Emergency Response in the In-Between Times

Here's a not so hypothetical situation: As elementary students start reporting to school, the facility manager detects a whiff of gas. The outside temperature is dangerous with the wind chill factor — in fact, school almost was cancelled due to the cold weather. The facility manager calls the gas company to report the smell and then immediately calls the principal.

What is your next step? How are you diverting additional students from arriving? How are you notifying parents of where their children are and what the situation is? How are you containing speculation and concern, addressing arriving media and local government representatives, all the while working with the utility to localize and address the gas leak?

This scene is taken from my life, at my son's elementary school. All was well in the end and the situation was remedied in hours. It provided a useful real-world run through of emergency response procedures and has sparked useful conversation of how to improve procedures in case there's a next time. But one thing keeps kicking around my head. When I think of emergency response planning, it is with all parties on site. The middle of a workday. The middle of a school day. What about those flux times, when people are transitioning between spaces?

Here is some of the coverage Building Operating Management has done on emergency response planning. This will be a topic I'll be tracking for future coverage, so if there are any resources you know of, particular concerns you have, or your best practices, I'd love to hear them. Post a comment below, or always feel free to send me an email at naomi.millan@tradepress.com.

5 Replies

  • The first step should have been to initiate emergency services...911, not to call the gas company direct. 911 would have initiated emergency response to assist you further with your situation.
  • I agree, the first act is to initiate the emergency services..911, followed by activating your MOG or SOP on evacuation. That should include a secondary location and the means to move the children to that location/reunification point along with notification to the parents. delay could be disastrous. Minutes or Seconds could be the difference between life and death. Better to be safe, then sorry. As soon as you smell gas, then the procedures you follow become liability issues. The decisions you make in seconds will later be analyzed in detail by others at a later date, if there is an injury or death in the event. A good ref: is the FEMA,  G364 class on Multi-hazard Emergency Planning for Schools.

  • In reply to jsmith@mema.ms.gov:

    Thank you very much for the resource suggestion.
  • The first step in this and "All Hazards" scenarios is to properly preplan and educate staff/stakeholders on it. This includes communication plans to parents, responders, staff and even the children. Predetermined staging/triage/evacuation locations and procedures will go a long way when identified, used in tabletop trainings and practiced. Our company Fire Planning Associates specializes in just this service. Our staff can perform site preplans, trainings and organize it in our cloud based software "Blazemark" which is NFPA 1620 compliant. Our software can include anything you can take a picture of or place in a .pdf, suchas utility shut offs, site plans, msds sheets, etc. All plans can be updated at anytime using mobile technology that you already have at your disposal. These plans can be shared with stakeholders in an ongoing basis or as needed based upon the incident. Our customers are worldwide and include School Districts, Fortune 100 companies and government entities. You can contact me to receive a free online demo at Jamieh@blazemark.com

  • When seconds can be the difference between life and death, first responders need critical information quickly and effectively to allow them to make the best strategic and tactical decisions necessary in order to save lives and reduce risk to themselves. Pre-planning your building(s) is essential in providing the data they need.

    RealView’s CommandScope “All Hazard Pre-Incident Planning” program which is very intuitive and extremely user friendly makes available to responders all your building, property and infrastructure details. CommandScope is a technical tool for non-technical users. Its NFPA 1620, NIMS and FEMA compliant as well as fast and easy so responders have instantaneous access to important details regardless of internet or network connectivity. For more information or a web demo please contact me contact at either len.karson@realviewllc.com or (312) 284-2033.

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