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Emergency Action Plans for Remote Locations

According to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.35, employers are required to have an emergency action plan (EAP). For the transmission and distribution (T&D) industry, developing an EAP that enables emergency medical service personnel to quickly respond to an injured individual can pose quite a challenge because T&D work is often performed in remote locations. Therefore, depending on the location of the work, the employer will need to consider many action items when developing an effective EAP.

Talk to Local Responders
Prior to beginning work on a project, or as soon as possible thereafter, contact the local 911 emergency responders. A good place to start is the 911 call or dispatch center. Discuss with them the locations where the work will take place. Ask about GPS capability in emergency response vehicles. Provide the call center with maps that include details of structure routes or work locations, GPS coordinates for each of the structure sites if applicable, and, if possible, local roads in relation to structure routes or work locations.

Important note: If GPS coordinates are to be used by emergency responders, confirm whether the coordinates to be provided should be in longitude and latitude (longs and lats); degrees, minutes, seconds; or degrees, feet, inches.

Ask if the emergency responders are at a fixed location such as a station house or if they are volunteers; this may affect response time. Also discuss with the call center the information a dispatcher would want to know to determine the exact location. For example, the dispatcher may want to know GPS coordinates if applicable, structure number, nearest physical intersection, and proximity of the intersection to the work site or right-of-way.

In addition, talk to the call center about the information they will need if an injury or illness does occur, such as the nature of the injury or illness, symptoms and condition of the individual, and any care being provided. Depending on the location and nature of an emergency, life flight services may be required. Ask about these services, setting up the landing zone and whether landing zone training will be necessary.

Train the Workers
After talking to the local emergency responders, it is now time to train the workers. Before the start of each workday, the following information should be discussed and documented during the tailboard: GPS coordinates, address and phone number of the nearest hospital, location of the nearest physical intersection, proximity of the nearest intersection to the work site or right-of-way, and emergency call numbers. Documenting the information on the tailboard will, in the event of an emergency, allow an individual to relay accurate site information to the call center.

The number that everyone is trained to call in an emergency is 911. However, it is a good idea to also include during the tailboard the direct number to the 911 call center. Dialing the direct number will ensure that the call will go straight through and avoid possible delays in cell tower switching or having the call routed through the local police or fire department before it reaches the call center.

Depending on the location, cell phone service may not be available or use may not be possible. Therefore, other communication options to consider are a radio system with repeaters to a central office or individual, or use of a satellite phone.

Assign Responsibilities
During the tailboard meeting, it is a good idea to discuss what actions will be taken in the event of an emergency. For example, who will make the call? Who will be in charge of meeting the emergency responders and directing them into the right-of-way? Who will guide the emergency responders to the scene? Who will remain at the road to guide subsequent responders into the right-of-way? If there are gates, who will be in charge of opening those gates? Who will be in charge of securing the area prior to the arrival of emergency responders?

In summary, T&D work performed in remote locations can present quite a challenge when developing an effective EAP. However, by talking with the local 911 emergency responders, training the workers on the information to provide to the call center, and assigning roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency, an effective EAP can be established.

About the Author: Gary Coleman, CHST, CUSP, OHST, is a safety manager for Aldridge Electric. He has 30 years of construction experience with 12 years in construction safety, and holds a Master of Science degree from Northern Illinois University.


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