Last year a blogger, the Time Ninja blog ran a post – 5 Reasons To Say No To The Fire Drill that I felt was irresponsible and ignored the emergency aspect and saving of lives.
The article asked the question – ‘what would happen if you chose to say no to the fire drill? Would the earth stop spinning? Would you lose your job?’
I responded as follows:
Whilst this is a good article, it completely misses the point of a fire drill.
The objective of such a drill is to save lives.
Not only is it a legal safety issue, it is crucial for any organization that wants to protect its reputation. I mean who wants to work or do business with an organization that killed employees and hopefully not, customers as well.
The whole idea with an emergency is to be prepared and to deal with the crisis situation in an orderly and organized manner.
This brings us to a problem situation. If you are an Emergency Manager, do you run an simulation unannounced or a simulation that has been communicated before the time. The one is real, the other contrived.
IMHO it is the best to do the second. People will comply, once they fully understand the reasons WHY, not just the How. I have taken managers with a dubious outlook to the burn unit at a local hospital. Once they visited there, their whole life experience changed.
Equip people to act positively. Build on rocks, not sand.
Ultimately, this goes deeper. To be an Admired Company today, to be a Best employer, deserves attention to detail others ignore. Ultimately it is about caring. A Company that does not prepare for all eventualities will communicate a message that it stakeholders are not important, and as research shows these days, people want to do business with companies they can trust – even from a safety perspective.
This morning the Star headline shouts – ‘Youth Day Mayhem’ – Poor Crowd Control almost leads to another tragedy’ whilst in Vancouver, Canada, 150 people are hospitalised after a crowd goes on the rampage after their team lost.
On one list, a member writes: ‘We’ve got more than our share of morons, it seems, including the noodle headed city officials who put up giant screens in the downtown area so that more than 100,000 people gathered on one street to watch the game. What a surprise when some of those 100,000 decided to drown their sorrows in anarchy. As a former police manager, and the survivor of two major hockey riots, all I can do is wonder at the daftness of the people who encouraged 100,000 fans to gather in one downtown area without adequate controls in place’
Crowd control is part of Emergency Response/Event planning and should have been anticipated.
In my work in Crisis Management when we do a plan and a simulation for a client, psychological factors are taken into account – such as trying to anticipate that people would want to go back into a building to get personal belongings, how people would react to messaging, etc.
In South Africa we celebrated Youth Day yesterday and poor crowd control nearly led to another tragedy at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto yesterday when people stampeded outside the stadium.
Ten years ago, on 11 April 2001, 43 fans died in a stampede at a soccer match at Ellis Park. As a result of an enquiry, various deficiencies in the procedures followed at the match were identified. Since then, problems at other live events also gained media attention, including previous President Mbeki’s narrow escape from injury when a temporary stage covering collapsed at the Union Buildings.
Last week there was a fire at a home for the aged and those with special needs and 12 people perished in a fire. There obviously was a need to take into account that some people move slowly, and I wonder if that was factored in.
The report from the New Orleans Hurricane disaster pointed out that there were two stakeholder groups who were not taken into account – those with special needs like the elderly and young children whose parents perished, as well as those owners with dangerous and weird animals like hippos in private zoos.
This obviously points to a lack of planning, and is an important lesson to us all. What we least anticipate, will happen. People will behave erratically and will not follow normal patterns. Not everyone is conditioned like the people who left the World Trade Centre in an orderly fashion.
The role of Twitter in reporting is interesting – http://thenextweb.com/ca/2011/06/16/twitter-playing-big-role-in-reporting-of-vancouver-riot/
This raises a number of issues and concerns:
1. What standards are there to establish requirements for crowds at different types of events and crowds of various sizes? Were these followed?
2. Who were the members of the Planning or Steering Committee? Did this group include not just Law Enforcement officers, but also psychologists?
3. Did the event planners study other events and benchmarked their plans against the lessons of what happened in events like soccer?
The reason there were few incidents in South Africa during the World Cup Soccer event, was that the SA Government worked closely with FIFA and other international Law Enforcement agencies to set up standards and protocols long before the event.
Deloitte, the business advisory firm, has developed a new smartphone application, Bamboo, to help businesses handle disasters and crises. The new application is the first one of its kind in this field and is not reliant on mobile network connectivity to work.
The smartphone application stores up-to-date disaster management procedures and action-plans in an interactive and user friendly way on employees’ mobile devices, such as the Blackberry or iPhone.
- Convenient access to your organisation’s crisis management, business continuity or IT disaster recovery plan, when you need it most
- Access to latest contact details by integrating with an organisation’s existing HR and Business Continuity Management systems
- Push technology to deliver up-to-date information which is stored locally on employees’ handsets
- Ability to activate teams and understand individual roles during an incident
- Easy deployment of updated or new incident management procedures and actions through a central server and software
- Auditing and action-tracking for post-incident debriefs
- Easy access to critical information to improve management response times
- Ability to send notification alerts about an incident to all staff.
Rick Cudworth, head of resilience and testing at Deloitte said: “Recent tragic events around the world continue to highlight the importance of an effective and swift incident response. Reacting quickly minimises the potential impact of a disaster on an organisation. Deloitte created Bamboo to simplify this process for both our employees and our clients.
“Clients have asked us to help them access their essential information and the technology to use it effectively. In recent incidents they found plans were out-of-date, contact details were incorrect and the telecommunications network suffered failures making voice and data communications difficult.
“During an incident, the majority of employees take only their personal belongings with them, such as wallets, keys and, of course, their mobile phones. With Bamboo, staff will now be able to access their individual action plans, regardless of location or mobile network connectivity. Management will now be able to communicate with their employees immediately to inform them of the incident, verify their safety and location, and communicate necessary actions and contact details – all via their handsets.”
Although I have not had the opportunity to use this program in action, it is in line with the protocols I always recommend in my Crisis Management workshops.
One other method that you can use in the interim until your organisation decides to use a dedicated application, is to ensure that an updated contact list and flow chart of actions to be taken, is created and put in a Dropbox application. Then, all you have to do is ensure that managers have Dropbox installed on their phones.
At least that will be a start. Other than that, make sure that you keep a copy of your crisis plan – in your car, filing cabinet and at home.