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How Robust Is Your Emergency Response Plan?

Posted: 27/01/2020

Categories: Emergency Response & Preparedness

An emergency response plan is a documented procedure that every business should produce. It’s an essential aspect of good governance and should highlight the risks an organisation faces, the documented processes to mitigate these risks, how and when these procedures will be tested and the response required in-the-event of an incident occurring.

Of course, the top priority will be keeping your employees, visitors and any other people on or around your premises safe at all times and in the event of a disaster. But don’t forget that your emergency response plan should also take your assets and infrastructure into account, as well as your organisation’s brand.

You need to ensure that your business is prepared for any incident or emergency occurring and it not only ensures everyone’s safety but also business continuity and public reputation.

A recent article for US publication Long Island Business News explained why it’s so important to have a robust emergency response plan in place. It noted that some disasters may be predictable for your organisation, such as flooding if your organisation is located near water.

However, there are various incidents which can be unexpected, such as a cyber-attack, power outages, and major equipment failures or even health hazards like widespread illness among your workforce.

It’s essential to be prepared for all of these eventualities, no matter if the likelihood is minimal. As Katherine Heaviside, Founder and President of Epoch5 Public Relations commented to the news provider: “When a crisis occurs, your business will be judged not on what happened, but on how you responded.”

She added: “A company’s reputation can take decades to build, but will be lost in a flash if it does not communicate quickly, accurately and confidently with its customers, employees, stakeholders, and possibly the media, during an emergency.”

There are, naturally, some sectors that are more likely to experience some form of emergency than others due to the nature of their work. The offshore renewables sector, heavy industry, manufacturing and Ports & Logistics are among them - and these are just some of the industries that we provide specialist support for in terms of emergency response planning.

When you begin to write a completely new or review your existing emergency response plans, the place to start is with a thorough risk assessment. Without considering site-specific risk, you won’t be able to explore the solutions and ways of minimising any outcomes and rectifying the situation.

Once you’ve identified the risks and hazards that could affect your business, you need to set out exactly how to plan, prepare and respond in the event of an incident.

Communicating this effectively to all of your employees should be a priority to make sure that, if it’s ever needed, they are aware of the correct procedures to follow.

But it’s not enough to simply produce emergency response procedures to cover site-specific risk and then not act on these plans. Each plan needs to be tested frequently.

Testing is important for a few main reasons. Firstly, it allows your employees to put their knowledge of your emergency response plans to the test, and how they work under pressure. It can highlight gaps in their understanding that you can be filled with additional training.

Secondly, testing your plans may highlight if there are any gaps in your current procedure and where they exist.  Your procedures for handling large-scale emergencies, all plans and procedures must be easy to follow, are workable and have been tested. Working through exercises that simulate a real incident can help you identify important issues and if the plans are work and if responders understand their roles and responsibilities.

The reason you should test your emergency response plans frequently is due to various factors and any changes in your business processes. New processes, employees, legislation or technology could be introduced that changes how you might respond to a particular emergency.

It isn’t only businesses that need to have emergency response plans in place - the government and its agencies also need to be prepared for all manner of eventualities.

At the beginning of January, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published its report into the blackouts that happened in the UK during August last year, which led to over one million customers without electricity.

This report included an action plan which will be implemented in full by the government, Business and Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom announced. The overall aim of this report, and the recommendations for action, is to make Great Britain’s power network more resilient to outages in the future.

Among the steps announced by the government is a review of the advantages and disadvantages of requiring the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) to hold additional backup generation, and providing support to essential service owners and operators to enable them to introduce “more robust business continuity plans”.

The government also intends to bring in a new communications process to make sure that the general public is regularly updated during any future disruptions to the power supply.

Finally, it will assess the need to improve the “governance, monitoring and enforcement processes for large and small generators”.

Despite the widespread power outage last summer, the government pointed out that Great Britain has one of the most reliable energy networks in the world. The number of power cuts since 1990 has halved, thanks to both the diversity of the country’s energy supply and the strength of the security of that supply.

Ms Leadsom stressed that, despite the relatively rare nature of such an outage, what happened in August was “unacceptable” and the government is working to protect against such incidents in the future.

“Customers can be confident that we have one of the most robust energy systems in the world and today’s report will help us reduce the risks of it happening again and ensure our energy sector is better prepared in the future,” she stated.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also stressed that it will continue to evolve the country’s emergency preparedness and response plans surrounding the energy supply as the UK transitions towards a greater level of renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

Operators in this sector will want to ensure that their emergency response plans are workable, robust and up to date for not only their organisation’s needs, but also to ensure that the government has no cause for concern about the continuity of the UK’s energy supply in the future. 

More and more of the UK’s energy is being generated by renewable sources, particularly on and offshore wind, and this throws up new challenges as well as opportunities. The government’s commitment to making the country carbon neutral by 2050 means that the emphasis on these kinds of power sources is only set to continue.

The renewable energy industry needs to ensure that it has considered every eventuality when putting together emergency response plans, particularly as everyone in the UK is going to be increasingly reliant on its stability and reliability.

If you want some assistance with your emergency response plan, you can take a look at the guidance on our website. We would also recommend speaking to one of our team to make sure that your plan is site-specific and suitable for your organisation.