May 11, 2023
Top 10 Takeaways from SOCMA’s Safety Emphasis Webinar:
Emergency Response & Preparedness | Establishing Community Relations + Best Practices
Specialty chemical manufacturers utilize and produce a multitude of products, chemistries, and equipment, and having necessary procedures in place should an incident occur will safeguard the safety and welfare of both employees and local community.
On the first webinar as part of SOCMA’s Safety Emphasis Initiative programming, representatives from member companies Ascensus Specialties, Sofix, and VanDeMark Chemical shared best practices and procedures for developing, maintaining, and evolving their sites’ emergency response plans, and how to best engage with local emergency planning committees and other key groups.
Here are the Top 10 Takeaways the panelists shared:
- Plan – Developing and maintaining an emergency preparedness plan will be a process and investment and will evolve over time due to changing operational processes, chemistries, regulations, and local community growth. Having a plan in place that fits the needs of your facility will ensure proper response to potential incidents, small or large.
- To develop or update an emergency preparedness plan appropriate to your facility, identify and assess the hazardous materials the facility handles and other potential operational hazards that may impact both workers and the local community.
- An emergency preparedness plan should be written and cover all regulatory requirements applicable to your facility. It should be updated annually and in conjunction with your LEPC. Copies of the emergency preparedness plan should be given to local agencies and be kept in 2 or more locations throughout the facility.
- Training is critical! New operators and other site employees should begin day 1 with safety training and all regulatory applicable training requirements. Some companies use an operator certification program.
- Drills – Conduct quarterly drills that focus on realistic scenarios involve full incident command structure, and document and time them. Any actual spills and subsequent responses can be handled as a drill for additional training purposes. Other drills should include shelter in place, evacuation, chemical spill/release, fire, medical emergency, and active shooter.
- Consider implementing a Community Alert System to alert your local community of any incidents or the need to shelter in place or discuss coordination of community alerts with LEPC.
- Be proactive. Work with your local community to educate them about facility operations, chemistry, and hazards to help them understand how you manage risks, and to ensure the facility’s emergency response resources are in place should an incident occur.
- Cultivate good relations with the local community, LEPC and local fire department, and other emergency response personnel. Once per year, offer facility tours to the community, guided by your Emergency Response Team (ERT). Also, invite state police and other agencies onsite for a walk-through and to familiarize them with your emergency preparedness plan.
- Debrief, Corrective Actions and Report – After training and drills that include local community volunteers, hold a debriefing to learn from the community what they gained, what gaps need to be addressed. Issue timely report to key individuals, and keep in mind you may need to release two versions of the report to protect CBI/sensitive info that should not be for public consumption.
- Never underestimate the value of a decent lunch to gain support of first responders and other local volunteers, to keep them engaged, tuned in and interactive with your facility!
With safety preparedness as the central point of SOCMA’s Safety Emphasis Initiative, upcoming programming will focus on material handling and transfer, PSM, and incident and crisis communications.