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Evolving Communication Methods for Effective Emergency Response

Posted on Thu, Jun 14, 2012

As more people are abandoning their hard-wired phone lines for mobile technologies, the ability to effectively communicate and broadcast emergency information to the masses through traditional means is narrowing. In April 2012, a new mobile emergency communications tool was unveiled in efforts to enhance public safety by transmitting information to wireless devices in the event of an emergency. The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) allows the public to receive wireless location-specific emergency notifications without the concern of congesting standard mobile voice and texting services. The CMAS is the system interface to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service that wireless carriers are bringing to their customers.

CMAS/WEA alerts can be activated by authorized government agencies (local, state or federal), or the National Weather Service.  However, only CMAS/WEA-capable mobile devices can receive the notifications. According to FEMA, WEAs alerts will:

  • utilize a unique ring tone and vibration to signal receipt of an alert to distinguish it from a regular text message.
  • automatically “pop up” on the mobile device screen
  • be limited to 90 characters.
  • not preempt calls in progress. 

Individuals will be able to opt-out of Imminent Threat or AMBER alerts. However, under Executive Order 13407, individuals will not be able to opt-out of Presidential alerts.

Very few mobile devices are currently compatible with the emergency alert system.  However, wireless providers are continuing to launch new models that are WEA capable. Certain devices can receive a software upgrade to receive the alerts, however, older models may need to be replaced.

The alerts are geographically based and broadcasted to wireless phones in a specific location, not to specific individuals. According to Verizon Wireless, alerts will only include information provided by authorized senders. The emergency alert information may include, but is not limited to

  • Alert Category
  • Event Type
  • Response
  • Severity
  • Urgency
  • Certainty

Any capable device in the wireless company’s coverage area will receive the location-specific alert.  Wireless customers who travel into an affected area after the WEA was originally sent will still receive the alert, if the alert has not expired. With this new system, agencies will be able to geo-code a particular area to alert individuals based on cell towers, including tourists who may be at a location for business or pleasure.

To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and if your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier. Below is a list of carrier links that detail their involvement in the CMAS/WEA program:

AT&T: Wireless Emergency Alerts Information

Cellcom: WEA Main Page

Cricket: CMAS Support

Sprint Nextel Corporation: Wireless Emergency Alerts Information

T-Mobile USA: Wireless Emergency Alerts Information

U.S. Cellular: Wireless Emergency Alerts | U.S. Cellular

Verizon Wireless: Wireless Emergency Alerts Information

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

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Media and Public Relations, National Preparedness, Notification Systems

Emergency Resource Management and Equipment Deployment

Posted on Thu, Mar 15, 2012

Prepositioning emergency response equipment, whether on site or through contracted vendors, improves companys’ ability to quickly and successfully respond to emergencies. In addition to identifying the required personnel and response teams needed for specific emergencies, emergency managers need to identify the necessary response equipment to meet identified vulnerabilities.

Effective response equipment deployment requires the following minimal pre-planning:
1. Identifying necessary response resources for each applicable hazard
2. Acquiring necessary equipment or contracting with response organizations
3. Ensuring a training and maintenance programs is in place
4. Mobilizing resources in the event of an incident
5. Tracking and reporting deployed resources
6. Demobilizing required resources
7. Performing a post incident inventory and replenishing/refurbishing equipment as needed

Coordinating with response contractors and local and state resources can reduce the need to purchase and maintain all required equipment at smaller facilities. In addition, a well thought-out, tested, and available emergency response plan improves the potential for a rapid, effective response, thereby reducing the potential for an emergency to escalate.

However, in the event of a large scale disaster, FEMA has established the Prepositioned Equipment Program (PEP) to provide additional support to first responders. PEP strategically located sites are each supplied with standardized emergency first responder equipment.

According to FEMA, each site in the continental US has a 600 miles radius, enabling a response within 12 hours of an incident. There are ten PEP support teams located across the United States:

1. Kansas City, MO
2. Middletown, NY
3. Kent, WA
4. Sacramento, CA
5. Columbia, SC
6. McDonough, GA
7. Fort Worth, TX
8. Salt Lake City, UT
9. Frederick, MD
10. Las Vegas, NV

The PEP sites are able to provide and replenish responders with the following:
● Personnel protective equipment
● Detection instrumentation
● Emergency medical supplies
● Technical rescue equipment
● Decontamination equipment
● Interoperable communication equipment
● Logistic support equipment

Resource management should be flexible and scalable in order to support any potentially escalating incident. By coordinating applicable response equipment plans with comprehensive resource management concepts, companies will be better prepared to respond to emergencies.

For more details on available equipment provided by the PEP, review FEMA’s Prepositioned Equipment Program Overview.

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

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Tags: Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Facility Management, Supply Chain, FEMA, Disaster Response, National Preparedness

Google Enters World of Emergency Planning

Posted on Thu, Feb 09, 2012

Google has launched Google Crisis Response project: Google Public Alerts.  According to Google, the Google Public Alerts is a “platform designed to bring you relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them.”

An FCC study states that approximately 27% of U.S residents in rural areas (and presumably businesses in those areas) do not have access to high-speed Internet. While that number can create some debate on availability of the Internet, it highlights that 63% of U.S. residents in rural areas DO have Internet access. It is probable that the Internet availability rates are higher in suburban and urban areas. Providing public alerts in a mass format allows affected individuals and companies to respond as necessary to protect life and property.

Google Public Alerts is a project of the Google Crisis Response team, supported by Google.org, which uses Google's strengths in information and technology to build products and advocate for policies that address global challenges.

Although in its infancy, tools such as the Google Public Alert, allows individuals to identify hazards in their particular area and react accordingly.  Currently, the public alerts mainly cover those in the U.S., however, plans are in place to add international content as reputable agencies agree to participate. To bolster the numbers and details of localized alerts, Google hopes that local emergency management agencies will align with the search engine and allow them to post updates. Google outlines steps for agencies to that would like to be included to disseminate local emergency data in the right format.

Google states that “We want to make it easy for people to find critical emergency information during a crisis through the online tools they use every day. By incorporating public alert data from authoritative sources into Google Maps, we aim to simplify the process of searching for emergency information.”

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.

Exercises - TRP Corp

Tags: Business Continuity, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, Extreme Weather, Media and Public Relations, Disaster Response, National Preparedness

New 2012 Emergency Preparedness Codes and Standards

Posted on Mon, Feb 06, 2012

Below are a few of the new recent changes that have been implemented in 2012 regarding emergency response and emergency planning.

ISO 22320:2011, Societal security – Emergency management – Requirements for Incident Response “outlines global best practice for establishing command and control organizational structures and procedures, decision support, traceability and information management. Interoperability amongst involved organizations is essential for successful incident response. The standard also helps ensure timely, relevant and accurate operational information by specifying processes, systems of work, data capture and management. It also establishes a foundation for coordination and cooperation, ensuring that all relevant parties are on the same page during a disaster, minimizing the risk of misunderstandings and ensuring a more effective use of the combined resources.”

ISO 19011:2011, Guidelines for auditing management systems, has expanded on the ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment) standards to reflect the complexities of auditing multiple management system standards (MSS). The standard is meant to “assist organizations by optimizing and facilitating the integration of management systems through a single audit of its systems. This should streamline the audit processes, reduce duplication of effort, and decrease disruption of work units being audited.”

Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011: The new law doubles the maximum fines that pipeline operators face for safety violations, and requires PHMSA to issue new pipeline safety standards that require operators to install automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and excess flow valves in new or replaced transmission pipelines.

International Code Council 2012: Changes are a result of the 9/11 International Code Council Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism-Resistant Buildings investigations. Some of the changes in building construction that will aid in a more effective emergency response include:

  • Required elevators in high-rise buildings more than 120 feet tall. This improves firefighters’ access to higher floors, especially with heavy equipment.
  • An additional stairway for high-rises that are more than 420 feet tall.
  • In lieu of the additional stairway, an option to provide enhanced elevators that can be used by the building occupants for emergency evacuation, without waiting for assistance from emergency personnel.
  • A higher standard for fire resistance in high-rise buildings more than 420 feet tall
  • More robust fire proofing for buildings more than 75 feet tall, that will be less likely to be dislodged by impacts or explosions.
  • Shafts enclosing elevators and exit stairways which have impact resistant walls
  • Self-luminous exit pathway markings in all exit stairways that provide a lighted pathway when both the primary and secondary lighting fails.
  • Radio systems within the building to allow emergency personnel to better communicate with involved parties.

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

HAZWOPER training guide

Tags: PHMSA, Pipeline, Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Incident Management, Facility Management, National Preparedness

Emergency Management Planning for 2012

Posted on Thu, Jan 05, 2012

2012 offers immense growth in the area of cloud, social, and mobile computing, according to Gartner Inc., a leading information technology research and advisory company.  These methods of information sharing and communications are predicted to have explosive growth and continue to change the way business is conducted. This technological trend of information sharing and rapid communication should be effectively incorporated in the area of Emergency Response, Incident Management, and Planning.

Smart phones, tablets and other devices continue to gain in popularity and use. By embracing the predicted trend, companies can incorporate comprehensive emergency and incident management processes and strategies with an effective stakeholder management system. In the midst of a response, companies need to be able to identify, prioritize, communicate, and engage both responders and stakeholders effectively. Through the use of advancing technology, companies can limit damaging rumors, misinformation, and adverse public perceptions that can result from an emergency or crisis situation.

Within most companies, the transition to cloud, social, and mobile computing will require budget reallocations. According to Garnet's 2012 predictions, monies typically allocated for technology departments may be managed outside the IT budget. Managing VP and Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer, says that "IT has to change itself to become a broker of services rather than just a provider of technology to their business." It is clear that in order for Emergency managers to keep up with common-place communication methods, EHS budgets need to address how to incorporate cloud, social, and mobile computing into emergency planning and response. Utilizing a designated budget to outsource a consultant that can bridge the knowledge of EHS professionals and Emergency Management requirements with company technology departments may prove to be a more cost efficient and effective method than in-house transitions.

By embracing technology and rapidly changing communications methods, emergency planners can establish enhanced tools and procedures for coordination and communication with responders and stakeholders to effectively manage emergency and crisis situations.

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

Tags: Emergency Response, Incident Management, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Disaster Response, National Preparedness, Notification Systems

9 Common Ground Rules for Tabletop Exercise Planning

Posted on Mon, Nov 07, 2011

When designing a tabletop exercise, certain “ground rules” should apply. A tabletop exercise can be the simplest type of exercise to conduct in terms of planning, preparation, and coordination. It should facilitate analysis of an emergency situation and elicit constructive response as participants examine and resolve problems based on existing operational plans. The success of the exercise is mainly determined by the identification of problem areas and the follow through of applicable corrections.

Below is a list of common tabletop exercise planning considerations:

1. Condensed Exercise Time-Frame

In order to exercise the emergency scenario, the exercise must progress in a condensed time-frame (not real-time). Events should move rapidly through some phases of the exercised response. However, it should be clearly understood that under real conditions the same events or actions would require much more time to complete.

2. Scenario Information and Position-Specific Tools

Detailed scenario information, ICS forms, and position specific events should be prepared to guide all participants through the execution of their roles and responsibilities. These tools should be included in a participation package and distributed to all participants prior to the exercise.

3. Weather Conditions

Depending on the scenario, and how much a factor weather is, either real or simulated weather conditions may be utilized during the exercise.

4. “This is a Drill” Exercise Communications 

All radio, telephone, fax and written communications must begin and end with the statement "This Is A Drill".  Include this statement in all verbal communications, and in a prominent location on all written correspondence, including report forms, fax communications, and press releases.

5. "This Is A Drill" Communications with Non-Participating Parties

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

6. Response Equipment Deployment

Emergency equipment and vehicles should be simulated for tabletop exercises. Staging area locations should be identified.

7. Injects

Injects may be provided to some participants, including Event Injects. An Inject describes an event or circumstance that requires a response or action from the participant.

8. Exercise Termination and Debriefing
Following termination of the exercise, a debriefing of all exercise participants should be conducted.  All participants should have the opportunity to provide feedback on the exercise and complete an exercise evaluation form.

9. Follow-up on Action Items

Exercises provide insight into the deficiencies in an emergency response plan. In order to take response efforts to the next level, action items resulting from the exercises should be completed in a timely manner.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.

Exercises - TRP Corp

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Incident Management, Training and Exercises, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, National Preparedness

10 Commonly Used National Incident Command System Forms

Posted on Mon, Oct 31, 2011

Throughout an emergency, response communication among emergency response teams at the scene and incident response teams off-site is critical.  Chronology of events, incident action plans, and situation status information needs to be maintained.  Incident command forms are utilized to document these primary response components and provide the site-specific information.

Implementing an Incident Command System (ICS) process provides tools and process to enable response teams to swiftly define appropriate resolutions for the current situation. The  Incident Command System provides industry standard forms that may be necessary in an emergency response situation.

Completing the Standard Incident Command System forms should be a part of any incident management process.  The following are commonly used forms and their description or purpose. 

1. ICS 001, Standard Incident Report Form:

  • Summary of incident or situation, summary of response actions, number of injured, etc.  Format is consistent with National Response Center (NRC) report requirements for oil and chemical spills. 

2. ICS 201, Incident Briefing

  • 2-page form for recording basic incident information. Summary of incident or situation, summary of response actions, number of injured, etc.

3. ICS 201a, On-Scene Incident Briefing

  • This is an abbreviated 2-page version of the standard ICS 201 Form, and is designed for use by the on-scene Incident Commander to summarize incident status for communication to Incident Management Team (IMT), or to facilitate change-over to a new incoming on-scene Incident Commander (IC).
  • Provides basic information regarding the on-scene situation and the resources allocated to the incident.
  • Serves as a permanent record of the on-scene response to the incident.

4. ICS 203, Organizatiion Assignment list

  • Provides the IMT with information on the units that are currently activated and the names of personnel staffing each position/unit.
  • Provides information used to complete Form 207 Organizational Chart.

5. ICS 204, Assignment List

  • Used to inform Operations Section personnel of incident assignments.
  • Once the assignments are agreed to by the IMT Director and Command Staff, the assignment list is given to the appropriate Units and Divisions via the Communications Center

6. ICS 209, Incident Status Summary

  • Used for posting information on Emergency Command Center (ECC) displays.
  • Provides Command Staff with basic information for use in planning for the next operational period.
  • Provides basic information to the Public Information Officer for preparation of media releases.
  • Provides incident information to agency dispatch and off-incident coordination centers.

7. ICS 211E-OS, Check-in list (equipment)

  • Used to track personnel and equipment arriving at the incident at various locations. The Check-in List serves several purposes:
  • Records arrival times at the incident of all overhead personnel and equipment.
  • Records the initial location of personnel and equipment so a subsequent assignment can be made, if needed.
  • Helps with demobilization by recording the home base, method of travel, etc., on all check-ins.

8. ICS 211P-OS, Check-in List (personnel)

  • Used to track personnel and equipment arriving at the incident at various locations. The Check-in List serves several purposes:
  • Records arrival times at the incident of all overhead personnel and equipment.
  • Records the initial location of personnel and equipment so a subsequent assignment can be made, if needed.
  • Helps with demobilization by recording the home base, method of travel, etc., on all check-ins.

9.ICS 214, Unit Log

  • Used to record details of activity within a unit including strike team activity.
  • Provide information that may be included in any after-action report.

10. ICS 214A-OS, Individual Log

  • Used to record details of each individual team member’s activities.
  • Provide information that may be included in any after-action report.

A breakdown of information flow during the chaos of an emergency typically results in poorly defined incident objectives and priorities, duplication of response actions, and missing important response considerations. As a result, overall company reputation may be compromised, and response costs, fines, and lawsuits may increase substantially.  Communication based on real-time information is necessary to update external stakeholders, including agencies, the media, and impacted/cpncerned citizens, especially those in the area of the incident. If an emergency incident is mismanaged, the overall viability of a company can be at risk.

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

TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

 

Tags: Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response, National Preparedness