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4 Preparedness Templates Every Response Plan Administrator Must Have

Posted on Thu, May 08, 2014

Every company, whether an industrial enterprise or a large office building management group, must operate profitably and ensure the safety of its employees, yet comply with a complex array of federal, state and local regulations.  A lack of response planning and neglectful preparedness efforts can result in regulatory compliance fines, infrastructure damage, a negative public perception, and possibly a government-mandated shutdown of operations. While response plan requirements vary by industry, operation, and applicable regulations, utilizing these four preparedness elements can lay the foundation for a basic response planning program.

1. Emergency Response Plan: Every effort should be made to include processes and procedures to respond to the most likely emergency scenarios relevant to your site. Depending on industry, operations, and site hazards, companies may be required to submit specialized response plans to one or a variety of federal regulatory agencies.

Emergency responses plans need to serve a specific response purpose and meet explicit planning objectives. Below is a list of some basic planning objectives that may be relevant to your facility:

  1. Establish site-specific emergency response procedures for each potential threat, risk or emergency scenario. These may include, but are not limited to:
    1. Medical emergencies
    2. Hazardous releases
    3. Fire
    4. Severe weather
    5. Security issues
  2. Design an emergency response team framework and assign personnel to fill primary and alternate roles.
  3. Define notification and emergency response team activation procedures.
  4. Establish communication procedures and a primary and alternate Emergency Operations Center location.
  5. Identify and quantify necessary response equipment
  6. Ensure emergency response team personnel receive applicable and required training.
  7. Establish mitigation procedures and protective actions to safeguard the health and safety of on-site personnel and nearby communities.
  8. Identify and ensure availability of responders and supply chain resources.
  9. Maintain compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal requirements for environmental hazards, response plans, and training requirements.
  10. Integrate best practices and lessons learned from past training and exercises, actual emergencies, and incident reviews.

2. Fire Pre plan: The purpose of the pre fire emergency plans is to ensure a coordinated, expedient, and safe response in the event of a fire. The information listed in a fire pre-plan, such as floor plan(s) and details of on-site hazardous material(s), may also required by multiple agencies (OSHA, DOT, EPA, USCG) as part of an overall emergency response plan.  However, specific fire fighting information, such as construction details, hydrant, and utility valve locations may be useful to responders if highlighted in a stand-alone format and shared with responders prior to an emergency.

Having up-to-date information readily available, and available to knowledgeable responders has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency.  The faster responders can locate, assess, access, and mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained...and the sooner facility operations can be restored to “business as usual”.

3. Business Continuity: Companies should establish methods to preserve critical business processes during adverse conditions to ensure operational viability and minimize the potential of lost revenues. Failure to develop an effective business continuity plan can lead to costly and devastating impacts, often affecting the long-term viability of a company.

The following business continuity planning cycle should be incorporated into every business process in order to reduce the duration of a disruption during an emergency.

  • PLAN: Identify the following -
    • Potential risks/threats
    • Trigger events
    • Impacted business processes/activities
    • Incident response structure
    • Warning and communication process
    • Recovery time objectives
  • ESTABLISH: Define the following -
    • Parameters of business continuity strategy
    • Communication and documentation processes
    • Training requirements
    • Detailed employee/ vendor contact information
    • Supplier dependencies and alternate resources
  • IMPLEMENT:
    • Initiate response checklists
    • Activate relocation strategies of critical processes
  • OPERATE: Manage critical processes and recovery time objectives.
  • MONITOR:
    • Equipment requirements
    • Primary and alternate facility details
    • Application and software requirements
  • MAINTAIN: Update key details and associated processes as deficiencies and inaccuracies are identified
  • CONTINUALLY IMPROVE: Incorporate lessons learned into the plans and training and periodically evaluate critical business processes to ensure that evolving businesses practices are captured.

4. Crisis Management Plan: When incidents occur, a crisis management plan (CMP) can minimize the escalation effect; such as a company’s short and long-term reputation, adverse financial performance, and overall impingement of company longevity. The associated level of preparedness may mean the difference between a crisis averted and an exhaustive corporate disaster.  

The following concepts should be utilized to generate an effective crisis management plan:

  • PREDICT: Identify all potential threats to “business as usual” operations. This can range from incidents requiring an emergency response to human resource controversies.
  • POSITION: Determine what your position or viewpoint will be on potential issues.
  • PREVENT: Take preventive measures to avert emergency situations and proactively deter negative perceptions. This includes generating effective response procedures and recovery processes for a variety of potential threats..
  • PLAN:  If mitigation efforts fail or an emergency situation arises, prepare a plan for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. This may include identifying and communicating with media, and all audiences that may be affected by each crisis situation.
  • PERSEVERE: Follow your plan and communicate company positions and ongoing activities to counteract the incident. Proactive efforts, honesty, empathy, and preparedness will assist in maintaining company viability and reputation.
  • EVALUATE: If the CMP is enacted, review the results to determine if adjustments should be made.

 

Challenged with managing preparedness amongst your various facilites? Download TRP's best practices guide on response planning for large organizations with multi-facility operations.

Multiple Facility Response Planning Company Preparedness Guide DOWNLOAD

Tags: Fire Pre Plans, Business Continuity, Fire Preparedness, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Crisis Management, Emergency Response Planning, Business Continuity Plan

3 "Best Practice" Concepts for Managing Established Response Plans

Posted on Mon, May 05, 2014

The potential reality of an emergency scenario, employee injury or death, business interruption, or negative corporate reputation is an ongoing risk. Because of this persistent potential and changing variables, preparedness must be an evolutionary process.  Establishing and maintaining mechanisms, processes, and/or procedures that result in predictable and repeatable behavior that counteract negatively impacting scenarios is the objective of preparedness.

“Preparedness is best thought of as a process—a continuing sequence of analyses, plan development, and the acquisition of individual and team performance skills achieved through training, drills, exercises, and critiques.” (Dynes, et al., 1972; Kartez & Lindell, 1987, 1990).

It is important to recognize that improvising and implementing unplanned response actions is time-consuming, often inadequate, and typically damaging. Whether companies have established response plans, or are developing new plans, they must establish a process to incorporate the following response planning elements:

  1. Identify
  2. Review
  3. Verify

Each response-planning element is strongly connected with the others. When all three elements are in motion, the ongoing process of preparedness is established, giving companies the best possible prognosis for an effective response.

1. Identify: Preparedness is a continual sequence of analysis. Operational consolidation and growth, and changing threat variables require recognition. In order to prepare for and respond to an incident, emergency managers must identify:

  • What risks and hazards may result in an incident?
  • What processes are put in place to limit the exposures to risks and hazards?
  • What community/environmental sensitivities exist?
  • Who will respond when an incident occurs?
  • How will responders respond (processes and procedures)?
  • How will individuals/employees respond to secure their safety?
  • What training will responders need to respond, counteract impacts, and restore to pre-incident levels
  • What tools/equipment are necessary to respond to an incident and who will provide these necessities?
  • What local, state, and/or federal organizations should be consulted?
  • What regulations apply?
2. Review: The preparedness process and response plans must be adjusted to accommodate newly identified variables. Reviews of response procedures, mitigation opportunities, best practices, response objectives, and operational requirements are necessary to ensure preparedness and effective response measures are in place. Reviews should include, but are not limited to:
  1. Data and computer needs: Review the procedural details of computer backups, data restoration methods, and the minimum program needs to re-establish critical business processes.  Companies should examine current data center outsourcing or other alternatives to ensure continuity and accessibility.
  2. Notification lists:  Response plan administrators must be certain that newly-assigned personnel are included in the plan, as necessary, and that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers. Review contact lists to ensure all necessary information is correct.
  3. Communication needs: Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. Evaluate current communication equipment and/or mass notification systems to communicate to key individuals, company employees, or an entire client base, as each scenario deems necessary.
  4. Supply Chain: As a company’s needs change and new suppliers come online, potential suppliers should be evaluated and plans should be updated to reflect any changes. Alternate resources should be reviewed to ensure availability, delivery, and continued operations in the event primary suppliers are not available when needed.
  5. Essential Personnel: Ensure necessary minimum staffing levels are acceptable to remain operational.  Review individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives with staff, contractors, and suppliers.
  6. Equipment needs: Review availability of necessary equipment and establish processes for response, recovery, and continued operations, in order to minimize downtime and additional recovery efforts. .

3. Verify: The overall emergency response program readiness must be verified for effectiveness and accuracy, regardless of the threat or hazard. Training and exercises are valuable verification tools that can confirm effective response planning and preparedness efforts. Verification should include, but is not limited to:

  • A system for assessing emergency scenarios and prioritizing incident responses
  • Thresholds and procedures for activating the Incident Management or Crisis Management Team
  • Notification information (If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for a e-mail notification verification system that enables each contact to verify their own information. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to register for notifications.)
  • Roles and responsibilities of the Incident Management or Crisis Management Team members
  • Communication and notification procedures to facilitate interaction among responders and Incident Management Team
  • Guidelines and checklists to facilitate an effective and organized response
  • Verification of on-site hazardous materials details, response equipment, and response times

(Note: The compiled lists are not all-inclusive.  A comprehensive preparedness program must include the identification, review, and verification of site-specific details, regulatory compliance requirements, response parameters, training and exercise measures, and applicable hazards, risks, and threats)

Challenged with managing preparedness amongst your various facilites? Download TRP's best practices guide on response planning for large organizations with multi-facility operations.

Multiple Facility Response Planning Company Preparedness Guide DOWNLOAD

 

Tags: Facility Response Plan, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Emergency Response Planning, Event Preparedness

An Expert Guide to Demobilization and Post-Incident Recovery

Posted on Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Pre planning for demobilization and post-incident recovery allows for a collaborative understanding of necessary recovery elements and critical business unit restoration processes. Recovery objectives should include the meticulous restoration, strengthening, and revitalization of the site, surrounding infrastructures, and operations.

Disaster response operations should prioritize timely and accurate communication to facility managers, critical decision makers, emergency response teams, stakeholders, vendors and contractors, and, if applicable, the public in order to accelerate recovery without duplicating efforts. Once the response is concluded, specific demobilization guidelines provide “agreed-to procedures” to help facilitate a more organized and expedited return to normal operating conditions.  

The process of standing down response resources in an efficient and timely manner provides considerable cost benefits.

Issues to consider for demobilization include:

  • The On-Scene Incident Commander should approve the release or demobilize of response resources prior to initializing the process
  • Assign personnel to identify surplus resources and probable resource release times
  • Establish demobilization priorities based on the specific incident
  • Verify established decontamination procedures and necessary resources are available
  • If necessary, develop/communicate a Disposal Plan for the disposal of hazardous materials or wastes, as necessary.
  • Identify personnel travel needs and coordinate travel arrangements, as necessary.
  • Plan for equipment repair, decontamination, maintenance services, and inspections, as necessary
  • Initialize impact assessments and post-incident reviews

Even as the site response is being demobilized, responders must maintain heightened safety awareness. Any incident that extends beyond normal operating procedures may require a recovery plan component. The ability to institute a successful recovery plan requires stakeholders to maintain a clear understanding of post-disaster roles, responsibilities, and objectives. These components may include, but are not limited to:

RECOVERY PLANNING

  • Coordinate development, training, and exercise of the disaster recovery plan.
  • Establish and maintain contacts/networks for recovery resources and support systems.
  • Promulgate principles and practices that perpetuate resiliency and sustainability

RECOVERY OPERATIONS

  • Assess damage
  • Verify facility accessibility and safety
  • Identify internal and external recovery team contacts and contractors
  • Identify the scope of work for repair
  • Development of site specific plans and schedules for executing repairs
  • Restoration of operations
  • Institute mitigation measures
  • Identify “lessons learned” through post-incident reviews

Once the recovery period begins and/or appears that it will extend beyond the recovery capabilities of the facility, the Incident Commander should be responsible for the following:

  • Lead the creation and coordinate the activities of local recovery-dedicated organizations and initiatives.
  • Work with the federal, state, and local agency coordinators to develop a unified and accessible communication strategy.
  • Participate in damage and impact assessments with other recovery partners.
  • Organize recovery-planning processes to fully engage stakeholders and identify recovery objectives, priorities, resources, capabilities, and recovery capacity.
  • Ensure inclusiveness of the community in the recovery process through media and public relations efforts
  • Continually communicate recovery priorities to government liaisons, recovery stakeholders, employees, and the community.
  • Incorporate critical mitigation, resilience, sustainability and accessibility building measures into the recovery plans and efforts.
  • Lead the development of the facility’s recovery plan(s) and ensure that they are actionable and feasible based on available funding and capacity.
  • Collaborate with State, Federal and other stakeholders to identify external financial support for recovery, leverage the resources where possible and resolve potential duplication of assistance.
  • Work closely with the recovery leadership at all levels to ensure a well-coordinated, timely, and well-executed recovery.
  • Develop and implement recovery progress measures and communicate adjustments and improvements to applicable stakeholders and authorities.

The primary purpose of post-incident reviews is to identify deficiencies in the response plan and determine necessary actions to correct the deficiencies. The post-incident reviews can often reveal which response procedures, equipment, and techniques were effective, and which were not and the reason(s) why. These reviews can lead to “lessons learned” and should be reflected in the response plan, training efforts, and exercise objectives.

At a minimum, post-incident review checklists should include:

  • Name and typical duties of personnel being debriefed
  • Date, time and whereabouts of employee during incident
  • Actions taken during incident
  • Positive aspects of how the response occurred
  • Aspects identified for improvement

Be prepared for your next incident! Click the image below to download your free guide.

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Tags: Incident Action Plan, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Incident Management, Event Preparedness

A Lesson in Emergency Preparedness: Learn from Past Incidents

Posted on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

From every event, whether a planned exercise or an actual emergency, lessons can be learned to improve the outcome of the next response. Emergency managers should not camouflage preparedness, response, or communication failures.  Instead, they should draw from the scenario experience to improve the overall emergency management program.

Immediately after an exercise or incident, it is critical to:

  1. Conduct post incident reviews
  2. Gather conclusions from interviews
  3. Identify necessary changes for program implementation
  4. Apply lessons to targeted area(s)

Actual recovery times can be evaluated and any obstacles that led to perpetuating the response should be mitigated. Emergency managers should incorporate lessons learned into response plans, highlight any additional training measures, and inject new responses procedures into exercise simulations.

The post-incident review is an evaluation of incident response used to identify and correct weaknesses, as well as determine strengths. Timing of a post-incident review is critical. An effective review requires that response and preparedness discussions take place while a disaster fresh in the minds of decision makers, responders, and the public. From this review, lessons learned can be identified and the task of preparedness and response improvement can begin.

The post-incident review process is intended to identify which response procedures, equipment, and techniques were effective or ineffective, and the reason(s) why. The question “How can our emergency response process be improved?” should be asked for each subject under the post-incident critique.

Post-incident reviews should include, but is not limited to:

  1. Name and typical duties of personnel being debriefed
  2. Date, time and whereabouts of employee during incident
  3. Specific actions performed during the incident
  4. Documentation of the positive aspects of the response and areas for improvements
  5. Recovery time and possible mitigation measures for improvement
  6. Potential lessons learned
  7. Necessary program and plan revisions
  8. Condition of equipment used, both prior to and after the incident
  9. Overall post-incident perception

Key areas of consideration that should be analyzed by a review team can include, but not limited to:

Initial Response

  • Was the emergency detected promptly?
  • How was it detected?
  • Could it have been detected earlier? How?
  • Are any instruments or procedures available to consider, which might aid in earlier detection of the incident?

Notifications

  • Were proper procedures followed in notifying government agencies?
  • Were notifications prompt?
  • Was management notified promptly?
  • Were personnel notified promptly? If so, why, how and who? If not, why not?
  • Were contact numbers up to date?

Assessment/Evaluation

  • Was the magnitude of the problem assessed correctly at the start?
  • What means were used for this assessment?
  • Are any guides or aids needed to assist emergency evaluation?
  • What sources of information were available on winds, on water currents and other variables?
  • Is our information adequate?

Response Mobilization

  • What steps were taken to mobilize countermeasures to the emergency?
  • What resources were used?
  • Was mobilization prompt? Could the response time improve? How?
  • What about mobilization of labor resources?
  • Was it appropriate to mobilize company resources and was this promptly initiated?
  • What other company resources are available and have they been identified and used adequately?

Response Strategy

  • Was there a Response Plan available for reference?
  • Was it flexible enough to cope with unexpected events?
  • Does the plan include clear understanding of local environmental, political or human sensitivities?
  • What was the initial strategy for response to this emergency?
  • Is this strategy defined in the Response Plan?
  • How did the strategy evolve and change during the emergency and how were these changes implemented?

Response Resources

  • What resources were mobilized?
  • How were they mobilized?
  • How did resource utilization change with time? Why?
  • Were resources used effectively?
  • What changes would have been useful?
  • Do we have adequate knowledge of resource availability?

Command Structure

  • Who was initially in charge of responding to the emergency?
  • How did this change with time? Why?
  • What changes would have been useful?
  • Was there adequate monitoring of the incident?
  • Were communications adequate?
  • Was support from financial services adequate? Prompt?
  • Should financial procedures be developed to handle such incidents?

Upon conclusion of the post-incident interviews, the following lesson learned concepts should be examined, mitigated if possible, and incorporated for an improved emergency management program:

  1. Unidentified potential risk or hazard: A hazard and vulnerability analysis should be performed, and processes and procedures should be developed and added to the plans.
  2. Management gaps and weaknesses: If the post incident reviews revealed weaknesses or gaps in the emergency management organization, the structure and/or roles should be modified and emergency plans revised.
  3. Ineffective policies and procedures: If the policies and procedures fail to address key issues during the incident, policies and procedures would need to be modified to address inadequacies.
  4. Lack of response proficiency: If response was faulty due to deficient training, exercising, or planning, these efforts should be amplified and personnel should be familiarized with these modifications
  5. Planning deviations: If participants successfully diverged from existing processes, procedures, or plans theses areas should be modified to reflect the reality of the performance.

Applying lessons learned to an emergency management program enables the ability to use experiences as a means to improve to better prepare for future emergency scenarios. By analyzing the past, executing enhancements, and reinforcing strengths companies and municipalities will be better prepared to not repeat history.

For your free guide on preparing for your next incident, click the image below:

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Tags: Tactical Response Planning, Crisis Mapping, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Emergency Response Planning

Real Time Incident Management Systems Aid Emergency Responses

Posted on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

On March 22, 2014, a barge carrying nearly 900,000 gallons of marine fuel oil collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel. The collision led to the spill of an estimated 168,000 gallons of the heavy oil into the channel. The spill closed a critical area marine hub, impacted the local migrating wildlife, and spread nearly 12 miles into the Gulf of Mexico.

The event highlights the importance of minimizing impacts through immediate, effective, and decisive communications and response actions. As the duration of an incident increases, it is likely that impacts will broaden. Real-time incident management is becoming more of an expected standard in today’s industrial settings. Current societal norms dictate the necessity for immediate access to crucial and timely information, especially during an emergency response.

A real-time incident management system (IMS) allows for real-time transmission of incident details, including location, severity, impact, and status.  Because of the instantaneous communication, decisions and coordinated efforts can be tailored to an event as it evolves. A real-time system can:

  • Reduce exponential impact of incidents through timely response
  • Increase effectiveness of response
  • Track status of the incident and all aspects of the response based on each organization/departments assignment(s) and operational levels
  • Clarify necessary deployment of resources in order to prevent duplication of efforts
  • Provides a means to aggregate data into a format that enables real-time analysis and decision making to ensure the most efficient and effective emergency response
  • Provide an instantaneous method of emergency situational awareness

However, response actions must not fall victim to exaggerated miscalculations, rumors, and inaccuracies. The incident commander must ensure rapid responses and decisive actions are relevant and best suited for the site-specific scenario. In order for a real-time IMS to be effective, specific situational checklists should be created.  Responders must understand applicable emergency procedures,  status updates that need to be communicated, and in what time frame communications need to be documented.  An incident should be managed through clearly identified and communicated objectives. These objectives should include:

  • Establishing specific incident objectives
  • Developing strategies based on incident objectives
  • Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.
  • Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them in support of defined strategies.
  • Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions

Just as timely communication methodology is important, commonly understood terminology is essential. A multi-agency incident response requires simple and parallel language. Rapidly communicating through unfamiliar company radio codes, agency specific codes, perplexing acronyms, unanticipated text messages, or specialized jargon will disconnect and confuse responders, and/or stakeholders, possibly prolonging a response.

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date picture of resource utilization is a critical component of incident management and emergency response.  Each real-time status update should identify the following in order to clearly communicate to those in the Incident Command System:

  • Time of update (timestamp)
  • Incident or event name
  • Elapsed time of incident from initiation
  • Name/position of responder making status updates
  • Current planning phase and/or specific status update
  • Tasks assigned, both internally and externally, and resources used or required
  • Emergency Operations Center location and contact information

Companies that are required to maintain emergency response plans for regulatory purposes should consider the use of web-based response plans that integrate with a real-time IMS. Minimizing the consequences at the site, the environment, and the responders offsets the cost of implementing a new IMS.  Improving reactive decision management, timeliness of an ongoing response, and swift implementation of recovery strategies can limit resulting effects of any emergency situation.

Be prepared!  Download TRP's free guide by clicking the image below:

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Tags: Emergency Response, Emergency Preparedness, Incident Management, Oil Spill, Communication Plan, Political Instability

8 Expert Tips: Improve Your Preparedness and Response Planning Program

Posted on Mon, Apr 07, 2014

Improving the effectiveness of emergency response programs should be an ongoing event. From technological advancements to best practices implementation, continually evolving planning programs can reduce unexpected impacts on individuals, infrastructures, and the environment.

Below are eight tips to consider in the continual effort to improve a response-planning program:

1. Data Accuracy: Establishing readily available up-to-date information has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency.  The faster responders can locate, assess, access and implement accurate response actions to mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained, and operations can be restored to “business as usual”.

The specific information regarding company operations, on-site equipment, and employees are continuously changing.  Accurate details of these modifications, expansions, and adjustments must be incorporated into the emergency response-planning program.  If the information contained within the plan is missing or out-of-date, the response will be hindered.  Additionally, necessary compliance data relevant to ever-changing regulatory requirements must be accurately applied in order to eliminate the potential for fines.

2. Training: Training programs that include properly trained personnel, guidance, documentation, and oversight help ensure compliance with agency regulations. These regulatory requirements are designed to prevent harm and ensure adequate responses to protect the public. However, companies should not rely on regulatory training requirements and agency inspections to ensure training programs are sufficient.

Companies need to perform cyclical internal training program audits to create corporate assurance, add EHS program value, improve operational safety, and ideally prevent harmful incidents from occurring. Objective internal auditing emphasizes corporate responsibility to employees, the environment, and the surrounding communities and can often reveal inadequacies and mitigation opportunities. Training audits can bring a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluating and improving the effectiveness of risk management, control, and corporate governance processes.

3. Exercises: Real world exercise scenarios can often highlight potential deficiencies in the response plan and procedures, comprehension of individual roles and responsibilities, and partnership coordination. However, it is through identified deficiencies that mitigation opportunities are revealed and valuable response knowledge and experiences can be attained.

Exercises provide a setting for operational response procedures to be tested. In preparation for these exercises, companies should develop exercise-planning documents, including participant and controller’s packages that contain exercise objectives, scenarios, ground rules, and simulation scripts. These guidelines, at a minimum, should be provided to all participants prior to the exercise to allow for a thorough examination of exercise expectations.

4. Accessibility: Web-based response plans offer the greatest secured accessibility option for stakeholders, auditors, and inspectors while bolstering an entire emergency management program. With web-based technology and an Internet connection, response planning program information embedded with database driven software can be immediately and securely available without the “version confusion” typically found in other formats. Both paper-based plans and those housed on a company intranet are often out of date with multiple versions in various locations, potentially misinforming the response team.

5. Collaboration: Response planning program effectiveness can be optimized through effective interoperability: the ability for diverse organizations to work together for a greater good. Broadening the scope of response expertise can greatly benefit a facility by limiting the timeline of potentially escalating emergencies. Coordinating planning, training, drills, and resource availability with local agencies and responders is an important aspect of an effective environmental, health and safety program.

Local agencies may provide additional response knowledge based on particular research, experiences, or occupational training in a particular area of study. Emergency managers should continually meet with government agencies, community organizations, and utility companies throughout the entire planning cycle to discuss likely emergencies and the available resources to minimize the effects on the community.

6. Auditing: Audits, whether conducted by in-house professionals or experienced consultants, can often reveal the same inadequacies and mitigation opportunities as regulatory agencies.  Regrettably, most companies address response plan gaps only after an incident or agency inspection occurs. With an objective eye, a gap analysis generated by an audit can bolster a response-planning program and minimize the chance of impeding incidents or budget-crippling regulatory fines.

7. Mitigation: Adverse conditions, unsafe activities, or ineffective responses pose risks to occupants, facilities, the environment, and/or communities. By eliminating or mitigating risks, companies can reduce the potential for emergency situations. The risk assessment process can be used to identify situations that may lead to incidents or prolong a response.

While all risks cannot be averted, a facility can become better prepared for disasters if the procedural risk mitigation measures are implemented. Mitigation measures may include a variety of tactics including, but not limited to training for employees, updating safety processes and procedures, or purchasing updated equipment.

8. Best Practices Implementation: Applying best practices to an response planning program enables emergency managers to leverage past experiences as a means to improve planning efforts for future emergency response scenarios. By analyzing past incidents and responses, executing enhancements, and reinforcing lessons learned, companies and municipalities will be better prepared than their historical counterparts.

Be prepared for your next incident! Click the image below to download your free guide.

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Tags: Emergency Response, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Training and Exercises, Emergency Response Planning, Communication Plan

The Preparedness Secrets to Reducing Response Time

Posted on Thu, Apr 03, 2014

In emergency management, response time is critical. The faster an effective response can be initiated, the less chance of an incident escalating and adversely impacting the facility, employees, the environment, and a company’s reputation. Rapid incident response requires accurate communication, training, and exercises.

An accurate plan must be in place for optimal response times. Verification of contact information for company personnel, emergency responders, and agencies should be done on a periodic basis. Any delay in communication will increase response times, delay response actions, and exacerbate the potential impacts.

In order to react quickly, companies need to prepare response plans with flexible, yet pre-identified response strategies. It is critical that the emergency management framework, response measures, and communication strategies be tested and exercised before an incident occurs.

Response plan audits ensure detailed accuracy, plan applicability, and regulatory compliance. Throughout the audit process, a variety of aspects can be tested to ensure optimal response times. Certain elements to test include, but are not limited to:

  • Viability of communications systems (monthly)
  • Alerts, notifications, and activation procedures (quarterly) for all response personnel
  • Response equipment (monthly)
  • Accessibility of response plan
  • Primary and backup infrastructure systems and services
  • Plans for recovering vital records, critical information systems, services, and data
Most successful and timely responses result from a prepared strategy, with a cooperative understanding of response roles and responsibilities. Having a “real-time” incident management system in place may alleviate some of the shortfalls in response measures. However, employees and responders must be trained in response procedures in order to carry out expected actions. In order to limit response times, the following training and exercise concepts should be implemented:

TRAINING

  • Train employees on response roles and responsibilities
  • Conduct incident response orientations and briefings for the entire workforce
  • Train company leadership on response team organization and applicable functions
  • Train personnel on response plans and procedures
  • Allow opportunities for response personnel to demonstrate familiarity with the plans and procedures
  • Report documented training to applicable regulatory agencies

EXERCISES

  • Exercise physical security attributes at the site
  • Test internal and external interdependencies,  with respect to performance of critical response functions
  • Conduct exercises that incorporate deliberate response actions and measure overall response time
  • Conduct exercises using scenarios that involve evacuation, shelter in place, or virtual office accessibility
  • Demonstrate coordinated communications capability
  • Allow opportunity for continuity personnel to demonstrate their familiarity with the recovery and restoration procedures to transition from a continuity environment to normal activities

Coordinating planning, training, drills, and resource availability with local agencies and responders is an important aspect of an effective environmental, health and safety program. Broadening the scope of response expertise can minimize response time. Local agencies may provide additional response knowledge based on particular research, experiences, or training. Not only can response time be reduced, but also the overall duration of the incident.

Emergency managers should continually meet with potential response partners such as government agencies, community organizations, neighboring companies, and utilities companies.  Communicating with external alliances throughout the entire planning cycle can drastically reduce response time. Sources of local collaborative response efforts and plan management information may include:

  • Community Emergency Management office
  • Mayor or Community Administrator’s office
  • Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)
  • Fire Department
  • Police Department
  • Emergency Medical Services organizations
  • American Red Cross
  • National Weather Service
  • Public Works Department
  • Telephone companies
  • Electric companies
  • Neighboring businesses

Companies that are required to maintain emergency response plans for regulatory purposes should consider the use of web-based response plans that integrate with real-time incident management systems in order to maximize their emergency response efforts.

Be prepared for your next incident! Click the image below to download your free guide.

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Tags: Tabletop Exercise, Emergency Response, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Emergency Response Planning

Tips for Up-To-Date and Compliant Response Plans: The Ongoing Challenge

Posted on Thu, Mar 13, 2014

Emergency planning is an ongoing process. Company operations, utilized equipment, and employees are continuously changing.  Modifications, expansions, and adjustments need to be incorporated into the emergency response plan to ensure compliance and an accurate and effective response in the event of an emergency. The ever-changing regulatory requirements and plan submittal processes must be observed and applied in order to eliminate the potential for fines.

Corporate emergency preparedness programs and applicable plans need to be reviewed, at a minimum, on an annual basis. However, plan reviews and potential updates should be conducted under the following situations:

  • Regulations deem changes are mandatory
  • An incident has occurred that highlights new best practices
  • A change in the status of current operations
  • A change in internal/external response capabilities
  • Changes to contact information
  • Company merger or acquisition
  • Site alterations/renovations
  • A vulnerability analysis reveals new risks/threats
  • A change in response resources/equipment

A concerted effort is being made in the emergency preparedness industry for companies to embrace new technologies and apply them to their environmental, health, and safety practices. The ability to streamline updates and share real-time incident information allows for a targeted, faster, and efficient response. It is crucial that first responders, company decision makers, and the emergency services community utilize rapid informational measures for situational assessments. However, if the information is out-of date, responders may be at risk, effective response decisions will not be implemented, and regulatory compliance may be compromised.

With web-based technology and an Internet connection, revised information is immediately available to all approved stakeholders. Both paper-based plans and those housed on a company intranet are often out of date with multiple versions in various locations, potentially misinforming the response team.  Microsoft Word or PDF documents, a traditionally common format used in response plans, are cumbersome to revise for various plan types and locations. Web based software eliminates” version confusion” and allows responders to apply the most up-to-date and tested processes to a response.

A methodological process should be applied to updating response plans. While tracking systems can itemize applicable federal, state, and local regulations, categorical information should be reviewed for accuracy. 

One of the most important aspects of maintaining up-to-date and compliant plans is to update the information in a timely manner. Cyclical response planning checks enable continuous reviews and potential revision opportunities, creating the most efficient and compliant response plan possible. Companies must be aware of the various submission requirements of applicable regulatory agencies regarding revisions and compliance.

Cyclical response plan reviews should include internal response plans and policies, and the following response areas for accuracy and effectiveness:

  • Safety and health procedures
  • Evacuation plan
  • Fire protection plan
  • Environmental policies
  • Security procedures
  • Response procedures
  • Communication Plans
  • Employee manuals
  • Business Continuity plan
  • Risk management plan
  • Hurricane/Tornado/Flood Plans
  • Mutual aid agreements

The review of company emergency response planning documents should include updates from collaborating response groups. Open communications with internal and external responders will ensure plan and response procedures are current, and carried out in accordance with company protocol. Groups to consider in planning reviews include, but are not limited to:

  • Local responders fire, police, emergency medical services)
  • Government agencies (LEPC, emergency management offices, etc)
  • Community organizations (Red Cross, weather services)
  • Utility company(s) (gas, electric, public works, telephone)
  • Contracted emergency responders
  • Neighboring businesses

Establishing readily available up-to-date information has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency.  The faster responders can locate, assess, access, and mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained, and operations can be restored to “business as usual”.

For a free Audit Preparedness Guide for Industrial Regulatory Compliance, click the image below:

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Tags: Testing, Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Regulatory Compliance, Emergency Management Program, Emergency Response Planning

2 Tips for Simplifying Future Regulatory Compliance Audits

Posted on Thu, Mar 06, 2014

The goal of performing gap analyses, audits, and regulatory inspections is to minimize the potential for emergency incidents, ensure regulatory compliance, and streamline response actions. Maximizing safety standards and processes, and implementing “best practices” should be part of a company’s core ethical principles, even when law does not mandate them.

In order to simplify future audits, companies should become familiar with the following two key concepts:

  1. Industry Best Practices
  2. Regulatory Recognition

Companies should not rely on the prospect of a regulatory agency inspection to ensure preparedness programs are sufficient. Your facility’s innate problems are most likely shared with others within your industry. Companies can be guided on how to approach a problem or implement a solution by researching applicable best practices. Often, the expertise and knowledge that drove the best practices into existence stems from the emergency response experiences of others and their motivated efforts to address the inherent problem(s).

While companies may not need to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to safety and response procedures, facilities need to confirm that the best practices apply to their site-specific situation.  There are numerous industry-specific best practices within safety, preparedness, and response planning. Additionally, each facet of a company’s operations can be broken down to examine specific best practices for a particular action, material, scenario, or site circumstance.  For example, best practices exist in the following areas:

  • Pre-incident planning
  • Training
  • Exercises
  • National Incident Management System
  • Security
  • Fire brigades
  • Rescue
  • Hazardous materials handling/response
  • Fire loss prevention
  • Evacuation
  • And more

To identify applicable best practices, companies must identify site and operational risks and associated necessary responses. Each facility should be analyzed for potential risks and/or hazards. Once hazards are recognized and evaluated, they should be eliminated or controlled through mitigation and/or procedural planning. Identified site characteristics, countermeasures, and response efforts should be included in required regulatory plans.

In order to attain compliance, applicable regulations must be recognized. Regulations must be recognized in order for a gap on processes, procedures, or responses to be identified. Regulatory recognition can occur through routine inspections, job hazard analyses, and audits. Facility managers, and company health, safety, and environmental managers should become familiar with regulations applicable to their area of responsibility .  These individuals, or a consultant with specialized industry and regulatory experience, should identify all applicable regulations based on location, industry, operations, hazards, and response specifics. According to FEMA, companies should review applicable regulations relating to the following areas:

  • Employee Safety & Health:  Emergency action plans are one of the OSHA standards that apply to many employers with 10 or more employees. Other regulations pertain to means of egress (exits), medical services, hazardous waste, confined spaces, fire protection, firefighting and more.
  • Environmental Regulations: Businesses that manufacture, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous chemicals that exceed threshold quantities may be required to comply with multiple environmental regulations.
  • Business Continuity and Information Technology: Businesses that store customer contacts and financial information, such as credit card data, may have to comply with information security regulations. Companies should remain in communication with their specific industry trade group or state office of economic development for applicable regulations.
  • Life Safety and Fire Codes: Life Safety codes are designed to ensure that building occupants can be safely evacuated if there is a fire or other emergency within a building. Fire prevention codes specify requirements for fire safety.

Audits, whether done by in-house professionals or specialized contractors, can often reveal the same inadequacies and mitigation opportunities as regulatory inspections, without the potential reputational and financial consequences of non-compliance. . With an objective eye, an audit can bolster an overall emergency management program and minimize the chance of impeding incidents or regulatory fines.

For a free white paper on how audits can assist your company with regulatory compliance, click the image below:

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

The Facility Response Plan Annual Review

Posted on Mon, Feb 10, 2014

A facility response plan is only as effective as the information it contains and the comprehension of those utilizing the plan. As facility specifics change, response plans must change accordingly. Fundamental regulatory compliance, inherent site-specific safety issues, human resource factors, and a company’s reputation obligate specific response planning requirements for a facility. Cyclical plan maintenance is essential in order to capture multiple moving parts that impact an emergency management program.

The response plan should be reviewed annually, at a minimum. Plans should evolve as lessons are learned, new information and insights are obtained, and operational priorities are updated. Utilizing a web-based, database driven planning system simplifies the update process, despite location of influential parties. An annual review enables practical opportunities to minimize or eliminate incidents, the ability to provide “mission accomplished” in the event of an incident, and mandated regulatory compliance. The planning review cycle typically corresponds to the criteria laid out by the associated regulatory agencies; however, internal corporate policy may dictate multiple reviews throughout a fiscal year.

Decision-makers directly involved in the plan review process can determine its effectiveness and efficiency by its adequacy, feasibility, and acceptability, along with responders’ understanding of plan requirements. The plan review can also address present and future risks, and define potential response costs. According to FEMA, there are five commonly used criteria to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of response plans.

Adequacy: Emergency managers should apply their experience, judgment, intuition, situational awareness, and discretion to ensure a plan is adequately suited for a facility’s identified hazards. FEMA defines a plan as adequate if:

  1. The scope and concept of planned operations identify and address critical tasks effectively
  2. The plan can accomplish the assigned mission while complying with guidance
  3. The plan’s assumptions are valid, reasonable, and comply with guidance.

Feasibility: The established response procedures should be rigorous enough, yet standardized, to minimize subjectivity or interpretation, and preclude oversights in order to accomplish the assigned mission and critical tasks. This should be accomplished by using currently available resources within the minimum time frame set forth by the plan. Available resources include internal assets and those available through mutual aid, private contractors, or through existing state, regional, or Federal assistance agreements.

Acceptability: The plan meets the requirements driven by a threat or incident, goals set by decision makers, budgetary restraints, response time limitations, and abides by applicable law(s).

Completeness: The plan includes all applicable and effective emergency procedures with estimated response times, required capabilities, needs of the population, and identified success criteria. All information, including contact information, should be updated and accurate.

Compliance: The plan should comply with all internal and external guiding doctrine within the boundaries of the presiding law(s). Failure to comply with regulations can result in additional financial burdens resulting from fines, negative public perception, and possibly government-mandated shutdown of operations.

According to FEMA’s Comprehensive Planning Guide, there are six key steps in developing effective response plans. An annual review can incorporate these steps to verify the five commonly used criteria to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency plans. At each step of the review, emergency managers should consider the impact on required training, exercises, and equipment costs and availability.

Step 1: Collaborative Teamwork

  • Identify and verify the facility response planning team. Typically this includes an emergency manager or security manager, a hazard mitigation expert, local jurisdictions, and any additional available planning experts.
  • Engage essential personnel in the review process to identify changes in capabilities and resources.

Step 2: Understand Potential Situations

  • Identify any new or altered threat and/or hazard: Geographic and facility hazards and risks can be broken down into four areas:
  1. Natural Hazards
  2. Technological Hazards
  3. Chemical Hazards
  4. Human Hazards
  • Assess Risk: Assign probability values to new or altered threats and hazards for the purposes of determining priorities, developing processes and procedures, and allowing for informed decision-making.

hazardous_waste_TRP.jpg

Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives

  • Identify Altered Operational Priorities: Specify goals and objectives desired for emergency responders, employees, and facility, and define a success for each operation.

Step 4: Plan Update

  • Develop and analyze procedural options based on current best practices, lessons learned, and regulatory updates.
  • Participants should add necessary supporting information, graphics, and/or photos taking note to comply with local, state and federal regulations.
  • Identify current internal and external resources necessary to fulfil requirements, response obligations, and assignments.
  • Emergency managers should identify any changes or updates to the information necessary to drive response decision-making and trigger critical response actions.

Step 5: Plan Approval and Distribution

  • Senior management and, in some cases, associated regulatory agencies typically grant emergency plan approvals.  Once changes are approved, the plan should be distributed to appropriate individuals/ organizations.
  • A record of the individuals/ organizations that received a copy (or copies) of the plan should be maintained.

Step 6: Plan Implementation & Maintenance

  • Exercise the updated plan: Evaluating the effectiveness of plans involves a combination of training events, exercises, and real-world incidents to determine whether the goals, objectives, decisions, actions, and timing outlined in the plan can lead to a successful and effective response.
  • Planning teams should evaluate the process for reviewing, revising, and distributing the plan. A web-based, database driven planning systems eases the administrative burden and applicable costs associated with implementing, maintaining, and distributing response plans. Plan maintenance should be an ongoing and recurring activity.

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Tags: Facility Response Plan, Emergency Preparedness, Response Plans, Facility Management, Emergency Response Planning, Workplace Safety