February 3, 2022 / Alan Leibowitz

Emergency Preparedness and Response: A Timely Virtual Conference in the Age of COVID-19

OEHS professionals are facing unprecedented changes in the risks we must prepare for and address. While our mission has always been to anticipate, recognize, and address hazards, the past few years have shown us the value of preparation like no other time in recent memory. Companies that had and practiced plans for H1N1 and similar biological risks had a better understanding of the magnitude of the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and what might be required to address them than those that did not.

The value of preparation and emergency response planning applies to all the potential risks we face. Planning and practicing how to respond to emergencies ensures that everyone knows their responsibilities and that we can provide those we serve with quicker and more effective support.

To assist OEHS professionals in identifying their role in this process, the AIHA Incident Preparedness and Response Working Group has prepared several framework documents addressing various aspects of the process with an emphasis on the role that the OEHS professional plays in ensuring worker safety:

These documents present a process and structure that can be used to identify risks and develop and maintain plans to address them. When properly followed and practiced, these plans enable organizations to establish robust programs to address anticipated concerns and be prepared for the unexpected.

While these frameworks address many aspects of emergency preparedness, each organization faces unique risks and cannot use “cookie cutter” programs to meet their needs. To help bridge the gap between general guidance and more specific needs, AIHA will hold a virtual conference on emergency preparedness and response next month. Instructors will help attendees interpret and apply the principles covered by the technical frameworks. In addition, they will educate attendees on broader aspects of business continuity. The conference will provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions regarding their specific situations and participate in hands-on exercises to develop important elements of model plans.

In the first week, participants will learn about continuity planning. They will perform a risk assessment along with business process, business impact, and resource needs analyses. The second week will focus on building the planning team, developing an emergency response plan, and discussing plan evaluation and maintenance. Finally, in our third week we will work through a simulated emergency response. The virtual conference will conclude in virtual tabletop exercises that will enable students to assess their planning and continue improving their procedures.

This program is intended for anyone who may someday have responsibility for elements of emergency response or business continuity. Planning and practice reduce emergency impacts. Join us to make your emergency response more effective and less stressful for all involved.

Alan Leibowitz

Alan Leibowitz, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is one of the instructors for the AIHA University March 2022 Virtual Conference on the role of OEHS professionals in emergency preparedness and response. He is the president of EHS Systems Solutions LLC and a past Board member of AIHA.


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