American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Businesses to Review, Develop Emergency Preparation Plans
Des Plaines, IL (August 11, 2006) — With major storms predicted for this hurricane season and the terrorism threat at a high level, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) urges workplaces and communities to take steps now to be prepared to handle emergencies in an effort to minimize injury and disruption to operations. ASSE notes that there are three critical phases of crisis management: vulnerability assessment, response management, and, business continuity.
“While we may not be able to prevent terrorist attacks or natural disasters, if we are prepared to respond to them we will reduce the incidence of injuries and business disruption.” ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., CSP, PE, of Plaquemine, LA, said today. “With the recent terrorist activities and the peak of the hurricane season approaching we are urging people and businesses to be informed and be prepared.”
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projected a total of 12 to 15 named storms would occur during the 2006 hurricane season that ends November 30. This remains above the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. As for terrorism, British authorities said August 10 that they thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage.
To prepare for crisis situations, safety professionals note that it is important to 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. Other areas to consider include being in compliance with emergency response codes; knowing how to seek assistance from federal and state agencies; conducting a nuclear, biological and chemical risk assessment; emergency response training; and, working with law enforcement officials such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on activities such as bomb recognition and handling procedures.
“While most organizations may have an emergency preparedness and response plan or program, these plans may not be updated and are sometimes of little use in actual emergencies,” Jones noted. “They need to be revised to consider the full range of events and threats to employees and business continuity, to be integrated into all operational practices, to reflect how people actually behave in an emergency.”
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but ASSE 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 developa continuity of operations plan that includes all facets of your business; 4) define procedures – define crisis management proceduresand 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; 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.
Following a disaster, 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.
Full emergency tip sheets, check lists and more is available on ASSE’s web site at www.asse.org/newsroom. Please go to www.asse.org/EMERGENCY-RESPONSE-ASSE.PPT for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Response presentation, to the www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2678.htm for current storm updates from NOAA, to the Department of Homeland Security’s web site for terrorism updates at www.dhs.gov/dhspublic and to www.katrinarecovery.disasterhelp.gov/ for disaster assistance information.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest and largest safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 30,000 members manage, supervise and consult on safety health and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education.