Using NFPA 1600 Guidelines to Assess Resource Needs in the Face of Emergencies
Recent news regarding the worldwide situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us with feelings and questions of uncertainty — how may this affect our lives, health, or even our jobs? Times like these serve as a great reminder of the importance to staying prepared and informed, both on an individual and an organizational level. This rings especially true for first responders; a profession that cannot take a day off regardless of what the current situation may be. So how can our firefighters, public utility and industrial safety workers perform a proper business impact analysis for emergency preparedness, in accordance with the NFPA 1600 Standard?
THE NFPA 1600 STANDARD: CONTINUITY, EMERGENCY, AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
On Friday March 13th, President Trump declared the COVID-19 virus escalation to be a serious threat to our nation and declared that we are now in a National State of Emergency. As industrial safety workers and professionals, the work by its very nature is often focused on safety and risk mitigation from various sources of hazards in the workplace. Addressing this new threat stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is front-and-center for all of us along with our families, friends, and everyone else for that matter.
Just as our government has been at work developing national plans to address the crisis, we as safety professionals have also begun work to develop plans for our companies as well as our own households to address this crisis. One framework that exists in regards to how crisis management in the workplace is addressed, is NFPA 1600® - 2019 Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management.
AN OVERVIEW OF NFPA 1600
The NFPA 1600® Standard is dedicated to helping professionals prepare for and address any type of emerging crisis or disaster resulting from any of the following event sources: Natural, Human or Technological.
The standard is also used by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) who have recognized NFPA 1600 as the standard for our National Preparedness in case of emergency.
3 STEPS TO ADDRESSING AND PREPARING FOR WORKPLACE EMERGENCY
The NFPA 1600 standard lays out multi-step plans to address a given emergency. Organizational crisis mitigation plans should simultaneously protect the health of our workforce while also maintaining the health and continuity of our respective businesses.
- Identify the Event that has the potential to severely impact your operations, market share and overall ability to do business.
- Conduct a Business Impact Analysis and evaluate dependencies, single-source and sole-source suppliers, single points of failure, and potential qualitative and quantitative impacts from a disruption.
- Assess your Resource Needs such as what is currently in place to mitigate any potential disruptions. What are the things you must do to maintain services? What are your technological capabilities and how can they be leveraged to minimize impact? What are aspects of your business that can be disrupted in order to redirect assets to necessary activities?
BE PREPARED AND INFORMED
Whether you are a manufacturer of PPE products or a company that purchases PPE products for your customers or your workers, part of preparedness is ensuring you have the necessary products on hand to allow workers to safely conduct their jobs. A key step in developing plans to prevent supply chain disruptions of PPE products starts with conducting a business impact analysis using the three steps above. To modify the NFPA 1600 standard to your own business, start with taking a close look at all the PPE products you produce or consume and ask relevant questions such as:
- Who are the suppliers of the products I produce or consume, and what is their supply position in this temporary, but altered environment?
- How can I stay informed and communicate my business’ needs with my suppliers so that workers have access to necessary equipment and protective clothing?
- How is my city impacted by the current situation and will it affect how I perform my job? (for instance, WA State has announced it won’t interrupt public utilities)
- Determine and develop contingency plans for “single point of failure items,” like PPE.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Communicate effectively, and frequently, with your supply partners while also staying mindful of your supplier’s lead times as well as your customers' needs for PPE products. Rapid demand or supply fluctuation can occur during times of crisis, so establishing an appropriate rhythm of preparedness and cadence of communications and purchasing is critical.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS RELATED TO PPE (PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT)
Having needed PPE clothing and gear on hand is not just important, it is critical for First Responders and Public Utility Workers to do their jobs safely and effectively. In conducting a Business Impact Analysis, manufacturers should determine what raw materials and manufacturing levels are needed to carry their operations though the duration of a given crisis and then seek to procure those materials and capacity.
Similarly, a company (or worker) should consider determining what and how much specific PPE will be needed to carry the organization through the remainder of the situation as well as a timeframe following, and seek to procure those products.
To reiterate, an in-depth review and determination of resource needs is required for a proper business impact and preparedness analysis. This should be followed by effective and ongoing communication with the PPE supply companies for that PPE so that needs for protective clothing and gear can be effectively met in a responsive manner.
WHAT WE CAN DO ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
Common sense tells us that the best way to maintain good health within our workforce and as individuals is to take extra precautions around personal hygiene. In particular, washing our hands frequently with soap and warm water after contact with people or surfaces, coughing into the crook of our elbows, and staying home from work if we feel ill. We should also take care to keep our personal items clean and virus free as well.
We should also remain diligent in laundering our PPE clothing after use and cleaning the protective gear we use and touch on a consistent basis.
For more recommendations on personal health during this time, please visit the CDC website.