ASSE Urges Businesses to Review, Develop Emergency Preparation Plans

With major storms predicted for this hurricane season and the terrorism threat at a high level, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) urges workplaces and communities to take steps now to be prepared to handle emergencies in an effort to minimize injury and disruption to operations.

ASSE notes that there are three critical phases of crisis management: vulnerability assessment, response management and business continuity.

"While we may not be able to prevent terrorist attacks or natural disasters, if we are prepared to respond to them we will reduce the incidence of injuries and business disruption," ASSE President Donald Jones Sr., CSP, PE, said. "With the recent terrorist activities and the peak of the hurricane season approaching, we are urging people and businesses to be informed and be prepared."

This week the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projected a total of 12 to 15 named storms would occur during the 2006 hurricane season that ends Nov. 30. This remains above the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

As for terrorism, British authorities recently said they thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the United States using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage.

Integrate Emergency Plan into Safety System

To be prepared for crisis situations, ASSE notes it is important for safety professionals to:

  • Integrate emergency preparedness into an organization's overall safety management system;
  • Conduct a vulnerability assessment of the organization to determine the probability and impact of a loss;
  • Activate an up-to-date response management plan in the face of an emergency; and
  • Assist their organization in its efforts to recover from a crisis.

Other areas to consider include being in compliance with emergency response codes; knowing how to seek assistance from federal and state agencies; conducting a nuclear, biological and chemical risk assessment; emergency response training; and working with law enforcement officials such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on activities such as bomb recognition and handling procedures.

"While most organizations may have an emergency preparedness and response plan or program, these plans may not be updated and are sometimes of little use in actual emergencies," Jones noted. "They need to be revised to consider the full range of events and threats to employees and business continuity, to be integrated into all operational practices, to reflect how people actually behave in an emergency."

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but ASSE recommends businesses:

  • Conduct a risk assessment This can range from self-assessment to an extensive engineering study.
  • Conduct emergency planning Assess how your company functions, both internally and externally.
  • Plan Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible and develop a continuity of operations plan that includes all facets of your business.
  • Define procedures Define crisis management procedures and individual responsibilities in advance and make sure those involved know what their responsibilities are, train others in case you need back-up help and review your emergency plans annually.
  • Coordinate with others Meet with other businesses in your building or industrial complex and talk with first responders, emergency managers, community organizations and utility providers; plan with your suppliers, shippers and others you regularly do business with.
  • Conduct emergency planning for employees Find out what people need to recover after a disaster, as they will need time to ensure the well-being of their family.

Post-Disaster Recommendations

Following a disaster, ASSE suggests businesses conduct a hazard evaluation and assessment on: structural security, safe entry; cleanup safety; air quality assessment; ventilation; interior, exterior exposures; protection equipment for fire and smoke alarms; possible electrical hazards; health/sanitation; office furniture; lighting; solid/hazardous waste removal; power checks; mainframes; machine inspections; and surfaces to prevent falls.

It is also recommended that businesses use existing federal guidelines to help resume business operations and to develop and distribute new emergency procedures.

Links

Full emergency tip sheets, checklists and more are available on ASSE's Web site.

For an OSHA emergency response presentation, visit the ASSE Web site.

For current weather news from NOAA, visit the NOAA Web site.

For terrorism updates, visit the Department of Homeland Security's Web site.

For disaster assistance information, visit http://www.katrinarecovery.disasterhelp.gov.

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