SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

What Emergency Response Plans Are (and Why You Need It)

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jun 14, 2017 5:50:00 AM

What an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) Is

Aviatoin emergency response plan

The actions taken within the first 5 minutes of an emergency can largely dictate the severity of consequences. In this case, “severity of consequences” can involve catastrophic financial, environmental, or material damage, and/or major loss of life. Employees need a plan of action to count on when emergencies strike in order to minimize damages.

An emergency response plan is a manual that companies use to address many different types of emergency situations. The manuals include:

  • Who to contact;
  • How to act; and
  • Resources to use.

The priorities for any ERP are, in this order:

  1. Protection;
  2. Safe conduct;
  3. Mitigation/stabilization of the dangerous condition; and
  4. Cleanup of incident, whether this be physical cleanup or conceptual.

ERPs should address only the highest risk situations. They are critical for high quality responsive risk management. You might call an “emergency response plan” a “catastrophic situation plan.”

Download emergency response plan checklist for aviation SMS

What Your Plan Should Include

Emergency response plans should be organized into chapters and sub-chapters. Each chapter will categorize a type of emergency. Within each chapter will be numerous sub-chapters, each of which cover a specific emergency OR a separate task.

For example, you might have a chapter for Bomb Threat, with sub-chapters for various actions required in response to this threat. Or, you might have a chapter for Bomb threat with sub-chapters for various types of bomb threats. You will choose which type of organization most closely aligns with your company.

As said, emergency response plans need to include who to contact, how to act, and resources to use. In more detail, this means that each chapter should:

  • Have a list of people to contact, in order, with contact numbers;
  • The list of contact people might be organized by their response category, such as Hangar Fire Contacts, Aircraft Fire Contacts, etc.
  • The safety duties and responsibilities of each role in the company for a given emergency, such as CEO responsibilities, safety manager responsibilities, etc.;
  • Actions required to maintain safety;
  • Actions required to mitigate the danger;
  • Actions required cleanup incident, if applicable; and
  • What resources are best used to mitigate the emergency.

This “manual” can be an actual physical copy of your ERP, one documented in aviation safety software, or one documented on a server.

The Importance of Emergency Response

As discussed, emergency response provides guidance for the critical actions needed in the initial minutes of an emergency. More subtly, ERPs are so important because:

  • You can test their quality with emergency drills;
  • You can ensure that all divisions of your organization can react similarly to emergency situations;
  • Organize and categorize issues further (i.e., KPIs, emergency issues, etc.); and
  • Empower employees with guidance.

With an ERP, your organization will be substantially better prepared for high risk hazards as they arise.

How to Develop an Emergency Response Plan

The first thing you need to do before developing an emergency response plan is conduct risk assessments on identified risks in order to establish potential emergency situations. You are looking for risks that:

  • Have a very high degree of severity (i.e., “catastrophic”); and
  • Are incidents that are (at least) known in the industry.

There may be high severity risks that are not known in industry, and you can choose to include these in your ERP. However, you should be wary of including “too much” in your plan, as it can quickly become bloated.

As you identify and create a list of potential emergency situations, organize them into logical categories. These logical categories will be your ERP chapters. Next you need to actually create:

  • Your contact list;
  • Tasks needed for each emergency; and
  • Resources needed for safety.

Developing these items might be best managed by processing each chapter as a safety issue. This will ensure that your ERP is:

  • Documented;
  • Thoroughly processed through your Safety Risk Management process;
  • Reviewed through an investigatory/validation process; and
  • Thoroughly completed.

After chapters have been processed, you should have a complete response plan for emergencies. As new emergencies are identified, you can update your ERP.

Final Thought: What to Do with Your Response Plan

Emergency response plan in hand, you will need to get it into the hands of your employees. This should be made very available because, after all, how useful is an emergency response plan if nobody can access it?

So, the first step is to:

  • Distribute the plan to each employee;
  • Put the plan in easy to access places, such as on a server, on aircraft, in hangars, etc.; and
  • Notify each employee of where they can access it.

Beyond that you should:

  • Set a review process to periodically amend your ERP;
  • Update your ERP with newly identified emergencies; and
  • Most importantly, test your ERP.

ERPs should be tested with emergency drills. Emergency drills allow you to ensure that your organization responds to emergencies as planned. You can then make notes, and process any needed changes as safety issues. An ERP without corresponding emergency drills is like flying an aircraft without checking the engine first.

For further guidance, you might also find the following resources helpful:

Free Aviation Safety Survey Templates to Download

Published June 2017. Last updated April 2019.

Topics: Quality-Safety Management

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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