Emergencies and incidents create circumstances that can prompt chaos. In industrial settings, chaos can stem from anomalies in routine processes, procedures, and critical infrastructures. These instances often generate variables that are potentially dangerous to employees, detrimental to the environment, and costly to a company. Without effective response plans, training, and exercises, emergency and incident responses can be turbulent, disorganized, dangerous, and expensive.
Optimizing a site-specific emergency response program is a critical component to reducing potential chaos at an industrial facility. From technological advancements to implementation of best practices, continually evolving planning programs can reduce impacts on individuals, infrastructures, and the environment. The following preparedness and response planning elements promote consistency, structure, and order to a response.
Mitigation: The risk assessment process can be used to identify situations that may lead to incidents or prolonged responses. While all risks cannot be averted, a facility can become better prepared for disasters if risk mitigation measures are implemented. Mitigation measures may include additional training, updating safety processes and procedures, purchasing newer or additional equipment, or other considerations
Data Accuracy: Providing up-to-date, site-specific information has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency. Emergency planning must incorporate a method to account for evolving operations, varying on-site equipment, and employee turnover. Accurate details of these modifications, expansions, and adjustments must be incorporated into the response plans. If the response plan information is missing or out-of-date, the response will be hindered.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.
Accessibility: The faster responders can locate, access, assess, and implement accurate response actions, the sooner an incident can be contained, and operations can be restored to “business as usual”.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.
Collaboration: Emergency response program effectiveness can be optimized through effective interoperability. Broadening the scope of response expertise can greatly benefit a facility by limiting the timeline of potentially escalating emergencies. 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. Coordinating planning, training, drills, and resource availability with local agencies and dedicated responders is an important aspect of an effective emergency response program.
Best Practices Implementation: Applying best practices to an emergency response 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.
Training: Training programs that include guidance, documentation, and oversight help ensure response knowledge and compliance with agency regulations. Companies need to perform cyclical internal training program audits. These audits emphasize 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.
Exercises: Exercises provide a setting for operational response procedures to be tested. Real-world exercise scenarios can often highlight potential deficiencies in response plans and procedures, comprehension of individual roles and responsibilities, and disjointed partnership coordination. However, identified deficiencies reveal mitigation opportunities and valuable response knowledge.
Response Plan Audits: Audits, whether conducted by in-house professionals or experienced consultants, can often reveal the same inadequacies and mitigation opportunities as regulatory agencies. Regrettably, some 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 large regulatory fines.