Emergency Planning & the human factor

Nuffield Group has established a team of highly credentialed experts as part of its Integrated Emergency Management & Recovery team (IEMR). The emergency and crisis management capability adopts a holistic approach which includes risk management, emergency management planning, training, exercising and coaching of individuals and teams. This approach strengthens an organisation’s emergency management response plans, and importantly their response to an emergency.
When you think about it, it always comes down to decision making…
Every day, on average we make more than 35,000 decisions according to studies, some big, most small, some important and others not. But what about our decision-making in the time-critical, high-risk environment of emergency management and response? When you actually distill it right down, emergency response is, a decision-making exercise that is typically shrouded with uncertainty, complexity, and friction.
Every business and industry should have emergency management and response plans, that are designed to assist decision-making in the response to an emergency. In “routine”, smaller emergencies, or well-ordered situations these generally work well, however, success is dependent on the ability of those involved to make good decisions by following the plan. But what if the situation isn’t quite the same as the plan? What if it is an event that is not in the plan or the human element impacts on decision making? Or what if the event is of such an unprecedented scale, or beyond ordinary resourcing?
Research (Weick, K., and Sutcliffe, K. 2001. Managing the Unexpected) identified three ways that risk-mitigation planning can reduce an organisation’s mindfulness:
• Plans sensitise us to expect some things but that can mean ignoring other things we don’t expect
• Plans tell people in an organisation how they are supposed to react, so they may not notice how their organisation’s capabilities have eroded
• And lastly, routines can’t handle “novel” events, but we continue to build our plans around “routine” emergencies and a checklist approach to response, particularly in those first critical hours of an emergency
If you think about every significant disaster/emergency event over the years, how did the initial emergency response plans work in those first couple of hours before help arrives? It is these first few hours of any incident that are critical, and it is the actions in the early stages of response that set the direction and tempo for all that follows.
In these chaotic environments, our decision-making takes on different forms when we are faced with ambiguous, complex, and unpredictable situations coupled with interrelated variables that are beyond our control. One inescapable fact is the human element is core to success.
• Human decision making and communication are foundational
• Situation awareness is critical
• Human error is certain
Typically, our emergency planning starts by analysing the risks faced by individuals or communities, the vulnerability of infrastructure followed by developing protective features to mitigate those risks. But what if we focused on preparing for or responding to a risk/hazard rather than just on the hazard itself? With this approach, when we are developing our emergency management and response plans, we think first of how individuals are likely to perceive risks, why they might not adopt preparedness or response measures. This enables us to work with rather than against peoples’ natural decision biases and human factors influences.
This still may not result in the perfect plan or the perfect response, but in conjunction with a learning culture, training and exercising to develop decision-making skills, sense-making and adaptive skills we can develop expertise in organisations and key operators who have to manage and respond to these types of events.
These extreme emergency situations are very rare, so it is easy to focus on the “routine” type emergencies, however, on the flip side it is these “novelty” events that can actually ruin a business. Nuffield Group is ready to assist your business to better prepare your organisation and your staff to challenging, uncertain, and complex situations.
“In complex situations, people will need judgement skills to follow procedures effectively and go beyond them when necessary.” Gary Klein, “Streetlights and Shadows”.

This article is one in a series brought to you by Nuffield Group, focussing on planning for emergencies, training, coaching and exercising your staff to build a capability that adds safety and resilience to your organisation. Nuffield Group is able to assist you in taking these important steps preparing to respond and manage emergencies.

Call 1300 308 257 or +61 404 852 062
Or email us direct at nuffield@nuffieldgroup.com

Emergency Management Planning: Who will be in charge? Could we have foreseen this? How do we recover?

These are just some of the many questions that should be addressed in planning for an emergency long before you need to have the answers in real time!

Emergency management planning is vital for almost all businesses. Naturally, the scale of planning required will vary depending on the complexity of an individual business. For example, the detail required in an emergency management plan for a major hazard facility will be far greater than that required for an online sole trader. Nevertheless, every business should consider having an emergency management plan.

Emergency management planning is much more than evacuation planning and fire warden training. Thorough emergency management planning will be empowered by your organisation’s Board or owners, executed by senior management and implemented by all members of your organisation.

A well-considered emergency management plan is vital for any organisation to advance following an emergency and should complement the organisation’s business continuity plan.

How do you know if your emergency management planning arrangements are sufficient to meet the needs of an emergency?

Nuffield Group has developed an “Emergency Management Plan self-assessment guide” which identifies the imperative elements that your emergency management plan should have and allows you to assess your organisation’s current plan.

In broad terms the critical elements of any emergency management plan include:

  • Hazard identification and understanding the trends and underlying root causes of incidents
  • Checking incident management systems and processes are effective and align with the risk appetite of your organisation.
  • Establishing, current and relevant formal procedures for your organisation.
  • Testing and exercising your emergency management plan.
  • Formally training team members in their roles in emergency management.
  • Having effective internal and external communication.
  • Having appropriate tools and infrastructure in place.
  • Establishing structure and process around lessons to be learnt to ensure continuous improvement.
  • Developing business continuity and recovery plans to minimise disruption to operations, customers, and other vital business functions; and assist in recovery.
  • Having the current capability and capacity to respond to, and recover from, an emergency.

Nuffield Group’s “Emergency Management Plan self–assessment guide” enables an organisation to undertake an assessment of their own emergency management plan on a regular basis to ensure it is strong, thorough and empowered to meet the emergency management needs of the organisation, stakeholders and the community.

The guide identifies the imperative elements that your emergency management plan should have and allows you to assess your organisation’s current plan.

It is a simple and easy-to-use template that results in an action plan when improvement is needed.

Nuffield Group’s ‘Emergency Management Plan self-assessment guide’ is published on our collaborative online platform, GNTX. Here, non-competitive information and tools are made available for businesses to share, download and modify for their own use.

Find out more about GNTX herehttps://www.nuffieldgroup.com/gntx/ or contact us to discuss.

Victorian Indigenous Engineering Winter School

Nuffield Group is proud to be supporting the Victorian Indigenous Engineering Winter School (VIEWS) this year.

The program traditionally coincides with NAIDOC week, celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, this year, due to the challenges of COVID it will be held 27th September – 1st October 2021 inclusive.

VIEWS is an annual event spawned by the 2015 National Indigenous Engineering Summit – a collaborative venture between four of Victoria’s top Universities (Melbourne, RMIT, Swinburne & Monash).

The purpose of VIEWS is to give Year 10,11 & 12 indigenous students an insight into what it’s like to study and work in engineering and to find out more about the different educational and career pathways that exist for budding engineers.

Supporting VIEWS 2021 is a perfect fit for Nuffield Group, whose head of Finance and HR is Rebecca Terzini: “We have taken our time looking for a program that promotes the wonderful world of engineering to Indigenous students with a keen interest in STEM subjects – and VIEWS ticks all the boxes”.

Participants in the program get to hear first-hand, inspirational stories from Indigenous engineers and students about their lived experiences. They also find out more about how an engineering career can help them have a positive impact on society and on the lives of millions of people around the world.

The Winter School normally gives the students a chance to live in University accommodation and explore the campuses of the participating Universities; To visit industry sites and Engineering companies and take part in hands-on workshops developing the kind of problem-solving and design skills engineers use every day. This year these experiences will be conducted virtually with hands-on kits for virtual workshops and activities including site visits and campus tours.

VIEWS is a unique and invaluable educational experience that also provides students an opportunity to connect with like-minded people, meet Indigenous elders and learn about the Indigenous support groups that exist to help them in their higher education and career journeys.

The program addresses a wide variety of opportunities and challenges for engineers including global climate change, energy options, resource management, robotics, technology, and medicine. It’s been well received by students and educators since its inception and Nuffield Group Managing Director, Jayston Small, is delighted to be involved this year.

“2020 was extremely disruptive for everyone and particularly difficult for students and Universities. Nuffield Group has been championing industry & community recovery and resilience projects and so, it’s a natural step for us to get involved with VIEWS. We’re immensely proud to be able to support Indigenous students through the Winter School and look forward to helping the 2021 cohort make the most of this opportunity”.

Emergency response and recovery

I am constantly intrigued by the regularity and severity of critical events. Over the last two years, in Australia alone, we have seen numerous major events including bushfires, floods cyclones, a pandemic and heatwaves. At a local level there have been many more events that have impacted communities and businesses including building fires, workplace accidents, protests, social issues and health events. Each of these has the potential to impact you, your employees, stakeholders, customers and ultimately your business.

So, when it comes to emergency response and recovery, how you respond and how you plan to recover can be a game-changer. 

We have previously discussed, in our series of articles, that your Emergency Management Plan needs to be based on the risks identified via your business’s risk assessment process. This is such a crucial piece of work because unidentified risks will not receive the attention they deserve in your emergency management arrangements.

There are many ways to manage risk, usually incorporating numerous layers of protection but when each of those layers of protection fail, an uncontrolled event occurs, affecting your business. In most circumstances this is known as an emergency situation which requires an emergency response. The best emergency response is the one that is planned for.

Emergency response planning is the development of a set of written procedures for dealing with emergencies, designed specifically to minimise the impact of the event and facilitate recovery from that event. At an instinctive level these procedures address matters such as:

  • How to alert staff and visitors of the emergency
  • How to evacuate, including escape routes and assembly locations
  • How to account for employees and visitors
  • How to notify and liaise with emergency service
  • How to provision initial welfare arrangements
  • and what early notifications are required, including statutory notifications

One of the keys to developing good emergency response plans is to consult with the emergency services early in the process. There are benefits for all in the consultation process. The emergency services gain an understanding of your business operations and processes along with the likely emergency scenarios and your capability to initially respond to them. Using this information, the emergency services can plan their response. In return, you gain an understanding of how the emergency services plan to respond, the equipment they will respond with, the timeframe in which they will respond and their expectations of you when they arrive.

The sooner the emergency services can get to work, the sooner your emergency event will be controlled. The importance of exercising your plan cannot be overstated, the engagement with the local responders is one important step and you should practise your plans and review them annually to be successful.

A valuable and simultaneous process to be undertaken whilst developing your emergency response plan is to develop your recovery plan.

A recovery plan will help you to commence your recovery efforts earlier and more smoothly when an emergency event impacts your business. The purpose of the recovery plan is to reduce your recovery time and minimise losses.

Recovery plans can include a vast array of critical information relevant to the recovery of your business including information on how to resume critical business activities and the time frame in which you can realistically expect to resume usual business operations. It can also include:

  • Strategies to recover your business activities in the quickest possible time
  • A description of key resources, equipment and staff required to recover your operations
  • Your recovery time objectives
  • And a checklist you can use following an emergency event, when it is safe to return to your premises

Recovering from any setback is a challenge for all of us. Thinking and planning how you would go about your recovery process based on a likely emergency scenario could make a big difference to your business.

Nuffield Group has invested in developing its capability in Emergency and Crisis Management to support customers and organisations build safety and resilience into their business.

Nuffield Group provides consultancy and advisory services and also has an online platform, https://www.gntx.com.au for the exchange of non-competitive information and tools allowing businesses to share, download and modify frameworks and documents for their own use.

Find out more about GNTX here: https://www.nuffieldgroup.com/gntx/ or give us a call 1300 308 257 or mobile 0404 852 062.