A Safety Management System (SMS) doesn’t need to be complex. It’s ultimately about providing tools and processes to increase risk awareness, and to help create a safety culture. These five examples demonstrate why and how SMS can be simple.
Does your organization set safety goals? There may not be any regulatory consequences if you don’t, but setting safety goals is a key part of a Safety Management System along with having a continuous improvement process. Goal setting can be a great way to improve your safety culture and bring visibility to the process. But where do you start? How should goals be formulated and how do they fit into an overall SMS?
An SMS, especially when paired with SMS software, should provide you with a way to track a range of information and occurrences in your operation, allowing you to identify and track recurring trends. Such insight enables you to determine which improvements are needed and how you can mitigate risks.
It’s something you need but hope to never use: an aviation Emergency Response Plan (ERP). For any flight department, drone operator, or FBO, this is your “go-to” when an incident, accident, or emergency occurs. As you set up your ERP there are three things to keep in mind: basic structure, key elements of any emergency response, and the roles of your personnel when an emergency occurs.
- Initial reporting stage
Applicable to every incident, it guides users through the very first steps of responding to any emergency.
Tailored to different types of incidents, such as an aircraft that’s gone missing, a hangar fire, or a medical emergency, the checklists provide the additional actions needed to respond to each unique situation.
- Detailed policy and instructions
The heart of the program, it explains company policies, procedures for the management of the ERP, and details about expectations and actions when responding to various emergencies. Procedures to return to normal after the emergency response has concluded should also be included.
The content within each of the three areas above should be customized to your specific operation. It needs to take into account your size, resources available to you, types of operations, and areas of operations. For example, departments in Florida might have a section on hurricanes, whereas those in Alaska will cover blizzards.
Key elements of any emergency response.
- Regulatory responsibilities
- Crisis communications
- Notification of family and loved ones
- Coordination with external agencies
These include investigative authorities (e.g., NTSB, police, etc.), third-party vendors you are working with to coordinate the response effort, and corporate resources (e.g., HR, legal, communications, etc.).
This means taking care of “the legal stuff”. It may be legally required to report information regarding the incident to the authorities. An ERP should include contact details for the relevant authorities. In the event of an emergency occurring in a foreign country, an ERP can be especially useful to point a person in the right direction, since they might be unfamiliar with specific regulations.
Once an investigation has started, it’s important to remain involved so that you can engage your SMS and learn from the incident to ensure mistakes aren’t repeated.
This covers handling of communication such as with the media. Usually, one spokesperson is appointed to make sure there is a clear and consistent message. The importance of this has become particularly critical due to the prevalence of social media. With incidents now reported within seconds of occurring, operators must step up their game when it comes to social media monitoring and responsiveness. Companies should establish social media policies, such as not disclosing any investigation findings via their personal accounts – anything and everything can be picked up.
If your flight department is tied to a corporate entity, you should also work with your head office to ensure your communication procedures do not conflict with existing policies. You will need to identify which communications tasks the flight department is expected to perform, and which will be handled by the corporate office.
Notification of loved ones
Without question, this is the most critical item when handling an emergency or incident. This includes taking care of relatives and the loved ones of those directly involved in the accident, but also extends to providing colleagues and those indirectly involved in the accident with a place to go for information and support. In all instances, the company should be the most trusted information source.
With news spreading so quickly, it may be unavoidable that family members find out about an incident through a news source first. However, a company should strive to be the first to reach loved ones, even if it means managing unknowns.
If you plan to utilize a third-party resource to perform emergency contact notification and/or support, it is vital to identify which tasks will be performed by the third party in your ERP.
Your role in an aviation ERP
Knowing the responsibilities of your role within a department will help in an emergency scenario.
- Schedulers and Dispatchers
Their roles are vital during the initial phase. Keeping the crew and passenger manifest up-to-date and verifying flight routes might provide early recognition of whether an aircraft has been involved in any reported incidents.
- Flight Department Administrators
They take care of the day-to-day operations. Their role would be to manage media and family inquiries, and should be trained how to handle sensitive situations. In cases of major or fatal aviation accidents, using an external crisis management firm is advised.
- Flight Department Managers
They typically have the central role in an emergency ensuring the proper execution of the aviation ERP. Aside from monitoring adherence to regulatory responsibilities, they also ensure everyone in the department is coping and provide resources for counseling.
- Maintenance Department
The maintenance department will most likely need to gather information such as aircraft maintenance data, logs, and records. Maintenance personnel are also a valuable resource for maintenance-specific subject matter expertise.
They are frequently the on-scene responders. Apart from their normal pilot training, they should be trained in first-aid, emergency signals and managing in-flight issues. Pilots are also a valuable resource for operational-specific subject matter expertise.
- Safety Officers
They play a unique role after an incident or accident. They are key to ensuring the flight department learns from and takes steps to mitigate against events reoccurring. They gather information from an investigation and engage their SMS to provide analysis, mitigation strategies / corrective actions, and reports.
It’s time to set up your aviation ERP
Although many flight departments may have considered aviation accidents such as a crash, many don’t always consider other incidents, such as a hangar fire, an on-board medical emergency, or even an incident where the full nature of the emergency is unknown. Additionally, smaller companies that do not have the support of corporate resources, may need to develop additional procedures to help them manage and stay on top of potential incidents.
This is why it’s important to have a unique ERP, customized to an organization.
AviationManuals can help you develop your aviation ERP to suit the needs of your organization – big or small. If you’re looking for a bigger safety management plan, be sure to check out ARC Safety Management.
Feel free to call us with any questions – we’re always ready to help.
In aviation, fatigue is a clear risk factor, as a quick glance at the IMSAFE checklist confirms. Fortunately, guidelines for duty and rest periods are abundant, such as free pilot guides from the NBAA and Flight Safety Foundation. Greater awareness of the risk factors of fatigue have led to a growing number of flight departments evaluating fatigue management for their entire operation, including maintenance and dispatch.
Flight operations are all different. Yet most Risk Assessment Tools (RAT) treat all operators the same. For a RAT to be effective and accurately capture your risk levels, you must tailor it to your operation and evaluate a greater number custom factors.
Flight operations are ever more in need of advanced aviation Safety Management System (SMS) solutions to ensure a standardized approach to not just safety management, but to the entire range of critical organizational structures, accountabilities, and policies and procedures. As SMS technology and best practices continue to evolve and become more efficient, we have pinpointed four important SMS trends to keep up with.
An Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is a mandatory component of a Safety Management System (SMS), which is required by international standards.
Here’s how to be sure your ERP is kept up to date:
- Keep contact information current
- Out-of-date contact information will cost you precious minutes in the early stages of a response
- Add new employees and remove former employees
- Review phone numbers and email addresses for accuracy
- Ensure corporate resource contact information is accurate (legal, benefits, media relations, etc.)
- Ensure contact information for contracted resources is accurate (e.g., emergency response partners, CAA regulatory contact, insurance company)
- Update the ERP with lessons learned from tabletop exercises (drills) and industry best practices
- Ensure your ERP includes the latest and greatest content suitable for your operation
- Revise procedures so they best fit the needs of your department
- For IS-BAO-registered operators, it is mandatory to incorporate lessons learned from ERP tabletop exercises
- Involve your entire department in the update process
- Review the plan to ensure everyone is aware of the ERP, comfortable with assigned roles, and trained in what to do in the event of an emergency
- Confirm role assignments are logical. Do not assign pilots to both the Primary and Backup positions for a specific role if they could both be on an aircraft involved in an emergency
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Could everyone on your team answer the following question: If an aircraft is overdue or unable to be reached after its scheduled arrival time, what is the first thing you do?
An Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is a vital document used to ensure proper actions are taken if the worst occurs. For operators of all sizes, it’s important to have processes documented not only for responding to the initial phone call and emergency, but also for ongoing considerations such as what to say to the media or press.
Here are 4 things to consider when developing your ERP:
1. It should be customized to the size and complexity of your operation
From the large corporation to the single pilot operator, an ERP should be tailored to match your needs. While large companies may need to concern themselves with interactions between internal departments (such as HR, Public Relations, and any established Business Continuity Plans), a single pilot operator may need to focus on logistics such as documenting where critical aircraft and personnel records are kept, as well as who should be notified on their behalf in the event of an emergency.
2. It should cover more than just an aircraft accident
When most people think of an “emergency” in aviation they think of an aircraft accident or incident. However, a good ERP should cover non-aircraft related emergencies that your operation could encounter as well. These could include medical emergencies, a hangar fire, or security-related incidents. Additionally, an ERP should have procedures to cover immediate and post incident responses, as well as long-term processes to return to normal operations after the emergency has passed or subsided.
3. It should be objective oriented
The ultimate goal of any ERP is to take care of your people and protect your brand in a critical situation. When developing your ERP, you should keep it focused on basic objectives to support that goal, such as assisting crew and families with travel, communicating effectively internally and externally, and supporting investigations or other regulatory requirements. As you think through the steps of your plan, be sure to ask yourself, “How can I best support our objectives?” and “Does this activity support the objectives?”
4. It should be built so anyone can handle the initial phone call and begin the response process without prior training
It is recommended to train your personnel on the ERP, which could include periodic practice drills and table-top exercises or, if possible, appointing individuals with ERP responsibilities. However, your plan should be clear enough that, if needed, anyone in your organization can pick up the manual and be able to initiate and execute a response. The manual layout should be clear and procedures should be formulaic with easy to follow steps. Language should be as non-technical as possible so non-aviation personnel can easily follow the procedures.
While we always want to hope for the best, it’s important to have a solid and comprehensive plan in the event something unfortunate does happen. This way you can rest assured your entire organization has the tools necessary to respond to anything that may occur.
As recent news stories have shown us, the desire for smaller and more powerful devices has led to an increased threat of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) combusting as manufacturers try to meet user demands.
The FAA has already banned the Samsung Note 7 from all commercial flights, but what about your flight department? At the moment, the FAA has not banned these devices on private or commercial/charter flights, so it’s up to you to set your own policies and to make sure your passengers are aware of them.
Here are five ways to mitigate the risk on your own aircraft:
1. Complete a Safety Risk Assessment (SRA)
We recommend that everyone familiarize themselves with SRAs; FAA SAFO 16001 contains a helpful list of things operators should consider. An SRA may vary with different aircraft depending on how they are equipped (e.g., fire fighting equipment) and the type of flights generally taken (e.g., long extended overwater operations vs. terminal/domestic operations). Completing an SRA will allow you to gain valuable information by taking stock of where you should be focusing, as well as inviting participation from everyone in the operation on mitigating this serious and real risk.
2. Establish procedures for the transportation of electronic devices
As with anything in your operation, your SRA findings should lead to the development of clear procedures, such as:
- Not leaving devices in direct sunlight for extended periods of time
- Not leaving devices in the aircraft unattended while charging
- Monitoring device temperature and discontinuing use if warmer than normal
- Asking passengers if they are carrying devices known to be at higher risk
3. Include onboard fire procedures in passenger briefings
While in flight, the first people to notice a PED that could become a fire hazard may be your passengers, so it is important that they are briefed and instructed on what to do, as they are your first line of defense. Include procedures for handling such situations in the pre-recorded passenger briefing, oral briefing, and/or printed materials to help reduce response time.
Such procedures may include:
- Notifying flight or cabin crew
- Locating and using fire extinguishers and fire containment devices
- Using towels to cover nose and mouth to filter smoke
- Moving away from any fire
- Ensuring therapeutic oxygen is moved away from a fire
4. Make in-flight fires part of your recurrent training
Given the pervasiveness of PEDs and the corresponding increased risks of PED-related fires, in-flight fires should be emphasized in recurrent training for both pilots and flight attendants. Part of this training could include familiarization with regulatory guidelines, procedures, and industry best practices.
FAA AC 120-80A is a valuable source of information for handling in-flight fires, as it covers topics such as the use of halon and water fire extinguishers. The AC also includes procedures for after the fire is extinguished such as dousing the device with water or other nonalcoholic / nonflammable liquid to help cool the device.
5. Equip your fleet with fire containment devices
A fire containment device can be excellent supplementary support for PEDs that have not yet caught fire but may pose a fire risk, as well as for PEDs that have already caught fire and where initial steps to extinguish the fire have failed.
Containment bags and boxes are made out of high temperature resistant materials and are specifically built to contain not only the fire, but smoke and toxic fumes as well. Some may even contain fire suppression systems within the containment device. Note that some kits come with a glove or other means of handling or scooping the PED into the container. If yours does not, consider adding a thermal glove to your kit.
Batteries are a real risk in PEDs, and while the industry has long had procedures for battery fires for onboard aircraft equipment, it is clear that those should be extended to PEDs and other battery-operated devices brought on board the aircraft during a trip, since they have become such a common part of daily life.