Communicating in Crisis: Emergency Response Planning, Preparation and Training

In Part Five of the series “Communicating in Crisis,” Scott Gaddis explains why you should not leave crisis planning to chance.

It’s not if but when a crisis event occurs at your facility, so make sure you have planned for it and employees are trained in emergency response.

How an organization handles emergency response during a crisis – and the communications of such events – cannot be left to chance. Planning, preparation and especially, training contribute to successfully managing emergency response. So, handle these in a way that benefits you as a practitioner and the organization you represent.  

Personally, and with few exceptions, I always was totally surprised when a crisis event happened. Some were small events, others quite large and complex, but most were very unexpected. Don’t think that a crisis event might happen, because at some point, such an event will occur. Prepare employees by providing emergency response training. According to OSHA, general emergency response training for your employees should address the following:

  • Individual roles and responsibilities;
  • Threats, hazards, and protective actions;
  • Notification, warning, and communications procedures;
  • Means for locating family members in an emergency, so that employees remain focused;
  • Emergency response procedures;
  • Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures;
  • Location and use of common emergency equipment; and
  • Emergency shutdown procedures.

Also, you may wish to train your employees in first-aid procedures, which can include bloodborne pathogens; respiratory protection, including use of an escape-only respirator; and methods for preventing unauthorized access to the site.

Once you have reviewed your emergency response action plan with your employees, and everyone has had the proper training, hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. Whenever possible, include outside resources such as fire and police departments. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.

Emergency Response: Training Best Practices

Review your plan with all your employees and consider requiring annual training in the plan. Perhaps offer training anytime you do the following:

  • Develop your initial plan;
  • Hire new employees;
  • Introduce new equipment, materials, or processes into the workplace that affect evacuation routes;
  • Change the layout or design of the facility; and
  • Revise or update your emergency procedures.

It is safe to say that at some point, most of us will face a crisis. It’s unlikely that we can eliminate or rid every inherent risk in the workplace. Being prepared with an effective crisis management plan, and having clearly defined roles and responsibilities and providing practical training ensures the best success. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, because for the EHS practitioner, it’s the work at the front end that limits a lot of fixing afterward.

Blog Series: Communicating in Crisis

This series of articles “Communicating in Crisis,” will help you navigate what could be rough waters ahead. Whether it’s dealing with a situation like COVID-19 or an injury-causing event, you can handle it with the right crisis plan in place.

At some point in your career, you are going to experience a critical event. If you are practicing EHS right now, you’re living through an unprecedented crisis. How you manage these events impacts their lasting effect on employees, the business, the community and your value as an EHS practitioner.

Other Articles in the Series “Communicating in Crisis”

Communicating in Crisis: The Role of the EHS Practitioner
Communicating in Crisis: The Role of EHS in Managing Communication
Communicating in Crisis: Employees
Communicating in Crisis: Government Agencies
Communicating in Crisis: Preparing the Public Information Officer

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About Scott Gaddis

Scott Gaddis leads the integration of the Intelex EHSQ Alliance in thought leadership and building partnerships with top influencers in EHS, working with professionals across the globe to deliver a platform for sharing information and collectively driving solutions that mitigate workplace loss. Scott has more than 25 years in EHS leadership experience in heavy manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging. Before joining Intelex, Scott served as Vice President, EHS for Coveris High Performance Packaging, Executive Director of EHS at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Global Leader for Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

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