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Emergency Preparedness Essentials
 

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Emergency Preparedness Resource Management

The following are some of the most important resources required to effectively manage and maintain an emergency preparedness program for your business:
  • Facilities
  • People
  • Communications and disaster alert technologies
  • Fire protection
  • Pollution monitoring and control systems
  • Life safety systems
  • Equipment, supplies and materials
  • Funding/financial resources
  • Special training and expertise
  • Information about potential hazards, threats and disasters

Developing a Needs Assessment

A needs assessment should be done in order to determine needed resources. Some sources could come from within the business, such as protection and safety systems, trained employees, communications equipment, and other facilities either owned or leased by the business. Other sources can come from outside the business such as business partners, public emergency services, contractors, and vendors.

The capability and availability of resources should be determined as soon as possible because some are required immediately. For example, people trained and capable of administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or first aid must be able to respond immediately, whether they are employees or with public emergency services. Things like plywood to use for boarding up windows when anticipating a hurricane can be stocked up in advance or purchased when a hurricane is forecast. Even if the supplies are already stocked, temporary labor could be needed to install the plywood over doors and windows.

Resource availability depends on logistics—the management of resources in getting them where they are needed at the time they are needed.

The Needs Assessment Process

To assess the resources for the preparedness program, begin with reviewing program goals and performance objectives. High-level goals for the program include:
  • Protect the safety of visitors, employees, contractors, and other who might be at risk because of hazards at the facility.
  • Keep up customer service by minimizing interruptions of business operations.
  • Protect physical assets, facilities, and electronic information.
  • Prevent pollution in the environment.
  • Protect the image, brand, and reputation of the organization. Performance Objectives Examples:
  • The first aid team (those who are trained to perform CPR and administer first aid) will be able to reach any of the employees within two minutes.
  • The evacuation team can direct all employees to the safe exits and be able to account for them as they are outside the building within four minutes.
  • The customer service staff will contact customers by 8 hours later telling them about the service disruption. They will use telephone service and office space provided by one or more business partners.
  • Within 24 hours the primary network server will be restored with your primary vendor’s replacement equipment and the data will be restored from a backup media that is retrievable from a secure storage site.
  • Production of your product A will continue within 1 week by shifting production at Plant B of product B.
For each of the objectives, assessment of the resources that are needed to accomplish each objective needs to be conducted. If the objective is simple, it may require a few limited resources. More aggressive objectives will require many more resources. Those resources will have significant capabilities and will be need to be available on short notice. It is important to note that without enough resources, or without resources that have the right capabilities, objectives might not be achieved.

Conducting the Needs Assessment

The needs assessment should answer questions in addition to the identification of specific resources. Some of these questions may include:
  • How much of the resource is needed?
  • When will we need the resource?
  • What does the resource need to be able to do? Are there limitations?
  • How much will it cost to have the resource or make it available? Are there liabilities that come with using the resource?
Resources

The preparedness program needs many resources to support it. These resources can be categorized:
  • Systems
  • People
  • Equipment
  • Facilities
  • Supplies
  • Materials
  • Information
  • Funding
Resources will be needed for each phase of the program including deterrence/prevention, emergency response, mitigation, business continuity, disaster recovery, and crisis communications.

Human Resources

Employees will be needed to staff business continuity, emergency response, and crisis communication teams. The emergency response team might only have employees that have been trained to direct the sheltering or evacuation. There are businesses that might choose to organize some emergency response teams to perform CPR, administer first aid, and use automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Other businesses might train their staff to use portable fire extinguishers. Regulations define the minimum requirements which would include organizing and training employees. Staff will be needed to manage and develop the business continuity as well as the crisis communication plans. The teams will most likely come from employees that are working in their own departments. Some of the staff could be assigned to work in a different worksite though if primary worksites can’t be occupied.

Facilities

The facilities used for emergency response will include a defined shelter space for protection from something like a tornado or an interior space. It may be required to “shelter-in-place” away from an exterior airborne hazard. The facilities should include as well a room that is able to be equipped to serve as an emergency operations center for the support response of an incident. Other facilities that are needed include a meeting room or office space with communication equipment that will serve as a communications hub.

The facilities for the business continuity could include a different workspace that is equipped for the continuation of business operations. The alternate facilities could be contracted or owned and include a data center, office space, or space with manufacturing and distribution capabilities.

Emergency Response Systems

Emergency response systems could include alarm, detection, warning, suppression and pollution control systems, communications, etc. The protection of the critical equipment in data centers could include sensors which monitor humidity, heat, and attempts of computer firewall penetration.

Every building contains routes for exiting so people will be able to evacuate in the case of a hazard. These exit routes need to be maintained and designed in keeping with application regulations.

The resources for business continuity could include redundant or spare systems which can serve as backups in case the primary systems fail. The systems for crisis communications could include any existing data and voice technology used for communicating with employees, customers, and others.

Equipment

Teams need to have the equipment to help them communicate. Smartphones, radios, pagers, and wired telephone might be required to help alert the team members to respond and notify contractors or public agencies and to be able to communicate with the other team members in managing incidents.

The functions of the team determine the other equipment. The CPR/first aid team may need Automated External Defibrillators. A fire brigade would need fire extinguishers. A hazardous materials response team (or trained employees who are working in their own assigned work spaces) would require spill contamination and absorption equipment.

Employees that are part of a safety program may require personal protective equipment such as eye, hearing, face, and foot protection.

Hurricanes, severe winter storms, and flooding may facilitate the need for many tools in preparing a facility.

Materials and Supplies

Materials are needed to support the members of the business continuity, emergency response, and communications teams. Water and food are essential basic provisions.

Fuel is needed to support the preparedness program’s system and equipment. Fire pumps driven by diesel engines and emergency generators need to have fuel that meets local regulatory requirements and/or national standards. Because it may not be possible to refuel during an emergency, the fuel supply should not be allowed to run low. Extra batteries for chargers for smartphones and portable radios and other communication devices should be made available.

Funding and Financial Support

If an incident occurs, the money that is invested in the preparedness program could pay big dividends. Think of the benefits of immediate medical assistance which saves the life of an injured employee, a fire being quickly controlled, or continued customer service because of a recovery strategy. Prudent spending on preparedness can pay out multiple times when it is measured against the damage potential to facilities, lost customers, equipment, loss of staff, and lost revenue.

Internal Resources

Your preparedness program needs many resources that are within the business. These resources include business continuity, staff available for emergency response, and crisis communications teams. Other resources include systems, facilities, materials and supplies needed to support response, equipment, recovery and continuity operations, etc. Consider which resources you need and determine which ones are already available within the business. If the business doesn’t have the resources they will need to be acquired elsewhere. Think of these internal resources for the preparedness program in your business:

People/Employees

The following tasks can be assigned to employees:
  • Watch the weather forecasts and Emergency Alert System messages. Watch for broadcast warnings of approaching severe weather or other warnings and alert the emergency response team.
  • Direct shelter and evacuation actions (See Protective Actions for Life Safety).
  • Administer CPR, first aid, and use the automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
  • Provide a secure facility. Take leads on bomb threats or suspicious packages.
  • Operate building alarm, detections, warnings, communications, protection, and utility systems.
  • Stabilize any incident by using fire extinguishers, containing/cleaning up small spills of any hazardous chemical, etc.
  • Prepare the facility for forecasted events like severe weather.
  • Clean up any damage after an incident.
  • Provide support for and lead the business continuity team.
  • Execute the recovery strategies for time sensitive or critical business processes.
  • As part of a crisis communications team, serve as spokesperson; communicate with the stakeholders, employees, news media, etc. and answer the requests for more information.
Employees need to be trained in order to understand the importance of the assignments and be able to follow the established procedures. Some employees might be able to learn new skills in certain opportunities.

Facilities

Emergency operations centers (EOC) can be made from meeting rooms and office space. These facilities are for incident management. The EOC is used to bring together the staff, facilitate communications, gather information, and procure the resources and support the efforts for preparedness, response, recovery, and continuity.

People can be sheltered from a tornado by an interior room or a building that is structurally strong. If there is a fire or inside hazard, unobstructed exits that are marked with emergency lighting and signs are essential for getting people out safely.

If a building is not able to be occupied, buildings owned at another site may be used. This all depends on where the building is and if it is suffering from the same hazard that made using the primary building impossible. The alternate facility could be a good business recovery strategy if the building can obtain the needed equipment or if existing equipment can be altered to meet the business requirements.

Equipment and Systems

Resources are needed to detect potential threats and hazards, protect life, protect safety, protect property, and continue with business operations. These resources are:
  • Detection systems such as burglar alarm, intrusion detection, fire detection, computer network security, Emergency Alert System receivers and/or television and radio for news and weather, etc.
  • Alarm systems like intrusion alarms, fire alarms, and process system alarms.
  • Warning systems such as occupant warning systems (public addresses, tornado warning, and fire alarms.)
  • Communication systems like cell phones, landline telephones, smartphones, radios, pagers, email and data, etc.
  • Pollution containment systems like primary and secondary containment devices for the building and devices to halt the materials from flowing from tanks and piping.
  • Suppression systems and fire protection such as fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, water supplies, fire pumps, and special extinguishers for special hazards and computer rooms.
  • Emergency power supplies like generators and uninterruptible power supplies.
  • Building utility systems like plumbing, electrical, ventilation, heating, sanitary, and air conditioning.
Decide if the systems are meeting the program’s needs. Determine and fix limitations of the emergency communication system like a weak radio or a cellular service area that doesn’t broadcast a warning system. It could be required to upgrade this incredibly important system. Check to make sure that these systems are in good working order. Make sure there are available chargers and that the system using fuel, batteries, etc. can run for the required time. Make sure you write down how to use these systems and that you are marking the control’s locations. All this information needs to be available in an emergency. Several of these systems may also need periodic inspection and maintenance according to the regulations set forth by the national codes and standards. Make sure a staff member is trained on how to operate the equipment and systems.

Supplies and Materials

The preparedness program requires several basic supplies and materials. Some of these “consumable” resources would include paper forms, clipboards, pencils, and pens. Doing automated tasks manually will require having enough paper copies. If the power happens to go out, flashlights with extra batteries will be required. Water and food for the people participating in the preparedness, response, recovery and continuity activities should also be thought of in advance.

Use the Emergency Response Resource Requirements to make a list of available resources. Use Business Continuity Resource Requirements worksheets to help.

External Resources

Sometimes resources will need to come from outside a business, such as those needed for preparing for the emergency, responding to the emergency, carrying out business recovery strategies, etc. For example, if the building had a fire, the fire department would be called in. Vendors and contractors might be required to prepare a place for an upcoming storm or to help repair/restore systems, a building, or equipment after an incident.

In order to make decisions for the preparedness program, you will need an understanding of the capabilities and the availability of external resources. How long does it take for the fire department to get here? How can I get a hold of a contractor after hours and how long until he could get here? Figuring out the response time and the capabilities of the external resources is helpful in finding out gaps in what you need and what you can have. Create a strategy to fill in the gaps.

These next external resources should have plan documents to identify them. Be sure not to forget contact information and additional instructions for the preparedness plan.

Logistics

The preparedness program must have logistics considerations in order to make sure that resources will be available where they are needed, when they are needed.

An inventory of both internal and external resources should be compiled in order to identify their operating procedures (and the people who can operate them), and their location. Make sure to note the response time or estimated delivery of the external resources.

The preparedness program will need to have a person assigned for managing resources and logistics. This person should work in conjunction with the business continuity teams and emergency response in order to identify resource needs.

Procurement requirements, such as the names of employees able to authorize purchase orders and service contracts, should be defined in the logistics procedures. These procedures also need to be established in order to expedite the obtaining of resources in an emergency. You can expedite the process of procurement if you open the purchase order with the potential vendors and contractors.

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