TT Talk - Practicalities of planning for emergencies

An important aspect of emergency response planning is understanding your own limitations, together potentially with those of the responding or other external agencies. All this is part of thorough risk assessment, effective plan documentation and execution.

Imagine you have a container packed with drums of cargo, or even a tank container, that ruptured and leaking a life-threatening chemical onto the terminal apron. The fire and rescue service would normally attend and commence drenching the unit and the area around it with copious amounts of water (assuming that water can be used at all) to mitigate the leak, but the unit has to be moved to the "hospital" area of the terminal for proper containment.

How are you going to do that? This was a real-world situation - the reach stacker driver would have been exposed to the chemical leak in the absence of breathing apparatus that he was not trained to use it; the fire brigade officers attending did not know how to operate a reach stacker safely! The response: the reach stacker operator was given a crash-course in how to use breathing apparatus and successfully transported the leaking unit to the hospital area.

Living work

In another real-world case, there was an emergency plan, listing the key players such as the incident controller, key contact numbers etc. but unfortunately it had not been updated. So, when the incident occurred several key players could not be contacted, and this totally disrupted the emergency response. It may be reasonable to suppose this must be the case with many existing plans.

Remember the emergency plan is a "live" document and needs regular updating. Third party agencies you will have to deal with, not limited to emergency responders but potentially including governmental bodies, will also need copies and understand the plan, hence the need for multi-agency drills to test the effectiveness of the plan. So, it is necessary to build good relationships with such agencies and link the "key" personnel with each other.

Above all you need to ensure an adequate exchange of information, keep your terminal systems up to date and "audit" them. Such a requirement ranges from IT infrastructure and business continuity issues through to pure operational matters, such as ensuring that units and other cargo received are fully and accurately recorded. In one recent instance, a tank container with a dangerous substance, stacked adjacent to a rail siding and traffic area, simply did not exist anywhere in the terminal information systems!

Remember cyber

However, all entities need to consider the implications of cyber  incidents in the last few years. These have the capability to cause severe disruption to any organisation - and the impact will probably be in both directions in a supplier/customer relationship. TT Club, in conjunction with UK P&I Club and NYA, last year published a freely available guide on cyber risks focused on the ship/port interface,  providing a number of pointers towards emergency planning issues.

Once there is a clear, thorough documented plan, with a formal and regular review cycle, it is of course also necessary to carry out training; train key personnel in the response plan, train outside agencies to work seamlessly in any response, train yourself to understand the aspect your plan should cover based on your risk assessment. Train your key communications and operational teams. But this goes beyond pure head knowledge - the objective here is to ensure, as far as possible, that when (and it is unlikely to be if) an emergency occurs it is possible to rely on a considered and workable process to mitigate the effects in all material ways. That means fundamentally giving time and energy to carrying out drills and being diligent in extracting learning points and modifying the plan accordingly. Apart from anything else, creating a sound degree of familiarity will go some way to avoiding the array of human behavioural responses when something bad happens.

"creating a sound degree of familiarity will go some way to avoiding the array of human behavioural responses when something bad happens"

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Captain R W A Brough OBE, Head of ICHCA International


We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox
Risk Management Director, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club