A serious accident or incident at your facility may haunt you for years, and may actually force you to close, due not only to bad press but also from the financial losses suffered in litigation.
An emergency-crisis plan reduces these liability exposures; it provides for a fast and organized response to the injured, and ensures accurate disbursement of positive information to the media.
While you may have a very good loss-prevention plan, accidents and incidents happen regularly, not only to employees, but also to guests. It is imperative that a loss-prevention plan also has an emergency-crisis plan. Your insurance carrier, legal team and possibly outside expert consultants should be involved in creating this component.
Create A Plan
The safety director or a designee should start by researching all emergency-service responders who service the area where the facility is located.
Arrange to meet individually or collectively with service providers at the facility to discuss their needs and procedures to respond to an emergency. Distribute site maps on utilities and pathways entrances and exits, and inform them of staffing capabilities (i.e., security, first aid and maintenance). Also, conduct a facility walk-through so they are familiar with the layout.
Determine response policies and procedures with each service provider, including:
· A direct telephone number
· Proper identification and location of the emergency site to the responder via the telephone
· The best ways to communicate the nature of the emergency
· Any other information that will help in the response.
In addition to the local fire department, law enforcement and ambulance services, include specialty service providers:
· Water rescue
· Wild animals
· Drug use or sales
· Inclement-weather disasters
· Bomb threats or other acts of terrorism
· Shootings and other forms of violence
· Gang or other radical-group activities.
Once you have completed the meetings, turn to your staff and begin formulating an internal response to emergencies. There are two separate personnel groups and activities involved in responding to an emergency. First, there are those who actually are involved in the first-response chain-of-command:
· General manager
· Safety director
· First aid
The second group involves the public-relations department and additional management personnel that do not go to the scene. For now, let’s focus on the first responders.
Internal Emergency-Response Procedures
One of the first procedures to implement is a pre-determined chain-of-command notification. If a guest first reports an emergency to an employee, that employee should contact the proper staff person to start chain-of-command notification. Unfortunately, calling 9-1-1 is not always the best and fastest way to respond to an emergency as the call is also available immediately to outside agencies, including the media.
OSHA also will respond to employee-related accidents if 9-1-1 is called. Once you establish direct response procedures with an agency, it may prefer direct contact to ensure fast and proper response.
Emergency Site Procedures
At the site of the emergency, first responders should:
1. Give attention first to anyone who is injured. (Remember: Only qualified first-aid or medical personnel should touch seriously injured people.) Interview the person to determine the nature of the injury. Be sure to collect the following information:
· His/her age
· Member(s) of his/her party
· His/her version of the incident
· Person to be notified on his/her behalf.
2. Move spectators away from the scene.
· Establish a secure perimeter, and open a pathway for service providers.
· Shut down any utilities or equipment involved, such as electrical, water and machinery.
3. Identify all guests and employees who witnessed the event, and gather them in a secure area. If possible, use a room away from the scene where they can be interviewed privately. Interview employees first and then guests. Use a pre-established form to record:
· Contact information
· Members of the person’s party
· Their version of the incident.
After the interview, ask the person to review the form to make sure everything is correct; ask the person to initial each page of the form.
Note: The information gathered during the interviews is highly confidential and should only be shared with your general manager, safety director and defense team if litigation occurs. Employees should be instructed not to discuss this information with anyone, including other employees, media representatives, family or friends.
Interacting With The Media
Another important part of the emergency-crisis plan is controlling and disbursing information surrounding the accident or incident, not only at the time of the event but throughout media coverage, which may continue for days or longer. Many times when a significant accident or incident occurs, the media will come to the facility to report on it. To thwart any aggressive or potentially slanted media coverage, it is necessary to control the information in a professional manner.
Be Prepared With Standard Press Releases
Before an incident ever happens, the media/press department should create press releases for every common or conceivable type of accident/incident that may occur. In addition, several feature stories or detailed press releases should be created to provide:
· Facility history
· Facility statistics
· Activities available at the facility
· Number of visitors to the facility
· Facility safety records
· Safety records of any equipment involved in the accident or incident
· Copies of any prior positive news stories and press releases.
Additionally, the media department should have formal press kits assembled for distribution at any time. The information should be updated regularly.
Holding A Press Conference
Make a meeting/conference room available for all press conferences. If no room is available, set up an exterior site away from the accident or incident location for the initial press conference. All media are directed and/or escorted (preferred) to this press conference location upon entering the facility. If possible, have beverages, snacks and press kits waiting, along with a pre-press conference “Host.” Be sure to copy press credentials for each person prior to beginning the press conference, and retain their business cards.
Start the press conference by making a statement from the press director, and then take questions. The goal is to ensure that accurate information is delivered and that the facility is presented in the best light possible. The press should be escorted to the scene only after all witnesses have been secluded for interviews and the injured have already been transported to a local hospital.
Post-Emergency Actions/Emergency Site Procedures
Make sure the press director contacts the media on a regular basis with updates/resolutions of the event. Make the media your friends for future relationships and more positive news and feature stories about your facility.
George Laibe is certified in loss prevention for amusement and recreation facilities. He lives near Phoenix, Ariz., and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.