A Fortune 500 Company Prepares for Disaster Part One

Preparation is the key to a more successful outcome related to emergency response in the workplace. This includes a pro-active approach to preparing for emergencies of all kinds such as illness and injury, emergency evacuation and disaster response. Preparation should always include realistic hands-on training scenarios. At FIRST IN Emergency Response Training, we are strong proponents of this type of training methodology. Students learn best by doing, by thinking on their feet, by being challenged with changing conditions during an emergency.

During the month of April FIRST IN conducted two large scale disaster drills for a Fortune 500 company in the Bay Area whose campus encompasses 10 buildings and 9,000 employees. This company supports an in-house Emergency Response Team who participated in an 8 week Search and Rescue training course (similar to a CERT program), concluding with a hands-on disaster drill. A request was sent to area CERT (Citizen/Community Emergency Response Team) members asking for volunteers to participate as victims for the upcoming drills. These CERT members often comment on how much they learn as victims and they provide excellent feedback to the Emergency Response Team members who provided their rescue.

Victims were moulaged (provided realistic injuries with make-up) including lacerations, contusions, head injuries, fractures, puncture wounds, etc. They were given a briefing on how to act related to their injuries which included crying, hysteria, confusion, anger, disorientation and more. Victims were placed under desks and tables, in bathrooms and closets and in stairwells throughout several buildings on campus and waited for their would-be rescuers.

The Search and Rescue team at this company follows an emergency response organizational structure known as the Incident Command System. It allows for a more coordinated effort in controlling the chaos a large scale emergency can create. Trainers and Safety Officers at FIRST IN provided the scenario as the drill began:

It is 4:15pm on a Wednesday in mid-December. Temperature is 55 degrees with winds WSW at 12mph. There is a chance for rain in the evening. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake has struck the Hayward fault with a secondary earthquake of 6.4 hitting the San Andreas fault. Powerlines are down leaving your campus without electricity. Cell phone towers are out so you have no cell phone or landline capabilities. Highways and overpasses are severely damaged so leaving by vehicle is not possible. Thousands of employees are beginning to evacuate from your buildings, many with injuries and showing signs of shock. They are looking to you for help and guidance. The emergency response system (911) is overwhelmed and it may be days before help arrives. Begin your response…

How did they respond? Who was in charge? What were their priorities and what kind of challenges did they encounter? What were the lessons learned?  Find out more in Part Two.