A defined plan to deal with major emergencies is an important element of your organization’s safety program. An emergency response plan can provide guidance during an emergency and may also help in discovering unrecognized hazardous conditions that could make an emergency situation worse.
Emergency planning is a critical part of the continued safe operation of your business. Developing an emergency plan will promote safety awareness and demonstrate your organization’s commitment to employee safety.
Since emergencies will occur, preplanning is necessary to prevent possible disaster. An urgent need for rapid decisions, shortage of time, and lack of resources and trained personnel can lead to chaos during an emergency. Time and circumstances in an emergency mean normal channels of authority and communication cannot be relied upon to function routinely. The stress of the situation can lead to poor decisions which can result in more severe losses.
An emergency plan outlines procedures employees must follow during an emergency. The objective is to reduce the possible consequences of the emergency by preventing further injuries and/or fatalities; minimizing damage to buildings, stock, and equipment; and reducing downtime to accelerate the resumption of normal operations.
Consideration should be given to dealing with the community to reduce the potential for reputational damage to an organization by managing the media, environment, and public face of an incident as much as possible.
Identifying Potential Hazards
Development of the plan begins with an assessment of areas where there are potential vulnerabilities. The results of the study will show the likelihood of an incident occurring, prevention methods, and implementation options. From this analysis, appropriate emergency procedures can be established.
The first step is to identify which hazards pose the largest threat. When identifying a list of hazards, records of past incidents and occupational experience can be a valuable source of information. In addition, since major emergencies are rare events, employees’ experience and knowledge must be leveraged here to make sure a well-rounded evaluation is done, taking all potential situations into account whether they have happened or not.
Areas where flammables, explosives, or chemicals are used or stored should be considered as areas where the highest potential of incident can occur. Some examples of these different types of hazards include the following:
- Building collapse
- Major structural failure
- Spills of flammable liquids
- Accidental or deliberate release of toxic substances
- Loss of electrical power, water supply, communications, and/or any other utility
- Natural occurrences such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, or severe wind, snow, or ice storms
Also consider the possibility of one event triggering others. An explosion may start a fire and cause structural failure while an earthquake might initiate all the events noted in the list above.
Emergency Response Plan
Once the potential threats have been identified, the next critical step is outlining how you expect employees to deal with each threat. Some of the primary objectives of the plan include:
- Determining the sequences of events
- Making evacuation plans
- Dealing with medical emergencies
Depending on your facility, other more site-specific actions may need to be delineated for the responsible parties, such as:
- Equipment-specific shut down procedures
- Utility shut-off procedures
- Ways of summoning emergency personnel using secondary communication methods if primary phone lines are not available
Considerations for first aid, firefighting equipment, and other items such as power generators need to be spelled out in your plan to make sure there are no miscommunications in a high-stress situation.
Getting the Plan in Writing
A written emergency plan is an essential part of your company’s loss control effort. When an emergency happens, it is an extremely stressful time and because every individual handles stress in a different way, you want to have a written program for people to follow. The written plan consists of a listing of potential emergency situations and specific ways that those situations are to be handled.
Conduct Annual Drills
One of the most important aspects of the plan, once it has been developed, is training all employees on their responsibilities in the plan. Take the time to train all employees. Classroom training is good, but practice makes perfect — conducting annual drills will keep everyone involved and much more comfortable dealing with an emergency if the situation arises.
Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor for assistance in developing an emergency plan. We can help you develop a plan that will minimize the negative impact of an emergency situation.