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Response Plan Tip: Ensure Processes and Communications Equipment Align

Posted on Thu, Nov 27, 2014

The fastest way to turn an incident, crisis, or emergency into a prolonged disaster is to experience a communications breakdown.  In order to minimize impacts and rapidly respond to circumstances, companies must ensure communication processes and procedures are clearly defined and understood, and associated equipment is functional.

While every effort should be made to train employees on response processes and procedures for probable emergency scenarios relevant to your operations, training employees on initial site-specific responses included in your response plan is fundamental to your emergency management program. The need to swiftly communicate accurate and pertinent information is common to all emergency scenarios, despite operational function. Information, at a minimum should include:

  • Contact number to initiate report and response needs
  • Location of incident
  • Type of incident (medical, fire, oil spill, etc.)
  • Casualties or injured parties

The initial responder, or first person on-scene, will be the first initiator of emergency communications. While this individual may have extensive training and response knowledge, most likely, the initial responder is not specifically trained for response. As a result, all employees should be trained in initial response processes, procedures, and communication expectations.  Individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the communication plan, emergency procedures, and assigned responsibilities are better prepared to implement effective communication and initiate a streamlined response. Detailed information should be readily available to facility personnel to ensure all emergency managers, response personnel, and applicable agencies (ex. National Response Center) are quickly notified in the event of an incident.

Once initial response processes and procedures are established, ongoing communication is critical in order to assess, direct, and respond to the incident. Facilities must have standardized and exercised modes of communicating.  The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) describes standard communications response equipment options that may be used during an incident, emergency, or disaster. The following options range from basic to state-or the art technology:

Runners: Individuals carrying written messages from one location to another. 

LIMITATIONS:

  • Distance and time
  • Requires written information for accuracy
  • Availability
  • Requires familiarity with the area

Landline telephones: Analog and digital phones connected by physical lines. (Note: Some telephone service providers utilize modems for connecting landlines. Check with your individual service provider)

LIMITATIONS
  • Not mobile
  • System overloads easily
  • Network susceptible to physical damage
  • May be affected by power failure

Cellular/Smart phones: Mobile digital phones connected by signals transmitted by cellular towers. Capable of transmitting short messaging service (SMS). In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not.

LIMITATIONS
  • Towers may fail due to power outage or damage
  • System overloads easily
  • Requires knowledge of responder phone numbers
  • May be dependent on landlines

Satellite Phone: Mobile phones that use signals transmitted by satellites.  If other phone systems are down, can only communicate locally with other satellite phones  

LIMITATIONS

  • Expensive
  • Requires visibility to sky or building with compatible antenna
  • Potential diminished voice quality or latency

Two-way radios: Handheld, mobile, or base-station radios used for communicating on radio frequencies; many require licensure by the FCC. Below are a few examples of the different two-way radio types as described by FEMA:

RELIABILITY:

  • Family Radio Service (FRS): Have a very limited range; useful only for intra-team communications
  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS): Have a greater range than FRS radios and signals can be improved with antennas and repeaters
  • Multiple-Use Radio Service (MURS): Only 5 channels available for use
  • Citizen Band (CB): Have 40 channels and affordabl

LIMITATIONS:

  • Family Radio Service (FRS): Cannot alter radio (no antennas) = limited range
  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS):
    • Requires a license (one per family)
    • Intended for family use
    • Some business licenses are grandfathered
  • Multiple-Use Radio Service (MURS): More expensive than FRS/GMRS radio
  • Citizen Band (CB):  Limited range

Computer-based communications: Information may be transmitted over the Internet or with runners via USB drives

LIMITATIONS:
  • May require internet connectivity
  • Requires specific hardware
  • Requires power source for long use although solar power options are becoming increasingly available and affordable.

In the event Internet connectivity is terminated or inaccessible, emergency managers must have alternative means to access plans. Redundant data-centers, scheduled downloads, and ancillary security measures must be a part of any emergency management program based on an intranet or cloud.

Internet availability enables additional emergency communications through social media. From communicating facility closures in the event of bad weather or evacuation orders as a result of a hazardous spill, greater Internet accessibility allows for companies to streamline emergency communications to a wider audience with minimal administrative effort.

NOTE: The National Response Center (NRC) is the sole federal point of contact for spills of hazardous materials. NRC, which is staffed on a 24-hour basis, was given the responsibility of receiving incident reports involving hazardous materials regulated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act for the transportation of hazardous materials (49 CFR 171), for natural gas and other gases transported by pipeline (49 CFR 191), and for liquids transported by pipeline (49 CFR 195). All facilities involved in these activities should include the National Response Center reporting number, (800) 424-8802, in the notification section of an emergency response plan.

For a free download on Best Pratices for Crisis Management, click the image below:

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Tags: Power Failure, Resiliency, Communication Plan, Social Media, Disaster Response, Notification Systems

EHS Training of Basic Emergency Response Communication Details

Posted on Thu, Sep 19, 2013

Emergency planning is an ongoing process. Preparing for every unknown site-specific contingencies is potentially unrealistic. Yet, planning for every all-inclusive identified incidents is daunting and time consuming. Despite scenario specifics, the need to communicate detailed site information remains constant. While every effort should be made to include processes and procedures for the most likely and applicable emergency scenarios relevant to your operations, training employees on the basic site-specific response facts is fundamental in emergency management.

The need to swiftly communicate accurate and pertinent information is common to each emergency scenario. Detailed information should be readily available to ensure all emergency managers, response personnel, and applicable agencies are quickly notified in the event of an incident. Information, at a minimum should include:

  • Location
  • Type of incident (medical, fire, oil spill, etc.)
  • Casualties or injured parties

There is a fine line between comprehensive details and overwhelming information. Developing a summary of key facility details will enable initial responders to quickly relay features of the facility and its operations. Although the structure of a company’s emergency response team can vary, personnel should have basic knowledge of the following site-specific incident response information:

  • Location of Emergency Response Plan
  • Location of Response Pre-Plans
  • Overview and contact information for on-site Security
  • Instructions on who to contact and how to activate alarms, if applicable
  • Identification of on-site Incident Commander
Individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of their response team role(s) and responsibilities are better prepared to implement a streamlined and effective response. Response plans with detailed site information provide the necessary foundation for a response team to build from. However, a short summary of approved response procedures, in addition to a full-scale emergency response plan, can assist non-response team members in performing initial response efforts. Response plan contents should include, at a minimum, the following general information:
  • Facility Name
  • Address
  • Latitude/Longitude
  • Contact Number
  • Contact Person (and/or facility manager)/contact number(s)
  • Site Description, including detailed information such as operations, products handled, number of employees, and any specific physical attributes
  • Summary of Physical Site Attributes
    • Identification of waterways in the vicinity
    • Summary of site drainage properties
    • Site topography
    • Site security features, including fencing, visitor access, and lighting

Companies can expand upon facility specific information by incorporating and sharing fire pre-plans with response groups. Fire pre plans provide useful, site-specific information for responding to fires in schools, office buildings, hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, shopping centers, laboratories, and other structures. Identification of pertinent emergency response information and up-to-date photographs can greatly assist firefighters in understanding the hazards and best strategy for rescues, and reducing potential for injuries and property damage.

The information listed in a fire pre-plan, such as floor plan(s) and details of on-site hazardous material(s), are required by multiple agencies (OSHA, DOT, EPA, USCG) as part of an overall emergency response plan.  However, other 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. Information to include when developing fire pre plans are as follows:

  • Building Information
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Alarms/Emergency Lighting
  • Fire Protection Equipment
  • Special Hazards
  • Building floor plans/photographs
  • Photographs

Making site-specific facility information and response procedures available to employees, internal response teams, and local first responders improves the potential for a successful response. The faster responders can identify, locate, assess, access, and mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained. Expediting response efforts through preparedness and response training can minimize the harmful effects of an incident.

For a free download of a Response Procedures Flow Chart, click the image below:

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Tags: Response Plans, Incident Management, Training and Exercises, Communication Plan, Safety, Notification Systems

Incident Response Communication Plan and NG9-1-1

Posted on Mon, Jul 22, 2013

The ability to swiftly and effectively communicate incident details and subsequent response actions is an important factor of effective incident management. The standard "phone tree" has evolved into a variety of dynamic communication modes used to interact with internal and external responders, and stakeholders. Most professionals have several phone numbers, multiple email addresses, and can receive SMS (text) messages and digital images.

Because of the vast availability of this technology, it is essential to pre-plan standardized methods and notification procedures that will allow companies to rapidly communicate. If a company uses more than one practice (i.e. e-mails, texts, or telephone calls) to reach responders and stakeholders, the chances are improved that the message will be received. Responders should identify, agree, and exercise a primary means of communication in order to respond readily. Communication mode consistency and training in response communication procedures can streamline anticipated methods and assure messages are received promptly.

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

According to FEMA, common ICS terminology helps to define:

  • Organizational Functions: Major functions and functional units with incident management responsibilities are named and defined.
  • Resource Descriptions: Major resources (personnel, facilities, and equipment/ supply items) are given common names and are "typed" or categorized by their capabilities. This helps to avoid confusion and enhances interoperability.
  • Incident Facilities: Common terminology is used to designate incident facilities.
  • Position Titles: ICS management or supervisory positions are referred to by titles, such as Officer, Chief, Director, Supervisor, or Leader.

But even with an effort to institute advanced technology into communication methods and streamline procedures with injected common terminology, not everyone on the emergency notification lists has access to various modes of communications. This is particularly true of the current 9-1-1 system. While there have been many improvements to the 9-1-1 system over its nearly 45 year history, (notably the ability to locate and route wireless callers), the call center infrastructure has remained fundamentally the same.

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), “The nation’s current 9-1-1 system is designed around outdated telephone technology and cannot handle the text, data, images, and video that are common in personal communications and critical to future safety and mobility advances.”  To combat this, the “Next Generation 9-1-1” (NG9-1-1) initiative calls to retrofit call center infrastructures in order for call centers or Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to receive emergencies reports in a variety of digital means. RITA explains that the NG9-1-1 is a system comprised of hardware, software, data, and operational policies and procedures that will be able to:

  • Enable 9-1-1 calls from a variety of networked devices
  • Provide faster and more accurate information and delivery to responders. Delivery will incorporate better and more useful forms of information (e.g., real-time text, images, video, and other data).
  • Establish more flexible, secure, and robust PSAP operations with increased capabilities for sharing data and resources, and more efficient procedures and standards to improve emergency response.
  • Enable call access, transfer, backup, and improved interoperability among PSAPs and other authorized emergency entities.

President of the NENA Executive Board, Barbara Jaeger, ENP, told 9-1-1 Magazine that “it could be eight to ten years before full, seamless real-time text to 9-1-1 is available across states and the nation unless NG9-1-1 is prioritized and adequately funded”.  However, the initiative seems to be a priority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC stated that text to 911 would have nationwide availability by May 15, 2014. The FCC stresses that text to 911 will be a complement to, not a substitute for, voice calls to 911 services.

Durham, North Carolina’s emergency communication center is one of the first NG-9-1-1 systems in the US. The Durham center lays the groundwork for other call centers to accept text, images, and video once mobile carriers make this an available option to their customers. Ideally, the NG9-1-1 capability will be instrumental in providing law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders detailed, incident-specific information, possibly resulting in a more efficient response.

An FCC press release stated, “In addition, to help eliminate consumer confusion while text-to-911 capability is being phased-in, the carriers have committed to provide an automatic “bounce back” text message to notify consumers if their attempt to reach 911 via text message was unsuccessful because this service is not yet available in their area. Such a message would instruct the recipient to make a voice call to a 911 center. The four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) will fully implement this “bounce back” capability across their networks by June 30, 2013.”

As NG9-1-1 implementation gains momentum, companies should evaluate notification and disclosure procedures in order to align corporate communication practices with advanced emergency communication strategies. As a result, timely notifications can be initiated and acted upon in the event an incident occurs at your facility.

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Tags: Emergency Management Program, Communication Plan, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Emergency Action Plan, Notification Systems

Emergency Management Planning and Social Media

Posted on Mon, Jul 15, 2013

Emergency management in a mobile communications world requires a basic understanding of social media and the potential positive and negative implications it can have on a company. Response preparedness and these collaborative communications applications are merging to create a new outlet within emergency management. This synergy has already proven to be critical components of preparedness, response, and recovery

The accelerated development of mapping tools, ease of information sharing, and limitless public awareness through social media raises concern for emergency managers regarding liability, standards of operations, and integration of these tools into an efficient crisis management program. Companies should develop standard procedures for sharing corporate information and analyzing public comments regarding the company.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) utilizes social media as a means of communication to provide information to the public before, during, and after a disaster. The lines of communication are rapidly expanding, allowing average citizens to provide useful information used to initiate the response, provide feedback on response measures, and share insights regarding the recovery efforts.

To properly determine the severity of an emergency situation and appropriate level of response, information has to be gathered, organized, and confirmed. One of the greatest challenges with social media is assessing the accuracy and validity of the information. However, a case can also be made for the positive aspects of social media.  FEMA’s 2013 National Preparedness report stated that during and immediately following Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, “users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related Twitter posts, or “tweets,” despite the loss of cell phone service during the peak of the storm.”  The report highlighted an example of how social media provided solutions in the midst of a crisis situation.

“Students at Franklin High School in New Brunswick, NJ used an online mapping service to publish information on gas stations in the area, noting whether they were open, had power, had available fuel, and/or served as charging stations. Students gathered information from personal observations, direct contact with gas stations, media reports, and updates from social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. The students created a map outlining the status of fuel resources in the community. The information then fed directly into an open, online crisis response platform, allowing thousands of people to access the information. This updated information reduced wait times for drivers seeking to refuel and helped government and commercial partners to direct power and fuel resources to the most affected areas.”

Incident Commanders can utilize social media to gain an understanding of a situation in a timely manner. This information can range from high-level observations, to location-specific incident details. Companies should develop processes for monitoring social media during an incident in order to collect accurate, real-time intelligence, as well as to obtain a basic consensus of public opinion. The following concepts can be used to evaluate social media information and formulate an appropriate response.

Initial Information:
Confirm the source
What specific event occurred?
Where and when did this occur?
Were there any injuries or fatalities?
Where were these victims injured?
Was there a rescue? By whom?
Is the information widespread, or limited to a few individuals/locations?
Do we know why it happened? (Rely on facts. Restrict opinions and assumptions, yet be aware of rumors)
Who is, or can become, affected?
Should the employees/public be taking immediate action?
What is public opinion?  

Initial Response Actions
What is being done to control the situation?
Has the crisis management team been activated?
Have all the proper authorities been notified including emergency responders and regulatory authorities?
What actions have those authorities taken or plan to take?
Can the incident escalate? How?
If necessary, has the area been properly secured?
Are there any continuing dangers to human health?
Are evacuations necessary?
How can the company take a proactive stance?
What is the public interest level (media and community)?
Is any media on-site? Is a designated company spokesperson available to manage the media?
What methods can be used to inform the community, employees, and public regarding response developments?

Facility Impact
What operations were initially impacted?
How long will the facility be impacted?
What is the function of the facility and the specific equipment involved?
What caused the event?
Were the operations impacted and for how long?
What stakeholders/clients could be affected by this event?
What is the cost of this event?
What is the potential lost revenue?
What is the potential clean-up cost including environmental remediation?

Click here for your free download on Crisis Management:
TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

Tags: Crisis Mapping, Emergency Management, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program, Social Media, Notification Systems

Smart Phone Apps for Emergency Managers and First Responders

Posted on Thu, Jun 06, 2013

Information and communication are becoming more intertwined than ever before through the availability and affordability of smart phones. This evolving wave of broad accessibility offers new options in emergency response planning and management. There are a variety of free and low-cost smart phone apps that can assist EHS managers and first responders, ranging from warnings of impending crises to response aids providing instantaneous applicable information. With pertinent information at the fingertips of responders, the decision-making process can be improved. As a result, a response can often be accelerated, potentially minimizing the effects of the incident.

This list provides a sample of emergency preparedness and response smart phone apps. (TRP Corp does not endorse any specific app, as this list is for informational purposes only. Readers should evaluate each app for relevance, keeping in mind the necessity for common response language as dictated by the Incident Command System (ICS).)

  • 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook (FREE)The mobile ERG will make it easier for firefighters, police and other emergency first responders to quickly locate the information they need, thanks to an electronic word search function, and will ensure easy reading even during nighttime emergencies. The 2012 version of the ERG includes new evacuation tables for large toxic gas spills and standard response procedures for gas and liquid pipeline incidents. Android, IPhone
  • WISER 2.0 (FREE)WISER is a system designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents. WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice. The WISER application extracts content from TOXNET's Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), an authoritative, peer-reviewed information resource maintained by the National Library of Medicine, and places that information into the hands of those who need it most. The Android version of WISER includes the full ERG 2012 tool. Android, IPhone
  • CadPage (FREE)Designed for volunteer firefighters, CAD Page is an advanced, customizable notification app that receives SMS pages from a central FIRE/EMS Cad and then presents options for mapping the call, driving directions, and other features. It keeps a history of calls and allows for customized alerts. When used in combination with ringtone apps, users can assign a unique notification sound for all incoming CADPage alerts. Android, iPhone
  • Scanner Radio (FREE) and Scanner Radio Pro ($2.99)Live audio from over 4,000 police and fire scanners, weather radios, and amateur radio repeaters from around the world (primarily in the United States and Australia, with more being added daily). Users can browse by genre, GPS location, or source. It’s important to note that the developer doesn’t control what frequencies you can hear, this is a function of the sources. Currently Scanner Radio features feeds from LiveFireFeeds.com, RadioReference.com, RailroadRadio.net and Wunderground.com. Android
  • 5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite (Free) and 5-0 Radio Pro Police Scanner ($2.99)This IPhone version of Scanner Radio is one of ”iTunes Top 100 Downloads” for IOS apps. It allows users to tap into the largest collection of live police, firefighters, aircraft, railroad, marine, emergency, and ham radios. It communicates location-based news, events, or major crime waves. iPhone
  • FEMA (FREE)A government provided basic app that provides information on preparing for and responding to various types of disasters. The main menu is divided into seven boxes containing different types of applications. The app includes preparedness information for different types of disasters, a map with FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations (one-stop centers where disaster survivors can access key relief services), shelters, and general ways the public can get involved before and after a disaster. Android, iPhone
  • AccuWeather (FREE)Forecasts in 22 languages, with current conditions updated every five minutes. Severe weather notices include optional, real-time pushed severe weather alerts for your chosen locations in the United States. The pushed severe weather alerts are user-friendly, easy-to-read, and visible from your lock screen, home screen, and from the Notification Center. Voted "Best iPhone App" by the 2012 Mobie awards. Android, iPhone

Emergency managers and first responders should be knowledgeable of threats based on geographical risk assessments. Specialized apps, such as Earthquake Alert, that provide specialized information based on these assessments may be beneficial.  The number of location-based emergency preparedness apps, such as ReadyVirginia andNorwich/Chenago County NY EMO, continue to rise. Ideally, location based apps should be an all-inclusive, singular mobile resource that allows users to access accurate and timely information before and in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, app development requires funding and technology specialists, which may impede short-range intuitive design and rapid availability.

TRP Corp Hurricane Checklist 

Tags: Earthquake Preparedness, Emergency Management, Extreme Weather, Social Media, Notification Systems

Common Incident Command System Terminology

Posted on Mon, Nov 05, 2012

In spite of precautions and preventive measures, the onset of a crisis can be unpredictable.   The ability to effectively communicate incident details and response actions is the key to effective crisis management. 

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized management concept designed to enable an integrated response, despite its complexity, response demands, and jurisdictional boundaries. ICS establishes common terminology that allows diverse incident management and support organizations to work together across a wide variety of functions and scenarios. The ability to communicate effectively within the ICS among internal and external parties is critical.

To ensure the ability to communicate, commonly understood terminology is essential. A multi-agency incident response requires simple and parallel language. Communicating through unfamiliar company radio codes, agency specific codes, perplexing acronyms, or specialized jargon will disconnect and confuse employees, responders, and/or stakeholders, possibly prolonging a response.

Why Use Common ICS Terminology?

According to FEMA, common ICS terminology helps to define:

  • Organizational Functions: Major functions and functional units with incident management responsibilities are named and defined. Terminology for the organizational elements involved is standard and consistent.
  • Resource Descriptions: Major resources (personnel, facilities, and equipment/ supply items) are given common names and are "typed" or categorized by their capabilities. This helps to avoid confusion and to enhance interoperability.
  • Incident Facilities: Common terminology is used to designate incident facilities.
  • Position Titles: ICS management or supervisory positions are referred to by titles, such as Officer, Chief, Director, Supervisor, or Leader.

The three main elements of ICS communication include: 

  • Modes: The "hardware" systems that transfer information.
  • Planning: Planning for the use of all available communications resources.
  • Networks: The procedures and processes for transferring information internally and externally.
ICS_TRP.jpg

Common ICS Terms

Below is a list of commonly used ICS terms and their definitions. By understanding these elementary terms, employees, responders and stakeholders can overcome miscommunications and false interpretations of jurisdictional, multi agency and company vocabulary.
 
Incident Command Post: (ICP) The location from which the Incident Commander oversees all incident operations. There is generally only one ICP for each incident or event, but it may change locations during the event. Every incident or event must have some form of an Incident Command Post. The ICP may be located in a vehicle, trailer, tent, or within a building. The location should be outside of the hazard zone but close enough to the incident to maintain command. The ICP should be designated by the name of the incident (ex. Foxtrot Creek ICP).
 
Staging Areas:  Temporary locations at an incident where personnel and equipment are kept while waiting for tactical assignments. The resources in the staging area should maintain 

“available” status. Staging areas should be located close enough to the incident for a timely response, but far enough away to be out of the immediate impact zone. There may be more than one staging area at an incident.

Base: Location from which primary logistics and administrative functions are coordinated and administered. The base may be co-located with the Incident Command Post. There should only be one base per incident, and it is designated by the incident name. The base is established and managed by the Logistics Section. The resources in the base are always “out-of-service” until relocated to the staging areas.

Camp: Location where resources may be kept to support incident operations if a base is not accessible to all resources. Camps are temporary locations within the general incident area. They should be equipped and staffed to provide food, water, sleeping areas, and sanitary services. Camps are designated by geographic location or number. Multiple camps may be used, but not all incidents will have camps.

Helibase: Location from which helicopter-centered air operations are conducted. Helibases are generally used on a more long-term basis and include such services as fueling and maintenance.

Helispots: Temporary locations at the incident, where helicopters can safely land and take off. Multiple helispots may be used.

Tactical Resources: Available or potentially available personnel and major items of equipment to support the Operations function on assignment to incidents.

Support Resources: All other resources required to support the incident. This may include:

  • Food
  • Communications equipment
  • Tents
  • Supplies
  • Fleet vehicles

Receive TRP's "best practices" guide to the Crisis Management Framework.

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Tags: Crisis Management, Incident Management, Redundant Systems, Training and Exercises, Emergency Management Program, Notification Systems

The National Response Center and FCC Dedicated Phone Lines

Posted on Thu, Aug 09, 2012

The National Response Center (NRC) is the sole federal point of contact for spills of hazardous materials. The NRC, which is staffed on a 24-hour basis, was given the responsibility of receiving incident reports involving hazardous materials regulated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act for the transportation of hazardous materials (49 CFR 171), for natural gas and other gases transported by pipeline (49 CFR 191), and for liquids transported by pipeline (49 CFR 195). All facilities involved in these activities should include the National Response Center reporting number, (800) 424-8802, in the notification section of an emergency response plan.

However, not all emergencies involve hazardous material or the requirement to contact the National Response Center. Specific emergency and non-emergency notification resources include a series of assigned three digit phone numbers. In May 2012, The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued “One Call” grants in excess of $1 million to support states' 8-1-1 safe digging call centers in an effort to reduce pipeline digging accidents.

“One-third of all serious pipeline accidents are caused by someone digging and hitting a pipeline by mistake. In fact, between 1988 and 2010, excavation damage was responsible for $438,785,552 in property damage.” - PHMSA

The most commonly recognized emergency number is 9-1-1. Since September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken important steps to ensure that the emergency 911 services and other critical communications remain operational when disasters strike. Efforts to include wireless communication networks into the emergency call systems have been successful. Three digit phone lines are dedicated to a variety of services. While some of these lines are fee based, others are provided free of charge.  The following describes existing three-digit numbers:

  • 9-1-1: Emergency services- In October 1999, the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (9-1-1 Act) took effect, encouraging and facilitating the prompt deployment of a free nationwide, seamless communications infrastructure for emergency services. One provision of the 9-1-1 Act directs the FCC to make 9-1-1 the universal emergency number for all telephone service, including wireless services.
  • 8-1-1:  Pipeline safety call center- Calls are routed to local call centers. The operator reports the location of the planned dig, type of work to be performed, and notifies affected local utilities companies. Within a few days, a locator will arrive to mark the approximate location of the underground lines, pipes and cables surrounding the dig site.
  • 7-1-1: Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted use of the 711 dialing code for access to TRS. TRS permits persons with a hearing or speech disability to use the telephone system via a text telephone (TTY) or other device to call persons with or without such disabilities.
  •  6-1-1: Service Provider Customer services- The 611 number is not officially assigned by the (FCC) or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), but both have chosen not to disturb the assignment as it is generally recognized across the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) for being used to report a problem with telephone service.
  • 5-1-1: Travel Information- In July of 2000, the FCC designated "511" as the single traffic information telephone number to be made available to states and local jurisdictions across the country. The Federal Highway administration website provides additional details regarding the travel information dedicated line.
  • 4-1-1: Local directory assistance and Information- These call typically involves a surcharge.
  • 3-1-1: Non emergency- Calls to 311 are routed either to a separate center and handled by non-public safety personnel, or routed to the same center where 911 and other public safety calls are handled, depending on the circumstances.
  • 2-1-1: State specific resource for basic health and human services - As of October 2011, all 50 states (including 37 states with 90%+ coverage) plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico are included in the 2-1-1 applied regions. As of May 2011, more than 56% of Canadians have access to 2-1-1 services. Visit 2-1-1 Canada from more information.

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

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Tags: Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Event Preparedness, Business Continuity Plan, Disaster Response, National Preparedness, Notification Systems, Chemical Industry

Technology and Emergency Response

Posted on Thu, Jun 28, 2012

Contributed by Terry Strahan; GIS Manager, Houston Operations at Morris P. Hebert, Inc.

As the Emergency Response industry has grown over the years, so has the technology that supports it. In order to record an emergency response event, technical support consisted of paper documentation translated from illegible field notes. Visual recorded documentation included paper maps detailing the location and path of the spill or release. Occasionally, these documents were used for spill response training, but they typically remained stagnant and inoperative.

As computers and electronic documentation became more commonplace, the ability to digitally record events became easier, more efficient, and viable. Technologies and computer software allowed for systematic formats to be accepted across industries, mainstreaming methodology and digital response tactics. The ease of Internet attainability enabled processes, such as the Incident Command System (ICS), to be accessible and incorporated in every emergency response.

Additionally, the average mobile phone has components such as high-resolution cameras and email capability, making digital communications updates plausible from nearly any location. Advanced technology, such as GPS tracking, allows for real-time positional updates at any given time throughout an event. Satellite imagery can provide detailed visual images of the status of a location, and before and after comparison photos to aid in the documentation of the effects of the incident. Free emergency response software is enabling responders to accurately and preemptively respond to escalating emergencies. There are a large number of resources available that can be accessed from the Internet for any incident. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) software listed below is available to responders:

In today’s highly technical environment, gathering data from multiple sources, organizing it systematically, displaying information for logistical value, and storing response data can be overwhelming. By embracing and successfully managing continual advances in technology, emergency managers will be able to create a sustainable and proactive emergency management program. However, logistical hurdles and successful interoperability will continue to be an issue as the industry utilizes advancing technology in different capacities and formats.

Terry Strahan is the GIS Manager – Houston Operations at Morris P. Hebert, Inc. Terry has 20 years’ experience applying GIS technology to solving real-world problems in various fields, including Pipeline GIS Management and Environmental and Emergency Response and Gas, Electric and Landbase Data Management. He can be reach at 713-219-1470 ext. 4419.

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

TRP Fire Pre Plan Image

Tags: HAZCOM, Resiliency, Incident Management, Training and Exercises, Disaster Response, Notification Systems

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

Twitter Resources for Emergency Managers and HSE Professionals

Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012

The Twitter world is quickly becoming incorporated into emergency management. After every recent disaster or impending crisis, it is now commonplace for Twitter users to tweet 140 characters of information, some accurate and others rumored. However, it is recognized that information that can be rapidly circulated can be beneficial to the emergency management industry.

“Following” the right agencies can assist company personnel in determining inbound threats, as well as potentially communicating specific needs after a crisis erupts. Below is a general list of specific agencies that may become information sources in case of an emergency.

The following national level twitter feeds may be beneficial:

  • @FEMA - Provides FEMA mission-related information
  • @HMSAT- The official microblog of the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, Hazard Administration Safety team
  • @DHS.gov  - Official page of Department of Homeland Security
  • @NFPA -Communicates the latest National Fire Protection Association’s news on fire and line safety, code information, and research.
  • @CNNbrk, @FOXNews, @CBSNews - National News Station of Choice
  • @Regulationsgov - Regulations.Gov official page that communicates the ability to be part of the federal decision making process
  • @CDCEmergency - Center for Disease Control’s official page to prepare and respond to public health emergencies.
  • @EPAgov - News, tips, links, conversations by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • @NHC_Atlantic - Provides analysis, forecasts, warnings of hazardous tropical weather from the National Hurricane Center
  • @NSC - National Safety Council provides information to prevent injuries at the worksite, in homes and communities, and on the road.
  • @USNOAAGOV - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aims to provide science, safety, and stewardship to protect life and property and conserve and protect natural resources.
  • @LLIS - Department of Homeland Security’ Lessons Learned, is an online network of emergency managers and lessons learned.

Companies should seek out local response groups that utilize Twitter in order to garner location specific details of a crisis or disaster. Below are examples of location-based resources:

  • @Portof_Houston- Port of Houston
  • @CALFIRE NEWS - California Fire News
  • @NYSEMO - New York State Office of Emergency Management
  • @AlabamaBeaches - Alabama Gulf Coast
  • @FEMAREGION5 - FEMA Region 5
  • @USGS_EQ_CA - USGS Earthquake California
  • @ArkansasTornado - AR Tornado Warnings
  • @COEmergency - The Colorado Division of Emergency Management

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

Tags: Safety, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Notification Systems, Red Cross