Key Concepts in Emergency Response & Risk Management

Emergency Response & Risk Management

Emergency Response And Risk Management

A disaster is a sudden unforeseen event or catastrophe that precedes great damage to property or devastating loss of lives. It is classified under three forms; natural disaster, man-made disaster and, technological disaster.

A natural disaster is further classified under biological disasters, such as a pandemic, metrological disaster for example floods, and geological disaster such as earthquakes. The man-made disaster is then classified under accidental, such as oil spill, and intentional such as acts of terrorism. Critical infrastructure interruption or failure falls under technological disaster.

Disaster Management 

It is the structural management of responsibilities and resources to all humanitarian aspects during an impact to ensure life safety as the priority. The second priority is to stabilize the incident.

There are four key management elements to disaster management;

  1. Mitigation
  2. Preparedness
  3. Response
  4. Recovery
  1. Mitigation And Prevention

This is the effort taken for prevention and to reduce the extensive loss of life and property by dulling the disaster impact. These actions are also put in place as future risk management plans to reduce long-term effects. There are several actions that can be undertaken to stabilize an incident and minimize potential mortality.

Protective action for life safety within a building as an emergency plan should be put in place well before any incident and random drills carried out to ascertain the vigilance of the building’s occupants. These actions include evacuation, sheltering, shelter-in-place and, lockdown.

  • Evacuation- A warning system heard throughout the building is essential in ensuring the prompt evacuation of employees. Fire alarm systems need to be regularly checked for efficacy and if everyone can hear it.

In cases where there is a lack of fire systems, public system addresses should be used. Air horns or any other loud sound used as a warning system should be sounded out during the planned drills for employees to get familiar with the sound. 

There should be at least two exits on every floor away from any hazardous areas. The exits should be duly marked and sufficient lighting present for the safety of the employees. Also, make sure the exit door leads outside.

For each building floor, there should be an assigned team leader who ensures and directs proper evacuation. A backup team leader should be appointed in cases where the team leader might not be available. Employees with disabilities should have someone assigned to each of them to assist in their evacuation. 

The fire department should help device a proper evacuation plan that includes the know- how concerning persons with disabilities. An updated employee list together with a visitor’s log should be maintained at the front desk. An assigned person should collect the list which will be taken to the assembly point and used to account for everyone. Inform the fire department if there are missing individuals. 

  • Sheltering- In cases of severe weather, the meteorological department usually gives an advance warning to citizens because there is little time to run for cover in an abrupt situation like a tornado. Early warning is vital.

When the broadcast is sounded, everyone should move to the strongest part of the building and shelter there. Some of these shelters include reinforced interior rooms and basements. 

An emergency alert system radio is important in relaying weather forecasts and warnings. 

  • Shelter-In-Place- In a looming explosion from an instance such as a tanker crash along a highway with a chemical cloud release and columns of black smoke emanating from a nearby manufacturing plant, it is important to develop a shelter-in-place plan.

It should include a warning system means for everyone to stay away from doors and windows while moving to the center of the building. Anyone working outside should immediately get inside and everyone moves to higher floors while staying away from the basement. Exterior windows, doors and, air central control systems should all be shut down. 

  • Lockdown- Acts of violence can occur at workplaces. When gunfire is suspected, employees should try and maintain calm while hiding under the desk and remain silent. 

Employees should be trained to hide away from doors or windows and to seek refuge in a room where it can be closed and barricaded. There should also be a lockdown warning broadcasted from a safe location. 

2. Preparedness

The Government aims to ensure its citizens and organizations are fully prepared for any and all kinds of emergencies. It also has a cross-governmental program that covers a wide range of disturbances that touches on the three forms of disasters. 

The program is set to test the level of preparedness through all the administrative levels down to the local responders. 

Emergency preparedness training is in itself raising awareness concerning the emergencies that will be faced and equipping them with procedures an organization carries out. The training also develops competent skill-sets so that the staff can confidently fulfill their roles. 

Photo by Nicholas Bartos on Unsplash

The success of an organization in handling any emergence fully relies on its staff as the first responders. Involving staff in emergency planning and response training is fundamental to said success. 

Emergency management is the understanding of an occurrence’s likelihood and potential dangers. Effective emergency management means that plans are in place for all expected emergency scenarios making sure the response is coordinated and comprehensive. 

Risk management 

It is the approach of risk identification, assessing the risk then taking steps to minimize the risk to the lowest level possible. A risk management plan should guide the organization before, during, and after an emergency.

Some of the risk management preparedness tips an organization can undertake are as follows; 

  • Regularly rehearse with the employees your evacuation drills including the different roles certain individuals carry out. Review and expand your procedure to include different emergency scenarios. 
  • Set up an emergency action team with clear roles and responsibilities having concluded all the necessary training. They should communicate any and all relevant emergency information.
  • Assemble an emergency kit that includes useful documents and items. For example; key documents, phone numbers, a first aid kit, a torch or glow sticks, portable radio, spare batteries and energy bars. 
  • Have an updated list of emergency administrative contacts such as the fire department and ambulance services. A list of recovery contacts such as the bank, suppliers, insurance company, etc should be included. 
  • One of the organization’s priority should be to regularly back up and store the company’s information and documents in a safe place. Physical documents should be stored in a fireproof safe while digital information backed-up in cloud-based storage. 
  • Having considered a suitable business location, things like video surveillance and security alarms need to be installed. On-going maintenance is vital to the business’s security.
  • To cover losses during an emergency, it is crucial to insure the business and make sure the cover envelops potential risks.
Photo by Niv Singer on Unsplash

3. Emergency Response

  • Incident Command

Leadership for emergency response management is maintained by local government in the event of a disaster. However, for a united effort from different agencies, a standardized hierarchical system called an Incident Command System is required. 

It allows for cooperation within local and government agencies on organizing and coordinating response actions without undercutting decision making of local command and ensures resources are properly used and the most urgent needs met.

The ICS command function during an emergency response is as follows;

  • The Command section is responsible for coming up with the drawing board of developing, directing and maintaining communication with the media.
  • The operations section handles the tactical grunt work while coordinating the command objectives.
  • The planning section collects and provides information to the command center which develops the action plan. 
  • The logistic section provides equipment and personnel while coordinating all services involved. 
  • The finance section is responsible for monitoring costs and accounting for funds used during the response of the disaster. 

4. Recovery

Business continuity and disaster recovery plan are a detailed process with its focus on resuming crucial business functionality with an aim to minimize revenue losses.

It is critical to prepare organizations against future threats and prepare for recovery from the worst occurrence. These are some of the recommended practice tips;

  • Assemble a consistent plan in which all components are fully accessible in the event of a disaster. Ensuring unhindered access is a top priority.
  • Maintain full copies of critical documents in a different physical demographical area in the case of a nearby secondary back-up center befalling the same disaster. 
  • Keep the recovery plan up to date and in alignment with production up-to-date changes. 
  • For successful execution, test the plan to ascertain it works. Include with these tests a detailed explanation of what works in the plan and what does not.
  • Ensure the use of virtualization to create seamless transitions to a secondary environment creating an illusion thus allowing users to continue enjoying services without disruption. 
  • Always have a trusted experienced team who can cover any gaps thereby swiftly pulling the organization from any hiccup. Keep the team innovative and sharp in cases where something goes wrong to make sure it is spotted and the right steps are taken.

May the journey through preparing for a disaster to mitigating and reviving the organization be fruitful with minimal loss of lives and property.

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