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Integrated safety, health and environmental management: An introduction
Integrated safety, health and environmental management: An introduction

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5 Emergency planning

5.1 Introduction

Much of this unit is about risk, but as we have seen, it is a word with different interpretations – the risk of harm, the chance of gain or simple uncertainty, for example. So it may be seen as a balance between conformance and performance in an organisation. Although functional emphasis and management boundaries are inherently flexible, risk linked to harm typically represents the perspective of managers responsible for conformance activities – particularly, the financial controller, internal audit, health and safety manager, environmental manager and insurance administrators. Risk as opportunity often reflects the outlook of senior management and the planning staff, who largely address the potential gains from risk. Risk as uncertainty is a perspective of line management responsible for operations, and as things may not turn out as expected, surprises can occur.

Emergency planning is all about preparing to cope with situations that have the potential to cause a great deal of harm. It often involves organisations who do not routinely work together, and who work in different ways, having to co-ordinate their activities to provide an integrated response. Remote rural areas and large urban areas have different needs, so even organisations with similar legal functions such as police forces, local authorities, hospitals or ambulance trusts, have differing arrangements devised to cope with local situations. This means that no single definitive plan can be proposed. Guidance documents and liaison arrangements must be flexible enough to ensure that local or special needs can be taken into account.

Activity 9

We have suggested that emergency planning is concerned with situations with the potential to cause harm. Consider an organisation with which you are familiar and make a list of what could come under the heading of ‘harm’.

As ever, your response will depend on the type of organisation you consider. What we hope is that you look wider than the more familiar forms of ‘harm’. One such example would be harm to the share value of an organisation. It is widely recognised that emergency situations, and at worst catastrophes, can have a major impact on share value.

In the UK, as well as the administrative differences in areas with a single tier (Unitary) local government structure, compared to a two-tier (County and District) structure, there are variations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Island authorities. This may (or may not) be compounded by the creation of Regional Assemblies within England. Other EU countries and countries outside the EU will work to different systems again. To attempt to describe all these local variations would be very difficult, if not impossible. This section is therefore based on the situation in England and Wales. This in turn is broadly based on guidance from European directives, so the general principles should be reasonably widely applicable, even if details vary. Planning objectives and human needs also tend to be fairly universal, but you must be prepared to take the principles given in this section and apply them in the light of the local situation, and any specific legislation applying to that area.