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Are you ready? We are.

Be prepared-we're going to be hit by the big one." How many times have you heard this statement? So much that it has become routine and boring? We on the West Coast, rebounding from the tragedies of the Whittier and San Francisco earthquakes, have learned that the threat posed by natural disasters is real and that we can't let the warnings become routine.

At Bergen Brunswig Corporation, we are determined to keep our casualties to a minimum in the land of earthquakes. We have implemented an extensive disaster control and emergency preparedness program, and the security department is a major factor in the program's success.

A successful emergency preparedness program is contingent on the following seven factors:

* management support

* identifying and addressing the catastrophes common to your location

* a qualified emergency response team

* liaison with local emergency agencies

* communication

* proper equipment

* extensive training

Management support. This is critical, since some members of management will be responsible for making decisions during and after a crisis. Also, the implementation of an emergency preparedness program costs money, and senior members of management are in a position to allocate funds for a successful program. Management must realize the need for the program and be concerned about the safety of its employees and their families' welfare.

Identification of the catastrophe. Each area of the country has its own unique events, and planning should focus on those events unique to your area. For instance, our plan focuses on six events that have been identified as most prominent in our geographic location: earthquakes, fires, hazardous materials leaks, bomb threats, floods, and dam failures. Each department in the company is responsible for tasks addressing each catastrophe. The departments have emergency action checklists detailing primary and support actions to perform in the event of an emergency, and an individual is designated responsible for each action's completion.

Where does security fit into this? In our plan, the security department is responsible for the following primary responsibilities: fire suppression and containment, medical services, security, and search and rescue. Security is also responsible for the following support functions: emergency operations management, human resources, associate care and welfare, fatalities management, equipment and supplies, communications, and hazardous materials operations and containment.

Does this sound overwhelming? Sure it does, but it won't be if you have planned, trained, and practiced.

Emergency response team. The days of the old "safety committee" walking through the building and reporting a loose wire once in a while are over. A qualified emergency response team is essential for survival during and after a catastrophic event.

Our team is made up of two sections-the emergency operating control group (EOCG) and the emergency response team (ERT). The EOCG is a decision-making body made up primarily of senior management, including the director of corporate security. The EOCG monitors and directs all actions conducted by the ERT during an emergency and the recovery period.

The emergency response team consists of a coordinator and a separate floor coordinator for each floor. Each floor coordinator is responsible for four section coordinators. All are assigned distinct duties and must maintain continual contact with the EOCG. The ERT consists of 53 associates, volunteers who meet at least once monthly. Safety also falls under the umbrella of the ERT. Building inspections are made on a regular basis, hazards are reported, and repairs are made immediately to reduce the possibility of injuries.

Liaison with local emergency agencies. Local emergency agencies can assist in the planning stages of your program and provide an excellent resource for information. We have taken part in several "mass casualty" events staged by the City and County of Orange, CA, and these experiences have proven invaluable in the formulation of our plan.

Communication. If a major catastrophe occurs, adequate communication is essential. Portable radios-with backup batteries and a generator-for key members of the ERT can help prevent a communication breakdown. As part of our plan, each key member is required to check out a radio every day and keep it during his or her shift. An alternate has been designated in case someone is absent. A radio network has been set up, and a roll call is performed each day to ensure that the radios are functioning properly. Classes on the proper procedure for radio communication are held on a regular basis.

Communication with outside agencies for the relay of critical information is a must. We have purchased a ham radio network and trained enough employees to operate it 24 hours a day, seven days a week if necessary.

Equipment. It is estimated that when a major event occurs emergency services will be unavailable for at least 72 hours. This means inhabitants of any major structure will have to be self-sufficient for a substantial period until help arrives.

Survival equipment must be located in strategic areas throughout the structure. Bergen Brunswig has placed emergency packs on each floor containing all necessary items-from packaged food, water, medical supplies, and safety equipment to body bags and bullhorns. Supplies are adequate to sustain 500 employees for the estimated 72 hours. More sophisticated medical equipment is available to those who are qualified to use it.

Extensive training. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Our corporate security department, realizing the necessity of training, established an innovative program-the emergency medical technician (EMT) program. All members of security services are required to become EMT certified.

An EMT is a skilled person who works within the emergency medical services system and can evaluate and manage a patient needing emergency care until the patient can be taken to a local emergency room. All EMTs are trained at an accredited college through an 18-week course and must be recertified every two years. Recertification requires a seven-week course highlighted by an exhaustive written exam and demonstration of practical skills. Bergen Brunswig has also purchased sophisticated EMT lifesaving equipment.

The EMT program has proved so useful and necessary that the emergency response team has implemented a similar program. We have eight EMTs in our headquarters building, approximately one EMT for every 87.5 employees. In addition, all members of the ERT are certified for first aid and CPR.

Of course, in a major catastrophe there is no textbook case to follow. Mass casualties are probable. To counter this scenario all members of security services, as well as the ERT, are trained in simple triage and rapid treatment-START.

START is an exercise to establish priorities for a multivictim incident and administer treatment to those who stand the best chance of survival. The procedure is simple: First-aiders and ERT members examine victims and specify the order of treatment, and EMT personnel treat the most immediate victims to minimize major injury and loss of life.

During a catastrophe major structural damage is conceivable. Therefore, all members of the ERT are trained in light search and rescue, including stress management, triage and disaster first aid, tool operation, and understanding fire behavior. Such training teaches them how to assist those in need of specialized treatment and reinforces and focuses on potential problems such as psychological trauma. Ramifications of a major disaster may manifest themselves years after the incident occurs. Some type of help must be given during the initial and recovery period of a disaster.

Practice and drills are two necessary aspects of the training process. Monthly meetings are held with both the EOCG and the ERT. Manuals and procedures are updated and scenarios discussed. In addition, regular drills are conducted so all members of the emergency preparedness team can maintain their skills and be ready to act instinctively when and if a disaster occurs.

Is this overkill? We think not. The safety of our employees is our primary concern, and we are always looking for ways to better ourselves at it. As a result, the Orange City Council issued a proclamation to Bergen Brunswig Corporation commending our disaster preparedness plan. The opening statement reads, "A resolution of the City of Orange expressing appreciation to the management and personnel of Bergen Brunswig Corporation and commending that company for its outstanding efforts in the area of disaster preparedness. "

The proclamation ends by stating, "The City Council of Orange express appreciation to Bergen Brunswig for making its general office the 'safest' in the City."

About the Author ... Leo F. Schmock is supervisor for corporate security at Bergen Brunswig Corporation in Orange, CA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:natural disaster preparedness at Bergen Brunswig Corporation
Author:Schmock, Leo F.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:1393
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