The holiday season keeps many people busy both personally and professionally. During such a hectic season, a business might be caught off guard by an incident involving property damage or physical injury. Most emergencies occur as a result of operational malfunctions, human error, or natural disasters; some are preventable and some are not.
In many organizations, incident response management focuses on compliance with federal and state reporting requirements. Regulatory compliance is critical to incident management for every mid- and large-sized company. To ensure your business is prepared – no matter what type of incident arises – make sure a comprehensive plan is in place before it is needed.
Always Be Prepared
The companies best prepared for an incident are generally those engaging in regular, proactive efforts to reduce the likelihood of incidents. This work involves facility audits, formulating emergency response plans, and preparing pre- and post-incident checklists, among other tasks. Under federal law, some companies must have a written emergency response plan defining the actions everyone must take to ensure their safety.
In an ideal world, you’ll have a list of who to notify in the event of a major incident, and you’ll have communication templates automated to reach out with preapproved, appropriate language. However, it’s impossible to predict and be prepared for everything. As part of MehaffyWeber’s ongoing commitment to serve the needs of companies doing business in Texas, we conduct on-site training to address any legal or regulatory issues that may arise should an incident occur.
The Basics of a Solid Incident Response Plan (IRP)
A company’s response to a serious accident or fatality can affect both whether a lawsuit is filed and how effectively the lawsuit can be defended. The immediate damage to operations and reputation can be extreme, and the legal and financial implications can last for years or even decades. The IRP should ideally carry a business through the initial discovery of an adverse event through the recovery of normal operations and any follow-up analysis.
Incident response is a complex process involving many moving parts. Ideally, monitoring and alerting tools will detect and inform your team about an incident before things rise to a crisis level. But even with early detection, a solid framework for managing incident response should include:
- Incident Identification: Proper incident identification allows businesses to pinpoint when, how, and why an incident occurred. Identifying an incident’s root cause – instead of focusing on pointing fingers – will allow for swifter internal corrections and make the workplace safer more quickly. Incidents are incorrectly reported for a variety of reasons, including confusing processes and forms and the fear of being blamed for the resulting damages. Make sure your company’s process is easy to follow for employees at every level, and ensure all employees are properly trained on how, when, and where to report an incident.
- Evidence Collection: When a company responds to the scene of an incident, its representatives should evaluate the conditions and determine the nature and extent of any damages. Documenting exactly what happened can often dissuade injured people and their families from filing a lawsuit. Should a lawsuit ultimately be filed, a thorough investigation of an incident can provide a lawyer the tools to mount an effective defense against claims of negligence. Preserve the evidence of the accident; don’t allow evidence to be moved or cleaned up – unless it physically endangers the victim or other persons – until you are through with your investigation.
- Containment: As soon as a problem is identified, a company needs to move toward containing the damage. Our emergency response team can handle working with the media to protect a client’s interests.
- Correction and Resolution: Given the urgency of the situation, a well-coordinated response process should accelerate resolution and minimize the impact on your business. Divide the solutions into short and long-term goals. Ensure the short-term ones are immediately attended to after the root causes have been identified. Tasks should be clearly assigned to people for faster results. The long-term solutions can entail having a series of meetings that will determine the right course of action to be taken. Such steps, most times, will calm things down.
- Follow Up: Once an incident has been contained and resolved, the incident itself and the internal processes used to respond to it should be thoroughly analyzed. Even a near miss incident should be investigated to prevent recurrence. Team members should document their response actions in real time for subsequent analysis once things calm down. While planning for the future in the aftermath of an incident is critical, it’s frequently overlooked. Damage assessment is the key to post-event mitigation.
Legal Assistance For Incident Response
At MehaffyWeber, we help companies reassure customers and stakeholders against compliance and risk mitigation concerns through incident identification, containment, assessment, and remediation. Our attorneys have extensive emergency response experience representing clients across a variety of industries. Timing is critical when responding, so we operate a 24/7 incident response hotline that sends our team into action immediately.
MehaffyWeber is staffed to respond immediately to both large, complicated incidents and to more limited, routine incidents. Our trial lawyers are frequently retained by organizations in need of incident response legal services. We provide clear guidance to companies facing emerging crises on how to control the situation and mitigate liability. If you’d like to learn more, contact us today.