Dubai has introduced a new law requiring all companies to prepare for possible dangers including fires, bomb threats and incidents involving hazardous materials.
Emergency response plans compulsory by year's end
DUBAI // A new municipal regulation will require companies to set up emergency response plans by the end of the year.
All businesses, from small companies to shopping malls, will be required to comply.
Inspectors will immediately notify businesses and hand out a detailed emergency planning booklet for a swift process, said Sultan Essa Al Suwaidi, the head of the public health and safety department at the municipality.
The booklet will be divided into four sections, and will be used as a guideline for procedures.
The plan will include preparing for possible dangers including fires, bomb threats and incidents involving hazardous materials.
"If the company fully understands and evaluates each risk such as chemical leaks, fires or outbreaks of bacteria, correct preventative measures including safety systems, equipment and gear will be in place," Mr Al Suwaidi said.
Unnecessary calls to Dubai Police or Civil Defence can also be reduced if the situation could be dealt with internally, said Arnel Capili, a corporate emergency specialist at the municipality.
"What we tend to see is many companies calling government services for minor issues without trying to handle it themselves," Mr Capili said.
Mr Al Suwaidi said although the level of safety in Dubai was one of the highest, an upgrade using an emergency response plan would help to maintain public safety.
"I want all companies to be ready. It's very important because we are talking about safety," he said. "Dubai Municipality inspectors will communicate with establishments across the board in order to change behaviour to then have the plan implemented by the end of 2011."
The four sections of the emergency preparedness booklet are: establishing the plan; organising a team; training and equipping the team; and testing and reviewing the plan.
"This should be simple for organisations based on risk assessment and depends on the nature of services," Mr Capili said.
"Identifying how they will co-ordinate with police, care for victims, administer first aid, assess damage and inform the public is crucial."
Mr Al Suwaidi said the team must be set up from within the company.
"This committee will be no use if not trained and fully equipped," he said. "The team is to be first responders in order to manage the emergency before it gets out of hand."
The team will be trained in evacuation procedures, basic firefighting and hazardous materials. After that, evacuation drills with or without emergency workers can be carried out. A liaison should also be appointed to deal with staff, clients, customers and the public.
"A crisis communication plan means no misinformation," Mr Capili said. "The liaison should deliver clear information on what happened, what is being done and the next step."
In case of evacuation, accounting for everyone is essential. Some of the most fatal fires have started in nightclubs abroad, he added.
"This has not happened in Dubai but such plans will prevent unnecessary tragedies," Mr Capili said.
Paul Nock, the director of training at the health and safety consultancy Sheilds ME: "Creating a safer work and public environment is the basis of a well-defined modern metropolis."
The initiative, Mr Nock said, would raise awareness.
"It will create a safety culture, making everybody responsible for themselves and those around them, which in turn will make the city a safer place to live, work and raise families," Mr Nock said.
"Having properly trained staff is the easiest way to assess dangers and risks associated with your industry."
Four points to be addressed
Establish a plan: Core elements include organisational structure, protective action, caring for victims, assessing damage, informing the public and restoring essential services.
Organise your team: The team is in charge of developing, implementing and reviewing the emergency plan.
Train and equip your team: Training will occur according to types of threat and will include basic firefighting, evacuation and dealing with hazardous materials.
Test and review plans: This can include table-top exercises, evacuation drills, and full-scale drills involving emergency services.
* Source: Dubai Municipality