Ten Tips for Power Plant Emergency Response Plans

Steve Bassine

Emergencies can occur without warning and the risks are magnified when emergencies occur in power plants.

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An emergency only takes seconds to escalate. The stakes are high in any workplace, but especially in hazardous settings like power plants. Exposure to high-voltage electricity as well as hazardous materials call for an enhanced focus on emergency preparedness and response. To address this risk, power facilities should develop and implement an emergency plan for protecting personnel. Whether the plan is mandated by corporate policy or regulatory agencies, a widely accessible emergency plan can maximize response efficiencies and minimize impacts of the emergency on employees, the environment and infrastructure.

FEMA identifies five mission-critical areas that can serve as a basic understanding of the emergency management process. These areas are:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Mitigation
  • Response
  • Recovery

For power plants and related facilities with multiple sites, an enterprise-wide template can streamline formats and serve as an outline for plant-mandated information and regulatory-compliance content. Each location’s plan should contain site-specific details that are unique to the facility and may affect the response such as plants subject to flooding, hurricanes, tornados, freezing weather, unique processes or chemicals and specific security concerns. A customizable, secure, web-based template with a database of common company-specific planning information allows each site to provide facility-specific compliance data, as well as the information required to assist in responding for the specific scenario.

10 Tips for Power Plant Emergency Preparedness

To help you develop an outline for your response planning agenda, Ready.gov offers the following guidance:

  1. Identify Objectives: Review preparedness and response planning performance objectives for your company or site’s program. Objectives may include regulatory compliance, hazard prevention/deterrence, risk mitigation, emergency response and business continuity.
  2. Perform a Risk Assessment: Review hazard or threat scenarios identified during a risk assessment.
  3. Identify Response Resources: Identify the availability and capabilities of resources to help stabilize the situation including people, systems and equipment within your facility, as well as external sources.
  4. Create Incident Management Team: This requires response plan knowledge, role specific training and an effective synergy between team members and external responders.
  5. Evaluate Applicable Regulations: Determine which response planning regulations pertain to your facility and how you can ensure compliance within your site-specific plan.
  6. Develop Protective Action Response Procedures: Evaluate and include life protective action procedures such as evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place, lockdown.
  7. Establish Hazard-Specific Response Procedures: Depending upon the response planning structure and required content, hazard-specific information may be either included within the response plan or created as a separate stand-alone plan.
  8. Coordinate with public emergency services: Work with public emergency services such as fire, police and emergency medical services to share knowledge of your facility and its hazards, understand their capabilities to stabilize an emergency and determine their response time to your facility that would be needed to stabilize incidents at your facility.
  9. Emergency Response Training: Training is essential so that everyone on site knows what to do in an emergency or disruption of business operations. Lockout / Tagout and Fall Protection: Review these programs frequently for accuracy and thoroughness. Both are enormously important and deficiencies in these processes results in many injuries and fatalities annually.
  10. Response Drills and Exercises: Facility preparedness drills and exercises, which may include fire and evacuation drills, should be designed to test response plan components and participants’ knowledge of expectations and required duties to deploy response strategies and tactics and restore operations.

When assessing your overall emergency preparedness for power plants, it’s important to remember that while many of the core principles of emergency response planning remain relevant, power facilities require some unique considerations. Employees are working in high voltage areas, not in an office building. For that reason, when an emergency occurs, it’s critical all plant staff know exactly what to do.

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