Often in the wake of serious mass transit accidents or other significant world events, stakeholders look to implement an Emergency Response Plan (ERP). Unfortunately, they may see it as a comprehensive solution to their needs when, in fact, that’s not the case. ERPs are an important component of an effective Emergency Response Program (Program), but they’re not sufficient to address the wide variety of events that can affect an organization. In-depth emergency response program training must be provided to ensure everyone understands their role in a response.
History has shown that when an ERP is the sole component of a response program, the organization’s ability to proactively and effectively manage a response is significantly diminished. A robust, goal-driven program, which incorporates a detailed ERP, enables organizations to successfully execute an emergency response.
The Elements of an Effective Emergency Response Program
An effective Emergency Response Program is formed from up-to-date industry best practices and regulatory requirements along with a company culture that prioritizes an emergency response mentality. Incorrect or outdated information tends to produce a false sense of preparedness and incomplete response procedures. This can create a significant discrepancy between what you expect in a response and what actually occurs.
Emergency response team training helps companies develop a realistic and practical approach to emergencies. Ideally, this should include a “tabletop” walkthrough to ensure your key departments understand the specifics of task execution and information sharing. A tabletop can shed light on the pressures and stresses that organizations typically face during and after a serious incident. It also helps teams identify the type and quantity of data that must be gathered and disseminated in the event of an actual emergency, as well as any process limitations. The focused discussions that take place during your tabletop will likely result in new procedures and protocols that enhance the existing ERP.
Conducting Emergency Response Team Training
After you’ve formalized your ERP, it’s a good idea to conduct an exercise to ensure that your process stands up to rigorous testing. Including direct response organizations that are typically involved in an emergency, such as the NTSB, greatly increases the effectiveness of an exercise and ensures that the plan meets all expectations.
To make sure that your program remains viable and relevant, it’s important to conduct training in many forms (classroom, experiential, digital) and using many realistic scenarios—from terrorism to medical emergencies—on a regular bases. The risks that organizations face are constantly evolving and companies have to anticipate or quickly identify these risks and adapt accordingly.
Relying on Outside Emergency Response Expertise
Implementing an Emergency Response Program that includes all of the elements discussed above is a good first step. Then, conducting emergency response team training takes your preparedness further.
Next, it’s important to augment those efforts with insights and resources from outside sources. Many organizations recognize that it’s vitally important to ask for help in areas where they aren’t experts. Most don’t have expertise in mortuary affairs, personal effects, family assistance and the NTSB investigative process, for example. Companies that effectively leverage both internal and external resources are best positioned to take prompt action to care for what matters most—their people and their brand.