Earlier this month I discussed how to lower your site’s risk profile and the importance of a Fire Prevention Plan. But what do you do when the worst-case scenario rears its ugly head?
Enter the Emergency Action Plan. Prevention is one thing but reacting to an emergency is another thing altogether. The onus rests on the safety/operations managers and support staff to develop an emergency response plan, which can be facilitated by using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management System.
You might be aware that per OSHA, all workplaces must have an Emergency Action Plan — and it must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available to employees for review. The Emergency Action Plan may differ for indoor vs. outdoor operations. Regardless, it must address at a minimum:
- Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation, exit route assignments, and meeting place;
- Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
- Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and
- The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
The ultimate goal is that your employees respond more effectively, and most importantly, they return to their family at the end of the day. On a practical level, your engagement may be as simple as understanding the system and your role during an emergency response at your facility and training your staff in NIMS. You may seek further training or choose to participate in community exercises.
Speaking community, it’s recommended to build relationships with first responders and other relevant local groups BEFORE a crisis. These groups may include the fire department, emergency medical service, emergency chemical response services, police, hazardous response teams, environmental agencies, and other local officials. It’s important that you know how to act in the heat of the moment when your compliance can mean life or death.
In the worst case, you must be prepared to address environmental impact, employee wellness, business interruption, insurance/government agency notifications. Also, under the purview of such a plan, organizations need to understand the delicate nature of public relations in crisis management. How will you communicate the facts to employees, the media and the community at large? Who will speak on your behalf and to what extent? What about social media? It’s recommended that each site review its fire management plans on an annual basis based on the guidance provided here as well as that of a consultant who has experience with fire risks.
Our program challenges workers and managers and their direct reports alike to look at their workplace through the lens of an experienced firefighter. The result is that people better understand the potential outcomes triggered by risky behavior and unsafe conditions and will be motivated to keep their work and home environments fire safe.
In safety, Kenn