Emergency (Risk) Management Preparedness – The Basics (Part 2)
By Michael Haycock, Sr. BRC Quality Consultant
In Part 1 we laid some groundwork by reminding ourselves that emergency and risk management, at a basic level, involves identifying and evaluating risks…and then making plans to prevent, mitigate or respond.
Here in Part 2 we’ll look at a simple methodology to provide just a little structure to these activities…
Review with others in the organization what you would need or expect to accomplish. Perhaps there are small steps needed to begin. Contingency planning and objectives could identify starting points. There is a need to identify the actual or potential risks that face the organization at least at a very high level. Once the overview has been completed the expectation needs to be communicated within the organization.
2) Management Involvement
Recognize the need for the total support of any system by the most senior management. If the value of what is created and implemented is recognized, it will be much easier for management and the organization to support. This can be a challenge – as busy as everyone is – and as clear as the need to be responsible for available funds. The value of course is not just in our preparedness but also in the “due diligence” that comes with practical and legal connotation. We just don‘t let “stuff” happen to us.
Identify the potential of emergencies (risks), and consider a response. Planning should include risk assessment to recognize and allow for the appropriate response.
Every municipality in Ontario is required to have an Emergency plan. Because of my interest, I have actually read some. Most seem based on the same template which is OK, but I have some questions:
- What is the means to confirm the system will actually work as expected (self evaluation, table top exercises, internal audits, something…)?
- No plan that I have read has considered the possibility that the municipality infrastructure itself doesn’t exist (I know this is an extreme example but not to consider it is a weakness – and yes I do have an answer to this.)
- Multiple plans identify the emergency efforts and or supplies that are needed – and to be procured AFTER the event. I can picture many events that will only be “come as you are”.
Some time ago I was invited to a “local” fire department and the Chief was kind enough to explain the effort that went into their planning. Even when they’re not responding to a fire, car accident, etc – they are preparing. While not usually or easily impressed – I was.
Skills and knowledge of people involved in the system need to be identified to allow for effective participation and response. What are the skill sets necessary to prepare people? We cannot assume. This is like actually expecting the Wizard of Oz to help Dorothy find her way back to Kansas.
There is an interesting “new” requirement” in ISO 9001:2015 – Organizational Knowledge (7.1.6). This is information that, generally, is specific to the organization.
Some years ago a group of us were flying home on a small company plane. There had been and was quite a snowstorm and there was a question of whether we would be able to fly into our little local “country” airport. A major airport was within distance but this would mean renting a car, coming back for the plane, etc, etc. The pilot changed course for the major airport. While there was some inconvenience, I learned later a previous company aircraft had crashed during a similar situation 2 years earlier, when the senior executive on the plane “overrode” the pilot’s decision and had him “try” to land on the “home” field. (Two killed, everyone else injured.) What would seem obvious – the pilot should make that decision – was not. The ultimate inconvenience is not making it home at all.
While most of our work activities are not this dramatic, even a simple structure could be of great use. Incident Command System (ICS) could provide an effective system for emergency management for any organization. Even without the structure of a complete system – the basics would allow for some control in an emergency.
5) Operational Controls
There is a need to provide absolute clarity in your methods of operation. Some controls could come from other management systems that you have in place for Quality, Environment and Occupational health and safety. Controls should be periodically reviewed to ensure the mission and mandate of the organization is supported – and followed. When traveling I often read the local news. There was an article that caught my attention on the response of emergency vehicles. The city council required their emergency response team obey all traffic laws (with some leeway) including speed limits. They had a number of serious accidents involving emergency vehicles. The philosophy changed from speed is of the essence – to arrival is of the essence. (You help no one if you are also involved in an accident.)
6) Core Activities
To identify the essence of emergency (risk) management could include core activities such as:
Preparation – to consider what can be done to prevent, mitigate, respond and recover.
Prevention – to prevent the event or incident from occurring.
Mitigation – to lessen the impact of any event.
Response – actual response to deal with the occurrence (including ICS).
Recovery – clean up, fix up, debrief and lessons learned.
Some of the core activities are different from those traditionally identified – hopefully we have offered some improvement.
7) Evaluation and Checking
To identify the need for a response mechanism when the emergency management system doesn’t work as expected. This could include:
- identification and documentation of control over problem activities.
- clear expectation of circumstances requiring root cause analysis (corrective action).
- preventive action and continual improvement to be proactive with any system.
- internal audits to periodically evaluate the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the system currently in place (advance warning system).
Commercial for profit manufacturing and production, not-for-profit, government at any level, hospitals, hotels, schools, airlines, railroads, etc. – any organization can benefit from clarity in response expectations – especially in the case of an emergency.
Stuff happens. Recently a “sink hole” opened up in downtown Ottawa. (No jokes please.) There was a picture of a van – in the sink hole. This changed traffic patterns (aside from those of the van), travel routes and a considerable increased awareness of the infrastructure requirements. The point is not to be able to prepare to respond to a sink hole – but to have considered how to prepare to respond, in some manner – whether you are municipal government or a business that is not getting its deliveries.
This article was specifically intended for September “Emergency Preparedness” Month. Obviously much of this could also be used in general to address risk requirements now part of ISO 9001:2015. The value should be that even if you can’t do everything, you can do something.
“Be prepared”. What was true when we were young hasn’t lost anything with time.