Looking After the Team – Welfare Management in an Incident 

By |2023-02-04T18:20:38+00:00February 4th, 2023|0 Comments

Once everyone is accounted for and out of harms way, and you know the emergency services are on the way or if they are already onsite dealing with the incident, the next thing on your list should be thinking about the welfare of all those involved, particularly if the incident is prolonged.

This is something that is easy to overlook when the adrenalin is up and the situation is quite dynamic.

By its very nature, an incident will increase workload, pressure and introduce a level of stress that many involved within the incident will not be used to and will involve them working outside of their comfort zone – challenging times indeed! Considering and introducing welfare management into incident planning will help reduce mistakes being made and help look after the wellbeing of those persons who could be witnessing, or be party to quite a distressing or traumatic event.

So what can you do? Be prepared.

Your organization circumstances are unique so one size doesn’t fit all but there are a few rules of thumb that can be applied and will help make all the difference.

Evacuations will generally affect a large group of people. Plan ahead – in the evacuation area pre-supply bottled water, foil ‘space’ blankets and pocket rain ponchos – unfortunately not all fire evacuations happen on a warm summers day. If the evacuation becomes prolonged, toilet arrangements will become an issue – consider how this could be managed; perhaps in an alternative building or with a mutual agreement with a neighboring organization. We are all trained that when the evacuation alarm sounds to leave everything and go – consider how you would get employees home if they are not allowed back in the building to collect car keys or house keys….

If it’s a first aid incident make the casualty as comfortable as possible (under the circumstances) whilst awaiting evacuation. It they are going to hospital, make sure a colleague has got their mobile phone, bag, coat and keys to go with them. Consider their dignity – remove bystanders, and if they are in a accessible location put in a diversion, or close the area.

Organization emergency responders; if they are in a fixed location i.e. helping with traffic management, consider rotating them so boredom or fatigue set in to quickly. If practicable and possible arrange for regular breaks. Make sure they stay hydrated – have bottled water available or brought to them. Aim to reduce the spans of control that anyone person has to manage – where possible split up the response workload. Reducing the spans of control will stop someone becoming overloaded with information and supports effective decision making – to many and their effectiveness will become quickly eroded.

Depending on the incident – if it’s a particularly distressing one, arrange for a first aider to complete regular checks on all involved looking for shock and make sure they are coping ok – people react to things in different ways – so don’t assume that just because you are ok and coping everyone else is. Following the incident debrief, get it out in the open have a cup of tea, arrange for any counselling if required or have it made available.

Finally, communication

one of the key issues with welfare is managing expectations and letting everyone know what’s going on. Not knowing will play on peoples minds and will help keep in check any rumor’s and speculation. Ensure everyone is kept updated in a timely manner, this lets your responders and those affected know that the incident is being managed and under control and will help steady the ship.

Final word; consider the welfare of employees and the incident management team during the planning stage of a response program; plan the work, and then work the plan. What does that look like for your organization?

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