September is National Preparedness Month. It's a great time to re-evaluate your current emergency response plan and find areas for improvement. It is vital for facilities professionals in all industries to protect buildings and occupiers.
Facility managers have to be ready for anything from bomb threats to flooding, labor strikes, workplace violence and so much more. Particularly since 9/11, efforts toward emergency preparedness have increased substantially.
In this blog we will discuss the 4 phases of emergency management to consider when developing an Emergency Response Management (ERM) Program and preparing the facility management department and the organization for unexpected events.
All of these phases are highly interconnected, and each phase impacts the others. As a whole, the Emergency Response Management cycle is an ongoing process, which dynamic and require continuous review.
What is Emergency Response Management?
ERM or Emergency Response Management is typically a group of documented procedures that explain how the facility management team should respond depending on the situation. In general a plan will include checklists for categorizing potential emergencies, identifying and determining how resources will be used, as well as some type of establishing training that includes preparing, rehearsing, and testing these plans.
Prevention-Mitigation: Preventing emergencies and minimizing the effects if an unexpected event occurs.
Prevention and Mitigation is the first phase in emergency management. Prevention refers to the action taken to decrease the likelihood that an event or crisis will occur. Mitigation is the action taken to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and physical asset damage related to an event or crisis, particularly those that cannot be prevented.
The hazards that the facilities management department should seek to prevent, diminish, or mitigate can be defined more specifically through a process of hazards identification and risk assessment. A risk assessment is a process whereby facility managers can more thoroughly understand and identify the potential threats, the current level of preparedness, and the improvements that are required.
According to a recent Facility Executive article, these three key factors form the "foundation of the emergency response plan". These assessments can be conducted through research, surveys, test phases, and other methods, and there are 3 main reasons to conduct a through risk assessment:
- Evaluate any credible threats and hazards
- Identify vulnerabilities and any consequences of those hazards
- Document and report the risk assessment findings and provide recommendations for next steps
After identifying potential risk scenarios during the Prevention-Mitigation phase and the risk assessment is conducted and evaluated, facility management teams can then develop a comprehensive emergency response plan that will address these potential hazards and risks.
Preparedness: Identify and documents the efforts needed in order to prepare for an emergency situation.
Preparedness refers to the plans or procedures designed to minimize damage to physical assets and save lives when an emergency occurs. Planning and training are the essential elements of the preparedness phase. The procedures ensure that when a disaster occurs, your organization's emergency personnel and facility management teams will be able to provide the best response possible.
The Preparedness phase is meant to design and test strategies, processes, and protocols to prepare the organization for potential emergencies. Preparedness activities include:
- Establish an incident command system that is consistent with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for organizing your organization's personnel and services to respond in tandem during an emergency
- Develop all-hazard policies, procedures, and protocols in collaboration key stakeholders outside of your organization such as law enforcement, medical services, public health, and fire services
- Negotiate contracts that will could provide your organization with essential resources such as food, transportation, medical services, and volunteers
- Assign personnel to manage each function of the incident command system and defining lines of succession in the emergency plan in regards to who is responsible in the event that key leaders are unavailable
Response: Documented plans and efforts that will be used when responding to an emergency situation.
The response phase refers to the plans and efforts that are put in place in order to respond safely to the event. Emergency response plans should be a collaborative effort rather than developed by a single individual or group. Putting together a team of subject matter experts from different departments helps in determining the overall span of the plan.
Clear communication is crucial in every emergency as this will enable those at the top of the chain of command to communicate with everyone in the facility regarding the situation and the appropriate action that should be taken. Further the response plan should be reviewed annually, and the facility management team should provide information to building users about what to expect.
Recovery: Actions needed to ensure business continuity and reestablish normal operations.
In general, recovery is an ongoing process. The type and breadth of recovery activities will vary based on the nature and scope of the emergency. However, the goal of the recovery phase is to restore and reestablish normal operations in order to ensure business continuity. Essential areas to consider include:
- Determine key personnel leadership as well as orders of succession
- Identify your organization's most essential resources, services, and technologies necessary to ensure business continuity
- Define and document essential service continuity strategies for common disruptions
In considering these 4 phases when developing an Emergency Response Management (ERM) Program and preparing the facility management department and the organization for unexpected events, your facility management team will be well on its way to ensuring the safety of your organization.
From routine issues to large crises, the unexpected happens from time to time. Occasionally it is a minor repair needed on a machine or system that can wait until tomorrow. However, other times, it is an emergency situation such as a natural disaster that becomes a threat within a matter of hours and puts your facilities, physical assets, and occupants in immediate danger.
In the event of an emergency, having updated information that is easily accessible is essential to successfully managing the situation. Using a safety solution that is designed to give you instant access to the information you need such as safety manuals and protocols can help your organization respond quickly and maintain business continuity even in the face of an emergency situation.
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