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Volume 30, Issue 3

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California businesses have numerous disasters every day. With Earthquakes, Flooding, Hazardous Material Accidents, High Winds, Power Outages, and the occasional Structural Collapse due to metal fatigue. Who knows when such an incident will happen in YOUR VICINITY? This may cause damage and destruction to your company, serious injuries to your employees, shutdown your business operations, and cost you tens of thousands of dollars in litigation and compensation.

To reduce and eliminate these costly problems you must be prepared. Contingency and Emergency Action Planning is seriously important to ensure the safety of employees and to keep your company operating through an Environmental, or Technological "disruption".

Proper preparedness for such a catastrophe consists of a well coordinated on-site implementation of Disaster Recovery and Resumption Systems and Emergency Supply placement. Your Safety Committee should start with an assessment of the following five conditions, as outlined:

  • Remote Sites versus Hot Sites: Permanent locations (satellites and subsidiaries which are distant to your main operation; as compared to temporary (on-site) operating centers, such as trailers.
  • Complete plan testing and evaluation: Simulated Exercises which put theory into action. This coordinates all areas into an effective operation, where everyone does their assigned jobs to test their strenghths and weaknesses. This also helps to prevent panic, and restore professionalism in an actual crisis.
  • Hazards Identification: Structural Facilities, Office and Data Systems, Equipment Security, Lifelines and Utilities, Stock and Vehicular storage areas, the list is almost endless.
  • Survival Supplies: Food and Water for a minimum of three days, for EACH PERSON...including your stranded clients and delivery persons. Blankets, First Aid and Medical "Trauma" kits; Hygiene and other sanitation items; and don't forget about the temporary Morgue.
  • Personnel: Life Safety skills and techniques: Your staffing should be trained in Disaster First Aid, CPR, Corporate Survival and Industrial Safety, and the fundamentals of Search and Rescue. You may want to consider Basic Fire Suppression, Survey and Control of Hazards, and possibly even an orientation to Emergency Radio Communications.
  • Helpful Techniques of Employee Education: Personnel will learn more effectively in an environment they are comfortable in, rather than an offsite "classroom". You may use a lounge, break room, a large work area (clean, of course), or even a conference room. Provisions of proper refreshment helps with attentiveness, such as: fresh fruit, cool juices and herbal teas, as compared to certain hot drinks, donuts, and other sugar infested snacks which seem to cause drowsiness or nervous fidgeting to some people.

The instructors you choose to train your personnel should have the proper experience in the respective fields of Emergency Management and related specialties, and have taught through various agencies which would prove their versatile experience. Examples are the American Heart Association and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (U.S. Department of Labor), to name a few.

There are legal and theoretical reasons for personnel training. When a disaster occurs, the personnel on site are the "First Responders". Mainly, they need this education to be able to help their injured co-workers, especially if the disaster is such as one that covers a large geographical area and the Fire Department is unable to respond.

Also, under the circumstances of current Occupational Safety and Health regulations, Disaster is classified as a "potential and unforeseen hazard", and therefore must be included in the SB 198 program. This means there must be a curriculum of continuing training, and safety updates which is necessary education for your own protection, both in the physical and liability sense.

All your Contingency plans and employee training will then go hand in hand with your completed Cal-OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Plan. This is one of those OSHA "Gray Area traps". As we should all know, "Better safe, than sorry" IS BETTER than "Live, and learn (the hard way!)."

Scott Garig is the Chief Executive Officer, and co-founder of the California Regional Emergency and Disaster Services, which provides Consulting and Education.