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.