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Emergency Response Planning For Facility And Operations Teams
Step 1: Understand the importance of emergency response planning.
Planning for interruptions, emergencies, and disasters is a crucial aspect of running a business. An emergency response plan is designed to help companies address various emergency situations that could occur within their organization. The best plans include who to contact, how to act in an emergency, how to mitigate risk and what resources to use to minimize loss.
The main objective of an emergency response plan is to reduce human injury and damage to property in an emergency. It also specifies which staff members should enact emergency response plans, as well as which local emergency teams (i.e. police, fire and rescue, etc.) should be contacted. Ideally, the final outcome of emergency planning is to protect a company’s finances, physical infrastructure, materials and occupants from harm.
Step 2: Brainstorm a list of potential risks, hazards, and threat scenarios.
All organizations face risks, hazards, and threats, which, left unchecked, can lead to financial loss, illness, injury or even death. It’s a good idea to review potentially dangerous scenarios in a risk assessment. A risk assessment identifies potential hazards and analyzes what could happen if the hazard were to occur. Understanding your organization’s vulnerabilities is the first step towards proactive emergency response planning and will help you protect your staff and occupants from harm.
In your risk assessment, consider the following examples of emergency scenarios. Prioritize risks according to severity.
Step 3: Collect contact information from local emergency personnel.
The list of potential risks you assembled in step #2 will help inform your organization of emergency services you’ll need to contact in a crisis. At a minimum, speak to your local fire department, police department, and emergency medical services to determine their anticipated response times, their knowledge of your facility and its hazards, and their capabilities to stabilize an emergency at your facility. The following list contains a more comprehensive list of emergency personnel you may want to contact:
Step 4: Assess your organization’s resources.
Resources are required to keep occupants safe, protect infrastructure and carry out recovery strategies during a disaster. You’ll want to assess the availability and capabilities of resources for incident stabilization within your organization. Resources can include people, systems and equipment, both within your business and from external sources. Here’s a list of resources you may want to consider:
Step 5: Create accurate egress plans and evacuation routes.
An egress plan is a map of a facility that houses critical indicators such as posted emergency routes, evacuation paths and red exit signs that lead to stairs and doorways. Even if occupants have never done a fire drill at the facility, it should be obvious where to go in an emergency. Police officers, medical personnel and other emergency services also rely on accurate floor plans. They help notify emergency services of the best ways to enter a building to get to a threat quickly, safely and efficiently.
Step 6: Create an emergency communications plan.
An emergency communications plan includes information on how both internal and external crisis communications will be handled. Internal communication alerts can be sent via email, paging systems, voice messages or text messages to mobile devices. Use these channels to instruct personnel on how to evacuate the building and relocate to assembly points. You may also send updates on the status of the situation and notification of when it’s safe to return.
External communication during an emergency should also be a part of business continuity planning. External alerts typically discuss the disaster with the media and provide status information to key clients and stakeholders.
Step 7: State required actions in the event of an emergency.
Develop protective, threat-specific emergency procedures for occupants, staff and visitors of your facility to follow in a disaster situation. This portion of your emergency response plan will detail life safety protocols, including evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place and lockdown actions. You’ll also want to determine the required actions that occupants should take during an emergency to protect themselves. Use the following example as a guide for required actions in an emergency:
- Declare an emergency.
- Alert personnel using an internal communication system (see step #6).
- Activate the emergency plan.
- Evacuate the danger zone, seek shelter-in-place or implement a lockdown.
- Close main shutoffs, if applicable.
- Call for external aid from local emergency services.
- Initiate rescue operations.
Step 8: Disperse responsibilities following the disaster event.
During and following an emergency, many tasks must be completed in order to continue business as usual and ensure occupants are both safe and comfortable. The following list contains responsibilities that will need to be taken care of following a disaster:
Step 9: Train and educate internal personnel on your emergency response plan.
Your business continuity team, as well as your emergency preparedness team, will require continuous training to stay up-to-date on the latest emergency protocols in your business. Education and hands-on training will help your team members fulfill their roles and responsibilities during and after a disaster.
Facilitate exercises that test your team’s knowledge of the emergency response plan. Your emergency preparedness team may also want to host corporate safety awareness programs, orientation exercises, emergency responder training or emergency communication exercises. Click here to learn more.
Step 10: Test and revise your emergency response plan.
Creating a comprehensive plan for handling emergencies is a major step toward preventing and recovering from disasters. However, it can be difficult to predict all situations that could occur until the plan is tested. To put your plan into action, conduct exercises and drills to practice critical portions of the plan.
Get started on your organization’s emergency response plan today with a free downloadable checklist.