It can happen to you

July 20, 2006
Planning for the unthinkable makes nothing but good sense.

Every year, there are hundreds of instances of things going wrong in a big way. Mother Nature flings her tornadoes, hurricanes, water and lightning before her. In many cases, wind and flood damage and firestorms occur in sparsely populated areas, where the direct economic loss is tolerable. However, when those forces of nature get a little too close to civilization and its more densely populated areas, they can result in serious economic loss, not only for residents, but for mines, mills and factories, as well.

Now, we've come to realize that Ol' Lady Nature is strictly bush league when it comes to mankind, who has clearly demonstrated the effects of training the destructive power of unbridled kinetic energy on one of the most densely populated zip codes in the entire country.

A word to the wise should be sufficient. At the risk of being redundant, here are several more words you might want to keep.

Getting started

Before we go off talking about disasters and recovery, we should probably get an understanding of the jargon and terminology that applies to this dismal topic. The Corporate Response Group Inc. in Arlington, Va., has a site that might fill the bill. Go to and click on "Library." This will give you access to a bibliography (23 books), glossary (11 pages), collection of articles (eight) and three presentations on the topic.

Crisis communications plan

Something bad happens at a perfectly good manufacturing plant. In a matter of hours, it's already big network news. Next thing you know, they're on the tube and you hear them on the radio. Who? The spokesperson, that's who. These folks are stressed, and we should cut them some slack. But, in too many cases, one gets the distinct impression this high-profile person is hiding something or, in some other way, not playing it straight.

Nevertheless, someone must go up there in front of the world and tell us a story. If that someone turns out to be you, dear reader, you might be interested in learning just a bit about handling the press and the millions of inquiring minds out in the hinterlands. Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, posts something called the Crisis Communication Plan: A Blue Print for Crisis Communication, by Sandra K. Clawson Freeo. The document contains eleven pages and explains how to plan the response. It gives solid advice about avoiding a leap into a public quagmire from which there's no honorable escape. Go over to and learn how to be convincing when you're trying to really play it straight for the camera.

First aid and CPR

You can always replace lost or damaged things. Not so with lost or damaged people. When bad things happen, everyone will be better off if a substantial portion of the people in the immediate vicinity have some technical competency in taking care of the immediate, life-threatening reality.

The philosophy behind this monthly column has always been the presentation of sites that offer non-commercial, genuine content that is free of charge and doesn't force you to register your identity to access it. Then again, you get what you pay for. Lifesaving skills should probably not be gained via the Web. I don't know how you feel about it, but it would be comforting to know that the person administering CPR or first aid to my prone, bloody carcass had some one-on-one training so they'd truly know what they were doing.

So, instead of offering free info of potentially dubious quality in an area this important, I'm going to point you to a couple of sites that allow you to locate a qualified commercial first aid/CPR trainer in your area. I sincerely hope you will never need the training you pay for. But if your plant does need it, my second hope is that the person on the floor is the one who successfully argued that it's too costly to train everyone at the plant.

CPR Directory claims to be a nationwide directory of first aid and CPR courses. Go to and enter your county, state and the type of training you seek. There are a lot of counties in this country. I didn't try them all, but it struck me that the underlying database for this site might be a little thinly populated.

CPR+NETWORK claims to provide the best directory of training classes in CPR, emergency first aid, basic life support, automated external defibrillator and more. Open the page at,  on your state and follow your mouse.

Don't take my word for information sources on this vital aspect of disaster planning. Do your own Web search. If you find something better than what's offered here, let me know about it. In turn, we'll let our other 110,000-plus readers in on your discovery.

Psychological damage

The medics can treat the obvious physical injuries, but that might be only one component of the injury. Don't forget the issue of trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder. This psychological element can be debilitating. You can get a good grounding in the topic by referring to David Baldwin's Trauma Information Pages, which are found at

Emergency response plan

Steel mills can be dangerous places for the unwary. Nevertheless, accidents happen and it can be a long, long way from the scene of the event to the nearest hospital. Gallatin Steel's plant is located in a rural area between Louisville, Ky. and Cincinnati, Ohio. The company realized there was a need for emergency planning and they addressed it head on. You can read a two-page synopsis of what measures the plant took at, where you will find Building an emergency-response plan by Butch Collins.

When you start assembling your emergency response plan, you would do well to visit The Colorado Office of Emergency Management Web site at This page has links to all manner of background material that should make writing an effective plan a bit easier.

The Manitoba Industrial Accidents Council in Winnipeg posts the Industrial Emergency Response Planning Guide, a document designed for small to medium size businesses with little or no experience in emergency planning. Go to

Your response plan probably will include maps. Paper maps are okay for the final presentation, but they are not the best technology for planning purposes. Instead you should be using a geographic information system, or GIS, to do your mapping. Imagine a map. Now, imagine a collection of transparent overlays that can be used, or not, to discover patterns and relationships among geographic data sets. That's GIS. You can download free GIS software from a site owned by ESRI, Redlands, Calif. Just point your browser machine to The rest should be self-evident.

Crisis management

The next site bills itself as the home of crisis communication and management on the Internet. It has links to resources covering workplace violence, disaster response, school violence and more. Check out [I]Crisis Management Links[I] at

Fire recovery

If you are fortunate enough to reside within the San Diego city limits, you can get a free copy of the Disaster Recovery Handbook, a booklet that addresses what to do after a fire. You will find details about ordering at If you are not lucky enough to live there, the Federal Emergency Management Agency posts an online fire recovery manual, [I]After The Fire[I], at This nine-page document details what you should do within one day of the fire and gives advice for the weeks that follow.


Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently a little busier than normal in New York City and at the Pentagon, its Web site is open for business and is waiting for you to discover the information that resides there. If you visit, you will find links to the content on the left side of the page.

The mass of material here is hard to categorize under one neat heading. Of course, you can learn about the agency's current endeavors. There is information on prevention of and preparation for disasters. You can obtain single copies of various publications addressing emergency response and disaster recovery.

One interesting tidbit I found there was a link ( that led to the online hazard maps. As part of the Project Impact initiative, a partnership between FEMA and ESRI, this site provides multi-hazard maps to assist in building disaster resistant communities across the country. The hazards referred to here are natural disasters, the nonsense that Mother Nature sometimes bestows on us when she's not in a good mood. Floods, hailstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes--its all here. Specify the zip code in question and the relevant hazards. The site delivers a zoomable map showing the location of historic occurrences of the disaster.

Another tidbit is the Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning. The best part of this PDF document is that all 279 pages, all 603 kilobytes, are free. The primary market for this tome is not your typical plant professional. It's for the people the typical plant professional will come to know quite intimately should something nasty happen on your property. Nevertheless, it gives a good view of what you should expect your own community to be doing in its preparations for someone's misbegotten idea of a day of reckoning.

On the other hand, not everyone is as enamored with FEMA and its doings as the rest of us: check out FEMA--The Secret Government by Harry V. Martin, with research assistance from David Caul. Martin is a journalist with a focus on the military and government. His document can be found at It's a six-page article that argues our government has endowed FEMA with certain powers that can be exercised in times of emergency--powers that contradict the rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, rights that won't be able to be recovered once the emergency is over. Before you read the piece, however, you might want to check out his credentials, which he has posted at

Biological and chemical threat

Boy, oh boy--if it's not one thing, it's another. Here's another form of disaster that, as of late, can be considered an apparent probability. The [I]On-Scene Commander's Guide For Responding To Biological/Chemical Threats[I] is a 13-page document by the National Domestic Preparedness Office, the clearinghouse for state, local and federal weapons of mass destruction information and assistance. It doesn't have a great of detail about how to do the actions it recommends. This is a checklist of recommended actions the person in charge must do or consider when biological or chemical agents are involved in the disaster. I guess there is something to be said for preparatory training augmented by a memory-jogging checklist. This piece can be found at, posted on the Colorado Office of Emergency Management Web site.

If you are interested in how the Army deals with chemical and biological threats on the battlefield, you can get the full scoop from a publication called Chemical And Biological Contamination Avoidance. I don't know how many pages it uses, but the single-spaced table of contents takes four pages. There must be something here you can use. After all, your taxes paid for it. Check out the document at

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, posts Industrial Chemicals And Terrorism: Human Health Threat Analysis, Mitigation And Prevention at

There is so much to this topic, it's impossible to present more than the merest fraction in three magazine pages. I would encourage you to do your own investigation. I fear that the need for disaster planning is not going to go away within the next calendar quarter or two.

Without comment

American Bio-Recovery Association at

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