When people's lives are at stake, you want to be as successful as possible. A semiconductor
manufacturer solved its problems with modular ERT software.
by Peter Singer
Recently, a Fortune 1000 manufacturing company found a
better way to collect and manage Emergency Response Team
(ERT) information by implementing a high-tech software
solution. The company, like many other manufacturing
facilities, went beyond engineering controls and employee
safety programs by maintaining an on-site ERT. Regardless
of the planning needed to ensure employee safety and prevent
property damage, a professional Emergency Response Team
can contain and stabilize an unexpected event before outside
help can arrive. They often can prevent a minor incident from
becoming a major disaster.
Although there are numerous options available for collecting, managing, and
analyzing information that emergencies generate, some are better than others.
Organizations have used everything from paper-based systems to
sophisticated software applications. Regardless, managers need an efficient
system that can create accurate reports in a timely manner. Managing the data
generated by an emergency response is certainly important for the safety of
employees, community members, and the environment. Analyzing the
information collected from recent and past emergencies can be a powerful
tool to determine the situations that most often lead to emergencies. It can
identify the average time it takes for an incident to be controlled, the types of
incidents most likely to result in injuries, provide insight to the development
of preventative plans, and much more. The manufacturer featured in this article sought a better
This well-known manufacturing company wanted to be more proactive regarding its ERT data
management. The on-site ERT program had been in place for some time, but data management was
cumbersome and limited. The company was looking for a better way to manage and control the flow
of data so it could easily get answers to fundamental questions, such as:
What was the exact breakdown of emergency types?
How could they consistently categorize the incident root cause?
What was the average elapsed time of an incident?
What was the typical response time for an incident?
How could the ERT reports be associated with reports generated by other groups for the same
Which members were responding to the emergencies?
What was the best approach to ensure that reports written by ERT members contained all of the
How could they ensure the data were accurate?
What collected information wasn't needed because it was unnecessary or not important?
It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of an ERT program without consistent, concise and accurate data that provides the basis for useful statistics. Beyond the basics, management was looking
for easy access to historical information. It wanted to perform in-depth trend analysis of the data to
determine opportunities for improvement in emergency response and prevention. Utilization of past
data facilitates the implementation of initiatives to prevent future occurrences.
Management realized not every incident is predictable. It also realized a successful program depends
on making adjustments based on experience. When employee safety is at stake, you want to be as
successful as possible.
The Old Way
Prior to the implementation of the new data management program, an ERT member filled out an
emergency response form and sent it to the ERT coordinator, who verified and added information.
The data was then entered into a spreadsheet, a laborious task prone to error. Accessing and
analyzing information regarding past emergencies was time-consuming.
Data could be sorted, but this was not adequate to provide all information that was desired.
Additionally, if information was incomplete or incorrect, it was difficult to resolve. And it became
apparent that some of the information collected was not needed. The simple spreadsheet based
system used for capturing, managing and analyzing ERT information was error-prone, inefficient,
The company already had installed an integrated, modular environmental, health, and safety software
solution to which it added an ERT module. Additional automated processes also were added. The
EHS system would be the repository for the ERT information as well as other critical data. Selection
of a modular system allowed the company to pick and choose modules from a list of more than 100
to help manage not only ERT information, but chemical inventories, industrial hygiene sampling, job
profiling, MSDS information, waste characterization, waste shipping and more. Internet Explorer is the chosen browser to initiate the
In looking forward, as needs expand and budgets become available, the company can purchase
additional pieces. Integrating different types of EHS data into one common system allows an
organization to: 1) reduce duplication, 2) administer the data more easily, 3) require employees to
learn just one system, 4) permit wide-ranging reporting, and 5) facilitate sharing information.
The EHS system's ERT module allows the company to maintain information about an incident's start
and conclusion. It captures ERT notification and arrival times; identifies the incident commander,
responding team(s), and other employees involved; documents the causal factors, evacuations,follow-up actions; and more. It has the necessary reporting tools to search historical data, analyze
performance, measure improvements, and perform other trend analyses to provide management with
the answers it sought.
ERT reports ultimately need to get into the EHS information system. Emergencies aren't picky about
where or when they occur, so responders needed the ability to easily enter information from just
about anywhere. To facilitate the data transfer and for ease of use and deployment, it was decided
that a Web-based system would be used for initial data entry and portions of the work-flow process.
Various e-mail messages would provide timely notification about new emergencies, as well as allow
updates so that key personnel and managers were kept in the loop and up to date.
The New Way
The new way of managing ERT information allows ERT responders to enter initial information
an emergency from anywhere an Internet browser is available. At the conclusion of the
Phase I, a responder completes a Web-based form. Where possible, data selections are
pick lists, check boxes, or radio buttons to provide accurate and easy data entry.
The user cannot submit the form unless accurate information has been
entered and all required fields have data. Once the proper information is
provided and the user submits the form, an e-mail is generated to a
distribution list of recipients. The e-mail indicates an ERT report has been
filled out. Recipients of the e-mail simply click on the link to view the
This is where the work flow begins. The ERT coordinator, who is the next
person in the work flow (Phase II), must verify that the information entered by the initial ERT
responder is correct. The coordinator has the ability to correct errors or provide further information
that initially wasn't available. The ERT coordinator then forwards the form to Phase III with a simple
click of the SUBMIT button. A different set of recipients will receive e-mail notifications
automatically. The process repeats, in that other pre-selected personnel can verify the information
and amend the form with any missing or updated information.
When the last person in the chain submits the finished form, the information is sent to another
location, where the EH&S data management coordinator can process it. The processing includes
validating the data, reporting potential conflicts if any, and importing the data into the ERT
within the EH&S system. The data download takes a simple click of an icon to complete.
Once the data is stored in the target ERT software module, management can generate reports that
look at statistics, perform trend analysis, and consequently provide data in a format that provides
concise and accurate reports to management.
Benefits of the Change
Transitioning from a spreadsheet-based system to an entirely electronic solution has allowed the company to address several important issues:
Easy entry of ERT response information for anyone responding to an emergency incident.
Minimizing the training necessary for responders, even those with no computer experience.
The ability to enter ERT information from any computer in a network where a Web browser is
Simplifying the work-flow management.
Easing the control and maintenance of critical data.
Keeping key personnel and management informed immediately
Maintaining the confidentially and security of the information.
Centralizing data maintenance for ease of administration.
Generating reports that provide information about response times,
elapsed time, causes, and much more.
Providing information about past incidents that can be used to measure
individual ERT responders and the ERT program as a whole. This
evaluation that can lead to continual improvement.
In doing a cost/benefit analysis, most of these improvements are measurable in terms of cost savings,
such as reducing man-hours and process simplification. Other benefits can be more difficult to
quantify but just as important. Data integrity, timely notifications, elimination of unnecessary data,
and ensuring the required information is collected are difficult to quantify on a cost basis. This
certainly will not be foreign to EHS personnel who find it difficult or impossible to quantify the cost
of accidents that did not occur.
Emergency Response Teams can be vital assets for the safety of employees, the community, and the
environment. Timely analysis of accurate emergency response information is critical for continuous
improvement efforts. An effective database system can be a valuable tool for improving the
effectiveness of such teams.
About the author: Peter Singer ( petes@DataPipeUSA.com) is VP-Product Development at DataPipe USA Inc., a
New Jersey-based firm specializing in occupational health, safety, and environmental information
management systems. The company develops and markets DataPipeTM software.