Emergency Response Cycle

A lot of SME businesses develop an Emergency Preparedness and Response procedure either from a template or engage a consulting business to help them to develop it for them. There is nothing wrong with either of these methods if done correctly, but many companies make major mistakes when it comes to developing their own systems, and when it comes to emergency preparedness and response we simply cannot afford to get it wrong. Here are five points to consider when developing, imple, people.

Discover what your main emergencies could be

Types of emergencies could include:

  • Fire
  • Explosion
  • Medical Emergency
  • Rescues
  • Incidents with hazardous chemicals
  • Bomb threats
  • Armed confrontations
  • Natural Disasters

Most companies cover a few of these, but miss the critical ones because they’ve used a templated system. They believe that everything will be covered if they just make a blanket statement that everything will be done right when the heat (excuse the pun) is on.

For example: If you are in a flood, cyclone, or earthquake prone area, you will need a system that clearly identifies this as an issue and what you are doing to prepare for the emergency and what you are going to do when the event is upon you. These are serious events and a blanket statement in your procedure that you file away for ever is not going to save you, your workers, contractors, visitors, or your business.

Early Warning Systems

A lot of companies use very basic means for providing early warnings in the event of an oncoming event such as a storm, or an unauthorised person on your property. Warning systems need to be clearly identified in your plan to provide as much space between all stakeholders of the business and the pending event.

There are many sources these days that provide us with early warnings for emergencies such as cyclones or major storms. We recommend listing out as many warning systems (not just the BOM) and conduct a risk assessment to see which system will work best for you. Warning systems can also include mobile device warning alerts, duress alarms, security alarm systems etc.

For environmental events, the Department of Fire & Emergency Services recommends that people use a range sources of information in the event of an emergency.

This includes:

  • using the DFESBOM websites to access warnings. Select the DFES website that is relevant to your state. The DFES site referenced here is for Qld
  • stay in touch with neighbouring businesses, family, friends etc.
  • be alert and aware of your business surroundings. What does your site contain? Are there loose items that could cause damage from flying debris?
  • Tune in to the local ABC radio
  • Ensure you have emergency kits available in the event of an emergency

Never rely on any one source and remember, you know best what is happening in your immediate surroundings. If you believe you may be in danger, act immediately for your own safety and alert others.

In a life threatening emergency call triple zero (000).

Controls

Many businesses who haven’t conducted a risk assessment prior to opening their doors have missed key controls that could be used in the event of an emergency. For instance, duress alarms are used in 24hr gyms or in aged care homes. Critical controls must be identified prior to running the operation, and it is all too easy to lean towards the standard emergency scenarios within a templated system. Templated systems are really good at giving you a head start, but that’s all they do. You will need to put your team together and assess the possible scenarios in a risk assessment workshop.

Training

Personnel need to be effectively trained in what to do in the event of an emergency. Staff need to be familiar with the area that the business is located. How well do they cope with health related emergencies or security related emergencies? Maybe it is time to put them to the test…

Provide them with the basic company policies and procedures relating to emergency preparedness and response. Provide adequate warden training for all wardens within the business.

Emergency Evacuation Drills

If you haven’t held an emergency evacuation at your business, we strongly suggest that you conduct one straight away, based on the emergency event that your business is most susceptible to. When holding an evacuation drill, consider:

  • Key responsibilities within the business
  • Emergency contact information
  • What event or scenario you are responding to (cyclone, flood, fire etc.)
  • The types of personnel you will need to evacuate. (i.e. disabled, elderly etc.)
  • Emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers etc.
  • First Aid
  • Chemical safety
  • Neighbouring businesses
  • Post drill follow-up
  • Review the Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan post drill

Here are a few basic tips when conducting an evacuation drill:

  • Ensure wardens are properly trained and know what their role involves. For small businesses wardens are relatively easy to identify, but they still must be trained and competent to manage the emergency scenarios that the business might face
  • Inform all occupants within the building – if it is a multi-tenanted building, or a residential site, ensure all occupants are aware of the practice drill. It may not always be possible to gather everyone on site, but a good cross section of willing participants (not staff) is very helpful
  • Make an announcement – if there is a PA system installed within the building or workplace, make an announcement about the practice evacuation drill to inform all employees. If you don’t have a PA system, use two-way radios, phones etc.
  • Appoint observers to oversee the running of the practice evacuation, and to keep a record of the drill. This could be a Health & Safety Representative, Supervisor, consultant etc.
  • Debrief – after each practice evacuation drill, a debrief meeting must occur to discuss the overall procedure, positives and negatives, and how to improve for future drills.

The Emergency Evacuation Observer’s checklist form and Practice Evacuation Record form needs to be completed during each practice drill. For templates of these forms please click on the links below:

Emergency Evacuation Practice Record

Emergency Evacuation Observer Checklist

Keep all emergency evacuation drill records onsite for at least two years.

Note: This article does not cover all emergency scenarios for all businesses. Please consider the individual requirements of the business before conducting a drill or implementing any of the information contained in this article.

Sources:

Bureau of Meteorology

Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008

Emergency Plans Fact Sheet

Queensland Fire & Emergency Services

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Contact us today to see how we can help you be better prepared for an emergency in your business.

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