Emergency telecommunications company, Adtec Communications , which developed the ALERTS (Adtec Linked Emergency Response Telephone System) technology specifically for emergency response, provides an insight into the areas that do require attention, especially in industries that are likely to face emergencies.
Director of the company, Jeremy Sharp, believes risk and safety management officers have to ask themselves certain questions to analyse if they are thoroughly prepared, covering all possible angles.
“A company’s emergency response is only as good as the communications set-up that drives it, but from experience we find that many safety officers aren’t comprehensively versed on what is available, consequently they may not have what they need,” said Sharp.
“Individuals from safety response teams can be scattered geographically, many requirements need to be analysed.”
Therefore, Sharp considers that following 10 questions should be asked to by every risk manager about the operations they are overseeing and the communications on which they are reliant.
1. Can I initiate a crisis conference call on the fly?
By nature, an emergency is an unexpected event. So, just about every time you require people to react on-the-fly, a conference call is highly important in any emergency situation as this will link all members of the response and recovery team. If there is no mechanism is in place to guarantee kick-starting a conference call as soon as an emergency hits, logic dictates that the response team will have no coordinated effort to counter any of the problems at hand and quite likely a disaster may ensue.
2. Can broadcast a voice page and put teams together in a few minutes?
A voice page is very fast and assembles emergency teams very quickly. The key is to have an external mechanism which is activated to automatically notify all appropriate personnel, rather than relying on an individual to make many phone calls, which would take infinitely longer and heighten the danger.
3. Can I broadcast an SMS to my team – even from a non-SMS enabled phone?
Most definitely. In fact, this is becoming a more popular way of initiating emergency responses. It can be done from just about any phone -- even a common office phone -- because once the emergency response is activated by straightforward pin number, fast and simple voice prompts and take care of the rest and the message goes out unhindered to all recipients by SMS.
4. Can all the stakeholders be notified irrespective of their location?
One has to take into account that members of emergency team are not necessarily office workers in a fixed location. They could be part of the bushfire response team, a mining region emergency group, a petroleum plant, or in any large inner-city factory site or general manufacturing plant. This is why mobility has to be covered and mobile networks, in just about every case, are the best way to remain in constant contact.
5. Am I wasting scarce resources due to scattered crisis team management?
No. In fact, quite the opposite is happening. Wastage comes in the form of not being able to assemble an emergency response team. Members of the team could be sitting in the very same room. But if they cannot be notified, they may as well be thousands of kilometres apart. The true value is in team management; even if they are far apart, notifying all relevant personnel immediately is paramount; therefore resources are being positively used.
6. Can I be sure that a solo employee at a remote site is safe?
Traditionally, WorkCover statistics suggest that solo employees working remotely can be exposed to a potentially high level of danger (since there is nobody else around that can physically help raise the alarm). We have overcome this: our Heartbeat technology routinely sends an SMS to a solo employee on site at predetermined intervals and raises the alarm if an immediate response is not given by that individual.
7. Can I monitor events as and when they happen?
Events can be monitored as they happen. Individuals in the emergency response team are constantly kept in touch with each other and a central base and can use various forms of technology to update information on ongoing basis (SMS, telephone). Multiple conferences can be held simultaneously while local or remote control by operator software is possible. In many disaster scenarios, communication difficulties are often hard to separate from coordination difficulties, and the greatest coordination difficulties are inter-organisational. Multiple contact numbers are possible for each participant, calls are programmable for emergency conference or broadcast message, and easy changes can be made to team members by administration personnel. In the case of ALERTS technology, it interfaces to radio paging systems
8. Can I do post-event analysis?
Post event analysis is nowadays seen as a very critical aspect of modern workplace requirements. Disasters always involve insurance companies and other sources of associated capital that work backwards and identify problem areas is pretty much expected. An emergency response system should definitely include the ability to record all voice traffic on the system. It should have an interactive voice response menu for different actions and allow team rostering so members can make themselves unavailable or available in the full knowledge of the management team.
9. Is my disaster recovery plan simple to start and easy to implement?
Often, it pays to look for dedicated technology rather than try to customise a generic system such as those supplied by major telecommunications companies. These are good products, but they are less application-specific than a specialised technology, and many have now grown to the point where their communications bandwidth is at maximum, and this can pose potential problems. The ideal solution is to look for a system that allows the logging of all system activity, one that retains memory in the event of power failure, and one that can be expanded easily by addition of line cards.
10. Do I face litigation issues from unions/WorkCover for not having a safe workplace?
A business would have to be stuck in the mediaeval age if it believes the answer to this is ‘no’, and they won't be in business for long. In the last decade, WorkCover authorities across Australia have been stinging businesses with record fines for unsafe work practices. A first-world industrialised country such as Australia is expected to have safe work zones and world-class facilities for facing emergencies.