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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.

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

Global EHS Response Planning, Preparedness, and Challenges

Posted on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

As companies expand operations and become more global, applicable location-specific threats and risks must be identified and incorporated into preparedness measures. Enterprise expansion requires environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers and corporate regulatory teams to sharpen their global understanding of regulations, security needs, and associated components of emergency response plans and strategies specific to location of operations.

Whether a facility is domestically located or abroad, ensuring compliance and employee safety requires a streamlined, coordinated, and exercised response plan. All response plans within the corporate enterprise should address site-specific facility details, appropriate response processes, standardized company-wide best practices, and should maintain compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

A poorly managed and inadequate response, whether an emergency on non-emergency incident, can negatively affect a company’s reputation, business interests, and relationship with key regulators, partners, and local entities. However, global branches outside headquarters’ domain may present additional preparedness and response challenges. Cultural differences, infrastructure challenges, or security priorities may heighten preparedness priorities and planning efforts. As a result, a multinational company may be particularly vulnerable to crisis or emergency response situations.

High-level crisis management responses may stem from either emergency or non-emergency situations. While necessary emergency responses likely affect the safety and health of employees and/or the facility infrastructure, non-emergency situations can arise that potentially impact company reputation and operational longevity. Response plans should be developed for each potential emergency or non-emergency scenario that could cause significant damage to local operations or company-wide. Crisis management or emergency response planning may incorporate, but is not limited to the following:

Environmental Stewardship: Disparity in international, country, state, county and corporate environmental standards.  Environmental regulations may vary regarding:

  • Facility or site requirements
  • Transportation
  • Hazardous spills
  • Equipment safety
  • Fire-fighting method
  • Gas releases

Natural Disasters: Each geographic location is saddled with specific potential natural threats.

  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes/Typhoons,
  • Sand/wind storms
  • Tornados
  • Flooding
  • Tsunami

Employee issues: While every facility must prepare for potential employee issues, global companies must pay specific attention to the following:

  • Cultural differences
  • Language barriers
  • Labor relations challenges
  • Workplace discrimination or harassment
  • Disgruntled workers
  • Health and safety disparagements
Marketing: Global markets and unethical business practices can create non-emergency scenarios resulting in the need for crisis management:
  • Price gouging
  • Supply availability
  • Recalls
  • Deceptive business practices

Security Breach: A security breach can affect multiple aspects of a company, from business continuity to the physical safety of employees.

  • Computer hacking
  • Catastrophic IT failure
  • Facility security measures
  • Civil unrest
  • Personnel/employee security

Corporate Governance: Corporate changes can initiate unrest, disrupt operations, and company reputation:

  • Mergers
  • Organizational restructuring
  • Downsizing
  • Facility closings
  • Management successions/promotions
  • Financial reporting integrity

Industry/Sector Issues: As industry specific equipment, regulatory advancements, and technologies evolve, preparedness should continually adapt to include safety processes, continuity procedures and best practices.

  • Supply disruptions
  • Punitive regulations
  • Equipment advancements

Illegal Activity: Faults in humanity may be intensified by location specific conditions, supply and demand, and/or greed. Preparedness measures should include business continuity and crisis management procedure for the following circumstances:

  • Extortion
  • Bribery
  • Fraud
  • Malfeasance
  • Criminal Investigation

Political/Social issues: As companies strive to be profitable, political and social issues can interfere with daily operations. Situations that may affect productivity include, but are not limited to:

  • Human rights
  • Terrorism
  • War
  • Political or social unrest
  • Economic disparity
  • Discrimination

Though preparedness, companies can minimize the effects of costly crisis and emergency situations. Timely resolutions with limited impact to the facility, employees, the environment, reputation and the financial bottom line will allow companies to better position themselves for prosperity and longevity. Additionally, strategic preparedness and a response focus across global entities can propel international EHS best practices and bolster worldwide economic stability.

To assist in Global EHS crisis management planning, click here for our free download.

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Tags: Social Unrest, Crisis Management, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Security plans, Political Instability, Media and Public Relations, Workplace Safety

Applying FEMA's Core Capabilites to Corporate EHS Programs: Part 2

Posted on Mon, May 13, 2013

FEMA has identified 31 core capabilities that should be incorporated into emergency management programs. Although the concepts are aimed at the public sector and governmental jurisdictions, companies can evaluate these elements for site specific applicability and implement appropriate elements to actualize corporate strategic and tactical environmental, health, and safety (EHS) goals.

In Part 2 of this series on core capabilities, we will explore the concepts relating to FEMA’s mission areas of prevention and protection, and the core concepts that fall under these areas.

PREVENTION

Preventionincludes those capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism. It is focused on ensuring we are optimally prepared to prevent an imminent terrorist attack within the United States.”

Forensics and Attribution: “Conduct forensic analysis and attribute terrorist acts (including the means and methods of terrorism) to their source, to include forensic analysis as well as attribution for an attack and for the preparation for an attack in an effort to prevent initial or follow-on acts and/or swiftly develop counter-options.”

Companies must remain vigilant in preventing  terrorism. By prioritizing the analysis of on-site sources, such as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive material, companies can help to prevent initial or follow-on terrorist acts. Site-specific awareness training can broaden the scope of prevention by identifying potential sources and/or attributes associated with a terrorist attack.

PROTECTION

The following capabilities protect individual and critical corporate assets, systems, and networks against threats. EHS programs must institute these critical protective measures to promote business continuity. The ability to identify, quantify, and secure critical business processes that, when not functional, may damage a company’s reputation or ability to operate, is a critical stage in the business continuity planning process.

Access Control and Identity Verification: “Apply a broad range of physical, technological, and cyber measures to control admittance to critical locations and systems, limiting access to authorized individuals to carry out legitimate activities.”

Cybersecurity: “Protect against damage to, the unauthorized use of, and/or the exploitation of (and, if needed, the restoration of) electronic communications systems and services (and the information contained therein).”

Physical Protective Measures: “Reduce or mitigate risks, including actions targeted at threats, vulnerabilities, and/or consequences, by controlling movement and protecting borders, critical infrastructure, and the homeland.”

Risk Management for Protection Programs and Activities: “Identify, assess, and prioritize risks to inform Protection activities and investments.”

Supply Chain Integrity and Security: “Strengthen the security and resilience of the supply chain.”

PREVENTION/PROTECTION

Intelligence and Information Sharing: “Provide timely, accurate, and actionable information resulting from the planning, direction, collection, exploitation, processing, analysis, production, dissemination, evaluation, and feedback of available information concerning threats to the United States, its people, property, or interests; the development, proliferation, or use of WMDs; or any other matter bearing on U.S. national or homeland security by Federal, state, local, and other stakeholders. Information sharing is the ability to exchange intelligence, information, data, or knowledge among Federal, state, local, or private sector entities, as appropriate.”

Intelligence and information sharing are important components of the Incident Command System. Capitalizing on lessons learned enables companies to improve methodology based on actual experiences. To advance an EHS program, managers should include cyclical plan reviews to allow lessons learned to be implemented into preparedness, training and exercises.

Interdiction and Disruption: “Delay, divert, intercept, halt, apprehend, or secure threats and/or hazards.”

Companies  must  establish consistent protocols and regulatory compliance measures to maintain safe operations and minimize exposures. This includes proper and secure handling and disposal of hazardous materials capable of bringing harm to individuals, assets, or the environment. The objective is to remain vigilant in order to prevent potential threats, including terrorism.

Screening, Search, and Detection: “Identify, discover, or locate threats and/or hazards through active and passive surveillance and search procedures. This may include the use of systematic examinations and assessments, sensor technologies, or physical investigation and intelligence.”

Companies must be keenly aware of any operations that can potentially targeted or used in a terroristic manner. Proper identifications of materials and individuals, as well as security protocols must be reviewed to guard against potential harm.

The next blog, Part 3 of the series, will address the core capabilities related to mitigation.  To begin reading Part 1 of this series, click here.

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: Resiliency, Security plans, Cyber-Security, Terrorism Threat Management, Safety, Political Instability, Insider Threat