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How to Plan and Manage Disaster Response
Most organizations have a business continuity plan that includes detailed procedures for safety drills. However, some plans fail to account for the different situations that may actually occur. While effective emergency planning for multiple scenarios is important, testing and communicating emergency plans is critical to determining their effectiveness.
What are the Emergency Planning Issues?
A recent article in Popular Mechanics pointed out that in the first moments of a disaster, roughly 10% of people panic, while 80% of the people essentially do nothing. Unable to come to terms with what's happening, they freeze. The remaining 10% jump into action.
One of the points of conducting emergency drilling is to train the 10% to jump into action to begin coordinating activities to get the 80% doing the right things. Communicating the action plan quickly and effectively prevents the panic group from influencing the behavior of the 80% awaiting further instruction.
Managing Complex Facilities
Safety compliance and emergency preparedness can be a complicated undertaking in facilities involving transient populations such as hospitals, educational campuses, and busy company headquarter buildings with frequent visitor traffic.
An Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manager at a large medical facility points out that there are many different types of drills that need to be conducted, often with different actions required. He is responsible for conducting up to 24 drills per year including:
-Evacuation drills -- fire, water, earthquake
-Relocation to safer place drills -- tornado, severe weather, bio-hazard
-Lock down drills -- threats of violence; stay in place until responders can arrive
Each of these drills requires a different set of logistics planning and execution.
Having a procedure manual sitting on the shelf is not effective if action plans cannot be implemented immediately where the action is: in the stairwells, above the noise of the manufacturing plant or down the busy halls of a medical center. Throw in the wildcards of interrupted power, potential building damage or rapidly changing conditions, and the best laid plans may not survive the first couple of minutes of an actual emergency which are often the most critical.
Portable Sound Systems Enhance Your Emergency Planning Execution
Portable sound systems can help your emergency planning leaders effectively communicate during the critical stages of the emergency. By having these leaders use this type of communication equipment, they can effectively override the noise, commotion and sense of panic that can impair any organized emergency plan. New portable wireless technology lets the emergency planning leaders move about the facility without being tethered by electrical or speaker cords. Shoulder straps and waist-belt style units make for an effective "grab 'n go" situation when time is critical.
There are also long range weatherproof systems which are ideal for directing emergency crews and crowd control in larger areas. These units are ideal for situations that may require moving personnel from indoor facilities to an inclement outdoor environment where the elements may add to the complexity of the emergency.
Regularly scheduled emergency drills will give emergency participants a chance to test out the sound system equipment to make sure you are comfortable with its use. These drills will also allow you to practice positioning yourself in various areas to determine your effectiveness. Documenting the results of these drills will provide future emergency planning leaders in your organization an idea of what works best.
Remember, communication, regardless of the method, has historically been the biggest factor in the success of a plan, or in the case of miscommunications, its ultimate failure.
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