Your Solution for SMART Response Plans

Fire: The Most Common Emergency Hazard for Businesses

Posted on Thu, Sep 13, 2012

Every year, fires cause billions of dollars in property damage and unnecessary deaths and injuries. Safeguarding businesses from fire loss should begin with fire pre-planning, effective mitigation measures, and employees training.

During 2006-2010, an estimated 42,800 fires in or at industrial or manufacturing properties (including utility, defense, agriculture, and mining) were reported to U.S. fire departments per year, with associated annual losses of 22 civilian deaths, 300 civilian injuries, and $951 million in direct property damage. - National Fire Protection Association

Fire Pre-plans can remove many of the uncertainties surrounding a company’s emergency planning strategy and tactical decision-making process. As a result, local responders can enter into an emergency situation conscious of existing factors, minimizing unnecessary risk. These plans should enhance the detail of an emergency response plan, giving the responders every possible advantage in responding effectively to a fire.

FEMA provides a variety of suggestions that can be included in the developmental planning process. Companies should consider the following:

  • Collaborative planning with local fire department. Identify and discuss potential hazards.
  • Coordinate a facility fire hazards inspection by the responding local fire department.
  • Seek assistance in identifying applicable fire codes and regulations.
  • Establish employee training that highlights fire prevention and containment methods, if applicable.
  • Establish and identify alarm system and subsequent evacuation procedures.
  • Conduct evacuation drills using maps of evacuation routes. It is crucial to keep evacuation routes clear of obstructions and debris.
  • Assign personnel to monitor shutdown, evacuation, and muster procedures.
  • Identify and mark all utility shut off locations so that they can be shut off quickly by fire wardens or responding personnel.
  • Establish procedures for proper fire prevention handling and storage of flammable liquids and gases.
  • Establish a preventive equipment maintenance schedule to reduce fire risk.
  • Place fire extinguishers in appropriate locations and install smoke detectors. Extinguishers must be inspected annually. Test detectors monthly and change batteries at least once a year.
  • Consider installing a sprinkler system, fire hoses and fire-resistant walls and doors as part of mitigation measures.

Fire prevention requirements for businesses vary based on numerous operational and location factors specific to each individual business. However, there are several common state-adopted fire code regulations based on the National Fire Protection Association standard. Local authorities, such as cities and counties, typically set more stringent and advanced fire codes levels than those at the state level.  It is important to collaborate with local fire departments to ensure compliance and identify the level of internal response appropriate for the specific operations and consistent with employee training.

FEMA lays out five level of response that most businesses will adopt if a fire occurs at the site. Options include:

  1. Option 1 -- Immediate evacuation of all personnel at the onset of specific alarms.
  2. Option 2 -- All personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use. Personnel in the immediate area of a fire attempt to prevent spreading, as per appropriate training. In addition, the fire alarm is sounded and all personnel evacuate.
  3. Option 3 -- Only designated personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use.
  4. Option 4 -- A fire team is trained to fight incipient-stage fires that can be controlled without protective equipment or breathing apparatus. Beyond this level fire, the team evacuates.
  5. Option 5 -- A fire team is trained and equipped to fight fires using protective equipment and breathing apparatus.

Well-trained employees are invaluable during a fire. For additional information on assessing employee capabilities for firefighting and appropriate response options, see TRP’s blog entitled Applicability of Emergency Action Plans and Fire Extinguisher Use. The culmination of the emergency planning process and development of an effective plan should minimize operational disruptions, and improve organizational stability and recovery time.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

TRP Fire Pre Plan Image

Tags: Fire Pre Plans, Fire Preparedness, Incident Management, Facility Management, Emergency Action Plan

The 15 Question Emergency Management Assessment

Posted on Mon, Aug 20, 2012

Emergency planning is an ongoing process. As company operations expand, and equipment and employees change, adjustments need to be incorporated into emergency response plans to ensure an accurate and effective response.  Additionally, ever-changing regulatory requirements and plan submittal processes must be observed and applied in order to eliminate the potential for fines.

The concepts of this personal Emergency Management Self-Assessment from the Multiple Research and Service Center of Washington (MRSC) reflect potential business survival capabilities and continuity. Following the set of questions, the scoring section is designed to help you decide whether action is needed to reduce your risk of an ineffective disaster or emergency response.

1. Have you personally reviewed your company’s emergency management plan within the past 12 months?

Yes _____ No_____

2. Do you have a clear understanding of your authority and responsibilities in disaster situations?

Yes _____ No_____

3. Have your external responders participated in a comprehensive review of your emergency management system or a disaster exercise within the last 12 months?

Yes _____ No_____

4. Is a single news media point of contact (e.g., public information officer) provided in your company’s emergency management plan?

Yes _____ No_____

5. Were representatives of external resources involved in developing and testing the company’s emergency management plan?

Yes _____ No_____

6. Does your company have adequate accounting and disaster recordkeeping procedures to document requests for reimbursement under applicable state and federal emergency assistance programs?

Yes _____ No_____

7. Does your company's plan insure that the information needed to defend itself in a disaster related lawsuit is maintained during an incident?

Yes _____ No_____

8. Is your emergency response team incorporated into the emergency management planning process?

Yes _____ No_____

9. Have you spent more than one hour during the past six months in face-to-face discussion with your emergency management team about how to improve disaster management?

Yes _____ No_____

10. Are your emergency management procedures brief and organized in a manner that enables your employees or response teams to respond smoothly to a range of incidents?

Yes _____ No_____

11. Are your mutual aid agreements with other company effective?

Yes _____ No_____

12. Are all your emergency teams equipped and personnel trained to set up an incident command system?

Yes _____ No_____

13. Do you understand state and local emergency management law, particularly as it relates to corporate and incident commander responsibilities during an emergency?

Yes _____ No_____

14. Does the emergency operations plan contain lines of succession with authority (at least two backups) for key internal and external contacts?

Yes _____ No_____

15.  Do you have paper or word document style emergency plans?



Self-Assessment Scoring

To assess your emergency management program, give yourself one point for each "yes" answer. Total your score. Grade your risk as follows:

12–14 points: Your risk is apparently well managed. Look back at your "no" answers and decide what you can do to close this area of exposure.

9-11 points: You are making good progress, but there are a number of actions you can take to reduce your risk. You may wish to focus your attention on areas indicated by the "no" answers. Based on the results of reviews in these areas, you can decide what further steps are indicated.

5-8 points: Your company may be at risk, but it is not too late. This score suggest your emergency management responsibilities are being partially met, but there is room for improvement. Start today to develop a comprehensive emergency management program today to enhance an emergency response.

Fewer than 5 points: You are at risk! Prompt action is necessary to enhance your emergency management program. You need to take immediate action to improve your ability to respond effectively to a major disaster. A complete review of emergency management organization and your role is warranted to reduce your risk.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

TRP Download

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, Incident Management, Training and Exercises, Emergency Management Program, Disaster Response, Emergency Action Plan

Integrated Contingency Plan - The "One Plan" for Regulatory Agencies

Posted on Thu, Aug 16, 2012

In 1996, the National Response Team published the Integrated Contingency Plan (ICP) Guidance in an effort to provide facilities with the means to comply with multiple federal planning requirements required by various regulatory agencies by consolidating them into one emergency response plan

By creating a single comprehensive integrated contingency plan, emergency managers can;

  • reduce the need for multiple plans
  • minimize administrative costs
  • simplify plan reviews
  • minimize discrepancies across various plans
  • streamline response directives from one source

An ICP does not exempt facilities from applicable regulatory planning requirements pertinent to releases of oil and non-hazardous substances. Multiple federal agencies endorse the use of an ICP as a means to incorporate statutes and regulations, include requirements for emergency response planning. A particular facility may use an ICP to incorporate one or more of the following applicable federal regulations:

  • EPA
    • Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation (SPCC and Facility Response Plan Requirements), 40 CFR part 112.7(d) and 112.20-.21
    • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Contingency Planning Requirements, 40 CFR part 264, Subpart D, 40 CFR part 265, Subpart D, and 40 CFR 279.52.
    • Risk Management Programs Regulation, 40 CFR part 68
  • Department of Transportation/Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
    • RSPA Pipeline Response Plan Regulation, 49 CFR part 194
    • US Coast Guard, Facility Response Plan Regulation, 33 CFR part 154, Subpart F
  • Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    • Emergency Action Plan Regulation, 29 CFR 1910.38(a)
    • OSHA's Process Safety Standard, 29 CFR 1910.119
    • OSHA's HAZWOPER Regulation, 29 CFR 1910.120

Facilities may also be subject to state emergency response planning requirements that is not included in the National Response Team ICP Guidance. Facilities are encouraged to coordinate development of their ICP with relevant state and local agencies to ensure compliance with any additional regulatory requirements.

National Response Team is composed of 16 Federal agencies having major responsibilities in environmental, transportation, emergency management, worker safety, and public health areas is the national body responsible for coordinating Federal planning, preparedness, and response actions related to oil discharges and hazardous substance releases

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: PHMSA, DOT, OSHA, Emergency Management, EPA, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Emergency Action Plan

Counteracting Emergency Response Plan Template Deficiencies

Posted on Thu, Jul 19, 2012

Every company and industrial facility is unique. Emergency response plan templates typically include the basic fundamentals of response planning. However, in order for an emergency response plan to be timely and effective, specific facility information and operational hazards must be addressed and included.  Additionally, local and state requirements vary depending on facility and operational specifications. Certain industries are required by law to institute a site-specific emergency response plan and train employees in the appropriate level and method of response. Generic response plan templates may result in an incomplete, ineffective, and non-regulatory compliant plan.

The process of creating the emergency plan typically includes multiple variables, such as potential threats, personnel, and outside resources. A generic plan template will not address every specification required of an emergency plan.  Below are twelve elements that should be considered in preparedness efforts in order to create an effective plan:

  1. Laws and Authorities
  2. Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
  3. Hazard Mitigation
  4. Resource Management
  5. Response Direction, Control, and Coordination
  6. Communications and Warning Systems
  7. Operations and Safety Procedures
  8. Logistics and Facilities
  9. Training
  10. Exercises, Evaluations, and Corrective Actions
  11. Crisis Communications

The following questions may assist companies in determining necessary site-specific information in developing an emergency plan using a generic template.

1. How will the emergency be reported and response initiated?

  • Create notification procedures. Emergency notifications may include 911, National Response Center, internal or external response teams
  • Alarms alert individuals of emergency.  Specific alarm signals may signal employee evacuation or shelter in place. Test alarms to confirm they are in proper working condition
  • Ensure employees are trained in immediate response actions per roles and responsibilities
  • Identify emergency classification levels to associated response procedures to combat emergency conditions and prevent the incident from escalating

2. Who will be in charge of the Incident and who will conduct additional response duties?

  • Create Emergency Team organizational Chart
  • Identify Emergency Management Team Activation
  • Create an Emergency Management Team roles and Responsibilities checklists

3. What threats affect the facility or employees?

  • Perform a detailed hazard and risk analysis
  • Create response procedures for each identified threat
  • Create process for incident documentation
  • Utilize appropriate ICS Forms
  • Identify equipment necessary for response

4. What incidents or classification level require evacuation/shelter in place?

  • Identify multiple evacuation routes.
  • Does the evacuation go beyond facility borders?
  • Identify the muster point(s) and head count procedures?

5. How are response actions sustained?

  • Create command post checklist
  • Identify response resources and equipment (both internal and external)
  • Create communications checklist and identify communications equipment available
  • Identify hazard control applicability and methods
  • Detail external communications and public relations policies

6. What is done after the incident is secured?

  • Create checklist to demobilize the response
  • Perform a post incident review and debriefing
  • Create “lessons learned” objectives and update response plan accordingly

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

TRP Download

Tags: Crisis Management, Emergency Management Program, Business Continuity Plan, Emergency Action Plan

Office Building Emergency Management and Response Plan Format

Posted on Thu, May 03, 2012

The primary goals of emergency management are to protect lives, prevent hazardous environmental impact, and limit facility damage. Office building owners and managers should demonstrate a commitment to emergency management by creating a systematic application of incident response policies, procedures, and practices to be carried out by all management levels.

To establish effective emergency management plans, building owners should conduct analyses to identify necessary site-specific safety measures, including those required in OSHA’s Emergency Action Plan. Analyses should identify the following details:

1. Site Analysis

  • Identify existing and potential site hazards through employee feedback,audits, and detailed inspections.

2. Task Analysis

  • Determine job specific methods and procedures for each employee’s duty to reduce or eliminate associated hazards.
  • Review and update methods and procedure when an incident occurs, job responsibilities change, or if hazards are identified through analysis.

3. Risk Analysis

  • Establish risk evaluation criteria, probability of incident, and potential consequences.
  • Monitor and review procedures for continuous improvement, effectiveness, control measures and changed conditions.

After initial analyses, site specific plans should be developed and communicated to building occupants. Depending on the characteristics of the building and inherent functions of the occupants, office building emergency response plans may consist of the required Emergency Action Plan, site specific Fire Pre Plans, and/or Hazardous Waste Operations. An office building emergency response plan should include the following minimum information:

  • Building description
  • Owner/Manager contact information
  • Emergency Assembly Point details
  • Internal and/or external emergency personnel information and contact details
  • Specific hazard details and possible MSDS information
  • Utility shut-off locations and descriptions
  • Alarm(s) description
  • Emergency equipment inventory and locations
  • Plot plan(s) and floor plan(s)
  • Risk, site, and task identified situational checklists and job specific procedures

Office building management should include a Health, Safety and Environmental Training Program to communicate regulatory requirements and site implementation methods of OSHA and other applicable government agency mandated safety training. Safety audits, inspections, task analyses, and incident investigations can identify a need for specific trainings needed to correct or limit unsafe procedures or processes. Job and site specific training should be implemented for current employees, new hires, supervisors that may need to carry out direct reports’ responsibilities.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

TRP Download

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Emergency Action Plan

The Retail Industry and the Emergency Action Plan Requirements

Posted on Thu, Apr 19, 2012

An armed man attempted to enter a manager’s office at a retail clothing store. The manager and a handful of employees locked themselves in the office to call 911, while the five customers were told to evacuate through the main doors. The gunman left the building undetected, and unfortunately without being apprehended by authorities.

This emergency situation ended without incident, however, the scenario could have resulted differently. The example highlights the need for a tailored, exercised, and site-specific emergency management program for both large and small retail centers. With a degree of forethought and planning, each potential threat should result in dedicated emergency response procedures. Emergency situations in a retail center can include, but is not limited to the following:

  • armed offender
  • fire
  • severe  weather
  • crowd control
  • lost/kidnapped child
  • power failure
  • bomb threat
  • suspicious package
  • natural gas leak

Many retail companies postpone or fail to develop and implement an emergency action plan.  However, the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a written emergency action plan for companies with more than 10 employees.


An emergency action plan must communicate the following:

  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(2))
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical operations before they evacuate (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(3))
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(4))
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(5))
  • Means of reporting fires or other emergencies (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(1))
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.(29 CFR 1910.38(c)(6))

By instituting OSHA’s required emergency action plan and incorporating its elements in an effective emergency management program, companies can take a proactive stance towards improving customer and employee safety, and reducing the impact from an emergency situation.

New Call-to-Action


Tags: Emergency Management, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Event Preparedness, Emergency Action Plan

Crisis Management Training for Proper Spill Response

Posted on Thu, Apr 12, 2012

Oil spill response plans may be ineffective if resources are not identified and contracted to support necessary response activities in the event of an oil spill . Depending on the hazards at a particular site, external response resources are typically necessary. However, a skilled and well-trained work force may constitute a facility’s most valuable resource in the event of a hazardous spill.

Through proper safety and training, all personnel should be aware of site hazards and mitigation procedures and possess a clear understanding of how and when to carry out their assigned emergency duties.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard 1910.120 (HAZWOPER), “Employers who will evacuate their employees from the worksite location when an emergency occurs and who do not permit any of their employees to assist in handling the emergency are exempt from the requirements of paragraph (p)(8) if they provide an emergency action plan complying with 29 CFR 1910.38.

Unless specifically trained in associated HAZWOPER emergency response levels, employees should respond in a defensive manner without attempting to terminate the release. If the situation dictates, an employee who is not trained in the HAZWOPER standard is to contain the release from a safe distance, limit expansion if possible, and prevent exposures. Upon a discovery of a hazardous spill, the initial responder should take the following actions:

  • Immediate ascertain safety and health precautions and take personal protective measures, potentially dawning the appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Initiate response actions consistent with level of training and response plan procedures
  • Activate appropriate alarm signal
  • Report the emergency and initiate proper notifications checklist
  • All other appropriate safety and health precautions provided to the employer's own employees should be used to assure the safety and health of these personnel.

Employees who are trained to respond to applicable site hazards have a greater ability to preserve life, property and the environment. Designing and conducting exercises are time consuming, but valuable in providing practice, assessing the state of your program, and identifying gaps and deficiencies that should be addressed prior to experiencing an actual emergency.

TRP Training

Tags: Incident Management, Oil Spill, Training and Exercises, Disaster Response, Emergency Action Plan

Enterprise-Wide Standardization of Emergency Plans

Posted on Mon, Mar 05, 2012

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards.

Despite the ISO’s emphasis on standardization among industry practices worldwide, there is often a lack of standardization among company’s many Emergency Response Plans. Under the Emergency Preparedness and Response requirement of ISO 14001:2004 (§4.4.7), an organization is required to establish procedures for identifying possible hazards and responding to emergency situations that can have an impact on the environment.

While including unique site-specific hazards and response capabilities for each facility, the overall response guidelines and plan organization and format should be standardized to allow for a comprehensive understanding of the parent company’s best practices and associated emergency procedures.

Standardized practices should include, but are not limited to:

  • Table of contents
  • Notification procedures
  • Response Team organization
  • Response Tactics
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Format of Fire Pre plans (if applicable)
  • Format of Tank Tables (if applicable)
  • Plot plans
  • Demobilization procedures
  • Company and Incident Command System (ICS) forms

While allowing the ability to include site-specific details, the emergency preparedness and response plans should include the following minimal guidelines:

  1. Identify site-specific potential emergency situations
  2. Identify potential environmental impacts of emergency situations
  3. Identify preventative measures to mitigate associated adverse environmental impacts
  4. Determine how the organization should respond to emergency situations
  5. Periodically simulate emergency situations
  6. Review and revise procedures based on lessons learned from actual and simulated emergency situations.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: Choosing a Consultant, Emergency Management, Resiliency, Incident Management, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Emergency Action Plan

Business Continuity Planning for Large Scale Events

Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012

On July 27, 2012, all eyes will be on the 30th Summer Olympics Game’s Opening Ceremonies. The committee, participants, and spectators are staking that every possible health and safety risk has been assessed, addressed, and planned for. Despite the magnitude, the emergency planning and operational security measures for such a global event has been planned, exercised, altered, and in place for months.

However, planning associated with with this multi-week infusion of activity should not be limited to the Olympic Committee stakeholders and associated emergency and security professionals. Local businesses in the path of large scale events should plan for potential disruptions. The Olympic Committee is encouraging businesses to prepare with the publication of “Preparing you Business for the Games” and a dedicated web page. With over 8 million Olympic tickets available, the sheer population increase is destined to affect typical business practices.

The Olympics, although an extreme in numbers, is just one example of how large scale events can alter “business as usual”. If proper business continuity measures are in place, companies can mitigate or lessen the impact of any potential disruptions.

Business Continuity planning concepts for large scale events should include, but are not limited to the following details:

  • Identify of critical business processes to maintain continued operation and mitigate as practicable. 
  • Identify the triggering events that initiate an emergency action, and specify checklist items to be taken.
  • Train assigned personnel to complete required checklist action(s) in case business continuity implementation is necessary.
  • Staffing Criteria: Increased population may affect typical transportation methods, staffing levels (depending on the industry), and/or flexible working hours.
  • Key Vendor and Supply Chain Requirements: Transportation delays could affect delivery times. Plan and mitigate accordingly.
  • IT Applications/Systems: Identify back up time lines, communication methods, and if possible, mitigate any potential networking disruptions. 
  • Alternate locations: Identify varied locations, if applicable (ex. satellite offices, home-based opportunities, alternate locations).
  • Identify recovery time objectives for each critical process.
  • Review and update personnel contact information and notification procedures.
  • Minimize vulnerabilities: Conduct pro-active measure to ensure the safety and security of the facility and employees, as needed.
  • Review emergency action and response plans with employees.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

TRP Download

Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Supply Chain, Emergency Action Plan

4 Common Tabletop Exercise Objectives

Posted on Mon, Oct 24, 2011

Environmental, Health, and Safety departments have regulatory requirements to schedule, coordinate, and document response exercises to satisfy industry-specific regulations. In preparation for these exercises, companies should develop exercise planning documents, including participants' and controllers' packages that contain exercise objectives, scenarios,  ground rules, and simulation scripts. These guidelines should be provided to all participants prior to the exercise.

Common tabletop exercise objectives

1. Practice application of National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS):

  • The Incident Management Team (IMT) should demonstrate a proficiency in utilizing the forms, processes, and terminology of the ICS to respond to the scenario. 

2. Demonstrate a functional understanding of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Incident Management Team (IMT) organizations.

  • The ERT and the IMT should have a clear understanding of their specific roles and responsibilities. Gaps in training should be identified and follow-up action taken to ensure that these gaps are addressed.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of the Unified Common organization(s), and general responsibilities and expectation of the company.

  • The ERT and IMT should have a clear understanding of the capabilities of each outside responding organization. Communication processes, response methods, roles and responsibilities, and available equipment should be identified and confirmed. for the applicable scenario.

4. Demonstrate the ability to document and communicate actions, management decision, and track resources, using standardized Incident Command System (ICS) forms and the Emergency response Plan (ERP).

  • Participants should record processes and implemented procedures per regulatory requirement and company standards. Documentation can be used for response assessments, team reviews, and to create action items to improve follow-up and the emergency response plan.

For a free guide that details the world of HAZWOPER training, download A Guide to HAZWOPER Training.

HAZWOPER training guide

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Training and Exercises, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Disaster Recovery, Emergency Action Plan, HAZWOPER