EMS – Planning for an Emergency

fuel spill

Even the most effective and well developed Environmental Management Systems (EMS) will at times have failures resulting in environmental incidents.  Successful EMS will have pre-plans to anticipate and respond to emergency situations which may occur.  The following are tips to develop an environmental emergency response plan.

  1. Conduct a risk assessment to determine the environmental incidents which could occur at your facility.  In conducting the risk assessment consider:
    • Safety incidents captured within your safety and health risk register which could have an environmental aspect.
    • Chemicals, fuels, and other products used at the facility.  Many of these products are already captured and identified if your facility is required to maintain a Hazardous Material Permit.
    • Controls that have been implemented to reduce the likelihood and severity of the incidents.
  2. For each of the potential incidents identified through the risk assessment, outline a course of action that would be taken to control and minimize the environmental impacts.  The response plans should consider and outline:
    •  Roles and responsibilities during and post incident.
    • How to maintain personal safety during the response.
    • Isolation of the environmental incident and securing the area of the incident (i.e. isolating a spill).
    • Protection of sensitive environmental areas (i.e. waterways, wildlife).
    • Clean-up and mitigation procedures.
    • Equipment and resources available on site to mitigate the environmental incident.
    • Outside resources that are available in the case of an incident which requires resources which are beyond those located on site.
    • Internal notification and reporting requirements.
    • Regulatory agency notifications including reportable quantities, reporting, and contact information.
    • Press releases and community notifications.
  3. Also develop a procedure to form a formal Incident Command Center if the incident warrants continued resources over an extended period of time.

Establishing an emergency response plan will result in a quicker and more effective response to an unplanned   environmental incident.  What have you found to be the most effective way to plan for an environmental incident?