By: Ernest G. Vendrell, CPP, CPO, CEM
Reprint Protection News
The emergency planning process has evolved significantly and taken on more importance in the last decade as a result of emergencies and disasters having a greater impact on government and industry. Today, organizations have an abundance of emergency planning resources and training options available to them. Cooperation between government and industry in the planning process is also high. Consequently, there presently exists an excellent opportunity for organizations to increase their level of preparedness.
Most experts today advocate a comprehensive "all hazards" approach to emergency preparedness. A comprehensive emergency response plan that takes into account potential natural, technological, and man-made threats and involves key personnel in the planning process can assist an organization to systematically manage emergencies in an effective and efficient manner. The planning process is a key element that forces managers and their staff to explore viable options that can be employed in the event of an emergency or disaster. These contingencies can ultimately help to save lives, reduce property loss, as well as lessen an organization’s potential liability.
The Components of an Effective Emergency Response Plan
Being prepared for critical incidents involves four important components: planning, reviewing, training, and testing. These are the cornerstones of any emergency response plan and it should be noted that it is a circular rather than linear process. Perhaps Nudell and Antokol explain this concept best when they describe the above components, when implemented, as an umbrella of preparation against the thunderstorms of a potential crisis.
According to the American Society for Industrial Security’s Emergency Planning Handbook, effective emergency planning begins with the following:
- Defining an emergency in terms relevant to the organization doing the planning
- Establishing an organization with specific tasks to function immediately before, during, and after an emergency
- Establishing a method for utilizing resources and for obtaining additional resources during the emergency
- Providing a recognizable means of moving from normal operations into and out of the emergency mode of operation
Common Requirements for Effective Critical Incident Management
Regardless of the type of crisis, Nudell and Antokol point out that there are a series of common requirements that must be taken into account for an organization to be successful when a critical incident occurs. These include:
- Deciding policy
- Assessing threat
- Identifying resources
- Selecting crisis team personnel
- Locating the crisis management center
- Equipping the crisis center
- Training crisis team personnel
- Testing contingency plans and emergency procedures
- Dealing with the media
- Dealing with victims and their families
- Dealing with other affected persons (such as employees)
- Getting the organization’s normal work done during the crisis
- Returning to normal after the crisis (both operationally and in human terms)
With regard to threat assessment above, many times this procedure can be accomplished by using a simple numerical rating system (scale of 1 to 5 with 1 as the lowest and 5 being highest) to list on a chart potential emergencies (such as fire, flood, terrorist attack, etc.), estimate the probability of each emergency occurring, assess the potential human impact (death and injury), property impact (losses and damages), potential business impact (loss of market share), and finally, the strength of the internal and external resources that may be available (5 being weak resources and 1 indicating strong resources). Next, you would total the score for each emergency taking into consideration that the lower the score, the better. Although somewhat subjective, the comparisons will be of significant assistance in determining planning priorities. The following example helps to illustrate the process:
Type of Human Property Business Internal External
Emergency Probability + Impact + Impact + Impact + Resources + Resources = Total
L 1-5 H
L 1-5 H
L 1-5 H
L 1-5 H
W 5-1 S
W 5-1 S
Figure 1. Vulnerability Analysis Chart.
In the above example, we would be most vulnerable to the fire scenario closely followed by the hurricane threat. We would be less vulnerable to the threat of an earthquake.
Development and Coordination Activities
Obviously, the development of a comprehensive emergency management plan requires considerable time and effort and sufficient time should be provided for its completion. Representatives from key organizational units must be involved from its inception and upper management support is essential throughout the entire process. Many times this can be readily accomplished by having the chief executive officer or facility manager issue a mission statement that introduces the emergency management plan, its purpose and importance to the organization, and defines the structure and authority of the planning team. Additionally, it is important in the initial planning stages to select an individual within the organization to assume responsibility for the plan and act as the planning team leader or coordinator.
Ultimately, capabilities and hazards will be analyzed, specific roles and responsibilities will be carefully outlined, and critical company products and services will be identified in order to ensure a coordinated and effective response when a critical incident does occur. This will typically involve meeting with outside groups and establishing mutual aid agreements where appropriate. Gillespie emphasizes that mutual aid agreements enhance preparedness and that emergency response is more effective when public and private organizations cooperate.
Some outside groups or agencies that could be considered at this stage in the planning process include:
- Local police department
- Local fire department
- Emergency medical services
- City or county office of emergency management
- Local emergency planning committee (LEPC)
- City or county government officials
- Public works department
- Electric utilities
- Telephone companies
- Volunteer agencies such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, etc.
- Essential contractors
- Suppliers of emergency equipment
- Company insurance carriers
- Neighboring businesses
- Trade associations
- National Weather Service
In crisis situations, organizations respond differently based on variations in tasks, level of preparedness, as well as political considerations. Conferring with outside groups or agencies ahead of time will undoubtedly avoid confusion and delays during the response phase of an emergency, improve coordination and communication during the management phase of the incident, and help organizations transition to the recovery phase much faster. However, it is important to note that these agreements should clearly define the type of assistance as well as the procedures for activating the agreement in order to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Reviewing and Integrating the Emergency Response Plan
Once the initial plan is completed, it is essential that its various components be reviewed in-depth by planning team personnel and revised as necessary. The draft plan could then be presented to key management personnel as well as any individuals who may be required to perform or provide support services. Many times, a tabletop exercise provides an excellent opportunity to review potential critical incidents with key personnel since problem areas can be readily identified and discussed. The plan can then be modified accordingly and later presented to the chief executive officer for final approval. Upon approval, the plan can be distributed to all affected personnel who should be required to sign that they have received the document. It is then important that the plan be quickly and clearly communicated to all affected personnel.
It is imperative at this point that the plan be fully integrated into the organization’s standard operating procedures (SOP’s). According to FEMA, SOP’s and checklists provide the detailed instructions that an organization or individual needs to fulfill responsibilities and perform tasks assigned in the EOP [emergency operations plan]…" Clearly, a comprehensive checklist that includes major planning, implementation, training/testing, response, and recovery components would be an invaluable asset to any organization’s emergency response plan.
The number and severity of crisis situations that have affected government and industry over the past decade have reinforced the need for organizations to prepare a well thought out comprehensive emergency response plan. Once implemented, it should be noted that an emergency response plan is a dynamic process that must be kept up to date and consistent with an organization’s operations and identified vulnerabilities. Therefore, security managers and their staff must continually scan their internal and external environments in order to anticipate and plan for problems that could have an adverse impact on their organizations.
- M. Nudell and N. Antokol, The Handbook for Effective Emergency Management (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1988).
- American Society for Industrial Security, Standing Committee on Disaster Management, Emergency Planning Handbook (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1994), p. 4.
- Nudell and Antokol, supra note 1, p. 4.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996).
- In T. Drabek and G. Hoetmer, eds., Emergency Management Principles and Practice for Local Government (Washington, DC: International City Management Association, 1991).
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, supra note 4, p. 13.
R. Gigliotti and R. Jason, Emergency Planning for Maximum Protection (Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1991).
Federal Emergency Management Agency, Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1996), p. 3-3.