Emergency Control Rooms
Certain high-risk workplaces which could potentially cause a health and safety danger over a large area will often have emergency control rooms. Such facilities include nuclear power stations for example, which have the potential to cause widespread devastation both to the health and wellbeing of people in the vicinity, but also to the local environment as well. Not only this, but the danger to health will not just exist in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but will pose a risk for many years to come.
For these places of work, an emergency control room where workers can perform actions such as shutting down pieces of equipment or initiating safety features is a vital object. Ideally it should be located far enough away from the possible cause of the danger (e.g. a nuclear reactor), and needs to be able to withstand the possible threats and consequences of a particular incident. Examples include:
Many industries make use of substances and materials which are extremely hazardous to the health of all living creatures, including people. Any incident which causes this to be released into the air is obviously a serious issue to put it mildly, and so any emergency control rooms need to provide suitable protection against this threat. The distance over which an airborne or radioactive threat can spread means that it will often be impossible for the control room to be located sufficiently far away from the incident epicentre, but other measures can be introduced such as suitable sealing and lining to prevent such substances entering the control room, and ensuring that ventilation systems do not continue to pump contaminants in from outside.
Fires are a health and safety danger in every place of work, which is why fire safety training is provided to every worker who receives health and safety training. In high risk industries, fires are often even more of a danger as not only will the hazardous substances present often be extremely flammable, but there is also a risk of a large-scale explosion.
Control rooms therefore need to be able to withstand the heat of a raging fire, both in terms of its structural integrity but also for the temperature of those people occupying the inside.
Lines of Communication
In an emergency situation communication is crucial, not only to co-ordinate responses to the incident but also to call for assistance. It is important therefore that communication lines are protected to withstand influences such as fire, and that there are back-up lines too. We have already seen that mobile phones can be vital for calling the emergency services, and these should be available for use also.
Emergency control room workers need to be able to see what they are doing! Just like the communication lines, not only do lighting systems need to be protected, but backup systems need to be in place to provide emergency lighting should the main system fail.
In a major disaster, there is a possibility that the occupants of the control room may be trapped inside for a number of days before rescue teams can reach them. Provision should therefore be made for drinking water and food items to be located in the room for emergency use. If possible, toilet and wash facilities would also be a highly advisable addition.
When it comes to health and safety, backup procedures and facilities can be the difference between life and death. An accident or incident can easily damage a system, and so having a backup/spare/alternate option can make all the difference, and should be put into place whenever possible. Taking this one step further, having two emergency control rooms instead of one, located far apart from each other, would provide even more of a safety net, as one could probably be reached if the other one was badly damaged or access to it blocked.