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What components comprise the emergency plan?

The following items are included in the emergency plan:

  • All potential emergencies, their consequences, required actions, written procedures, and available resources.

  • Detailed lists of emergency responders, including cell phone numbers, alternate contact information, and duties and responsibilities.

  • Plans for the ground floor.

  • Maps at a large scale depicting evacuation routes and service conduits (such as gas and water lines).

Because the plan is likely to result in a large document, it should provide staff members with separate written instructions about their specific emergency response duties.

The following are some examples of emergency plan components. These elements may not cover every situation in every workplace, but they can be used as a general guideline when developing a workplace-specific plan:

Goal

The goal is a brief summary of the plan’s purpose, which is to reduce human injury and damage to property and the environment in an emergency. It also specifies which staff members will be in charge of putting the plan into action. Because the normal chain of command is not always available on short notice, the objective clearly identifies who these staff members are. When the premises are occupied, at least one of them must be present at all times. The scope of these personnel’s authority must be clearly stated.

Organization

One person should be appointed and trained to serve as both the Emergency Coordinator and the “back-up” coordinator. Personnel on the scene during an emergency, on the other hand, are critical in ensuring that prompt and efficient action is taken to minimize loss. Off-duty employees may be recalled to assist in some cases, but critical initial decisions must usually be made immediately.

Duties, responsibilities, authority, and resources must all be clearly defined. Among the duties that must be delegated are:

  • Reporting the emergency.

  • Activating the emergency plan.

  • Assuming overall command.

  • Establishing communication.

  • Providing medical aid.

  • Alerting staff.

  • Ordering response, including evacuation.

  • Alerting external agencies, as necessary.

  • Confirming evacuation is complete.

  • Alerting the outside population of possible risk, as necessary.

  • Requesting external aid.

  • Coordinating activities of various groups.

  • Advising relatives of casualties.

  • Providing medical aid.

  • Ensuring emergency shut offs are closed.

  • Sounding the all-clear.

  • Advising the media.

The previously developed summary of responses for each emergency situation should be used to complete this list of responsibilities. There must be enough alternates for each responsible position to ensure that someone with authority is on-site at all times.

External organizations that may be able to help (with varying response times) are as follows:

  • Fire departments.

  • Mobile rescue squads.

  • Ambulance services.

  • Police departments.

  • Telephone companies.

  • Hospitals.

  • Utility companies.

  • Industrial neighbors.

  • Government agencies.

These organizations should be contacted early in the planning process to discuss their respective roles in the event of an emergency. Mutual aid agreements with other industrial facilities in the area should be investigated.

To avoid conflicting responsibilities, pre-planned coordination is required. The police, fire department, ambulance service, rescue squad, company fire brigade, and first aid team, for example, may all be on the scene at the same time. In such a case, a predetermined chain of command is required to avoid organizational difficulties. Under certain conditions, an outside agency may take command.

Communication issues have been raised in a number of contexts. During an emergency, efforts should be made to find alternate means of communication, particularly between key personnel such as the overall commander, on-scene commander, engineering, fire brigade, medical, rescue, and outside agencies.

It may be necessary to plan for an emergency control center with alternate communication facilities, depending on the size of the organization and the physical layout of the premises. All personnel with alerting or reporting responsibilities must have access to an up-to-date list of cell phone numbers and addresses for those they may need to contact.

Procedures

Many factors influence what procedures are required in an emergency, including:

  • Nature of emergency.

  • Degree of emergency.

  • Size of organization.

  • Capabilities of the organization in an emergency situation.

  • Immediacy of outside aid.

  • Physical layout of the premises.

Pre-emergency planning and provisions for alerting and evacuating staff, dealing with casualties, and containing hazards are all common elements to consider in all emergencies.

Natural disasters, such as floods or severe storms, frequently provide advance warning. The plan should take advantage of such warnings by providing instructions on sand bagging, moving equipment to appropriate locations, providing alternate sources of power, light, or water, extra equipment, and relocating personnel with special skills. Such measures can be implemented in an orderly fashion thanks to phased alert states.

The evacuation order is crucial in alerting personnel. Only one type of signal should be used for the evacuation order to avoid confusion. In noisy environments, sirens, fire bells, whistles, flashing lights, paging system announcements, or word-of-mouth are commonly used for this purpose. Because time is not an issue, the all-clear signal is less important.

The following are “essential steps”:
  • Identify evacuation routes and alternate means of escape, and make these available to all staff; keep the routes clear.

  • Set aside safe areas for staff to gather for head counts to ensure that everyone has exited the danger zone. Assign people to help employees with disabilities.

  • Concurrently treat the injured and search for the missing while attempting to contain the emergency.

When normal medical facilities are in jeopardy, provide alternate sources of medical aid. First, ensure the safety of all employees (and/or the general public), and then deal with the fire or other emergency situation.

Revision and testing

Completing a comprehensive emergency response plan is a significant step toward disaster prevention. However, unless the plan is tested, it is difficult to predict all of the problems that may arise.

Exercises and drills may be carried out to put all or critical parts of the plan (such as evacuation) through their paces. A thorough and immediate review following each exercise, drill, or actual emergency will identify areas for improvement. Individual responsibilities can be assessed using paper tests or interviews.

The plan should be revised when flaws are discovered, and it should be reviewed at least once a year. Changes in the plant’s infrastructure, processes, materials, and key personnel are all reasons to update the plan.

It should be emphasized that training for both individuals and teams is required if they are to perform adequately in an emergency. A full-scale exercise once a year will aid in maintaining a high level of proficiency.