Emergency and Disaster Management Essential Elements of Information?

26 May

What are; Essential Elements of Information?

When we are planning, especially designing the operational plan, then we require something called “actual” or more referred to as “essential” information. This is information that is detailed, verified and very specific in nature.

Mostly it starts with the compilation of all the role-players and their representatives contact detail, from the attendance register, of the first role-players meeting. Where we try and get all the key role-players, and that of specialised service providers and their people, or agencies, and local government and governmental departments contact details from.  This is the start of what will become essential information “on hand”, then we also get essential information “off-hand” this is where it gets tricky.

This is where we filter what we want, and need against what we have and still need to be effective. By looking at the events specifics; the geography, the layout, the entry and exit points, the distribution, and then we will get a better idea of the terrain layout.

This becomes critical at the point of actual deployment, then you don’t want to find out you can’t get into a gate because it’s parked in, although it was marked for emergency vehicles only, or there are cars and trucks parked by catering staff, because no one was using the entrance. Human nature needs to be incorporated, we need to monitor, enforce, and check, and even double check our perceived routes of entry. Especial if they are dedicated for emergencies only. This is where information becomes critical, we cannot plan for every eventually, this we know. However we can plan for most, if we ask the right questions.

Then we move over to the reaction to certain emergencies and their responses.

Some emergencies need to be co-ordinated, other need to be handled internally and some externally. How we receive calls, will not be within our control, how we handle them will. We need to pre-empt this fact. And where possible have a standardised approach with receiving calls of an emergency nature for this event. Be it from “SOS” cell phone centres, direct, or via whatever exists out there. Any and all calls, when dealing with certain large scale events need to be filtered, so that we can extract essential bits of critical operational information. At events, turnaround time, become mission critical, always.  The reason being, its business conducted unusual, with events, we are already dealing with mass organised disruption of normality, nothing is in fact ordinary, everything is out of the ordinary, if we don’t ask the right questions then we won’t get the right answers, and consequently we won’t be dealing with emergency situations as well as what we could have, if only we have had essential bits of information…

This information could also impact on the effectiveness of the total operational scope if not in place, or disseminated incorrectly, then the turn out could be wrong. We could see one ambulance turn out to an incident where we needed 4 or perhaps even 5, just because the elements of the information was not accurately assimilated and passed on.

It’s like placing an order for four Big Mac combo’s at a Mc Donald’s drive through window; and all you say is “Big Mac” (Holy Cow big crash send help) then what follows is, you get your Big Mac without Fries or a drink, and you have three more very unhappy people in the car staring at you.

Certain things take time, and require details, structure, and process to get the right results; it all starts with essentials bits of information that helps us ascertain and deal with specifics.   This aspect is a more in-depth, and specific to each satiation, with its own list of criteria, and requirements, in other words it will change from event to event… This is exactly why I will urge you to test the validity of your emergency operations plan with all the stakeholders, to see if it fits in with what they require, and if you have a requirement for essential bits of information, to be drawn up.   Essential elements of information is not a run of the mill thing with events management or managers either, most of them only pick it up as they go along, so never do. Only the really large and complicated operations deal with planning at this level. However, it could give you the edge when pitching as planner or events co-ordinator. Here we will be catering for large events mostly or as a rule. We all need to draw up tick off lists so that we have a standard to work towards. Standardisation breeds confidence within the industry and amongst role-players. However, the job never stops there; the devil is in the detail.

This detail is the essential bits of information.

In order to compile these lists, or any such list for most probable emergencies, we firstly need to see what will be most probable, and sometimes it’s the most obvious of things, that creates the most pandemonium on the day. For instance; cancelling an event, we take so much time planning it and then at the very last minute, we have to pull out, like at an air show, the weather could be disastrous on the day, what’s the exit plan then?

Its one thing just to say cancel, it’s completely another to do it when millions of dollars have already been spent, and thousands of people are making their way. Then you need aspects like insurance in place sponsors that signed wavers, and contracts with clauses in place that stipulates such eventualities, as well as with e tickets sold etc. Who will make the call, how; we need to know this as well.  What is our exit strategy; this also needs to be given attention. As it will and could have consequences, especially at the gates for the security and police, with possible traffic disruptions, and public violence as a result etc.

In order to handle any such eventuality at events, we firstly need to identify the possible incident, its potential and its impact. Then we need to see where we can place it, with which role-player/s, and how best can they address it. Then we will move over to the detail of the actions that need to be forth coming.

We first need some information critical to our area of operation. Called – Essential information;

It always starts with the first step; where the organiser pitches his event. Then we need to get a sense of what we are looking at and how if it turns pear shaped, could we handle it best, with whom, this is not mitigation essentially, although still running parallel with disaster management, its more pre-emptive operational planning specific to an event. That essentially assist in the mitigation of potential disasters, this is the actual planning; let’s take a scenario – an Airs Show;

What are the essential bits of information we will require from the brief, apart from the program, and the times, and the arrangements at the gates etc… These aspects are referred to as “Critical” bits of information, and we deal with that in the SOP, or operational plan, they are all strategic and also systematic, as well as operational in general.

Essential bits of information require a drill down of each aspect or element of the Airs Show that has the potential to cause or create an emergency. In this instance; we are just focusing on emergency management, nothing else.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Aircraft themselves.

They all need specific things before they can fly at an air show – yes

What are they? (Now we are gathering essential bits of information) first we want a standard, and then it becomes a benchmark for safety, then we proceed to identify the attributes that enforce, control and can render assistance should there be a problem, mostly to be used in the event of a disaster; only.

Start with the industry standards first; what’s the standard for fuel; is it flame able, combustible only etc… know what you are dealing with…for instance.

This is for Military aircraft in Canada for instance; http://www.admfincs.forces.gc.ca/cfa-oaf/055-11-eng.asp.

So there are regulations, policy, Law, limitations, that we can look to, to define the essential bits of information criteria and to get a better idea of implications if not followed and enforced… that one will have to become aware of before you can truly get back to essential bits of information.

Let’s start with Aviation Fuel again; now in general the airport has no problem with their fuel and resupply of their tanks, and aircraft. BUT; how will this reality change on the day of an Air show? Where we now have say 30 thousand plus people in the same confined space, with 70 fully fuelled aircraft, which normally also includes open flames, several gas burners in food preparation stalls, well within close proximity from aviation fuel tanks, and fuel pump vehicles. We could have underground tanks even. We could have underground feed lines, or pump fuel bunkers. Trucks that have tanks and a pump onboard that can refuel on the tarmac. All these things get impacted on, on the day of the show. So how safe are we really, when we are talking fuel safety, and fire safety? Then we have to ask the experts, the suppliers, and the operational staff. What can go wrong, what has, and will? Always start this discussion with them with;

What if?

Okay what if we have a major spillage when re-fuelling on the day?

What if a plane crashes into another while taxing and we have a fuel spill?

What if we have a grass fire and most planes are standing on the grass fully fuelled?

1)      What is the immediate action drill?

2)      Who will be responsible – and for what?

3)      What type of injuries could be expected – where will they be treated?

4)      If it becomes major, where do we evacuate to, where are the assembly points?

5)      What is the security, emergency, and evacuation protocol to follow then

6)      Which routes will be closed off, and made dedicated routes to and from the event for emergency personnel and vehicles?

7)      Where will we set up a staging area, to treat people on site, and put bodies, etc…

8)      Helicopter landing zones specific for evacuation…

9)      If we have a large body of water – a dam, or lake, do we have divers ready, if a plane crashes into the dam etc…

The point to make here is take one scenario and assess each one on its own merit with the relevant supplier, manufacturer, operator, expert, people in the know, and get facts, from most probable to least, to see what the total readiness and preparedness state is; then get all the essential bits of information to handle each one with, specific to this event. To compile an event specific emergency management plan, that will compliment your disaster management plan with.

So what you will do first is; a possible threat list and then run the numbers.

Possible threats at an AIRSHOW – could look like this

1)      Adverse Weather;

  1. The we need to have a committee that will call off the show – and announce it through major media houses
  2. Or make a call to start later- mist, rain, thunderstorm, – plan b

2)      Structural collapse;

  1. Have rescue vehicles with equipment on site, or nearby at ready

3)      Medical incidents – heat exaction, fits, asthma attacks, bee sting, lost children

  1. Paramedics on foot, on bikes, in cars at ready , with medical tents all over the show
  2. Ambulances next to the tents

4)      Over Crowding – stampeding at a free parcels, ticket stand, gates

  1. Simplified systems – online ticket sales, outside ticket sellers, just check tickets at the gates
  2. Park and ride

5)      Traffic congestion

  1. Traffic department or Metro involvement in the planning

6)      Parking problems

  1. Always due to planning and capacity

7)      Theft – crime

  1. Security and Police involvement in prevention

8)      Drunk and unruly spectators

  1. Removal/ prohibition  strategies

9)      Bridging safety cordon

  1. Perimeter patrols, equestrian, quad-bikes

10)   Fire – gas explosion

  1. Safety areas need to be established around gas, fuel and other combustible materials and arias

11)   Sporadic grass fires

  1. Grass needs to be cut to less that 15cm all over

12)   Disruption at gates

  1. Clearly visible signage that indicates VIP entrance only, service and official’s entrance only, parking, entrance 1, two-etc.

Now for all of these aspects we require the essential bits of information; the who, what, where, when, how, how far, how not, and what not to do, etc.

The result should be simple; straight forward and standardised

When we get the call what should we ask?

  • What is the nature of your emergency?
  • Where is it exactly
  • What is the best/ fastest access point to your position?
  • What is the Current situation – is the road still open, ect.
  • What is your contact detail ( first on scene contact number )
  • How big? How many dead, trapped, burnet, injured?
  • How many vehicles involved?
  • What else can you tell us?

How do we active the response teams from here?

  • Who do I contact when $$$ happens, how do I contact him (radio – call sign, sat phone, cell), or her, If not available who else?
  • What will be their response time be- who will they contact in turn?
  • Who else do I need to contact?
  • What else can, should, or could be done?
  • By whom
  • With what, where when and how?
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