Documentation in Disaster Management - Where do we start?

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Disaster or emergency management documentation can take place in many forms. Some companies use hand held devices to record emergency observations from on-site field locations, while others depend on a central emergency operations center. Regardless of the communication method, or centralized or decentralized location, vital detailed information that incite emergency procedures must be documented as soon as practical during or immediately after an emergency incident.

Ideally, documentation should begin immediately upon notification of an emergency and continue until post incident reviews have been completed. This includes compiling notes and applicable documentation from all employees and members of the response team. The following are recommended documentation guidelines:

  • Record only facts, not speculation. If participant does not know a particular fact, do not allow speculation or elaboration
  • Do not criticize other people's efforts and/or methods
  • Do not speculate on the cause of the emergency
  • Do not relate unqualified opinions

Documentation must be specific to the incident, however, the follow topics can provide guidance as to necessary documented information:

  • When/where did incident take place?
  • Was an evacuation called for, and if so, how much time was required to evacuate all personnel?
  • Did the designated alarms function properly?
  • Were assembly areas acceptable?
  • Were communication methods effective?
  • Were all employees accounted for?
  • Did on-site equipment satisfy equipment needs? If not, what additional equipment was brought to the site?
  • Were procedures implemented as described in the Emergency Plan?
  • Were there any areas for improvement identified during the incident? List specifics.
  • Did local jurisdictions assist in the emergency response? If so, did they offer suggestions for improvement?
  • Do changes need to be made to the Emergency Plan?

Documentation of an emergency incident is a critical part of an emergency plan. Visual, audio, and written recordings should be made, detailing each step of the emergency response in order to provide a clear understanding of the events that occurred. Information and lessons learned from previous incidents can be used to prepare a more functional emergency plan for the future.

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