Minimizing the Impact of Emergencies Through Effective Response Measures

Steve Bassine

These processes should be evaluated to ensure that response procedures, training and exercises are implemented effectively

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Competency in responding to emergencies is necessary to minimize their impact. If a response can be initiated and carried out quickly, it is less likely that an incident will negatively impact operations, infrastructure, facilities, employees, and customers. Therefore, response plans need to be intuitive and used as a guide for a successful response. The following processes should be evaluated to ensure that optimal response procedures, and effective training and exercises are implemented.

Initial Response Actions

Employees should be trained in response procedures appropriate to their role. Basic initial response actions include:

  • Warning others in the immediate area by word of mouth and/or activating local alarms.
  • Taking immediate personal protective measures.
  • Reporting the emergency to 9-1-1 or security depending on company policy.
  • Implementing response actions (e.g., process shutdowns, activate fire protection systems, eliminate potential ignition sources).

Initial Notifications

Upon discovery of an emergency, initial notifications should go out to pertinent emergency contacts using the preferred method of notification. Notifications should include incident location, event type, and status. After the initial communication, supervisors should verify observations, and on-scene conditions. A planning system with a contact verification tool can greatly improve the accuracy of notifications data.

Emergency Response Team

The number of personnel required to staff the response organization will depend on the size and complexity of the incident. The Incident Command System has the flexibility to allow changes in team structure while accommodating any initial or evolving tactical/strategic response needs. Maintaining consistency through standardized positions and responsibilities enables clear, effective, and efficient incident management. The Incident Commander is specifically responsible for directing the response activities and assuming the duties of all primary response team positions until the roles can be delegated to other qualified personnel.

Incident Planning/Documentation

The Planning “P” is a common emergency management tool decision-makers use to develop incident action plans, meet tactical response objectives, and plan essential meetings throughout an incident. When developing response plans, emergency managers should review the Planning “P” and implement the actions in applicable training and exercises. Steps are as follows:

  • Identify incidents and initial effects.
  • Establish incident objectives.
  • Develop a plan to counteract the effects.
  • Prepare, disseminate, and exercise the plan.
  • Execute, evaluate, and revise the plan.

Stabilization and Sustained Response Actions

Stabilization is the result of corrective actions initiated by the Incident Response Team. Stabilization actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Initiating proper notifications, alarms, and announcements.
  • Evacuating personnel.
  • Shutting down systems.
  • Obtaining medical assistance.
  • Conferring with appropriate personnel to develop and implement a course of action.

Effective communication is the bridge to stabilization. The Incident Response Team may be required to report damage assessment, interact with response personnel, direct removal and disposal of an explosive device or hazardous material, or verify area safety prior to reentry.

Demobilization/Post-Incident Review

Incident response is not complete without specific demobilization and post-incident review procedures. Once stabilization is achieved, the Incident Commander and/or emergency personnel should:

  • Create a checklist to demobilize the response.
  • Perform a post-incident review and debriefing.
  • Create “lessons learned” objectives and update response plans accordingly.

Effective and efficient emergency response is essential to minimizing the impact of adverse incidents and ensuring a successful recovery and restoration of services. Click here to learn more about how Jensen Hughes can assist with emergency response planning in your organization.

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