The Impact of Emergency Situations
Emergency situations can occur at any time—and can take multiple different forms. Consider the below:
- 277 active shooter incidents occurred in the United States between 2000 to 2018. 43.7 percent occurred at commerce locations, while 20.6 percent occurred at education locations. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
- 76 percent of local governments responded to a major disaster between 2000 and 2015. (Local Government Sustainability Practices)
- A novel (new) virus, like COVID-19, can emerge at any time and anywhere—and quickly spread; prediction of the next virus outbreak is challenging. (FEMA)
When an emergency occurs, the two primary priorities are life safety and stabilization of the incident. In order to successfully address both, an emergency preparedness plan is crucial.
Understanding Emergency Preparedness Planning
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines an emergency preparedness plan as a plan that “covers designated actions employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety from fire and other emergencies.”
Emergency situations can include:
- Severe weather, including tornadoes and hurricanes
- Toxic gas releases
- Chemical spills
- Radiological accidents
- Workplace violence
All of the above can offer potential risk to companies—and a strategically developed and executed preparedness plan can help you effectively address these emergency situations.
“When a community plans out the response and assigns responsibilities before the event happens, you’re more likely to have an effective response, and you’re going to minimize the chaos.”
-Scott Lowry, crisis management expert
Unfortunately, traditional emergency preparedness planning tools have many limitations that can make them ineffective when an emergency occurs. Because most rely on physical documentation, they are hard to update and time consuming to adjust. They can also be cumbersome to distribute and review, which can lead to lack of engagement or proper training of the plan. There’s also an ongoing risk of lack of access to the proper documentation during an emergency situation, including if the document is stored in an inaccessible space or if outside emergency resources do not have the plan on hand.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to research and respond to appropriate considerations while investing in the right tools to help your organization successfully prepare.
Considerations for an Emergency Preparedness Plan
Your emergency preparedness plan should be specific to your workplace and company culture, and there many considerations to make prior to finalizing your plan. From building a planning team to investing in the right technology, the below pre-planning steps can support a streamlined, efficient emergency preparedness plan.
Assemble a Planning Team
The first consideration for building your emergency preparedness plan is determining who will be involved in decision making. Identify which staff members will be responsible for assisting with developing, updating and training on the emergency preparedness plan. These team members may also hold responsibilities for implementing the plan in the case of an emergency.
Addressing the goals of the preparedness planning can help best engage members from varying departments and leadership roles in support of this cause.
Identify Potential Threats
Each workplace is unique and requires a thorough risk assessment of its setup and personnel to determine which type of emergency situations could occur. Does your facility work with biohazardous materials? Has there been previous employee violence that could lead to a larger incident? Addressing what specifically your workplace may face will help setup an accurate emergency action plan.
In addition to a risk assessment, a business impact analysis can help your company understand what the operational and financial impacts of an emergency situation can be. By completing this, you can ensure you understand how to properly plan for an emergency situation, including business continuity and insurance needs.
Determine Your Command and Control
Appointing a singular contact to be the incident commander will streamline processes if an emergency situation occurs; this is especially crucial for industrial complexes that have intricate layouts. This designated individual will need to coordinate with local emergency services in managing the incident.
The responsibilities for the command post can include:
- Performing an initial assessment of the situation
- Assigning specific tasks based on skillset or discipline
- Requesting resources and maintaining communication with those resources
- Gathering intelligence from people at the scene
“A successful outcome can only be accomplished if command and control is established early…The incident commander must demonstrate clear, expedited and decisive leadership.”
-The Albany, NY Police Department
Failure to establish a command and control right away leads to shortcomings elsewhere—
creating inefficiencies and weaknesses in the response. Consider who should be appointed to incident commander and ensure they are confident and prepared to take leadership during an emergency situation.
Communicate with Response Personnel
Identify who will be responding to the emergency, including both primary and secondary public safety agencies. Because you cannot know which emergency officials will arrive on the scene first, it’s imperative that anyone who may potentially be called into the situation is adequately educated and trained on the response plan. Determining the role of both primary and secondary agencies also helps ensure there are enough resources to successfully respond to the emergency. If the responsibilities are assigned out ahead of time—and everyone has set roles and locations—there’s less to coordinate in real-time when an emergency is occurring.
Additionally, your planning should consider the role of media—they will inevitably be on the scene to report on what is occurring. Giving them an organized, centralized place to be and creating a streamlined way to communicate with them will prevent them from being a potential hinderance.
If your organization is not familiar or used to engaging emergency services personnel or other relevant stakeholders, you should work with a preparedness company that can help you build those necessary relationships.
Determine Plan Distribution Methods
A strategically developed plan is meaningless if the distribution falls short of reaching every essential stakeholder. You need to work with your planning team to determine how you will distribute the emergency preparedness plan and who will be responsible for assisting with distribution. This also includes considerations for necessary follow-up to ensure the plan has been received and to set up any needed training sessions.
It is a priority to ensure that your emergency preparedness plan is easily accessible by all employees and response team members—no matter where they are located.
Consider building a master spreadsheet of all points of contact who will need to receive a copy of the plan, then assign out which planning team member is responsible for each communication. This can help align your team in accurately fulfilling the distribution.
Train Your Team Members
Your people are your most valuable assets when it comes to responding to an emergency; ensuring accurate and thoughtful training will support success.
Organizations should consider investing in a learning management system (LMS), which can offer real-time, online training for all relevant stakeholders. Through an LMS, weaknesses or shortcomings within the organization and its personnel can also be more easily identified—allowing you to address them before an emergency response is needed.
Training must also have an accountability aspect—you need to make sure that everyone knows what the plan consists of and what their responsibilities are. This could include something as simple as quizzes via email that people must complete. This isn’t about pass or fail but rather just setting a process that ensures people are going into the plan and reviewing it.
It’s important to help your team understand what you are trying to accomplish by solidifying this plan and completing thorough training. Doing so will help ensure their engagement and invested interest in participating.
Ultimately, proper distribution of an emergency preparedness plan and the associated training comes down to investing in the right technology that offers multi-point access for real-time information and updates.
Invest in the Right Technology
Traditional emergency preparedness plans were generated through hard-copy spiral-bound books that were not consistently updated—nor were they thoroughly reviewed by important stakeholders. This hindered a fully coordinated response by police, fire and EMS.
The right technology, however, can support continuously updated preparedness plans, as well as comprehensive training on the plan.
That’s where StrataSite™ can help.
Discover the StrataSite™ Difference
StrataSite is the only secure, cloud-based emergency preparedness planning tool that enables you to collaboratively create, deploy and train around plans for:
- Mass casualty incidents
- Pandemic management
- Large-scale public events
- Hazardous work environments
Developed by career law enforcement and municipal safety professionals, StrataSite offers an opportunity to bridge communication gaps between responders—creating greater efficiencies during a crisis situation.
This preparedness tool provides templates that help you plan for emergencies at a fraction of the time of traditional planning. These plans can also be updated with little time investment—providing flexibility to keep procedures updated and aligned with what your organization needs. StrataSite also supports organizations in building relationships with necessary emergency response organizations, as well as educating key stakeholders on how to most effectively use the planning tool.
“StrataSite gives my team the online tools to build Active Threat Plans with speed and accuracy that we never had before—it’s a game changer.”
- Chief of Police
Sign up for your free, no-obligation trial of StrataSite today.