Does your company have an emergency response plan for vulnerable workers? Let’s say an employee is working alone in the field and they suffer a stroke – what happens next? Is the response chaotic, disorganized, or frazzled? Or is it precise, structured, calm and predictable? The difference can be life or death.
In this article, we’ll share the recommended steps toward establishing a top-tier emergency response plan for vulnerable or at-risk employees at your organization.
Ensure all employees have the proper communication devices
Two-way communication is critical to emergency response. If an incident occurs and your employee(s) are unable to communicate that incident quickly, it could spell disaster.
The ability to communicate is the first step to an effective emergency response plan. No matter where an employee might be, they must have two-way communication options. Employees that work in an office or near the general public almost always have access to a cell phone or landline. We must also consider employees that do not have such immediate and easy access to cell phones.
- Employees working in large manufacturing plants with no cell coverage
- Employees working in the remote wilderness with no cell coverage
- Employees working in confined spaces
- Employees at sea
For many employees, especially those in remote areas, a satellite communication device is required. While a satellite phone can achieve the two-way communication requirement, there are more robust options that are more comprehensive. For example, the Blackline G7c provides two-way satellite communication, as well as:
- Gas detection
- No motion detection
- Fall detection
- Panic latch
Emergency response personnel or team
If employees are connected 24/7 with an effective means to communicate, they better have an equally effective response on the other end. Without one, the entire effort is wasted.
Managers and supervisors make horrible emergency response contacts. It’s not their fault, but managers and supervisors have too many other things on their plate to be effective in an emergency.
While an employee is sounding an alert from their satellite device a manager could be:
- Using the washroom
- Eating lunch
- Sleeping (if their team works overnights or outside regular business hours)
- in a meeting
The reaction of the emergency personnel is also important to consider. In an emergency situation, the reaction of key contacts must be calm, coordinated, and operate will drill-like precision. If a manager is unprepared or potentially frazzled it could spell disaster for the distressed employee.
Ideally, a 3rd party team dedicated to emergency response is at the centre of your emergency response plan.
A dedicated 3rd party response team provides immense value to an emergency response plan.
First, you get 24/7 monitoring of all employees using connected devices. No need for supervisors and managers to juggle monitoring employees and their regular day-to-day duties. This can help supervisors be more productive in their roles.
Second, you establish credibility and trust among employees using the connected devices and they know that in an emergency, a professional response will be activated.
A third-party response team is not concerned with the productivity of employees. Many employees are apprehensive to have managers and supervisors (big brother) monitoring their whereabouts. Using a 3rd party, employees and unions alike are more comfortable with the idea of 24/7 monitoring.
A 3rd party emergency response team can guide you through best practice escalation templates and processes for specific emergency events. The 3rd party team is trained and performs regular test drills to stay sharp and ensure they know what to do in any emergency.
Last but not least – many 3rd party emergency response teams have direct PSAP access to first responders. This can make the dispatch time even quicker when first responders are needed.
Establish emergency response templates for specific events including escalation processes
A 3rd party team will assist you with emergency response templates, but key contacts at your organization should be very familiar with these processes too.
Your escalation process should very clearly outline the process taken during any emergency event. Each type of emergency should be well-defined, as well as the roles of key players in the emergency response, plus details of each step and the order they are to be acted on.
Perform drills and exercises
Practice makes perfect. If we’re lucky enough that an emergency doesn’t occur every week, then we must rely on tests and practice runs to keep our response sharp.
Even for trained and dedicated teams, if the only time they responded to an emergency was when one actually occurred, there would be rust, confusion, and questioning whether the correct steps were taken. Emergency response teams conduct weekly drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the real thing happens. When every second counts, there’s no time to deliberate over which step to take next. Actions must be decisive and calm.
Establish regular check-ins
Establishing a regular check-in cadence with vulnerable employees can help reduce the likelihood of an emergency. Using a device like the one mentioned above employees can schedule regular check-ins at intervals prescribed based on risk level. For example, an employee in a confined space might use 10-minute intervals to check-in, while an employee doing field surveying might use 2-hour intervals. If something happens to the employees, they do not have to manually reach out to ask for assistance because the missed check-in timer will tell the emergency response team that something has gone wrong.
The emergency response team can use the device to ask “are you alright” to which the employee can respond and confirm their well-being, or if they do not respond the emergency response team can activate the escalation process and even dispatch first responders to their exact location.
Use Incident Command System training or establish a language that allows for zero terminology confusion
ICS, or Incident Command System is a standardized on-scene incident management concept designed specifically to allow responders to adapt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of any single incident or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. Essentially, this ensures everybody is speaking the same language. When your emergency response team is communicating with first responders (no matter where they are) or even supervisors and managers they are all on the same page.
Poor communication can cause confusion, slow response times, and can have detrimental effects. Becoming certified in ICS allows a party to take a more active role in any emergency without adding additional complexity to a tense situation, which is vital in terms of large-scale incidents or when a team with specialized skills is required.
Give your emergency response protocols some gravity and enforce them with policy. Many companies are including their regular check-ins as a policy as well for remote workers or anybody working alone.
Telelink’s Emergency & Safety division is dedicated to providing 24/7 monitoring to at-risk and vulnerable employees across North America. To learn more about our safety solutions please visit our website.