The right disaster preparedness plan can keep you up and running, protect your employees, and may even identify issues in your facility that can be fixed before they cause an emergency.
Creation of an emergency operations plan plays a very important role in keeping your facility up and running and your people safe. Your plan can provide guidance to employees during an emergency as well as highlight potential issues in your facility, such as hazardous conditions and a lack of resources, that you may be able to fix prior to the occurrence of an emergency.
Identify Your Objectives
Set clear objectives and purpose for your plan focused on four main interrelated actions: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. This systematic approach will minimize the overall impact of an emergency. Additionally, include several groups of people in this stage of the planning process to prepare a more comprehensive plan that will include every part of the organization.
Common emergency planning objectives include:
- Prevent injuries and fatalities
- Resume normal facility operations
- Reduce damage to facilities and equipment
- Protect the community and environment
Plan for Technological and Natural Disasters
The “hazards, then actions, then resources” sequence will aid in identifying many considerations for your plan.
Common technological and natural hazards include:
- Fire and explosion
- Building collapse and structural failure
- Toxic and flammable substance spillage (accidental and deliberate)
- Terrorist activities
- Radiation and nuclear waste exposure
- Loss of electrical power, water supply, and/or communications
- Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, wind storms, snow/ice storms, extreme temperatures
- Pandemic diseases
Common events and decisions to consider include:
- Hazards: Sequential events, casualties, evacuation, facility and equipment damage of any kind, loss of records, and disruption of work (downtime)
- Actions: Attend to casualties and injuries, declare emergency, sound an alert, close main shut-offs, call for external aid, deploy your own temporary power, initiate rescue operations, and fight fire
- Resources needed: Trained personnel, medical supplies, power generators or deployable power, auxiliary communication equipment, respirators, chemical and radiation detection equipment, mobile equipment, protective clothing, ambulance, and rescue equipment
Coordinate Your Organization
To successfully carry out a disaster preparedness plan, make sure that more than one individual is qualified and trained to execute the plan in case the original coordinator is not able to do so. When appointing plan leaders, be very specific in describing their authority, responsibilities, and what resources they will need to follow through with their part of the plan.
Common emergency plan responsibilities include:
- Report the emergency and activate the plan
- Assume command and communications
- Alert staff, external agencies, the outside at-risk population, media outlets, and any relatives of casualties
- Order evacuation and confirm its completeness
- Coordinate activities and groups of people
- Provide medical aid
- Ensure emergency shut-offs are closed
- Deploy back-up electrical power
- Sound an all-clear
Common factors used to determine procedures include:
- Nature and degree of emergency
- Size and capability of organization
- Outside aid availability
- Physical layout of facilities
Common elements to consider for procedures:
- Pre-emergency preparation and provisions
- Alert and evacuate staff
- Handle casualties, missing persons, and injuries
- Contain any danger
- Take advantage of prior warnings (like with natural disasters)
- Identify evacuation order, routes, and means of escape and keep them unobstructed
- Identify alternate sources of medical treatment
- Prioritize the severity of dangers
Delegate and Test Your Plan
After the plan has been thoroughly worked out and written down, delegate parts of the plan to all appropriate groups of people throughout your organization. Prepare the groups for with exercises and drills to test your plan so that everyone better understands their roles and can identify other possible emergency situations and outcomes. Review and test the plan on an annual or bi-annual basis to keep it updated with any new processes, changes, personnel, and materials used.
Disaster preparedness shows your commitment to the safety of your people and promotes safety awareness in general. Having an “it can’t happen here” outlook puts your people and facilities at risk for an organizational collapse.
Emergencies will occur, and planning for these instances is necessary. With a set emergency operations plan, your organization will be more prepared to make rapid, safe decisions in a short amount of time to keep your facility up and running.
To download a checklist for developing your emergency plan, click here.
This article was authored by Scott McNeill of TPC Wire & Cable Corp.