Chemical industry gets mixed marks for disaster preparedness

The chemical industry rates highest among six sectors in disaster preparedness, according to a recent survey. The on-line poll commissioned by the National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, reports that 83% of respondents in the chemical industry consider their companies’ disaster response plans “good,” “very good” or “excellent,” a higher level than that given by respondents in commercial real estate, energy, entertainment, health care and transportation.

The survey garnered responses from 629 individuals who have safety/security responsibilities for companies in the six sectors.

However, the survey also pointed up some significant gaps in programs. While 87% of chemical industry respondents say they have updated their disaster response and recovery plans within the past year, 11% note that they do not train employees on the plans. In addition, 23% admit to not regularly conducting exercises to check the effectiveness of the plans. According to NERRTC, most experts recommend conducting an exercise at least once a quarter.

“The survey results suggest that private sector preparedness has improved in recent years but critical gaps still exist,” says Harrison Lobdell, NERRTC director. “Having a plan is important, and the chemical industry has done a good job in that arena, but it’s only part of the equation. Employees also need to be trained to implement plans under extreme pressure in an invariably chaotic environment, and those plans need to be tested to make sure they work. According to our survey, those critical preparations are being overlooked at many companies today.”

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