Response planning is a multi-faceted entity, composed of critical information, procedural comprehension, and response process awareness. Two contributors to effective preparedness comes from the site-specific information within the plans and a standardized response management process by which procedures are carried out. The two concepts, site-specific and standardization, may appear to contradict each other. However when merged properly, companies can strengthen preparedness initiatives and enable a flexible, effective, efficient, and all-hazards incident management response.
By integrating up-to-date, site-specific response plans, company EHS protocols, and Incident Command System (ICS) components, response operations can be streamlined and coherent without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. Utilizing ICS in conjunction with site-specific plans can also consolidate an effective response that includes multiple combinations of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communication methods.
However, when companies implement or utilize a basic template approach without consideration of site-specific details, the result is often an incomplete, ineffective, and non-regulatory compliant plan. In addition, implementing an incident command approach without site-specific information often results in inadequate and prolonged responses.
By utilizing a template as an outline, companies can begin the process of creating response plans. Companies may consider web-based technology to streamline template formats across an enterprise. A generic plan template may not address every regulatory and/or site specification, so it is essential to evaluate site-specific variables and applicable regulatory requirements. If templates are tied to a web-based database, site-specific information can often be cross references with regulatory requirements. As facilities are added or renovated, operations are revised, or employees revolve, each web-based plan can be conveniently accessed and updated for accuracy and compliance.
Below are twelve basic template topics that should be evaluated for site specific applicability and implementation.
- Laws and regulating authorities
- Hazard identification and risk assessment
- Hazard mitigation procedures
- Resource management
- Response direction, control, and coordination
- Notifications and warning systems
- Operations and safety procedures
- Logistics and facilities infrastructure specifics
- Exercises, evaluations, and corrective actions
- Crisis communications
- Finance and administrative duties
Once site specifications and regulatory requirements are identified, plans should be formatted within a common and unified incident planning organizational structure. The structure is based on a set of essential features that apply to the management of any incident or all-hazards events. Features included in ICS are:
- Common terminology - use of similar terms and definitions for resource descriptions, organizational functions, and incident facilities across disciplines.
- Modular organization - response resources are organized according to their responsibilities. Assets within each functional unit may be expanded or contracted based on the requirements of the event.
- Management by objectives - specific, measurable objectives for various incident management functional activities and direct efforts to attain them. Planning should allow for a timely response, documentation of the results, and a way to facilitate corrective actions.
- Incident action planning - Incident Action Plans (IAPs) guide response activities, and provide a concise means of capturing and communicating a company’s incident priorities, objectives, strategies, protocol, and tactics in the contexts of both operational and support activities.
- Manageable span of control - response organization is structured so that each supervisory level oversees an appropriate number of assets (varies based on size and complexity of the event) so it can maintain effective supervision.
- Pre-designated incident facilities - assignment of locations where expected incident-related functions will occur.
- Comprehensive resource management - systems in place to describe, maintain, identify, request, and track resources.
- Integrated communications - ability to send and receive information within an organization, as well as externally to other disciplines.
- Consolidated action plans - a single, formal documentation of incident goals, objectives, and strategies defined by unified incident command.
- Establishment and transfer of command - Clearly identify and establish the command function from the beginning of incident operations. If command is transferred during an incident response, a comprehensive briefing should capture essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.
- Chain of command and unity of command - Identify clear responsible parties and reporting relationships
- Unified command structure - multiple disciplines work through their designated managers to establish common objectives and strategies to prevent conflict or duplication of effort.
- Accountability - Develop process and procedures to ensure resource accountability including: check-in/check-out, Incident Action Planning, unity of command, personal responsibility, span of control, and resource tracking.
- Dispatch/deployment - Limit overloading response resources by enforcing a “response only when requested or dispatched” process in established resource management systems.
- Information and intelligence management - The incident management organization must establish a process for gathering, analyzing, assessing, sharing, and managing incident-related information and intelligence.
Once the initial response plan is completed, plan audits, exercises, expert assistance, and/or consultation services may be required to confirm plan compliance and effectiveness.