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 Emergency Management:

Emergency management is defined as "a process to reduce loss of life and property and to protect company assets from all types of hazards through a comprehensive, risk-based, emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery."

An Emergency Response is any incident which requires an immediate significant response by the responsible organization. 

An earth quake,  flooding,  evacuation,  train derailment, a damaging financial report, are not minor or daily incidents. They are however significant. If the public and the media's focus is limited to 24 to 48 hours, then it usually qualifies as an emergency again, it is not necessarily a crisis. It will test the complete rediness and capabilities of the responsible organization.

 

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Emergency response is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied functions at an industrial or commercial site. Many people think that if something bad happens, the "public" response teams (fire department, police department) will always be there. However, this may not always be the case. Public responders are to protect the public; they may not have the technical expertise, training or equipment to handle some of the hazards in industrial facilities. Management must know the capabilities of all local responders, and, if need be, develop plans to use the people in the facility to take care of emergencies specific to that site.

Industry is private, and many times the public responders are only capable of protecting the public from industrial accidents. There are many instances where the public responders have not gone onto industrial property because they were not properly prepared. And in some cases, management would rather have the public fire service stay outside the property during an incident. Each individual site will be different; knowing the differences takes communications with all responders involved. Have you had a face-to-face meeting with the local responders in your area to discuss possible incidents?

Suppose the fire department responded to a fire in a plant and said they wouldnít fight the fire because they didnít know how to handle the chemicals that may be burning. And there is nobody on the site trained to fight the fire either; no in-house fire brigade, and the hazardous materials team isnít trained to handle burning hazardous materials. (A hazmat team may be prepared to handle spills, but what about fires with hazardous materials?) What happens? Everyone looks at each other while the place goes up in smoke and the hazardous materials create a disaster. This has happened in the past, and it will happen again. What is your managementís level of commitment?  


The communications focus in an emergency response is geared to several key roles: 

*  Communicate internally before you make public statements. Otherwise chaos will truly reign and morale will sink even deeper; thus under-mining the quality of the response. 

*  Liasion with the Emergency Services

*  Inform the public and key stake holders, such as regulators, partners, customers, suppliers, local, state and federal officials and politicians. 

*  Anticipate and meet the needs of journalists. 

* Set up and operate the public input channels, such as toll-free phone lines, on-line communications, fax-back systems, public meetings. 

* Ensure the organization is visible throughout the process. Silence and invisibility are signs of unwillingness, incompetence and fear which undermines the perception that the emergency is under control. 

*  Manage the message. Keep the messages clear, honest and consistent. If your message is patently false, premature, or unsupportable by readily available facts, then don't say it. 

* Manage the perception of competence as well as the reality. The media and the public react primarily on  perceptions - of competence, truth, openness etc. 

*  Additional responsibilities for the communicator during an emergency: 

*  Ensure that inaccurate or misleading reporting is corrected immediately.

* Stay in contact with victims families. If they get all their news first from the media, then their trust in your abilities and honesty rapidly erode. 

*  Ensure that all the news, good or bad, is communicated as soon as you can confirm it. If there is bad news, get it out all at once - to all media at the same time.

A comprehensive emergency management program encompasses all hazards and all related planning areas including disaster planning and preparedness,  identification and mitigation, emergency response, disaster recovery, business continuity and resumption, crisis management, continuity of operations.

 

Good emergency management is required for day-to-day disruptions as well as managing response to and recovery from disasters.

 


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