When Disasters Strike: Planning and Preparing for Emergencies
Recent events worldwide – hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires – have everyone thinking about emergency response. Is your business prepared if disaster strikes?
A recent earthquake in Mexico claimed many lives and caused widespread damage. Hurricane Harvey raged through the Gulf Coast, affecting Texas, Louisiana and several countries in Central America, while Puerto Rico will spend months recovering from Hurricane Irma. California’s wine country has been devastated by wildfires.
While these events have taken a huge toll on the people living in the impacted areas, businesses in those areas also have been impacted.
In Crosby, Tex., following Hurricane Harvey, two explosions shook the Arkema chemical plant, which resulted in a powerful fire that sent plumes of black smoke into the air and caused the facility to flood. As a result of the flooding, the factory lost all power, including their backup generator.
Certain chemicals within the plant were required to be stored at a low temperature. However, without power, the organic peroxides stored inside warmed to dangerous temperatures and authorities had to create a 1.5-mile evacuation zone around the plant
to protect its neighbors.
This event had a huge effect on the community. Residents did not have access to their homes, some people lost their pets and most were worried about potential long-term effects the burning chemicals could have on their health.
Just the day before, Arkema Group had warned authorities of what would happen during such an incident, but there was nothing they could do to stop it. In a press conference, on Sept. 4, Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe was asked what would happen if a storm like Harvey hit again. He answered that the company would “examine all the issues – the way we prepared and the decisions we made as we moved through the crisis.”
The lesson we can learn from this example is that even though Arkema was prepared with a backup generator, the crisis was not prevented.
Do You Have the RIGHT Plan?
In light of recent events worldwide, emergency preparedness is on everybody’s mind. All businesses are required to have an emergency response plan. Employers with 10 or more employees must have a written plan; those with less than 10 may share their plan orally with their team. Regardless, it is important that all plans be updated frequently – and always reevaluated after such an event occurs.
These days, although most companies have an emergency response plan, they don’t always have it up to date or it is not relevant to all possible crises. It is essential to prepare for natural disasters known in your area, but also for known risks in your facility.
The first step, and the most challenging one, is to complete a very detailed risk assessment of the facility. It includes any risks at all levels of the company. Based on their location, companies can determine which natural disasters are likely to impact their business and then prepare for those specific disasters. It also is essential for companies to inventory their dangerous processes, such as...