Emergency response teams can be more efficient, here's how...
A little while back we touched on the importance of emergency action planning and how every organization should have an emergency response plan (EAP) in place even if they are not required to do so. For every organization, an EAP is only as good as the people who can coordinate the response and carry out the plan in place. In most cases, these people are labelled as the emergency response team (ERT) members and are relied upon to deliver swift, calculated response during times of crisis (when others are often frantic).
As is always the case for emergency response, each organization’s plan is unique, and some institutions are required to have more thorough planning in place than others. That being said, there are guidelines and insights that can apply to all organizations as it regards to emergency response teams and how to make them more efficient.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that ERT members should be well trained in emergency response, know the organization’s specific emergency plan, and be physically capable of carrying out the proper emergency response duties assigned to them.
Leading the response
Emergency response teams need to have a chain of command. At the very least, an emergency response coordinator and a backup coordinator should be appointed. Without this chain of command in place, even if your plan is flawless and your ERT capable, confusion may arise when time is tight because of a lack of leadership amongst your team. This can cause tempers to flare and allegiance to split, inviting a chaotic and uncoordinated response that can cost lives.
With your coordinator in place, let’s focus on the duties that they will be carrying out:
- Determining what emergencies may occur and ensuring the proper procedures are in place to handle each situation.
- Directing activities during emergency response, including evacuation of personnel.
- Contacting others outside of the organization to assist in emergency response when necessary.
- Directing the shutdown of systems and operations during emergency situations when necessary.
Just because you’ve assigned your ERT coordinator and backup coordinator doesn’t mean that your emergency response will always go as planned. By definition, an emergency will undoubtedly present a chaotic scenario where team members are randomly dispersed.
So when a critical event does occur, the first person on-scene will usually be designated as the incident commander (IC). The IC may maintain this title throughout the entirety of the emergency situation or perhaps they are relieved by a more senior team member when the time is right. Either way, an IC’s responsibilities may include:
- Taking appropriate protection measures to ensure their personal safety (ensuring the IC is safe before they can assist others).
- Notifying the proper personnel, including supervisors, of the incident and any other assistance needed.
- Advising others in the area of any potential threat.
- Initiate evacuation procedures if necessary.
- Contain the incident as best as possible without putting the IC or others in further harm.
Building out your ERT
As for the rest of your ERT members, it’s vital that they are trained in a variety of emergency preparedness and response techniques. This includes:
- Fire suppression and response, use of fire extinguishers
- First aid, CPR, SCBA
- Contagious diseases and bloodborne pathogens
- Shutdown procedures
- Hazardous waste and chemical spills
- Search and rescue procedures
Getting the details right
In any emergency situation, a lack of knowing what to do will almost immediately cause panic. It’s simply human nature. Because of this, it’s imperative that you prepare with as many details as possible so that each ERT member is 100% certain about their duties at any given time during the response. Communication amongst team members is also a major contributing factor to a successful emergency response situation. So it pays to have the right technologies in place well before any crisis falls upon your organization.
One way to do this is to proactively implement the proper emergency communication workflows and systems as an initial step in your emergency action plan. Search for an emergency communication solution that can seamlessly connect your ERT members and provide them with relevant information regarding their response. For instance, some emergency communication technologies are able to send each ERT member an accurate location of a panic button activation down to the floor and room number, even if the person needing help is on the move (using a laptop, tablet, smartphone or wearable device to signal for help).
This benefits your ERT greatly by reducing their response time to the point of interest, circumventing the need to receive third-party assistance or waiting for your security team’s central command to notify your ERT of the location.
Additionally, panic button systems and alarms should be properly dispersed throughout your organization to ensure your community is covered and that you can be notified if an emergency occurs.
Backup locations should also be established just in case your offices are compromised. Your ERT coordinator should be prepared to operate from this alternative location fairly quickly. Also, ensure that all relevant parties have access to an updated and maintained list of contact information for key personnel, including third-parties and off-duty responders.
Reducing ERT workload
Keeping your emergency response team prepared for any scenario is nearly impossible. Therefore, the best practice to reduce unknown variables is preparation. Preparing for emergencies can sometimes seem painful, but integration with other service providers can reduce that stress, so you can lift the burden off of you and your department.
Emergency preparedness solutions range in their flexibility, reliability, and innovation. The most important aspect of working with any service provider is that they understand your organization’s needs and have a solution that fits. Find an emergency communication solution that works for you today.