Disasters and emergencies, whether natural or man-made, typically have far-reaching impacts that transcend borders. Consider the recent Maui fires or flooding in Libya which have impacted so many people and businesses. EHS leaders who take a global approach to disaster preparedness will have the resources and expertise in place to meet emergencies with an effective response.
The following will help you understand the differences in emergency response programs, with insights and best practices for ensuring your global preparedness program is truly ready to serve each region where your organization has a presence.
Best practices for preparedness
Incorporating natural disaster preparedness into global emergency response planning is a necessity. Organizations that prioritize preparedness are better equipped to protect their people and assets, maintain operations during crises, and contribute to the overall resilience of the regions in which they operate.
These best practices can help your organization outline your preparedness plans.
- Local regulations: Know your regulatory obligations. For example:
- In the UK, every tenant of a building is required to have their own Fire Risk Assessment which is related to your Emergency Response Plan.
- In Germany you are required to have fire wardens and first aiders.
- In Japan, fire extinguisher training is required.
- Risk assessment: Identify the specific natural hazards in each region of operation and assess their severity and frequency. Engage your local teams to evaluate the natural hazards that may affect that region.
- Emergency response plans: Develop comprehensive plans outlining roles, responsibilities, and communication strategies during a disaster. Best practice is to develop an Emergency Response Plan template that contains all the information that may be required globally (e.g., list out individual natural disasters). You can tailor individual plans to each local site. Consider grouping responses into those that require initial shelter-in-place versus evacuation. This helps employees better understand the difference.
- Training and drills: Regularly train personnel and conduct drills to ensure everyone knows their role and how to respond in emergencies. With many companies now employing hybrid workforces, you may need to publicize drill events and offer incentives to be in the office, or build in multiple drill dates.
- Resource stockpiling: Maintain emergency supplies, including food, water, medical kits, and backup power sources. Companies may need to consider prioritizing supplies for certain sites. Those that are in earthquake zones typically don’t have any warning, meaning employees could be trapped with no supplies. Also consider local events that may impact employee’s ability to get out of the building, such as civil unrest, for short-term needs.
Cultural Considerations in Emergency Response
Understanding the influence of cultural factors on emergency response is vital for EHS professionals with global responsibilities. These factors include beliefs, values, traditions, and communication styles, all of which can significantly shape response planning. Varying cultural perspectives on risk can also affect how seriously individuals take emergency warnings and instructions, prompting the need for tailored communication strategies.
Key factors to be aware of include:
- Language barriers: Language diversity within global organizations can create communication challenges during emergencies. Multilingual resources are essential to bridge language barriers and ensure effective communication during crisis situations. Providing training in the local language can ensure everyone is effectively prepared.
- Cultural sensitivities: Cultural sensitivities may impact responses to emergency situations. When writing Emergency Response Plans, you may need to consider how people will respond. Engaging local support, such as the local safety committee, to provide input on the site Emergency Response Plan can help you make the correct adaptations.
- Local Resources: Utilize country-specific EHS/OH resources. Most countries have designated pages for emergency response, which could contain valuable resources in the local language. They also provide common responses and phrases that can help you tailor your plans (e.g., “Run, Hide, Fight” versus “Run, Hide, Flee”).
Customizing emergency messages to fit the local language and culture is a strategic necessity for effective emergency response.
Incorporating Business Continuity into Emergency Response Plans
It may be beneficial to analyze risk and build in some elements of a business continuity plan right into your emergency response plan. Things to consider include:
- Risk profiling: Categorize regions based on risk severity and frequency of potential disasters. Use the risk assessment you completed as a starting point.
- Resource needs assessment: Assess the specific resource needs for each region, considering population density, infrastructure, and local vulnerabilities. Think about the regions where your facilities are located: will employees rely on public transportation; will you be competing for service if a local disaster happens; will you have trouble getting supplies in and out?
- Resource prepositioning: Strategically pre-position critical resources in regions prone to specific hazards. This includes stockpiling supplies and establishing local response teams. You may have evaluated this already but think about any local needs. This may also include items like generators or connections with a restoration company.
- that an Emergency Response Plan is not a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), every company should have some kind of BCP in place to make sure you can weather any storm.
Common natural disasters and their impact on planning
Each common natural disaster brings with it a unique set of considerations for preparedness and risk mitigation.
- Hurricanes and typhoons: Coastal regions face the threat of hurricanes (Atlantic) or typhoons (Pacific), necessitating robust evacuation plans and building resilience against high winds and flooding.
- Earthquakes: Seismic activity is a concern in areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Preparedness includes seismic bracing and earthquake drills.
- Floods: Flood-prone regions require watching weather patterns and training employees on what to do during a flood event.
- Wildfires: Areas susceptible to wildfires need strategies for evacuation plans and may need to monitor air quality during wildfire events.
Learn more about how Inogen Alliance can help your global organization craft a comprehensive emergency response plan.
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