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Most organization leaders believe their emergency plans are state-of-the-art. When, in fact, their plans are dangerously flawed.

Their emergency plans do not comply with federal and state regulations, ignore many classes of personnel and rarely consider visitors. Additionally, coordination with local emergency services is nonexistent, and personnel training is haphazard and illegal. The risks to the organization are many and the exposures titanic. This article provides information for creating an emergency plan that complies with regulations and protects your people, your organization and your posterior.

Why Plan?

Risk never sleeps. Emergencies can strike any organization with a direct hit, or can clobber anything within a wide path. In the past year, organizations were vulnerable to these reported emergencies:

  • 4.1 million workplace injuries;
  • 2 million incidents of workplace violence; two people are murdered every day in the workplace;
  • $2.6 billion in property loss from nonresidential structure fires
  • 349,500 fire department responses to hazardous material spills
  • 45,000 natural and manmade disasters
  • 111,500 structural fires in commercial buildings;
  • 3.8 million concussions per year reported to emergency rooms;
  • 10,000 incidents of sudden cardiac arrest at work
  • 4,690 accidental workplace deaths

Sources: OSHA, Department of Justice, National Fire Protection Association, American Red Cross, EPA

Risk always multiplies. What is the fallout for an unprepared organization?

  • 78% of organizations that suffer a catastrophe without a contingency plan go out of operation within 2 years.
  • 90% of organizations unable to resume operations within 5 days of a disaster go out of business within one year.

Sources: Agility Recovery Solutions, Continuity Insights Management Conference, London Chamber of Commerce Study

Compliance Issues: The Law

OSHA regulations apply to every employer in the U.S., without exception:

  • All Employers Covered: 29 CFR 1910.34(a);
  • Emergency Action Plan: 29 CFR 1910.38;
  • Fire Prevention Plan: 29 CFR 1910.39
  • Exit Routes: Design 29 CFR 1910.36
  • Exit Routes: Maintenance 29 CFR 1910.37
  • First Aid 29 CFR 1910.151

The following federal regulations may also apply to many organizations:

  • Hazard Communication/ MSDS: 29 CFR 1910.1200;
  • Bloodborn Pathogens: 29 CFR 1910.1030;
  • Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Containment (EPA): 40 CFR 112

State fire codes also apply to organizations.

Compliance Issues: The National Standard That Will Torpedo Any Defense

NFPA 1600 spells out requirements for emergency preparedness, disaster recovery and business continuity, along with drills, exercises, and training.

NFPA 1600 is recognized in law as the standard by the U.S. Congress [PL 108-458,§7305(a),(b)]. This standard is law (shall) in California and Florida where 56 million residents experience and plan for earthquakes, sinkholes, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding and mudslides-and have formally done so since World War II. Their authority on planning is held high by courts everywhere.

The Fire Department of the City of New York enforces the most robust emergency planning law in the world-inspired by NFPA 1600. Standard & Poor's (S&P) uses this standard when auditing emergency, disaster recovery and business continuity to ensure resiliency. Even in states where NFPA 1600 is a "should" and not "shall," any litigator will convince jurors that those "shoulds" are expected to be "shalls." Jurors will assume that you a) knew the regulations and standards, b) gambled with life safety of your personnel, c) have deep pockets and d) need to learn a lesson that sends a message to all organizations.

Consider that when you are sued for failure to plan and failure to train, you will be asked during your deposition and at the trial, "Is it your testimony that NFPA 1600 is good enough for the U.S. Congress, California, Florida, New York City and S&P, but not good enough for you?" Organization leaders must plan accordingly.

All-Hazards Planning

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Bo Mitchell was Police Commissioner of Wilton, CT for 16 years. He retired in 2001 to found 911 Consulting which creates emergency, disaster recovery and business continuity plans, training and exercises for organizations like GE Headquarters, Cablevision, Goodrich, Western and Central Connecticut State Universities. He serves clients headquartered from Boston to LA working in their facilities from London to San Francisco. Bo has earned 16 certifications in homeland security, organizational safety and security. He also serves as an expert in landmark court cases nationally.

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