Emergency Pre-Planning

Emergency Pre-Planning

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Join HSI Chief Safety Officer Jill James as she visits environmental health and safety professionals in their workplaces to explore important workplace safety topics. This video explains what emergency pre-planning is, how to work with local first responders to start pre-planning, and how often this plan should be exercised.

Video Transcript:

Hi, I'm Jill, chief safety officer with HSI. I'm a former OSHA inspector, and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards.

For this series, we're at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in the heart of the upper Midwest to show you, no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.

Having an emergency action plan in writing is something all employers are required to have. But how many of us have consulted with authorities in our communities who would be responding to our emergencies? Do we have a partnership with them? Have we done any pre-planning with our local fire department or hospital or law enforcement agency or ambulance service?

Today I'm joined by Scott with the Renville County Sheriff's Office. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thanks for having me.

So I'm wondering, maybe for our audience, if you could define and give some examples of what triggers an emergency response to an employment setting for a community?

It really could be anything. It could be medical emergencies, it could be traumatic injuries in the workplace, it could be fires, explosions, chemical releases, and workplace violence. Really anything that would trigger someone to call 911 would likely result in an emergency response from one agency or another.

And so when an employer is going to call and say, "Hey, we wanna do some pre-planning with you for any one of those scenarios," what does that look like? What does it include?

You know, pre-planning is really about building relationships. So we get together, someone from the public safety sector, the sheriff's office, we get together with the folks from industry, as an example, we get to know each other, we understand the roles that each other has, and then putting those roles together to create one common goal or what that response should look like, that is really what pre-planning is about.

And so is pre-planning a common term that's used? So if any employer listening to this says, "Hm, never thought about that, so I'm going to start maybe with my local sheriff's office and say, 'I wanna do a pre-plan with you,'" would pretty much everybody know what that means?

They would. And that's a great place to start. All it takes is that first call. We all have an identical goal to respond to an emergency. So similar to a football team, they don't just show up at a stadium one day and decide they're gonna play football. They have pre-planned and pre-planned and pre-planned and pre-planned trying to figure out all of the different hypothetical situations that could happen. The very same is true in emergency services.

Right. So can you give us an example maybe of what some of those pre-plan ... maybe dip down a little below 30,000 feet, like what would be some of the things you'd be talking with an employer about?

Sure. So in our role as the sheriff's office, we oftentimes pre-plan for things like workplace violence, active shooters, things that the sheriff's office takes a lead role in. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that either. Most sheriff's offices maintain a 911 dispatch center, a key component to emergency response.

And so, even if it's working with the fire departments or rescue squads, to include that sheriff's office really is a key component, because we are that initial call taker, and so we do have some responsibility in that response.

Sure. And if it's a fire department that's doing a pre-plan, maybe the information that would be shared is, do we have a tall enough ladder on our truck to reach the highest building or structure on that facility, or what kind of chemicals are on site that we would need special extinguishing agents for, or any kind of special hazards that they would need to know about as a responding agency, that kind of stuff goes into a pre-plan?

That's exactly right.

Yeah, okay. And so do, from your perspective, do you take notes on these things and archive them somewhere so when an emergency happens, you can have a memory trigger? 'Cause you've got a lot of companies in a community.

Right. And so you're exactly right. During that pre-plan process, when we then get access to maps and drawings and any information, maybe it's safety data sheets, all of those things are put somewhere. So our dispatch center maintains some of them, the responding units, maybe a fire truck, an ambulance, a squad car, oftentimes they'll keep paper files so that when they get to that site, they have access to that immediately.

Sure, sure, right.

And without a pre-plan, none of that's possible.

Yeah, exactly. And so what would you like to share with anybody who's listening, employers, on how important you feel this pre-planning is, and what you wish they all did?

Yeah, so pre-planning is of utmost importance. The only way we're going to get good at this is if we practice and practice and practice. And so the message is, reach out to your public safety sector, reach out to your sheriff, your police chief, fire department, ambulance chief today. Start to forge that relationship. Get everybody at the same table. Let us in on your plan. We'll let you in on our plan. All of a sudden it's one giant plan that's gonna work.

Yeah, right. Wonderful. And so you do that, is once and done good enough? How often should people be doing these pre-plans?

Once and done is not an option. So to begin with, we're going to work hard to put a plan together. And then the only way to make that plan better is to exercise it. And so I can't tell you if it should be daily or weekly or monthly or quarterly, what needs to happen is a great plan needs to be assembled and a great plan needs to be drilled or exercised. If it takes once a month to begin with, then it's once a month. But we can't stop until it's perfect.

Right, right. And especially if a company has gone through any growth. Maybe they have a new structure, a building, or a new process, or added a lot of employees, or a different shift or something, you'd certainly wanna know about that from your perspective, right?

That's exactly right. Anytime any information changes, and that's both ways, it might be a new building, it might be 50 more employees. Conversely, it might be a new ladder truck, it might be a new SWAT team. Anytime any information changes, it's time to bring everyone back to the table and share information both ways.

And so if an employer is thinking, "Do I really call these agencies in my community? Aren't they busy enough actually responding to things, like can we bug them," what's your response to that?

Generally we are busy, but never too busy to pre-plan. What we do in the first two minutes dictates what happens in the next 20 minutes. None of that's possible unless we have good foundational information about what that response is gonna look like. So reach out today, today is the day. And don't wait until something bad happens. We need to build these relationships, put a plan together today so that when something bad happens, everybody's on the same page, it will be an efficient, effective response.

Thank you so much for what you're sharing today, really appreciate it.

You're very welcome.

While we can't plan when emergencies are going to happen, we can plan how we react to them, and to minimize our loss. Talk with your local agencies and schedule some time with them today.

I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this, go ahead and pass it on. Safety is everyone's business.

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