Your Solution for SMART Response Plans

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:

TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

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

Renovating the Framework of Emergency Management and Incident Response

Posted on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

The modernization of communication technologies has trickled down to the frameworks of emergency management. On July 29, 2014, the 'White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day” brought together the disaster response community and innovative entrepreneurs from across the country in the hopes of integrating technological advances with preparedness and disaster response efforts.

As the connectivity of the world increases, EHS programs and emergency managers are embracing collaborative and innovative preparedness and response initiatives. However, in order to germinate or sustain an ongoing culture of preparedness, companies must prioritize funding to incorporate new and relevant systems, training, and/or equipment. Unless mandated by regulatory authorities, many companies delay best practice and technological initiatives until an incident propels response planning to the forefront.

According to the Disaster Recovery Planning Benchmark Survey: 2014 Annual Report, “more than 60% of those who took the survey do not have a fully documented disaster recovery (DR) plan and another 40% admitted that the DR plan they currently have did not prove very useful when it was called on to respond to their worst disaster recovery event or scenario.

As the “Y” or the “Millennial” generation” (those born between 1980’s and 2000) continues to enter the workforce, emerging technologies will become more ingrained into society and the workplace. These educated and tech savvy individuals accustomed to fast-paced technological advancements consider technology as an essential aspect in their lives. Based on current trends, upcoming generations will be acclimated to instantaneous communication and data extraction from any location. Text, social media, and web-based technologies will be expected as commonplace emergency management frameworks, rather than the traditional means that most companies still utilize today. In order to integrate societal norms and stay relevant with upcoming generations of employees, emergency management and disaster response framework must be aligned with currently available utilized tools.

Statistics suggest that every dollar invested in disaster preparedness yields savings of $4–$11 in disaster response, relief, and recovery.” The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Just as computers replaced typewriters to expand productivity, web-based response systems are replacing one-dimensional paper-based plans. Web-based response systems offer a greater streamlined functionality, renovated efficiency, and varied accessibility when compared with traditional paper-based plans.  Web-based planning system software offers every option of instant accessibility: viewed via the Internet from any location, downloaded, or printed. Increasing accessibility options while improving efficiency, functionality, and effectiveness can bolster an entire emergency management program.

In order for new functionalities to be introduced to the workplace, emergency managers often are required to justify the initial investment. A cost-benefit analysis of a renovated emergency management program can highlight the potential cost savings of an effective program. Any prevention, mitigation, or plan maintenance costs should be compared with the financial impact of situational recovery processes and the overall costs of an incident. These costs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Human life
  • Short term or long term business interruption
  • Lawsuit(s)
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Equipment failure
  • Inventory/stock losses
  • Fines
  • Reputation
  • Environmental destruction

The relevance of innovative techniques and lessons learned should be continually evaluated and incorporated into an emergency preparedness program if appropriate.  While often suppressed in favor of short-term profits, budgets for pertinent emergency management initiatives should be prioritized for long-term corporate sustainability. But “change for change’s sake” does not typically enhance programs. The evolution process of an emergency management program should aim to perpetuate improved responses and operational recovery times, and enhance company viability despite crisis scenarios.

For a free download on essential preparedness measures, click here or on the image below.

Preparedness and Emergency Management - TRP Corp

Tags: Tactical Response Planning, Emergency Management, Resiliency, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program, Communication Plan, Social Media

Top TRP Corp Emergency Preparedness Blogs of 2013

Posted on Mon, Jan 13, 2014

As we begin 2014, we would like to share our subscribers’ top ten TRP blogs from 2013.  While the topics vary, the goal of each blog is to provide resources to assist in developing effective emergency, crisis, and business continuity plans and programs. It is our hope that emergency and crisis managers, first responders, and safety professionals can utilize these blogs to advance their emergency management and business continuity efforts in 2014.

TRP’s Top Ten 2013 Blogs include:

10. Managing Multiple Incidents Through ICS: Managing a single incident can be challenging. Managing multiple incidents demands an organized, coordinated, and thoroughly exercised response plan. This blog explore the use of the Incident Command System (ICS), a common organizational structure designed to aid in incident management activities, and core concepts that can greatly assist in the overall response of a multiple incident or crisis event.

9. Office Building Emergency Management and Emergency Action Plans. In order to prioritize safety, office building management should include a customized Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) program that complies with pertinent regulatory requirements, and includes site-specific safety and evacuation procedures. This blog specifically highlights common office building health and safety hazards, and emergency action plan components required by OSHA.

8. Success, Failure, and the Emergency Response Exercise: Prompted by a LinkedIn discussion on the effects of specifically designing an exercise to match response capabilities, this blog identifies suggested exercise objectives that participants should comprehend and demonstrate during the course of an exercise.

7. Emergency Management Planning and Social Media: This blog discusses the ever increasing and merging communications applications that are creating a new outlet within emergency management. With pertinent information readily available through various sources, the decision-making process and applicable response can be accelerated, potentially minimizing the effects of the incident. However, companies must develop processes for monitoring social media content during an incident in order to collect accurate real-time intelligence and respond accordingly.

6. The Incident Action Plan Begins with Incident Command: This blog details the benefits of incorporating the Incident Command System (ICS) into an emergency management program and highlights Incident Commander response priorities and responsibilities. At the onset of an incident, Incident Commanders can utilize ICS elements to develop incident-specific strategic objectives and facilitate necessary response procedures.

5. Twitter Hashtags in Emergency Management: With the surge of social media usage, companies are engaging in and utilizing the boundless information available from interactive platforms such as Twitter. This blog highlights the use of the Twitter hashtag tool (#), which allows readers to connect to specific topics or incidents, and identifies some of the most popular hashtags used for emergency management related issues.

4. The Tabletop Exercise and Emergency Response Plan: Tabletop exercises can often reveal shortcomings in preparedness planning and responder knowledge. The blog identifies the minimum components necessary for a tabletop exercise and ways to utilize its results to improve the effectiveness of a preparedness program.

3.Extended Power Outages Require Business Continuity Planning: As active weather patterns continue to course across the United States, residents and businesses in the path of these extreme storms are often plagued with power outages. This blog discusses the need for specific response plans and emphasizes the urgency to evaluate Business Continuity Plans.

2.Ten Safety Training Videos to Bolster Emergency Management: Companies often use safety training videos to supplement required instruction for specific industries, roles, or equipment usage. This blog offers a sampling of free videos available to supplement safety training. (As with any free safety resource available on the Internet, information should always be verified for accuracy.)

1.. Smartphone Apps for Emergency Managers and First Responders: With pertinent information readily available, the decision-making process can be improved and the response can be accelerated, potentially minimizing the effects of the incident. This "Smart Phone Apps" blog highlights a variety of free and low-cost smartphone apps that can assist EHS managers and first responders.

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

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Tags: Power Failure, Response Plans, Training and Exercises, Safety, Social Media, BCM

The Art of Crisis Management - Planning, Preparedness, and Practice

Posted on Thu, Jan 09, 2014

Organizational crises are inherently psychological, social, political, technological, and/or structural phenomena.1 Companies face enormous consequences if a crisis situation or incident negatively impacts brand reputation. During a crisis, communication is often one of the most persistent liabilities, potentially exposing weaknesses in company policy, operations, intentions, and/or financial foundations.  It relays a situation’s defining moments, actions, perceptions, and forecasted intentions. However, communication also holds the key to situational reconciliation and financial resolve, or reputational anguish. 

The act of planning, preparation, and practice of a Crisis Management Plan (CMP) grants companies the ability to effectively respond to defining situational crises.  The ability to diversely communicate information within a context understandable to responders, stakeholder, employees, and the public allows companies to successfully navigate through a crisis, potentially minimizing the effects of the situation.

Planning

Companies must have mechanisms in place to counteract potential risks, operational threats and company extinction. There are a multitude of crisis communication and response details, variables, and eventualities that must be planned for and considered. Whether your company is a small regional facility or an extensive international network of operations, designing a comprehensive and effective CMP before a crisis occurs is essential to the continued success of your enterprise.

The CMP should establish a strategic framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response to a crisis. These checklists should include activation criteria and responses for any situation involving a threat to people, property, the environment, or operations. A mishandled crisis or incident may result in damage to the company's reputation and/or financial well being.

A CMP should:

  • Identify all potential threats to “business as usual” operations. This can range from incidents requiring an emergency response to human resource controversies.
  • Determine what your position or viewpoint will be on potential issues.
  • Take preventive measures to proactively deter negative perceptions. This includes generating effective response procedures and recovery processes for a variety of potential threats.

Consider preparing a plan for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. This may include identifying and communicating with all stakeholders that may be affected by each crisis situation. Maintaining consistency through standardized positions and responsibilities enable clear, effective, and efficient crisis management.

Preparedness

With instant accessibility, information (whether true or false) can become viral within minutes. Because of this potential, companies must be prepared with the proper communication tools, a means for situational awareness, and potential responses to react quickly, yet effectively.  Miscommunication or withholding information can exacerbate the initial crisis and increase negative impacts of the situation. If accurate information cannot be verified, companies should not speculate in their communications. Statements should include anticipated time of communications and method of verification.

It is apparent that with the popularity and accessibility of social media, the role of conventional media is changing. However, John Barr, author of Trainwrecks: How Corporate Reputations Collapse and Managements Try to Rebuild Them said, “At the end of the day, a story told by traditional media – especially the respected media like The Globe and Mail, New York Times and Wall Street Journal – carries more weight than social media”.  The argument of the weight of “traditional media” seems to be evolving. The fast paced world of 24/7 news often leaves the traditional news outlets looking to social networks for information, even referring to posted tweets or Facebook comments.

But despite the media forum, companies’ preparedness efforts should include communications to a variety of recipients. Crisis management often highlights the communication with and amongst the public and potential consumers. However, pertinent information should be shared with multiple stakeholders, including employees, investors, contractors, and suppliers. Companies should shape messages according to each recipient, as specialized information may be required.

It is imperative for the establishment and training of a crisis management team. The team should be prepared to follow the established plan and pertinent guidelines, communicate company positions, and relay ongoing activities related to the incident. Proactive efforts, honesty, empathy, and preparedness will assist in maintaining company viability and reputation.

Practice

A well-rehearsed and regularly updated CMP offers the best chance for company viability in the aftermath of a crisis. Since public perception plays an enormous role in the consequences resulting from a crisis, establishing a well trained team with knowledge of predetermined processes and assigned responsibilities will allow a company the means to respond to the situation, and control assumptions and rumors. 

Social media, both incoming and outgoing, can be targeted during a crisis. While these powerful channels can be a source of falsehoods and negative comments, this communication method, if used effectively, can be positive on a global scale. The crisis management team should be trained in social media, with an understanding of how to reach targeted audiences and acceptable content of statements.

A variety of crisis management exercises should conducted as part of response training. If the CMP is activated in an exercise or in an actual event, the results should be reviewed to determine if adjustments are necessary.  CMPs need to be continually reviewed, tested, and revised so that they are applicable to current risks and threats. However, no matter how well designed a CMP might be, personnel must be trained to effectively enact appropriate responses.

1. Academy of Management Review: Reframing Crisis Management, Christine M. Pearson and Judith A. Clair, 23(1) (1998): 59–76.

For a free download on conducting effective exercises, click the image below:

TRP Corp Emergency Response Planning Exercises

Tags: Crisis Mapping, Resiliency, Response Plans, Crisis Management, Emergency Management Program, Communication Plan, Social Media

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

Emergency Communications Planning in the Oil and Gas Industry

Posted on Mon, Dec 10, 2012

In a crisis situation, effective response communications enables employees, stakeholders, and customers to be informed of the current situation and allows all parties to set realistic expectations of a response. During the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Hess Corporation, a prevalent fuel supplier in the northeast region of the U.S., published timely information on fuel availability levels at its working gas stations for the public. This effort allowed Hess customers to determine a course of action, while limiting extraneous efforts to attain fuel. Since the emergency situation was not limited to a specific site, the company prioritized broad-based emergency response communications to address the needs of its customers.

A regional emergency event can extend far beyond a facility’s borders. Communicating timely and accurate information to facility managers, critical decision makers, emergency response teams, stakeholders, vendors and contractors, and the public is an important element to any emergency management function.  This is especially true in communicating response and recovery operations in the highly regulated oil and gas industry, which is critical to a stable infrastructure and a productive economy. If a company or a region suffers an incident affecting oil and gas companies, the financial and societal costs can escalate quickly. Effects may include, but are not limited to:

  • Production loss
  • Inventory depletion
  • Supply shortages
  • Employee safety
  • Brand and reputation
  • Customer dissatisfaction

According to FEMA, the foundation of an effective disaster communications strategy is built on the four critical assumptions:

1. Customer Focus: After an emergency, there is a need for highly effective communication between company leadership and facility employees. Typically, these facility employees become the first line of communication and main relationship facilitator between customers and the company. Effective and proactive communication can result in positive customer interaction, which maintains company reputations and strong relationships.

2. Leadership Commitment: This commitment must include, but is not limited to;

    • Communication among site managers and all business units
    • Advancing contact verification procedures
    • The development of a communications strategic framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process
    • Notification procedures for stakeholders, both internal and external.

3. Inclusion of Communications in Planning and Operations: Communication procedures should be included as part of emergency response plans.  Each team member should have clear procedures for receiving and disseminating information. Public relations personnel should be included in emergency planning aspects and emergency exercises.

4. Media Partnership: Media has the ability to rapidly communicate public safety messages to communities, potentially reaching necessary resources and affirming proactive measures are in place. Consistent, accurate messages by company representatives alleviate public anxiety and provide a level of credibility and response competency. Public relations planning should be developed as part of an overall disaster management plan in order to sustain a positive and productive relationship with every level of stakeholder and the community at large.

“With a typical oil pipeline pumping more than $3-million worth of oil an hour, effective communications are essential in keeping revenues flowing.”1   If and when an emergency occurs, clear communication is crucial to protect lives, the environment, the surrounding community, as well as profits and reputation. Effective emergency communications should:

  • Result from accurate data collection
  • Clarify initial emergency response initiatives
  • Be timely and current
  • Remain concise to accurately define necessary tasks
  • Include time parameters and follow up procedures
  • Be strategic in how tasks should be accomplished

Establishing and committing to communications and public relations efforts define lines of communications with all partners, enables leaders to communicate response efforts and requirements, and ensures that public affairs staff has the training and the tools to be successful to maintain company reputation and client relationships.

1:  TETRA: Enabling Critical Communications in the Oil and Gas Sector, 2009, www.motorola.com

 

For information about SPCC Plans, download TRP Corp's free SPCC and FRP Inspections guide.

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Tags: Corporate Hurricane Preparedness, Crisis Management, Incident Management, Oil Spill, Emergency Management Program, Media and Public Relations, Social Media

Social Media and the Emergency Manager

Posted on Mon, Oct 01, 2012

As Hurricane Isaac churned in the Gulf in August 2012, public sector emergency managers were turning to social media to relay important information, as well as monitor feeds for trends relating to evolving emergency situations.

“This is the first time we’re rolling out full-blown Twitter and Facebook as well as our notification system through e-mails,” said Broward Emergency Manager Chuck Lanza in regards to Hurricane Isaac’s impact. “Any message that we send out will have to do with preparedness, evacuations, sheltering, stuff that’s easy to understand that people can get the message and act upon it pretty quickly.

Emergency managers must adjust to the “new normal” information flow and associated technologies. A new generation of internet-shackled employees is coming into the workforce, and is becoming increasingly dependent on social media for information. Within a short time span, social media has grown from a hobby-like befriending outlet into a vast two-way communication network, unlike radio and television. The concept of social media as a communication tool has garnered the attention of Federal Emergency Management Administration, which introduced a new course in July, 2012, entitled IS-42 Social Media in Emergency Management. 

According to the FEMA Social Media’s course description, “Social media is a new technology that not only allows for another channel of broadcasting messages to the public, but also allows for two way communication between emergency managers and major stakeholder groups.”

Emergency managers can utilize social media to communicate preparations for, necessary responses to, and recovery from an emergency event. Unlike passive traditional press releases and media interactions in which message content was typically controlled and timed, social media is accessible on a 24-hour basis with the potential for average citizens dispersing content. According to the Social Media in Emergency Management course, “The Internet has evolved from a static path of sharing information to a dynamic communication conduit for all to contribute”.

Common social media sites used by Emergency managers include, but are not limited to:

  • Blogger, Wordpress, and similar platforms: Allow for a single author or a group of authors using one account to post content and links as a series of articles or posts arranged in a chronological sequence like a diary or journal.
  • Twitter, a micro-blogging site: Provides users with a platform for 140 character messages that may include web links, pictures, audio, and video content.
  • Facebook and Google+: Allows individuals or organizations to keep others up to date on their status and activities or to advertise events.
  • LinkedIn: A professional platform used form communities of practice, for continual learning, and sharing of better practices.
  • Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, Vimeo, and Tumblr: Media sharing site that can include text commentary, group photos or video. 
  • Wikis: Repositories for information or documentsOnline encyclopedias typically offer subject specific areas where information can be obtained.  Wikis may be used as an outlet for users to submit ideas, solutions, or their opinions. 

“Social media has added credibility challenges to the formerly unquestioned voice of the emergency manager.” - Tom Olshanski, Director of External Affairs at the U.S. Fire Administration

Social media creates its own set of challenges for companies incorporating the newest information medium into its emergency management process. These challenges include;

  • Leadership buy-in: Questions about the reliability of information, fear of the unknown, misuse, or abuse.
  • Potential lack of content control: Any witness with an Internet connection can report on an incident and the emergency response.  The potential reputational fallout can be catastrophic for a company if inaccurate information goes viral.
  • Global reach: Information shared on most social media is accessible by the masses, despite location.
  • Security policies: Social media platforms may be perceived as potential security risks for highly regulated facilities.
  • Personnel privacy: Policies must be in place to determine tracking, storage and usage of sensitive data.
  • Organizational capacity: Emergency management team may be unfamiliar with social media or might lack the skills required to use it effectively.
  • Sustainability: Overloaded emergency staff may not have the time necessary for a dedicated social media effort.
  • Company documentation: Legal records retention requirements for archiving communications at State and Federal level can damper use of social media tools. Social media usage is outpacing changes to legal documentation requirements
  • Multi-channel feeds: One post can be disseminated to a number of social media outlets making information viral before facts are confirmed.
  • Publicity: The public obtains its news and information from multiple sources (television, radio, and the World Wide Web) and chooses what, when, and in what form it receives it. Public relations efforts must cross-pollinate amongst various mediums.
  • Reversed Information Chain: A Company may receive information regarding its own company or facilities from outside sources. Eyewitnesses can be the first to “break the story”, potentially leading to a negative company reputation. The public perception may include discussions of a company cover-up or ignorance to its own failures, if a public statement is delayed.

However, despite its challenges, companies involved in an emergency can benefit from social media in critical ways that aid in emergency response: 

  1. Speed: Direct communication between informants and those who need information enables responders to react faster, minimizing the duration of the emergency.
  2. Relevance: Disseminate the right message to the right audience
  3. Accuracy: Ensure information is correct, confirmed by company sources, and backed up by facts or direct observation. Multiple informants can confirm accuracy or inaccuracies.

Emergency managers, in coordination with public relations personnel, should maintain a crisis management plan to address potential challenges and proactively inform employees, stakeholders, and the public regarding any company incident. This process should highlight situational awareness, company efforts to combat the emergency, and mediation measures to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

Initial social media contact via written messages, photographs, and videos after an emergency should contain the following elements:

  • A brief, focused, and factual description of the situation and initial response actions
  • Processes established to minimize and counteract the emergency
  • A statement of commitment to return to “business as usual”
  • An expression of empathy and concern for those involved in the incident and response.
  • Access to an employee with subject matter expertise to answer inquiries
  • Timing for media follow up (only promise what can be delivered)

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

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Tags: Emergency Management, Incident Management, FEMA, Media and Public Relations, Social Media

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