Emergency Communications, Is Your Business or School In Trouble?

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If your business or school practices safety at work by implementing training on regulations and gives kudos for those practices, then this is one important and valuable form of safety communication. What about emergency communication? In running exercises, practicing not only the way to communicate in case of disaster, but doing it the most efficient way possible, can be difficult to do. Here at REM4, we stress an emergency communications plan that involves the participation of everyone at every level. Each person must know how to respond and what their role is.

Know Your Incident Command System (ICS): This is how your staff operates in the event of an emergency. In this scenario, a pre-organized crisis team then puts the Incident Command System chain of command and emergency plan in motion. The Commander is then in charge of the operation and orders the plan to shelter-in-place or evacuate, and leads the rest of the staff and crisis team to safety. This plan should be organized and discussed in accordance with the hazards identified in the risk assessment during the Crisis Team and all-staff meetings before the emergency ever takes place. 

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Courtesy of www.osha.gov

An Incident Management Team:

  • Includes command and general staff members and support personnel.
  • Has statutory authority and/or formal response requirements and responsibilities.
  • Has predesignated roles and responsibilities for members (Roster and on-call: Identified and able to be contacted for deployment).
  • Is available 24/7/365

Communications play an important role in knowing that the plan has been set in motion. The Commander’s knowledge and ability to ensure accessibility and interoperability is another imperative for safety during the plan.

Emergency 101 Tips: While there are many requirements on ready.gov for how your business or school should enact an emergency plan, for the communications plan– the most important thing is that it has to work for your staff! Tailoring every plan to reach your entire staff should be the greatest purpose for your plan.

Early Warning Systems (EWS) must be understandable, trusted by and relevant to your business or school. Warnings will have little value unless they reach the people most at risk who need to be trained to respond appropriately to an approaching hazard. For example, know how to use sirens, alarms, announcements, telephone trees (Commander calls one member of crisis team, that member contacts the next member or department, an announcement is made to all staff), and so on. These are a very practical way to notify your staff efficiently.

What if there’s a lack of EWS at the community level, and the business or school is unable to heed the warning?

Then this is a BIG problem. In the last blog, we discussed the importance of regional Emergency Operations Centers to the community. Again, a member of your crisis team should check with your EOC to find out what the EWS systems are, and how to get added to the notification list or find other notification systems available. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if that starts at the top—then no matter the strength of the rest of the plan, there may be far more destruction than there should be.

The FCC recommends the following for all individuals in the event of an emergency (especially storm-related):

  1. Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will minimize network congestion, free up “space” on the network for emergency communications and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone;
  2. Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to use it only to convey vital information to emergency personnel and/or family;
  3. For non-emergency calls, try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network;
  4. If possible try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networks and should reduce overall congestion;
  5. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push “send” after you’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you’ve resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network;
  6. Have charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for backup power for your wireless phone;
  7. Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers in your phone;
  8. If in your vehicle, try to place calls while your vehicle is stationary;
  9. Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain all family members know who to contact if they become separated;
  10. If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone;
  11. After the storm has passed, if you lose power in your home, try using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.
  12. Tune-in to broadcast and radio news for important news alerts.

 

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