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Emergency Preparedness In 2007: Are You Ready?

The beginning of the New Year provides an excellent opportunity to review your operation’s emergency plans. Disasters that create emergencies come in many forms: weather or software related; terrorist attack or health pandemic. If an emergency threatened to shut down your business, are you prepared to respond? This article provides suggestions on how to analyze the effectiveness of your emergency plans.

In addition, free emergency planning resources are listed to help in developing a thorough contingency plans for 2007.

PREPARE FOR ANY EMERGENCY

  1. Identify hazards: Identify all hazards that could occur in or near your company. The length of this list depends on the location and type of business. After identifying possible hazards, rate the probability of their occurrence (for example: high, moderate, low) and how well prepared you are to deal with each situation (example: good, fair, poor).

  2. Describe the effects of each hazard: How would various potential emergencies affect your organization (example: communications, utilities, operations, service).

  3. Rate the hazard: For each hazard, rate the likelihood of occurrence, the severity of its effects on your business, and the degree to which the hazard could be detected and prepared for ahead of time. The resulting risk level (criticality) that you assign to a hazard establishes priorities for further development and management capabilities. Some hazards are more predictable, such as an advancing hurricane, and give companies and their communities time to prepare. Other hazards are more insidious, such as bioterrorism or a health pandemic, and may not be immediately apparent.

Issues to consider for estimating the probability of an event should include known risk, geographic location, historical data, presence of local high-risk industry (such as a chemical manufacturer or nuclear power plant), manufacturer or vendor statistics, or discussions with a local emergency management officer. In assessing risk, you might consider issues such as threat to life and/or health, disruption of services, equipment or facility
damage or failure possibilities, loss of community trust, and financial trouble.

ANALYZE PLAN EFFECTIVENESS
Organize your analysis in any way that integrates with your overall emergency management plan. Some organizations classify hazards by scope or overall category, as shown in the list of possible emergency situations (see sidebar). The purpose of identifying all hazards is to ensure that your organization can formulate an appropriate response in any emergency situation. The possible threats listed in each category may not relate to each other except for their general categorization.

Some organizations classify the hazards or emergencies as internal or external. An internal emergency is limited in scope to a specific facility, for example, loss of power. While the facility may experience significant loss of capability, the surrounding community infrastructure is typically still intact and available as a resource. An external emergency is focused outside a facility, for example, an earthquake. However, the September 11 terrorist attacks illustrated how an external event may also create an internal emergency and directly affect a company’s ability to operate. For example, a laundry may be near the target of a terrorist attack and receive structural damage as well as employee casualties or fatalities.

RATE YOUR PLAN
Assess how prepared you currently are for each hazard by first looking at the status of your current emergency plans for that hazard, the training of your staff to manage a hazard, how you performed in a test of the emergency plan, how you have handled real emergencies, the availability of back up systems (and systems to back up the back-ups), the available community resources, and other appropriate issues.

Whatever method used to analyze the hazards that may threaten your business, be sure to proactively identify how your facility and surrounding community may be affected. The hazards identified in your analysis will help you focus resources for emergency planning and drive future emergency drills.

DON'T PLAN IN A VACUUM
Emergency planning should not be done in a vacuum. Include your management team and employees and integrate your response with your community's plan for emergencies. Advanced planning for an emergency can mean the difference between protecting the integrity of your company or compromising your corporate reputation and jeopardizing business operations. Make the time to review your company’s emergency plans as we begin 2007.

S I D E B A R :
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POSSIBLE EMERGENCIES - ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THESE?

SECURITY
Bomb threat
Civil disturbance
Gang-related activity
Hostage situation
Location in a high-crime area
Terrorist attack, including nuclear, biological, chemical, and explosive—internal or external
Workplace violence
   
OPERATION FAILURES
Electrical
Emergency generator
Fire suppression/alarm system
Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC)
Information system/computers
Manpower—loss of labor force
Natural gas
Security system
Sewage
Telephone/telecommunications
Water main break
WEATHER
Snowstorm
Earthquake
Hail
High winds
Hurricane
Ice storm
Severe cold
Severe heat/humidity
Severe rainfall/flood
Sinkholes
Tornado
STRUCTURAL IMPLICATIONS
Airplane, bus, or automobile crash into the facility
Chemical or HAZMAT spill or release—internal
Explosion—internal
Fire, smoke—internal
Flooding—internal
Gas leak—internal
Other structural damage to building

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

A Gruesome Laundry Surprise

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A body in a bin was discovered by employees at a Sodexo commercial laundry facility. The body arrived on a delivery truck from medical facilities in Tucson. Team members who were unloading the bins first noticed blood on the sheets then discovered the body in one of the bins. The man, a transient, had previously slept in the laundry-bag area near the Tucson medical facility. It is believed that the man either died from a medical condition or was suffocated by the plastic bags. The body showed no signs of trauma or foul play.