Emergency Management Planning: How to Respond

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Whether the threat comes from Mother Nature, aging infrastructure, mechanical issues or something else entirely, a sudden emergency can impact your factory in many ways. These emergencies can result in an unexpected lack of day-to-day productivity or a shutdown of your entire operation.

Planning for such events is critical to minimizing the damage in the aftermath. While you obviously can't prepare for every possible scenario that may occur, there are some steps you can take to ensure your vigilance before, during and after any emergency situation.

Initial Planning

Don't wait until a storm or catastrophe hits to begin planning your response. Instead, make this one of your top priorities when opening a new plant or facility. Make sure that all employees know how to follow an emergency management plan.

Publicize your emergency protocols as much as possible within your company. Post maps throughout your factory that highlight emergency exits, and make sure the doors are highly visible and well-lit. Make sure your backup generators are regularly checked & fueled.  You don’t want to find out your backup plan is out of gas during an emergency. Smoke from a fire could easily hide doors and windows, so make sure your entire workforce is familiar with their emergency response procedures. You should also revisit your plans on a regular basis to guarantee their relevance and validity.


During the Emergency

Now is the time to put all of your best-laid plans to work. You never look forward to this time, and it's something that you never want to face – but it's important to be prepared just in case disaster strikes.

1. Tend to any injured, trapped or missing workers.

Contact 911 with a clear summation of the situation, the precise location of your factory and a basic description of any known injuries. This gives first responders the opportunity to begin their route while you continue to deal with the emergency at hand.

2. Secure the area as quickly and safely as possible.

After any personal injuries have been treated, secure the area to minimize the risk of additional problems. Some emergencies, such as chemical spills, require specialized knowledge in the cleanup, handling and disposal of hazardous materials.

Electrical fires always run the risk of igniting any flammable materials in the vicinity and worsening the situation. Move quickly to contain such fires and relocate fire hazards.

Although generators are ideal for maintaining during minor storms and other such events, you might consider cutting power if severe weather is expected to strike. Not only will this minimize the risk of damage to the generator itself, but it could prevent other issues from occurring too.

Remember, the steps outlined above are for the actual storm or incident. You can't move on until the event is over, but you can be ready to act as soon as possible.  

After the Storm

If the incident occurred overnight, wait until the following morning to return and inspect the damage firsthand. Now is the time to begin the tedious process of cleaning up the mess and rebuilding.

1. Begin the cleanup process.

Depending on the size and scale of the emergency, your cleanup process might last anywhere from a couple of minutes to several months. Whereas a small electrical fire might only affect one section or department of your factory, other events might call for a complete operational shutdown and worker layoffs. Accurately assessing the scope of the damage is critical when reporting losses to your insurance company and accepting bids on repairs.

2. Report the incident as required.

Although it's easy to overlook, the follow-up reporting process is a necessary step of any emergency management plan. This process gives you the opportunity to analyze the situation through investigatory findings and firsthand accounts, and the incident report often highlights areas of your plan that need improvement.

3. Update your emergency response protocol.

At first, you probably will make your emergency management plans having no personal experience with a severe storm or incident. Research and general knowledge of emergency response are useful, but it's no substitute for first-hand experience in dealing with a catastrophe. Not only will this give you a better idea of the specific hazards your factory is susceptible to, but it also gives you greater insight into dealing with an emergency once it's passed.

While it's often impossible to prevent an emergency from happening, you can take advantage of all the information at your disposal to develop a plan that is quicker, safer and more efficient when applied to any future incidents.

Plan for Emergencies Now to Avoid Downtime in the Future

Regardless of their severity, emergency situations have the potential to introduce unexpected downtime, put a damper productivity and, in the worst cases, create dangerous working environments. Planning for such events before they occur is the key to achieving peace of mind, ensuring the safety of your employees and minimizing the damage to your property, but planning only goes so far – the rest depends on the response of you and your staff.

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