Crafting an Emergency Response Plan

November 23, 2020


An emergency response plan (ERP) spells out the actions to take when an emergency happens. Emergencies include natural disasters, fires, terrorist attacks, equipment failure and much more. Each situation warrants proper planning and preparedness.

Why an ERP?

Why is disaster planning and having an ERP so important? Succinctly put, the purpose of the plan is to minimize the severity of the effects or consequences of the emergency. These consequences may be financial, environmental, material, or related to injury and human loss.

Everyone’s safety and reducing downtime to ensure the continuity of operations are critical objectives of emergency response planning. Aligning your response plan with regulations also helps to improve regulatory compliance, which, in turn, helps to avoid hefty non-compliance fines and mandatory shutdowns.

The procedures defined in an ERP focus on the following priorities

  • Safe conduct and protection
  • Stabilizing and mitigating the emergency situation
  • Cleaning up, conceptually or physically, of the emergency incident

Key Elements of an ERP

1. Risk Identification and Assessment

The first step towards being prepared is knowing what to prepare for, and that is why you should always start with a risk assessment. Your risk assessment or vulnerability analysis should be comprehensive, covering as many areas as possible.

Identify all the emergency situations you are likely to face and plan for an effective enterprise-wide response plan for these emergencies. Integrate the findings of your assessment into your response plan, using this information to design new programs or update existing programs.

2. Protective Actions for Life Safety

Different emergencies call for different protective actions for life safety. These include the following actions

  • Lockdown
  • Shelter-in-place
  • Sheltering
  • Evacuation

Sheltering, for example, would be the best course of action in the event of a natural disaster such as a tornado warning. Everyone should move to the strongest part of the building, be it in a basement shelter or reinforced interior rooms. On the other hand, emergency incidents such as a bomb threat, fire breakout, chemical spill and delivery of a suspicious package will call for an evacuation from the building.

3. Incident Stabilization Resources

Incident stabilization will greatly depend on the emergency at hand. It may involve actions such as firefighting, rescue, administering medical treatment, and containing a hazardous spill.

Your emergency response plan should highlight the specific incident stabilization steps to take in different scenarios. This includes assessing and documenting all the internal resources that you have to carry out these actions, as well as external resources such as public emergency services, and private contractors and agencies that can help with incident stabilization.

4. Clear Communication Plans

Communication will significantly impact the effectiveness and success of your response plan. Your emergency response plan should include a clear communication plan that is compliant with both state and federal laws.

The communication plan should include a list of people, public emergency services and local authorities to contact and their up-to-date contact information. Your trained employers should also be among the first responders that you contact.

There should also be a clear plan on how to communicate with everyone within the building throughout the emergency. Have a clear protocol for communicating warnings and notifying those inside the building what protective action they ought to take and how to do it.

Your plan should also be clear on the role that various parties have to play in the event of an emergency, and ensure that everyone is clear on what is required of them during these times.

5. Site Information and Facility Plans

Tied to communication is the need to include detailed plans of your facility in the emergency response. Public emergency services and other first responders have limited, if any knowledge of your facility, and this can stand in hinder or at the very least, delay, their incident stabilization efforts.

Compile detailed floor plans for all floors on your building, including the location of protection systems and utility controls, as well as the location of emergency equipment. You should also have detailed instructions for operating equipment and systems. Your property plans should show the building on the property, entry and exit points of these buildings, and access roads.

Your internal team charged with executing emergency response plan should take time to understand the plans. Also provide copies of these plans to emergency response services.

6. Trainings and Exercises

Staff should be well trained so that they can fulfil their role and responsibilities during emergencies. Regular reviewing of the plans and refresher trainings for staff is a must.

Your plan should also include regular exercises and drills to familiarize with and practice the emergency response plan while identifying gaps and deficits in the plan that should be addressed.

The aftermath of an emergency can be devastating. However, with a solid emergency response plan in place, you can minimize the severity of the aftereffects, by ensuring everyone’s safety and stabilizing the incident.

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