Every organization should have an “Emergency Response Protocol” in place, practiced and ready to go at a moment’s notice. As we cannot predict our future, we have to be prepared for anything and at any time. Think back. Had you predicted 9/11? The “knee-jerk” reactions that happened afterwards will be debated for centuries. The business I just happened to be involved in was dependent on the airline industry. Scared passengers made for a long recovery.

Commonplace, in the safety world, is the exercise of reviewing your Nick-2015policies from time to time. In the transportation business, it is appropriate to review your ERP anytime but, especially before the season changes to the bad weather. Watch for new things with terrorism and security that may not be a part of your present plan. Go beyond your own business to consider your customers and the general public as well. Even simple PTA meetings have to be cancelled in snowstorms.

Take a lesson from others who have been there. Catastrophes always seem to happen when circumstances are at their worst.  The boss is out of town, your credit card is maxed out, you can’t locate key people to make decisions or it is the worst of weather.

There are so many possibilities that all your staff will need to be led and prepared, well in advance. They’ll need a “go to” list for when a crisis hits. Often, it’s left up to the safety practitioner to come up with the plan. This, then, requires two distinct parts.

1. An overview of the plan that everyone in the organization should become familiar with. It has been said that no plan will ever work perfectly at the time of an emergency (Murphy’s Law) but, if everybody in the company is familiar with what is expected, they will be able to improvise in the general direction of the desired results. Everyone should have a key phrase like, “The Company’s standard procedure is to conduct an investigation and release details when they become available.”  memorized so that it’s an automatic response to any probe. You have no idea who will be approached first about the incident nor in what circumstances. All staff should be familiar, practiced, tested and signed off.

2. A list needs to be prepared for key people to follow in an emergency that keeps them on track, gets the required information for others and covers all the bases without embarrassing the organization. This may end up being a number of lists depending on the size of the outfit. The list should be quickly identifiable and at their fingertips at any instant of time, wherever they might be. Electronic devices may be great but make sure there is a no-fail power source and the device can be flipped back and forth for another usage. Now, is not the time to discover a dead battery. Remember, your staff will be under pressure and nervous so make it as simple as possible. Again, it’s a good idea to consult your staff first. They know the job. Allow them some time to think of what might go wrong with their specific function and how best to deal with it.

Specific functions should be pre-assigned with backup people cross-trained. Specific “report-to” persons and times should be established. A calm focus should be emphasized, matter-of-fact and low-key vocal tones should be used. Panic is always your worst enemy. Establish a system to notify staff, call in replacements, find competent people to deal with (and transport) families, governmental agencies, news media, medical, trauma and emergency response sources. Remember to record documentation of all actions, statements, and phone conversations with names and call-back numbers. Remember, funding will be needed quickly, perhaps in large amounts – make pre-arrangements and have a system to keep tabs on it. Perhaps two person expenditure authorization.

Ensure people responding to the scene are appropriately dressed for the weather, properly (photo) identified, equipped with personal protective gear, are trained to deal with authorities and can follow orders. Have your personnel always carrying a clipboard, paper, and pencil (for rainy conditions). That clipboard is a very important prop. It makes people appear confident and “in control” to others. It makes them feel confident themselves and provides somewhere for their hands that are not in their pocket.  Sometimes, your appearance, especially on camera, is all you have going for you.

These situations are always horrible to deal with. Some, get out of hand to the point that businesses go down the drain. If you can pre-plan with the idea of effectively coping with every possible circumstance (even the apparently ridiculous), you may have a chance of surviving and becoming a better organization because of it.

I hope it never happens but, if you’re prepared, you will have a better chance of achieving success out of a bad situation. The best perception of your organization, under extreme pressure, is paramount to your future.

Click below for a sample Emergency Response Protocol to help you design your own.


Keep your people safe.

The beauty of life is in your hands.

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council

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