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Hurricanes in the headlines: Are your emergency plans up to date? (9/1)

September 1, 2010
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There are three critical phases of crisis management, according to a notice issued by the American Society of Safety Engineers: vulnerability assessment, response management, and, business continuity.

As for being prepared now, hurricane season in the Atlantic began June 1 and ends November 30. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season began May 15th and also ends November 30, according to ASSE.

“Safety and health professionals know the benefit of being prepared for contingency situations. We look for all risks and develop programs to address those risks to prevent any injuries and illnesses while utilizing the newest technology in the process,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP said.

“All organizations should be doing this. For instance, we have learned from the recent hurricanes Katrina and Rita the importance of knowing how and where to contact your employees and their families, in the advent of a major disaster and have used emerging technology in those efforts.

“We urge companies to review and update their emergency and communications plans as well as their business resumption plans should a catastrophe hit. Remember, you have little control over the weather, but you can protect your employees and your property with the correct planning and implementation of plans. And you know what, when it hits, you better be ready to go.”

To prepare for contingency situations it is suggested that companies/communities integrate emergency preparedness into an organization's overall safety management system; to conduct a vulnerability assessment of the organization to determine the probability and impact of a loss; to 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/disaster.

Other areas to consider include being in compliance with emergency response codes; know how to garner assistance from federal and state agencies; conduct a nuclear, biological and chemical risk assessment; have an internal and external communications plan, and emergency response training.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but ASSE also recommends businesses 1) do a risk assessment – this can range from self-assessment to an extensive engineering study; 2) do emergency planning – assess how your company functions, both internally and externally; 3) 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; 4) 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; 5) 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; and, 6) do 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. For instance, do they need shelter, medical help, food, etc?

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