It's not rocket science - but there is a science behind it!

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Posted by APM on 18th Jul 2014

Imagine you arrive at work one day to find all entrances barred and emergency services on site? Youve had no warning and youre unsure whats happened until someone guides you away and explains the situation. All seems under control despite the chaos thats because your organisation has emergency plans in place and knows how to use them!

Thankfully incidents such as these are few and far between but organisations do need to have plans in place to deal with them should they arise and, when done properly, theres a whole science behind emergency response.

Sarah Alcock, Response Manager at Media and Crisis Management Limited ran an excellent workshop for the Norwich group, taking us through the key elements of how to cope with a major disaster. Sarah explained the types of exercises companies can undertake, from table top sessions through to full blown live exercises including fake media reports, casualties and evacuations.

Using the Bacton Gas Terminals in Norfolk as an example, Sarah showed us how the theory of emergency exercise planning could be put into practice, as well as sharing some interesting stories, such as a role playing bystander who got bored and decided to have a fake heart-attack to liven things up it wasnt in the script but because those involved in the exercise were well trained, it was dealt with, although that particular volunteer might not feature in another exercise!

Key learnings from the evening were:

  • Make sure your emergency plans are robust and practiced it is easy to make assumption so actually doing exercises helps identify the things that can really happen. An example here was a fire crew discovering the valves on their equipment were incompatible with those on a particular site, something that in a real emergency would have been disastrous.
  • Legislate the timescales it will take months of planning to set up a big exercise so dont underestimate the time needed in planning.
  • Ensure you have the right personnel in place an exercise director, safety officer, departmental representatives and so on.
  • Make sure the objectives of the exercise are understood.
  • Tell local residence and the media about any exercises so they dont worry or report out incorrect information.
  • Ensure you have an easily understandable and memorably code word that can be used to indicate that something is a real situation and not part of the exercise.
  • Log you lessons identified and then put something in place to make sure the appropriate changes are made!

Want to create some certainty in an uncertain world? Make sure your organisation understands its emergency processes!

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