Preparing an Emergency Response Plan for Your Company
By Joyce T. Powers
As towing operators, you are by definition an emergency responder. Company owners and operators can approach a highway recovery or motor vehicle accident and work through the unique problems of that situation, keeping people safe and the roads clear.
But have you planned for emergencies within your own company and shop? Is your staff trained in best practices for situations that may arise in your facility? Every company has the potential for experiencing an emergency situation – whether it be fire, weather, catastrophic event, terrorism or other emergency. An emergency recovery plan (ERP) is crucial to guide employees when emergencies arise and may help ensure the safety of employees and occupants of your facility.
Organizing an ERP to prepare, respond, recover and mitigate loss helps protect your people and your assets. This article lays out a template for a company plan that can be tailored to your specifications. Think of it as an open dialog within your company about emergencies and safety. Add to it and share with your insurance company, police and fire departments to come up with a comprehensive plan to satisfy your company’s needs. Use the resources at the end of the article to create an ERP.
Once the exercise is completed, copy and share the ERP with each new employee and review it with your insurance company during the insurance company’s annual visit. We recommend maintaining several copies in red binders in several accessible locations – dispatch, shop, second story, if you have one – in the event of an emergency. Let employees know the locations of the binders.
Designate an employee as safety manager. This may present an opportunity to use the special skills of your employees: for example, drivers who are also EMTs, fire fighters, CPR certified and first-aid trained. Encourage your safety manager to take additional training classes to handle other aspects of company safety, such as annual fire extinguisher inspections, restocking first aid kits and checking smoke detector and fire suppression systems.
Here’s a page-by-page look at what an ERP may look like:
Page One – Designate a safe meeting place that is off property but within walking distance of your facility where employees can meet in the event of an evacuation.
Page Two – Prepare a list of phone numbers of police department, fire department, poison control, public works department and insurance agent, including office and cell numbers.
Page Three – Prepare a staff cell phone and home phone list. Don’t forget to include other contact information as well. Update monthly or as needed.
Page Four – Prepare a list of all equipment; include VINs and descriptions.
Pages Five and beyond – Include step-by-step procedures for various incidents you wish to cover including:
- Sick or injured person
- Instructions for using a defibrillator (we recommend every company have one)
- Acts of violence, including lockdown directions
- Small fire
- Major fire
- Bomb threat/suspicious package
- Hurricane/tornado/flood or other weather-related events, including shelter-in-place directions
- Power outages and utility failures.
Many of you have strong working relationships with local police, fire and emergency medical technicians. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help with the following:
- Fire training – Ask for a volunteer to train your employees in the use of fire extinguishers. Many people do not know how to properly use one and many others may be too embarrassed to admit they don’t know.
- CPR/first aid class – Ask local EMTs to host a CPR and/or first aid class for employees.
- Anti-terrorism training – Ask the police chief to talk to your team about issues towing operators may face, such as terrorism, drug overdose in a vehicle and violence in the workplace.
There is no substitute for good communication. Let employees know who are the staff experts for CPR, first aid, fire and more. Make sure communication is running in both directions. Give your staff the opportunity to offer suggestions for making safety-related improvements.
There is no way to cover every situation that may arise. Just ask Nick from Nick’s Towing Service in Rutherford, N.J., who last year recovered 20 destroyed vehicles when a plane crashed several miles away. But you can make safety a priority, start a dialog and write an ERP that may help keep you, your staff and your facility safe in the event of an emergency.
- American National Red Cross: https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy07/sh-16618-07/sm_business_emergency_checklist.pdf
- Department of Homeland Security: https://www.ready.gov/business
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1388775706419-f977cdebbefcd545dfc7808c3e9385fc/Business_EmergencyResponsePlans_10pg_2014.pdf
Joyce Powers is marketing director at Nick’s Towing Service, Rutherford, N.J. Gus Campisano heads Campisano Insurance Agency, Kearny, N.J.