With hurricane season beginning, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and its 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members, urge companies and communities to take steps now to prepare to handle emergencies in an effort to minimize injury and disruption to operations, according to an ASSE press release. ASSE notes that there are three critical phases of crisis management: vulnerability assessment, response management, and, business continuity. 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.
“We’re expecting a worse than usual Atlantic hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, said today. “To prevent injuries and fatalities in the workplace during this season of storm possibilities, ASSE and its members urge companies now to do what they can to be prepared and that means, among several things, reviewing and updating your emergency and communications plans as well as your 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.”
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane outlook calls for an 85 percent chance of an above normal season and has projected a 70 percent probability that in the Atlantic basin there will be 14-23 named storms, 8-14 hurricanes and 3-7 major hurricanes from June 1 through November 1. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
NOAA predicts a below normal season overall for the Eastern Pacific region. NOAA is calling for a 75 percent chance of a below normal season in the Eastern Pacific and estimates a 70 percent probability that there will be 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes, and 1-3 major hurricanes. The Pacific hurricane region covers the eastern North Pacific Ocean east of 140oW north of the equator.
To prepare for contingency situations, such as hurricanes, safety professionals note that companies and organizations can be prepared and prevent injuries and fatalities. 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 – 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) 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?
Following a catastrophe, ASSE suggests businesses do a hazard evaluation and assessment on structural security; safe entry; clean-up safety; air quality assessment; ventilation; interior, exterior exposures; protection equipment – for fire and smoke alarms; possible electrical hazards; health/sanitation; office furniture; lighting; solid/hazardous waste removal; power checks; mainframes; machine inspections; and surfaces to prevent falls. It is also recommended that businesses use existing federal guidelines to help resume business operations and to develop and distribute new emergency procedures.
Sample emergency tip sheets, check lists and more are available on ASSE’s web site at www.asse.org/newsroom.