Emergency in a Site


Emergencies are recurring possibilities within a hazardous waste site due to the nature of the job being performed. These emergencies are quick and unexpected and are needed to be attended immediately. The emergency may range from a situation as insignificant as a worker experiencing heat stress, to a situation as intense as a huge explosion in the site.

Any hazard can call for an emergency within a site. Biological agents, chemicals, radiation, and other physical hazards can seed emergencies such as explosions, spills, and toxic atmospheres.

The following are a list of the most probable causes that call for emergency situations −


  • Chemical exposure
  • Minor accidents
  • Medical problems
  • Electrical shock
  • Physical injury


  • Leaks
  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Toxic vapours
  • Collapsing containers
  • Radiation

The emergencies within a site are evaluated by their potential for generating complex emergencies. One hazard might give rise to another; for example, a fire might break out due to an inflammable chemical spill. Moreover, there is a high chance for the rescue personnel rescuing other victims, to themselves become inflicted by the hazard. These scenarios suggest that advance planning and preparation is essential to tackle an emergency situation within a site.

The important factors to be considered during planning the responses to emergencies has been covered in this chapter. Definitions of the nature of the emergencies along with their types and an outlined contingency plan have been discussed in this chapter.


In case of an emergency, the actions that are to be taken are decisive in nature. The choices that are made rapidly, may have long-term consequences. Life-threatening situations may be seeded due to even minute delays in time. There must be a ready availability of personnel to respond spontaneously and rescue the victims.

Planning is an essential aspect for handling emergency situations and thus, a contingency plan must be developed. The contingency plan comprises of written documents that set forth procedures and policies as a response to site emergencies. The following must be incorporated into the contingency plan −

  • Personnel
    • Training
    • Line of Authority
    • Roles
    • Communication
  • Site
    • Security and control
    • Refuge
    • Mapping
    • Decontamination Stations
    • Evacuation Routes
  • First aid/ Medical Assistance
  • Equipment
  • Reporting
  • Documentation
  • Emergency Procedures

The following characteristics should be followed by a Contingency plan −

  • It should be developed as a separate section of the Site Safety Plan.

  • It must comply with and integrate with the disaster, fire, and the pollution response of the geography the site is present in.

  • The personnel concerned with the emergency plan must rehearse it regularly during mocks and drills.

  • It must be reviewed from time to time in case of changes in the environment or the nature of the job in the site.

The Involvement of Personnel in the Emergency Plan

This phase of the emergency plan comprises not only of the personnel present either onsite or offsite, but also the others like representatives from other agencies, contractors, and visitors.

There is a variety of ways to deploy emergency personnel. The emergency response department can include specialised individuals, small and large teams, or several interacting teams, depending on the requirements of the site.

Onsite Personnel

All the individuals and the teams participating in the emergency response must be identified by the contingency plan and their roles must also be defined by the emergency plan. All the personnel, irrespective of their way of involvement in the emergency response, must be aware of their own responsibilities in case of an emergency. They must also be aware of the authorities and their extent.


In case of an emergency situation, a single individual must be able to assume control over the decision-making process on the site. This leader must −

  • Be selected while creating the emergency response plan. This person may be a project manager, a site safety officer, a field team leader or any other person assuming a leadership role.

  • Be supported by a special supporting leader.

  • Have enough authority to resolve disputes regarding health and safety concerns.

  • Be able to get and buy supplies when necessary.

  • Must be supported by the management.

Project Manager

  • Gives the direction to the emergency response operation.
  • Serves as a contact between government officials.

Site Safety Officer

  • Suggests the suspension of an operation that poses a risk to the health and the safety of the workers.

  • Invokes evacuation routes, emergency procedures, and calls important contacts such as ambulance, fire-brigade, hospitals, poison control, and police.

  • Informs the local public safety officials about the danger.

  • Provides first aid on the site.

Command Post Supervisor

  • In the case of a rescue operation, notifies support personnel via calls.
  • If necessary, helps the Site Safety Officer in the rescue operation.

Rescue Team

  • Stays ready, partially dressed in safety equipment to rescue any worker from an emergency.

  • Informs about the emergency to the emergency response personnel.

Decontamination Station Officers

  • Perform decontamination in emergency situations.

Medical Team

  • Treats and transports the affected personnel to local hospitals or clinics.

Communication Personnel

  • Links with various service providers for mutual aid.
  • Informs the public about the situation in the site.

Environmental Scientists

  • Anticipate the outcomes of the cause of the emergency.

  • Assess the side effects of the emergency on water present in the environment.

  • Determine the risk of toxic gasses.

  • Estimate the level of exposure on the people and the ecosystem.

Chemical Experts

  • Provide immediate advice in the case of a chemical emergency.


  • Attend fires that might have broken out in the site.


Even if certain individuals may perform certain tasks in the site in case of an emergency, a greater efficiency is achieved by invoking teams rather than individuals. There may be various teams comprising onsite personnel working on decontamination, rescue, entrance and exit, etcetera.

Offsite Personnel

Individual experts such as toxicologists, meteorologists, and other representatives comprise he offsite personnel. These offsite personnel may belong to the organisation owning the site or may be consultants from other organisations or the government. The personnel play a crucial role being part of the advance planning. They must −

  • Arrange individual experts for guidance.

  • Arrange appropriate agencies for support.

  • Alert authorities about the potential emergencies.

  • Evaluate the response times and the resources.

  • Know the backup facilities.

  • Train professionals on hazards and how to tackle them.

  • Identify a person to contact in each department in the case of an emergency.


Some level of emergency training must be given to all the personnel working in or around the site as a spontaneous response is necessary in the case of an emergency. A training program should have the following characteristics

  • Directly relatable to the anticipated solutions specific to the site.
  • Brief and to the point.
  • Pragmatic and realistic.
  • Provision for skills to be practised regularly.
  • Feature frequent drills.
  • Ensure proper maintenance of training records.

All the people entering the site must be aware of the potential hazards and the actions that might instigate a hazardous emergency. They must also know how to deal with an emergency. Any visitors entering the site must be given some elementary training on safety and emergency conditions. This training can include −

  • Recognition of Hazards
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Emergency Signalling
  • Refuges and Evacuation routes

The on-site personnel who have emergency roles to be performed in emergency situation should thoroughly understand the emergency response. Adequate training must be given to these individuals on the following aspects −

  • Signals and the methods of communication

  • The chain of command in an emergency

  • The process of calling for help

  • Evacuation in the case of an emergency while still wearing protective equipment

  • Clearing closed places of injured personnel

  • The proper usage of off-site support

Certifications in the field of first aid and CPR must be obtained by these persons along with adequate practice in treatment techniques focussing specifically on −

  • Identification and treatment of chemical and physical injuries
  • Identification and treatment of heat and cold stress

Usually, offsite emergency personnel like ambulance caretakers and firefighters are the first to respond to an emergency and are also as prone to hazards as the onsite personnel.

This personnel must have a good understanding of dealing with emergency situations and how to handle them tactfully.

A lack of knowledge might add to the emergency and might result in manifesting the seemingly minor emergency into a serious one. On the other hand, inadequate information on the onsite chain of command could create confusion and might contribute to delays. The management of the site must provide the offsite emergency personnel with adequate information on the following −

  • Hazards specific to the site
  • Proper response techniques
  • Procedures to be followed in the case of an emergency
  • Process of decontamination

The Recognition of Emergency and its Prevention

On a daily basis, every single personnel must be alert constantly for identifying the indicators of a hazardous situation and for identifying the symptoms in themselves and others for warning them of hazardous conditions and contamination. If dangerous situations are recognised spontaneously, an emergency can be averted.

  • Meetings should be held before daily work assignments on the following topics −

  • Objectives to be completed

  • Time Constraints

  • Potential Hazards

  • Emergency Procedures

A debriefing session should be held after the completion of the daily work for reviewing the accomplished work and the issues faced.

Mapping of the Site

It is necessary to accumulate a detailed overview of the site for advance planning. A sitemap is the most valuable tool to serve this purpose. The sitemap contains a graphical representation of the site along with the documentation of various potential hazards in various places on the site.

An ideal sitemap must show the potential areas for the development of emergencies. The following should be specifically highlighted in the sitemap −

  • Hazardous areas
  • The terrain of the site
  • The routes for evacuation
  • Accessibility of the site
  • The location of the work crew
  • Changes in activities and procedures
  • Population outside the site and the potential risk posed to the environment

Planning and training is another area where the map can come in handy. Alternative response strategies and potential emergency scenarios can be pointed out with the help of the sitemap. In case of an emergency, the affected areas must be pinpointed on the sitemap. Furthermore, weather conditions and forecasts can also be added to the sitemap.

Moreover, the design of the emergency plan can also be laid out with the help of the sitemap. The map can be used to identify the following −

  • Affected Zones
  • Evacuation Routes
  • Emergency first aid
  • Decontamination
  • Command Post Stations

Safe Distances

It is impossible to recommend a one-size-fits-all value for a safe distance, as there is a wide variety of hazardous substances and releases on various site. For instance, a small leak in chlorine may require a safe distance of 140 feet, while a large leak might need an evacuation distance of at least one mile, depending on the environmental factors.

The intensity of the emergency itself determines the safe distance depending on a lot of site-specific factors. However, proper planning on the basis of an assumed estimation can help in emergency situations. The factors influencing safe distances are −

  • Toxicity of the substance
  • The substance’s physical stateid
  • The volume of the substance released
  • The frequency if the release
  • The way of the release
  • The substance’s vapour pressure
  • The substance’s vapour density relative to the outer air
  • The speed and the direction of the wind
  • The stability of the atmosphere
  • The altitude of the release
  • The temperature of the atmospheric air
  • The topography of the locality

Public Evacuation

If an incident threatens the health and safety of the surrounding population, it is important for the public to be informed of the catastrophe and they also might need to be evacuated to a safe place. The site management along with the local governing agencies must lay out and plan the actions to be taken in the case of these situations in advance.


Onsite Safety Stations or refuges can be constructed for local emergencies that do not need an evacuation of the site. These refuges must only be used when necessary. The refuge must be located in a relatively safe area near the periphery of the Exclusion Zone. Food consumption, liquid consumption, and changes in the air must be prohibited from these refuges. The following are some of the typical elements located in a refuge area −

  • Shaded resting area
  • Water to decontaminate workers and equipment
  • Wind indicator
  • Communication system
  • Monitoring devices
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Bolt Cutters
  • Hand tools