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August 18, 2011
Emergency Plans Matter, Even At State Fairs
 
Judging from a distance is hazardous and, ordinarily, to be avoided. But the AP story reporting that the emergency plan at the Indiana State Fair, where five people were killed when an outdoor stage collapsed, is only a page long is well worth noting. The plan, says AP, does not mention the potential for evacuations or other key possibilities.

The plan's nine bullet points, says the wire story, are about as generic as "the advice provided by TV forecasters or public-service announcements — 'remain alert to worsening conditions' and stay away from windows.'"

Sad. What's being missed in a terse plan like that is not only procedural details, but recognition that an emergency plan should serve as the basis for emergency response drills. Emergency drills are important to hold, even for something as evanescent as a state fair. They keep those in charge of, and supporting, an event aware of what needs to be done and watched out for, and all on the same page. Other states' plans, AP advises, are more rigorous in terms of construction requirements, but it's not clear if emergency-response drills are required. True, it's hard to simulate a huge crowd, but not to run through response procedures with one in mind.

We don't want to carp in hindsight, but emergency plans are the core tools of crisis communication and need to exist in sufficient detail to be useful and well-practiced.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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