Make Space for First Responders Arriving in Quantity

By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Facility Managers Recount What Really Happens When Disaster StrikesPt. 2: Contact List Helps in Disaster but Expect to be BlindsidedPt. 3: Importance of Knowing Your Building, Not Panicking, In Emergency Pt. 4: Regional Flood Experiences Show Importance of PlanningPt. 5: This Page

One aspect of emergency response is that it often requires outside authorities coming into the facility. And as long as first responders are not tied up responding to a widespread emergency, as in the case of the Fort Worth tornado, they will arrive at your facility in quantity.

Oswego Community Hospital in Oswego, Kan., a 12-bed critical access facility, immediately went into lockdown when a young shooting victim walked into their ER. The incident occurred at an apartment complex near the hospital and the perpetrator was still on the loose. Going into lockdown was an anticipated part of the emergency response. What was unexpected was the number of police officers suddenly in the facility, says David Dodge, director of plant operations.

Now the hospital has a room prepared where several officers can assemble if needed. There is a designated space to allow officers to conduct confidential interviews. Non-critical parties will now be directed to the waiting room of a nearby clinic. "You will have more people show up at your door than you ever anticipated," says Dodge. "Think about where they can go to be informed, whether it's a waiting area or a building next to your building."

One last thing: Expect that the plan will not go to plan, at least by a little bit, he says. The thing is to learn from the event, readjust, and keep practicing. "That's the biggest thing: Train and learn," says Dodge. "There's nobody out there that knows it all. I don't, but I'm sure trying."


Disaster Preparedness Pros Point Out Common Blunders

1. Keep the emergency response plan up to date. Having an outdated, unpracticed plan is worse than having no plan at all, says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, disaster restoration specialists. "You have this sense of security — But then the phone numbers are wrong or the vendor's not there or the guy that had the key to the water shut off room isn't where he is supposed to be or he's on vacation. It has to be practiced and rehearsed and up to date."

2. Assign a point person. "Have someone who can make critical decisions," Begal says. "Have someone who can sign a work order or work authorization. Have someone who is able to call the shots. So often everyone is standing around and no one wants to take responsibility."

3. Don't damage evidence. People often make the mistake of beginning to clean up immediately, not taking photos before hand. "Clean up is important but you need to document, document, document. Today it is so easy; everyone has a camera on their hip or purse," Begal says.

4. Safeguard emergency supplies. John Wheeler, assistant vice president, field engineering group manager, FM Global, cautions that preparedness includes safeguarding emergency from theft and deterioration. In one case, a client's flood barriers had been stolen and sold for scrap years before the theft was noticed. In another, a stockpile of plywood was safely locked up, but had been completely ruined by carpenter ants.

5. Count on half. Wheeler says that when FM departments poll their employees, asking who would stay in the event of an emergency, he counsels them to count on half. "People have families. They have their own homes to look after," he says. Our experience is you'll be doing very well if you get half of who said would stay." That said, FMs should prepare to provide food, supplies and a place to sleep for those who do stay.

6. Get promises on paper. "The biggest shortfall I see is service providers are not contractually obligated, so when [facility managers] call on them, the really don't have to show up," says Wheeler.

— Naomi Millán

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  posted on 1/29/2015   Article Use Policy

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