Understanding Safety / SMS More

ERP & Crisis

Emergency Response Planning and Crisis Management

Crisis management involves all the planning, preparation and delivery of a post-accident/ incident actions and procedures. This part of SMS emphasises the need for efficient and effective emergency practicalities, in a timely and compassionate way. It is a proactive method of handling the worst-case scenarios, of a multiple fatalities accident. This it not limited to an aircraft crash, but also to other disasters like building (terminal or hangar) collapsing, fires in premises, collapse of big machinery, power outage of ATC services, emergency airworthiness directives resulting in grounding of fleet etc, or even a pandemic restricting performance of a big percentage of company’s employees.

A crisis in general is characterised by a inherently abnormality, in unstable and complex conditions that could result in a reputational, financial or strategic damage and disrupt business continuity. Crises do not always arise from within the organisation. They could be a result of one supplier’s or service providers going through a crisis.

By putting people first, you will most likely have a successful plan! People include anyone affected; victims, relatives, people assisting on the accident site and employees of the company involved in the dealing of the event.

ERP must be a documented plan with checklists, phone numbers, names, emergency services contacts, people to be called immediately, position replacements etc. It must be kept updated and in easy access. It should at a minimum be located in the emergency response room, the duty manager office and whenever else required for a quick transition into emergency state; and to give the fastest way of activating all the processes as well as people.

The ER plan should make provisions for an emergency response area (usually a conference room at the HQ), a Special Assistance Team (SAT), a Go-Team (on the accident site), the emergency corporate structure, family assistance centre, family reception centres etc. All these provisions can be sub-contracted by specialised 3rd party and coordinated with state emergency services and healthcare providers (hospital, civil defence, army etc). Hotels or other gathering areas can also be used.

Media response is one of the most important parts of an emergency response. Media should be handled only by trained personnel and no other employee or manager should communicate with them. It is a good practise to have templates of statements and press releases ready. Joint press conference shows an organised and coordinated response. The web presence of the company must also change to reflect the situation. The website can be replaced with a dark version, where the colourful banners are replaced by more prominent options like call assistance, press releases etc. Social networking must also avoid flashy banners and restrict the posts to information and news on the event. Personnel handling the call centre must be trained and guided on how to respond to specific questions such that they do not accidentally release any information to journalists pretending to be a relative etc.

Never respond with “no comment” and don’t be afraid to admit already known facts. Apologising ang saying sorry does not mean accepting the blame. The vital achievement of emergency response readiness is to be able to isolate the accident/ incident from the daily operations and to avoid paralysing the organisation whilst dealing with it. It ensures an orderly and efficient transition from normal to emergency operations and back to normal.

Taking good care of the relatives is the best way to protect the company’s reputation. Relatives should always be the first to be informed on updates and be kept in a separate area than the public. Provisions shall be made for their well-being, with medical assistance, nutrition and in cases accommodation. At the accident site, the company must have its own representatives with a constant liaison to the HQ ER centre. Depending on the size of the organisation and the extent of the accident, the company can dispatch a team of people, including a director, engineers, logistics, legal etc. Security must be arranged and ta no point should anything be removed from the site without company’s approval. It is sometimes necessary to create an area on the site for the relatives and another one for the media and public.

In the ER Centre the following are a few of the required equipment; telephones with silent and light facilities (consider a toll-free number for calls, computers with internet access, T.V., fax, white boards, photocopiers, log books and stationary, manuals and company documentation, rest area with coffee machine. ERC must be a secures office in a secured building. Arrange for security both inside and outside the premises. Sometimes it is wiser to have the ERC in a different location than the HQ.

The care/SAT team should be comprised by employees and volunteers. They should have received a basic training of psychology and have practised role playing. They must be people with compassion and listening abilities, able to support and guide the victims and their families. If the SAT team needs to travel or relocate to other country, remember issues like visa, vaccinations and documentations.

A full-scale deployment of the ERP is not always necessary. Use common sense and decide upon the extend and the consequences of the event. One can create some policies regarding deployment criteria and options.

Every single document and log used during the emergency response must be kept as evidence. The ERP must also include the case of involvement of Dangerous Goods and describe the investigation process and the team. The plan must be audited frequently and the personnel involved must be trained regularly. Demo and practise/ exercise deployment of plan is also required.

As an outline of policies, the following policies could be outlined in the ERP manual for guidance:

  • Emergency prevention (general approach of company to prevention of occurrences)
  • Prompt communication
  • Risk mitigation during emergencies
  • Confidentiality
  • Press handling and media relations
  • Notification of next of kin/ relatives and aircraft owners
  • Coping with emotional distress
  • Relief from duty
  • Employee assistance

The plan can be sectioned in pre-alert (readiness), post alert and return to normal phases. Checklists have an important part for ERP, as during crises, distress etc, we tend to tunnel our vision and restrict our thinking process. As such the use of checklists is of great importance for an efficient response. Checklists can be created for equipment to be used in ERP, equipment for the Go-team, personal items required for the Go-team, services-people to be informed, list of documents required for each task, list of duties etc. These checklists must be reviewed and updated regularly, as well as tested in a realistic (simulated) environment.