Several years ago, I presented a session at the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo titled “The Six P’s of Planning.” I firmly believe that these six elements (Policy, Prevention, Preparedness, Procedures, Performance, and Practice) are the backbone of emergency planning. At the 2019 Conference in Tampa I narrowed my focused to Preparation and Practice. While you need each component to have a successful Emergency Response Plan, being prepared is not synonymous to planning, nor is preparation the solution. To evaluate true preparedness you need to ask a very simple question, “How much have you Practiced?” There are only two ways to know if you are really prepared – practice or an emergency. In over 40 years of emergency response, I have found the only way to be both competent and compliant is to 1) address all six P’s, and 2) repeat the sixth P over and over and over again. Have you really practiced? Has your organization held a tabletop discussion on the roles and responsibilities in the plan? Perhaps you had a drill on a specific skill or component within the plan – an emergency evacuation drill and employee accountability at the muster point. Finally, have you conducted a full-scale field exercise? If you have had a full-scale exercise, has the exercise ever been designed based on the company’s worst-case scenario? Conduct a small, simple exercise (practice) self-exam. Using last year as your benchmark, how often did you exercise your emergency response plan? How many tabletops, drills or full field exercises did you complete last year? Identify the number of times you practiced in the year and the nature of the exercise – tabletop, drill or full scale. Finally, were any unannounced? Ready? Start! This evaluation should bring a constant problem in the private sector into clear focus; we don’t practice enough. Any exercise you do will make you better. More will make you better prepared. It is simple…the more you practice, the better you get! Don’t dismiss exercises as a business interruption, see them as disaster preparedness and prevention. Set a goal to add at least one more exercise in the next six months. You will get better. I promise.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) DefinitionsTabletop – An activity that involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting. Drill – A coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single, specific operation or function within a single entity. Full Scale Exercise – An instrument to train for, assess, practice, and improve performance in prevention, protection, response, and recovery capabilities in a risk-free environment. UNA – Unannounced Exercises – Self Evaluation
Michael Callan is a 47-year veteran of the Fire Service. He conducts energy, pipeline, safety, chemical and emergency response training around the country for industrial and municipal hazmat teams.