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In An Emergency

by msecadm4921

Companies must ensure that they have effective, tried and tested emergency management plans in place to deal with potential crises.

At the same time, they must be fully prepared to communicate effectively with the media during an emergency ‘ otherwise they risk losing their reputations and causing serious damage to their business. These were two of the key warnings delivered at a seminar on Emergency Management, organised by Reliance Security Services, in Swindon.
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"You have to have a whole strategy in place to deal with an emergency," warned Brian Gregory, Managing Director of Safety Management UK. He described emergency management as dealing with ‘a rapidly developing incident where information is incomplete, stress levels are high, and there is an acceptance that not making a decision is not an option.’ "No matter how well trained your people are if you do not have a working plan, then the results they achieve will be minimal." Mr Gregory called on companies to take a critical look at their premises; train their personnel to deal with emergencies; ensure that command, control and communication roles are completely understood and make plans that ensure business continuity in the event of a crisis. "Accidents will always happen. Events are not within your control," he said. "No-one has immunity in a crisis. Your organisation will come under the microscope by people who will be interested in what is happening to you." And he continued: "What do you sell ? your services, time, people’ Do you sell a reputation and if so, where would you be without it? Companies can make huge losses after an incident as a result of damage to their reputations. It only takes a day to knock it down."
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Five steps towards an emergency plan
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Mr Gregory identified five principles of integrated emergency management: assessment (identifying vulnerabilities and who is important to your business in terms of their knowledge), prevention (putting in measures), preparedness (having a tested plan), response (which starts as soon as the incident does) and recovery (which must also start immediately). "You must have management support," he argued. "Readiness is not possible without management commitment. Management’s dedication to conserving business and property is essential if they expect emergency responders and management to be committed to their roles."
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The conference heard that companies need to draw up checklists and take a number of other measures to ensure a co-ordinated and cohesive response to a crisis and protect their reputations. Specific emergency management roles and responsibilities should be written down; the personnel involved should understand each other’s roles in the event of an emergency; and the roles themselves should be practised on a regular basis. Everyone must also know what is kept in an emergency control centre and how that equipment is used. "Emergency management plans should be passed around. There should be at least one copy for everybody," said Mr Gregory. He added that it was not uncommon for emergency plans to look good on paper, but prove unworkable; for people to assume that any situation can be handled; and for assumptions to be made that the press will not be involved and no-one will be required to talk to them.
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The greatest concerns
On the issue of the potential problems companies face in the event of a crisis, Mr Gregory pointed to accounting for and managing employees, contractors on site (an even greater problem), the public (particularly in shopping centres) and visitors as posing the greatest concern. "Who is the most vulnerable’" he asked, pointing out that about 60 per cent of people ignore indications of an incident, 30 per cent investigate it, and only 10 per cent accept that there has been an incident. Moreover, as many as 60 per cent of people usually wait for someone else to take the initiative in the event of an emergency. Mr Gregory concluded that maintenance of an efficient emergency team and plan, takes time and commitment. "It is an insurance policy," he said, adding that companies should always keep records of how incidents are dealt with for future reference.

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