- Todd Thomas
Do You Have A Plan?
All organizations need an Emergency Response Plan (ERP). Why? It is all about planning your response before an accident or incident occurs. A popular quote attributed to Steven Cyros, says it all: “Remember: when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.”
You have a much better chance of minimizing the effects of a disaster when you have a plan in place. Keep in mind, your plan should fit the size of your organization.
I have worked with companies whose ERPs were too large for their size. There was no way these companies would be able to implement their plans due to lack of resources and infrastructure. Luckily, there was never an incident that required putting one of these plans into action. As we all should know by now, luck will only take you so far.
Being prepared to the greatest extent possible to handle emergencies must be the immediate goal. If your organization has an ERP, kudos to you. Evaluate the plan to ensure it is up to date. If your organization does not have an ERP, I urge you to put one in place. Make it a priority.
So, what goes into developing or updating an Emergency Response Plan? First and foremost, do not reinvent the wheel. Our safety colleagues are willing to share ideas, real-world experience and even their plans. Reach out to other operators in your area. An online search may also help. You’ll likely find several vendors, such as Baldwin, who specialize in providing safety products like an ERP manual template.
Your ERP needs to be reasonable and clearly laid out. Look for an ERP template to include sections that will answer the who, what, when, where and how of your organization’s emergency response. Your plan should answer these questions:
Who in your organization will have ERP responsibilities?
What will each person’s roles and responsibilities be?
When will the ERP be activated and when will each participant begin their roles and responsibilities?
Where will the ERP be kept and where will the command center be?
How will each person carry out the various roles and responsibilities?
To help answer each question, take time to understand the hazards your operation faces. Determine how extensive a response will be needed for the hazards you identified.
Do not overcomplicate things! Think through each question and provide common sense answers for your organization. Also, do not put too many responsibilities on any one individual. A best practice is to have a back-up for each primary staff person in the event of sickness or vacation.
You should survey your work group to see if anyone possesses any unique skills that can help during an emergency. You may have workers who are already trained in emergency response. For example, you may also have people trained as volunteer firemen, reserve police officers or as emergency medical technicians. The idea is to know your work groups strengths and to capitalize on those experiences during an emergency.
Once your ERP is in place, a critical final piece is to plan regular exercises or drills. A scaled-down version, known as a table-top exercise, is a good way to accomplish this task. Gather all your key players around a conference room table and walk through an emergency. This will help everyone gain familiarity with their roles and responsibilities quickly.
On a less frequent but regular basis, it is advisable to hold a full-scale exercise. This involves advance planning to determine a scenario. You should activate an Emergency Operation Center, EOC, and your call list. Keep it as realistic as possible but ensure that the participants are told it is an exercise.
Always plan on a de-briefing at the end of each exercise. This will be a time to gather and go over how your team performed. You will identify weak spots in order to focus on them in future training. Take all lessons-learned and share with your team to help improve the response in future drills. Update your ERP as appropriate.
You and your organization will benefit in several ways once you have an effective ERP in place. First, you will be better prepared to handle an emergency when one occurs. Second, you will have peace of mind knowing you have a plan in place.
If you do not have an ERP, you should put one in place immediately. If you have an ERP, ensure everyone is properly trained and perform exercises on a regular basis.
By taking the time to prepare your ERP you will be better prepared to handle emergencies within your organization. Fly safe!