licenses are grandfathered
  • Multiple-Use Radio Service (MURS): More expensive than FRS/GMRS radio
  • Citizen Band (CB):  Limited range

Computer-based communications: Information may be transmitted over the Internet or with runners via USB drives

LIMITATIONS:
  • May require internet connectivity
  • Requires specific hardware
  • Requires power source for long use although solar power options are becoming increasingly available and affordable.

In the event Internet connectivity is terminated or inaccessible, emergency managers must have alternative means to access plans. Redundant data-centers, scheduled downloads, and ancillary security measures must be a part of any emergency management program based on an intranet or cloud.

Internet availability enables additional emergency communications through social media. From communicating facility closures in the event of bad weather or evacuation orders as a result of a hazardous spill, greater Internet accessibility allows for companies to streamline emergency communications to a wider audience with minimal administrative effort.

NOTE: The National Response Center (NRC) is the sole federal point of contact for spills of hazardous materials. NRC, which is staffed on a 24-hour basis, was given the responsibility of receiving incident reports involving hazardous materials regulated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act for the transportation of hazardous materials (49 CFR 171), for natural gas and other gases transported by pipeline (49 CFR 191), and for liquids transported by pipeline (49 CFR 195). All facilities involved in these activities should include the National Response Center reporting number, (800) 424-8802, in the notification section of an emergency response plan.

For a free download on Best Pratices for Crisis Management, click the image below:

TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

Tags: Power Failure, Resiliency, Communication Plan, Social Media, Disaster Response, Notification Systems

SMART Response Planning in an Era of Advanced Communications

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

Within the past few years, technology has allowed for an increasing number of companies to automate emergency preparedness and response processes. However, in an era of instantaneous information, effective communications is still one of the greatest logistical problems during an emergency.

Without clear and effective communications, first responders may:

  • respond to the wrong location
  • be unable to effectively coordinate resources  
  • misunderstand the severity of a situation
  • be ill-equipped for the actual situation
  • find themselves in danger for which they are unprepared  

Advanced technology for emergency preparedness and response has included everything from gas-leak sensors and drones, to social media integration and sophisticated emergency management software. The ability to automate a myriad of emergency response activities, including expediting communications with local first responders, safety officials, and those affected by an incident enables companies to potentially minimize the impacts of an emergency on individuals, facilities, and the community.

Through pre-planning, a communication plan can be fully integrated into the overall response plan. Companies must be certain that response plans are accessible in a variety of formats in order for necessary process and procedures to be implemented. If the plan is not accessible, prepared information cannot be conveyed and responses may be inadequate. Best practices should be continual reviewed in order to improve optimal communication methods for each scenario. Communication pre-planning should include, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Notification and Activation methods: Meet with employees and responders to discuss notification and activation methods.  Do not assume that responders identify with current company communication policies, context of emergencies communications, or the crisis communication plan. Ensure employees are aware of applicable alarms, muster requirements, implications of various situations, and response expectations. Through communication, employees can comprehend the safety measures necessary to limit exposures and prevent unnecessary harm. With company-approved protocols in place, engaging in social media for emergency communications can allow for:  

  • Speed: Direct communication between informants and those who need information enables responders to react faster, minimizing the duration of the emergency.
  • Relevance: Disseminate the right message to the right audience
  • Accuracy: Ensure information is correct, confirmed by company sources, and backed up by facts or direct observation. Multiple informants can confirm accuracy or inaccuracies.

2. Contact Verifications: Primary and secondary contact information should be verified for personnel, responsible agencies, and contracted responders. Verification should be conducted on a periodic basis in order to maintain accurate and applicable information. Communication equipment, such as hand held radios and satellite phones, should be functionally tested periodically, to ensure they are available when necessary.

3. Strategic Considerations: Emergency managers should establish a strategic response planning framework, with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response. Communications should:

  • Identify internal and external methods and procedures
  • Confirm emergency contact information
  • Identify multiple forms of communication methods (text, e-mail, cell phones)

4. Stabilization: Effective communications is the bridge to stabilizing an emergency situation. The stabilization phase may include media/public relations and a crisis communication plan. In this 24/7 information age, a communications plan should include informational jurisdiction decisions about what to release, by whom, and when. Information MUST be accurate and timely in order to diffuse rumors.

Unfortunately, during the height of an incident, bleak realities and raw emotion may alter communication agreements and promote misinformation. Avoid public power struggles and confusion by establishing a clear and exercised understanding of communication responsibilities before a situation occurs.

5. Recovery: The lines of communications need to remain open to return to a “business as usual” level. In order for a full recovery, communication should include:

  • Accurate damage assessment reports
  • Response personnel reports
  • Demobilization techniques
  • Employee reentry procedures
  • Lessons learned debriefings

Be prepared for your next incident, download TRP Corp's free white paper, "A Step-by-Step Guide: Be Prepared for Your Next Incident".

Preparedness and Emergency Management - TRP Corp

Tags: Response Plans, Communication Plan, Disaster Response

The Role of Communications Planning in Business Continuity

Posted on Thu, Nov 06, 2014

The primary goal of business continuity planning is to efficiently restore operations through predetermined, systematic processes and procedures. However, in order to minimize the impacts and rapidly respond to operational hindrances, companies must ensure business continuity communication methods and procedures are clearly defined and functional.

Communication planning is an intricate part of preparedness and any continuity process. Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. Failed communication often results in failed business continuity efforts. Thoroughly planning, testing, and exercising communication procedures within the following four phases is essential to ensure effective business continuity and viability of critical business operations.

1. Notification- The notification process begins upon the anticipation or discovery of a business continuity situation. Appropriate personnel and applicable business unit managers should be initially notified and updated on the current scenario. The initial notification format can be dictated by company policy, however all known information should be provided at that time, including:

  1. Location of impact or potential impact
  2. Scenario details (fire, explosion, etc.)
  3. Implementation timeline

The person responsible for each critical business process should begin documenting response actions.  Necessary continuity information should be maintained and updated as necessary to ensure all management and affected personnel can quickly initiate proper actions.

In the planning phase, initial communication procedures, available communications equipment, and alternative communication formats should be evaluated.  Initial and back up communication formats should be agreed upon during training and exercises to certify that managers, continuity personnel, external suppliers, and possibly the public receive pertinent messages.

Primary and alternate resources contact information should be included in the business continuity plan (BCP) to ensure consistent delivery and continued operations in the event suppliers are subjected to business continuity circumstances. Up-to-date contact information for internal and external responders should be verified for accuracy.

2. Verification - Verification of contact information for personnel, continuity supervisors, and external responders should be done on a periodic basis. Business continuity planners must be certain that new employees are included in the plan, as necessary, and that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or contact numbers.

If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for an e-mail notification verification system that enables the contact to verify their information through hyperlinks. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to verify contact information as requested.

3. Stabilization - Stabilization is the result of the corrective actions initiated by the business continuity coordinator, business unit managers, and response personnel. Stabilization includes such actions as initiating proper notifications and implementing a procedural course of action. Planners should identify and procure necessary communication equipment and establish processes for continued operations and recovery. This will prevent unnecessary downtime and additional recovery efforts. Effective communications is the bridge to stabilization.

4. Recovery - Recovery begins once the affected area, personnel, equipment, and/or operations are accounted for and stabilized. Recovery communications includes actions such as damage assessment reporting, interactions with response personnel, removal and disposal of disruptive element, and safety verification prior to reentry or a return to operations. The lines of communications need to remain open in order to return to a “business as usual” level.

Developing relationships and common understandings of roles and responsibilities prior to a continuity event increases overall communication, post-disaster collaboration, and unified decision-making, streamlining the recovery process.

Upon termination of the incident and restoration of operations, an oral and written critique of the response should be conducted among personnel and the key business continuity members.  Communicating through evaluations and post-incident summaries can lead to the identification of continuity challenges and procedural obstacles. Items requiring action should be documented, communicated to involved parties, and tracked to ensure that potential corrective actions are identified and mitigation efforts are completed.

For a free informative download on Crisis Management Planning, click the image below:

TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

 

Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Continuity, Crisis Management, Communication Plan, Business Continuity Plan

Renovating the Framework of Emergency Management and Incident Response

Posted on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

The modernization of communication technologies has trickled down to the frameworks of emergency management. On July 29, 2014, the 'White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day” brought together the disaster response community and innovative entrepreneurs from across the country in the hopes of integrating technological advances with preparedness and disaster response efforts.

As the connectivity of the world increases, EHS programs and emergency managers are embracing collaborative and innovative preparedness and response initiatives. However, in order to germinate or sustain an ongoing culture of preparedness, companies must prioritize funding to incorporate new and relevant systems, training, and/or equipment. Unless mandated by regulatory authorities, many companies delay best practice and technological initiatives until an incident propels response planning to the forefront.

According to the Disaster Recovery Planning Benchmark Survey: 2014 Annual Report, “more than 60% of those who took the survey do not have a fully documented disaster recovery (DR) plan and another 40% admitted that the DR plan they currently have did not prove very useful when it was called on to respond to their worst disaster recovery event or scenario.

As the “Y” or the “Millennial” generation” (those born between 1980’s and 2000) continues to enter the workforce, emerging technologies will become more ingrained into society and the workplace. These educated and tech savvy individuals accustomed to fast-paced technological advancements consider technology as an essential aspect in their lives. Based on current trends, upcoming generations will be acclimated to instantaneous communication and data extraction from any location. Text, social media, and web-based technologies will be expected as commonplace emergency management frameworks, rather than the traditional means that most companies still utilize today. In order to integrate societal norms and stay relevant with upcoming generations of employees, emergency management and disaster response framework must be aligned with currently available utilized tools.

Statistics suggest that every dollar invested in disaster preparedness yields savings of $4–$11 in disaster response, relief, and recovery.” The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Just as computers replaced typewriters to expand productivity, web-based response systems are replacing one-dimensional paper-based plans. Web-based response systems offer a greater streamlined functionality, renovated efficiency, and varied accessibility when compared with traditional paper-based plans.  Web-based planning system software offers every option of instant accessibility: viewed via the Internet from any location, downloaded, or printed. Increasing accessibility options while improving efficiency, functionality, and effectiveness can bolster an entire emergency management program.

In order for new functionalities to be introduced to the workplace, emergency managers often are required to justify the initial investment. A cost-benefit analysis of a renovated emergency management program can highlight the potential cost savings of an effective program. Any prevention, mitigation, or plan maintenance costs should be compared with the financial impact of situational recovery processes and the overall costs of an incident. These costs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Human life
  • Short term or long term business interruption
  • Lawsuit(s)
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Equipment failure
  • Inventory/stock losses
  • Fines
  • Reputation
  • Environmental destruction

The relevance of innovative techniques and lessons learned should be continually evaluated and incorporated into an emergency preparedness program if appropriate.  While often suppressed in favor of short-term profits, budgets for pertinent emergency management initiatives should be prioritized for long-term corporate sustainability. But “change for change’s sake” does not typically enhance programs. The evolution process of an emergency management program should aim to perpetuate improved responses and operational recovery times, and enhance company viability despite crisis scenarios.

For a free download on essential preparedness measures, click here or on the image below.

Preparedness and Emergency Management - TRP Corp

Tags: Tactical Response Planning, Emergency Management, Resiliency, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program, Communication Plan, Social Media

Incident Response Drills and Tabletop Exercises

Posted on Thu, Jul 17, 2014

There are various types of types of emergency response drills and exercises that target specific goals. They can range from small group discussions to complex, multi-faceted exercises. But each drill or exercise presents the opportunity to improve site-specific response plans, rendering the potential for a more effective response.

Response plan testing can begin with simple exercises intended to validate general response plan comprehension or incorporate an all-inclusive, full-scale, realistic, multi-scenario exercise. Managers should determine the goals of the exercise before settling on a particular method. To fully execute a response plan, synergistic drills or exercises should be developed to assess the following critical response skills:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Resource management
  • Teamwork

An exercise should prepared employees and responders to minimize the impacts of an incident. Below are three of the most basic exercises.

1. Orientations: The purpose of an orientation is to familiarize participants with roles, responsibilities, plans, procedures, and equipment. Orientations can resolve questions of coordination and assignment of responsibilities. The inclusion of first responders and facility staff promotes the development of an effective plan.

2. Drills: The goal of a drill is to practice aspects of the response plan and prepare teams and participants for more extensive exercises in the future. A drill can test a specific operation or function of the response plan.  Facilities should conduct evacuations, shelter in place, and lockdown drills to demonstrate emergency response actions. Drills can be altered to incorporate various scenario situations. The procedures, individual responsibilities, and public safety coordination may be addressed depending on the presented scenario or outcome of the drill.

3. Tabletop Exercises: A tabletop exercise simulates an emergency situation in an informal, stress-free environment.  The participants, usually comprised of decision-making level staff and responders, gather to discuss simulated procedures and general problems/solutions in the context of an emergency scenario.  The focus is on training and familiarization with roles, procedures, and responsibilities relative to the emergency synopsis and potential injects.

Below is a list of common tabletop exercise planning considerations:

Condensed Exercise Time Frame: In order to exercise the emergency scenario, the exercise must progress in a condensed timeframe (not real-time). Events should move rapidly through the phases of the exercised response. However, it should be clearly understood that under real conditions the same events or actions might require additional time to complete. Conversely, real world scenarios can quickly change and transition from a basic emergency to a full scale crisis within a short time frame that require rapid decision making and expeditious responses.

Scenario Information and Position-Specific Tools: Detailed scenario information, ICS forms, and position specific events should be prepared to guide all participants through the execution of their roles and responsibilities. These tools should be included in a participation package and distributed to all participants prior to the exercise. A web-based drill and exercise management tool can streamline the distribution of these tools.

Weather Conditions: Depending on the scenario and if the weather is a critical factor, either real or simulated weather conditions may be utilized during the exercise.

“This is a Drill” Exercise Communications: All radio, telephone, fax and written communications must begin and end with the statement "This is a Drill".  Include this statement in all verbal communications, and in a prominent location on all written correspondence, including report forms, fax communications, and press releases. It may be helpful to add the date to any written documentation for organizational and regulatory compliance purposes.

Communications with external agencies, contractors, medical responders, or other parties not participating directly in an exercise must begin and end with the statement, "This is a Drill". This may involve state or federal regulatory notifications or contact with suppliers or vendors to source simulated logistical needs. In all cases, exercise participants must ensure that the all involved parties clearly understand that no actual emergency exists, and no resources or equipment should be mobilized or dispatched.

Response Equipment Deployment: Emergency equipment and vehicles should be simulated for tabletop exercises. Staging area locations should be identified.

Injects: Injects may be provided to some participants or as a component of the exercise. An inject describes an additional event or circumstance that requires a response or action from the participant.

Exercise Termination and Debriefing: Following termination of the exercise, a debriefing of all exercise participants should be conducted.  All participants should have the opportunity to provide feedback on the exercise and complete an exercise evaluation form. Feedback should be evaluated for potential response plan mitigation opportunities.

Follow-up on Action Items: Exercises may provide insight into the deficiencies in an emergency response plan. In order to take response efforts to the next level, action items resulting from the exercises should be completed in a timely manner.

For a free download entitled, "Tips on How to Conduct an Effective Exercise", click the image below:

TRP Corp Emergency Response Planning Exercises

Tags: Tabletop Exercise, Training and Exercises, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Communication Plan, Workplace Safety, HSE Program