Mine accidents are an unfortunate reality, are unpredictable and often attract the global media spotlight through which the events are broadcast as they unfold and the communication of information is paramount.
Emergency telecommunications specialist Adtec Communications is one company that understands the importance of effective communication strategies and equipment in dealing with an incident at a minesite.
The company, which developed the ALERTS (Adtec Linked Emergency Response Telephone System), has compiled a list of 10 essential questions for every risk manager to consider in a bid to expose flaws in complex risk management plans that could potentially derail the entire operation.
Director Jeremy Sharp said that while it is impossible to predict when an emergency will happen, risk managers need to be aware of what is required and available in terms of communication options and technology and consider which system is best suited to their specific needs.
Sharp said that by answering the following 10 questions, risk and safety management officers will be able to identify if their response plans will hold up in a crisis.
Can I initiate a crisis conference call on the fly?
Sharp said the ability to launch a conference call immediately after a disaster situation is vital to link all members of the response and recovery team, which would otherwise have no coordinated effort and run a higher risk of the disaster worsening.
Can I broadcast a voice page and put teams together in a few minutes?
Relying on individuals to make phone calls to notify personnel can be a time consuming option, according to Sharp, who said broadcasting a voice page using an external automatically activated mechanism ensures all appropriate personnel are notified promptly.
Can I broadcast an SMS to my team – even from a non-SMS enabled phone?
SMS is becoming the most popular way of initiating an emergency response with any phone capable of sending messages to multiple personnel concurrently using the text service.
Can all the stakeholders be notified, irrespective of their location?
It is unlikely that all required and involved personnel will be onsite in the event of an emergency and the use of mobile phone networks, radio communications and other mobile networks in the area must be considered and practised prior to being relied upon.
Am I wasting scarce resources due to scattered crisis team management?
Sharp said some response officers are reluctant to use company resources to properly prepare for emergency situations, especially in establishing communication avenues. He said this is a serious mistake in concepts because being unable to contact emergency team members renders them useless in an emergency.
Can I be sure that a solo employee at a remote site is safe?
Solo employees can often be placed in high levels of danger due to there being nobody else able to raise the alarm in the event of an accident. Sharp said Adtec’s Heartbeat technology gives risk managers peace of mind by sending a regular SMS to the lone employee and raising an alarm if a response is not given.
Can I monitor events as and when they happen?
As the event unfolds it is important to keep on top of information and this might be through a variety of contact avenues, said Sharp, who advises maximising communication procedures by engaging in conferences, using telephone, SMS and radio contacts or employing a disaster specific system such as ALERTS that interfaces to radio paging systems.
Can I do post-event analysis?
Sharp said a crucial element of post-event analysis is the communications system’s ability to record all voice traffic as a means of examining and learning from the response actions.
Is my disaster recovery plan simple to start and easy to implement?
Sharp suggests using an emergency specific technology, such as ALERTS, instead of trying to customise a generic system because generic systems are often limited and can be flawed when under pressure.
Do I face litigation issues from unions or WorkCover for not having a safe workplace?
In the last decade WorkCover authorities have handed down record fines for businesses with unsafe workplaces in Australia, including those without world-class facilities for emergency management, and failing to be prepared places your company and your employees at risk, said Sharp.