February 27, 2023
4 Steps to Complete your Emergency Readiness and Response Plan

Paul Ahnberg

This post focuses on four additional components of an emergency readiness and response plan that build off of the three foundational elements discussed in our previous post. But before you can complete an effective plan for responding to emergencies, important emergency prevention steps must be taken. Learn more about the 3 Steps to Successful Emergency Prevention and the foundation for effective Emergency Readiness and Response Planning before reading on.

Having an emergency preparedness app is a great alternative to EHS Software. The ReadyKey platform makes it easy to customize your Ready App to support emergency prevention and response or other EHS compliance practices. 

The Foundation of Emergency Readiness and Response Plans

These four basic components of Emergency Readiness and Response Plans often build off of the foundational elements we discussed in the second article in this series. 

  1. Create Potential Emergency Scenarios + Plans
  2. Develop Evacuation + Emergency Response Drills
  3. Establish First Responder Communication + Coordination
  4. Streamline Documentation + Recordkeeping

Create Potential Emergency Scenarios + Plans

In the first blog post, we discussed the importance of systematically identifying specific risks pertinent to the facility’s operations.  These risks can be broadly categorized as relating to: 

  • Fires
  • Hazardous material releases
  • Medical and/or safety incidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Workplace threats
  • Risks not listed above

We now use these specific risks – as mitigated by the previous risk prevention work – to develop specific emergency scenarios and planned defensive responses.  

For example, under the Natural Disaster category, a facility may find that it needs to develop emergency response plans to address the possibility of severe weather scenarios like windstorms, snowstorms, or flooding, or even less predictable emergency scenarios such as earthquakes and tsunamis. 

While the scenarios and potential emergency impacts will vary, facilities may find it useful to use a standardized approach to organizing their planned responses.  For example, it will be useful to consider and document the specific steps the facility will take to:

  • Identify and report impending or actual natural disasters 
  • Establish facility Incident Command to manage the incident
  • Make initial assessments of the impacts
  • Request First Responder assistance as needed
  • Take defensive actions to mitigate impacts
  • Make required reports and notifications internally and externally
  • Terminate the emergency response

Documenting and maintaining these planned responses with an emergency preparedness app will support and enhance the facility’s overall emergency response process by providing an easy-access information platform useful during actual response activities, training, and drills.

Develop Evacuation + Emergency Response Drills

Having an emergency readiness and response plan addressing specific emergency scenarios is one thing. Using the plan to reduce risks and successfully mitigate emergency situations requires pre-emergency employee and contractor communications, training, and drills. 

To truly enable successful facility emergency response, it is critical that training and drills provide an opportunity for employees and contractors to gain a full understanding of all aspects of the facility’s emergency response program.  This will include the facility’s defensive emergency response expectations, leadership roles, and accountabilities within the Incident Command System, potential facility emergencies and associated employee emergency response actions (e.g., evacuation to muster points), linkages with outside First Responder entities, and employee input or feedback pathways.

The frequency of such training and drills often depends on the complexity of the facility’s emergency response expectations, but in all cases, appropriate training and drills should occur no less frequently than annually.

Post-training and post-drill feedback play a vital role in ensuring that the facility plan reflects current conditions and risks. Specific to drills in particular, it is vital that facilities conduct post-drill reviews with employees to review what worked and what may not have worked so that improvement opportunities are captured for appropriate future risk reduction. This will optimize the planned responses.

Establish First Responder Communication + Coordination

A well-formed emergency readiness and response plan includes a built-in linkage between the facility’s defensive response actions and the outside First Responder entity’s offensive response actions.

As was the case with employee and contractor training and drills, it is vitally important that transparent communications and drills occur with outside First Responders so that all parties understand the Incident Command System to be enacted and anticipated Unified Command expectations.  

At a minimum, content-appropriate, annual Unified Command drills should be scheduled consisting of anything from tabletop exercises for general information sharing to full-on field drills evaluating the expected Unified Command capabilities during an actual emergency. 

Lastly, during actual Unified Command operations, it is important to recognize that once Incident Command is transferred to the outside First Responder entity it cannot revert back to the facility until the eventual termination of the emergency as authorized by the outside Incident Commander.

Streamline Documentation + Recordkeeping

As with all EHS processes, emergency readiness and response plan documentation and records maintenance are important to the overall health of the plan.  While the plan and associated information will often reside on a computer server, facilities will find it useful to consider using an emergency preparedness app to house this information for communication, training/drills, and use during actual response activities.

Planning and Preparing for an Emergency

Emergency Readiness and Response Plans build on risk prevention efforts and enable facilities to reliably reduce residual risks to employees and communities arising from emergency incidents while also meeting legal regulatory requirements.

Incorporating key elements such as creating potential emergency scenarios and plans, developing evacuation and emergency response drills, establishing First Responder communication and coordination, and streamlining documentation + recordkeeping help enable safe and effective emergency response action.

Using an emergency preparedness app can and enhance a facility’s emergency response activities. Building your own Ready App is easy with ReadyKey.  

About the Author

Paul Ahnberg shares his emergency prevention, readiness, and response expertise gained from 32 years of EHS experience working with multiple industries and manufacturing facilities. Beginning with facility EHS Manager roles, Paul acquired and applied the technical expertise and communication skills needed to lead OSHA 1910.38 and OSHA 1910.120 (HAZWOPER) compliant and effective all-hazard facility emergency operations and coordination with outside First Responders. 

In subsequent corporate Division and Sector roles, Paul led Division-wide, multi-facility emergency readiness and response activities. And later provided strategic thought leadership and technical oversight for dozens of business Sector facilities across North America. This includes the introduction and successful rollout of an effective Ready App to help facilities ensure safe and effective emergency readiness and response actions.

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