How should a society form an ERT (Emergency Response Team)?

An Emergency Response Team may sound like an alien concept to implement in a housing society but its many versions are commonly known to us all. A neighborhood watch or a SWAT team, or in more recent times, an ERT of medical practitioners. These are the first-hand responders in times of trouble. Let’s explore further. 

What is an Emergency Response Team?

Also known as an Incident Response Team, it’s a group of people who are appointed to solve crises, and respond to emergencies (in a calm and collected manner) with practical action plans. Such a team consists of members who are qualified and prepared to handle emergencies (volunteers or designated members).

Why is an ERT needed in a housing society?

A housing society faces emergencies quite frequently. Some examples listed below:

  • Covid-19 (or other medical) cases that can escalate quickly.
  • Lack of essentials during continuous lockdowns or unavailability of specific medicines and daily needs.
  • Incoming (forecasted or otherwise) natural calamities like flooding issues, storms, earthquakes, etc.
  • Accidental fires or structural breakdown in the building.
  • Failure of society assets like composting units, electric/smart meters, fire alarm systems, etc.
  • Domestic or community conflict (in some cases physical assault).
  • Intruders, robbers, vandals causing damage to property and disturbing the privacy of residents. 
  • Mishandling of hazardous materials during maintenance and repair.

Any such incidents need to be handled with caution so as to prevent any physical, monetary, psychological, and emotional distress to the spirit of community living. 

How To form Emergency Response Team (ERT) in your housing society?

Step 1: Identify the categories of emergencies within the desired Incident Response Team and appoint points of contact for each.

Points of contact for

  • Medical/Covid-19 emergencies
  • Domestic/internal conflicts
  • Technical failure, equipment malfunction
  • Natural calamity or accidents within premises
  • Elevators safety and malfunctioning with people trapped inside.
  • Any other categories as per the needs of your housing society

Step 2: Select members based on needs and qualifications

Circulate a notice to form ERT among group chats and notice boards and announce that volunteers are welcome. 

Usually, the responsible members who are willing to help will step forward. Alternatively, if you already know the members who would do a good job as a reliable point of contact, you can approach them directly after discussing it within the MC meeting. Use both approaches as you’d be able to appoint a secondary point of contact through willing volunteers as well. 

What will be the Responsibilities of the ERT?

After you’ve appointed the primary and secondary points of contact for each category, formulate their core responsibilities and the action plan needed for their roles.
Here’s a sample.

1. ERT points of contact in society for accidental fire and natural disasters should have:

  • An action plan for evacuation
  • Fire Safety plan
  • A drill practiced in advance
  • A plan for securing vehicles and other property of the society. 
  • Train the security guard and maintenance staff in damage control.

2. Points of contact in society for internal conflicts, robbery, vandalism should:

  • Be able to intervene immediately.
  • Hear out all parties involved, devise a fair judgment, and impose it.
  • Apprehend the perpetrators immediately and hand them over to the local authorities.
  • Set up a neighborhood patrol if needed.
  • Arranging for first aid and CPR, temporary solutions like bandaging wounds, PPE /isolation protocols.
  • Providing a list of nearby health facilities and doctors on call.
  • Distributing safety measures for children, elderly family members of the patient.
  • Making medicines or supplements available.

4. Points of contact in society for equipment failure should:

  • Maintain a list of all associated vendors and their contact information.
  • Be trained in emergency lift rescue protocols (usually the guard and facilities manager should be able to handle such scenarios). 
  • Solve minor technical glitches or get someone from within the society premises to help immediately. 

Above are some examples. However, each point of contact can create their own action plans and acquire skill sets to implement them based on society’s requirements. A society can set aside funds for ERT activities or go ad hoc for funds if needed. Team members can be from the MC/RWA as well as regular members. 

Common rules for ERT members

  • Protect people first, the property later. 
  • Be available at all times to respond.
  • Choose ERT members with specific skill sets (e.g. medical health professionals, engineers, people with necessary life experience who may be in managerial/leadership roles in their careers or experienced business owners.)
  • They should be self-trained in their ERT roles with periodic retraining to maintenance staff and guards.
  • Each ERT member should make their own checklist along with an action plan to stay on top when an emergency strikes. 
  • Firefighting/escape and drills and basic medical emergency, first aid skills should be taught mandatorily to all ERT members. 

An Emergency Response Team should be able to act swiftly, think on their feet, and consider the good of the many above selfish motives.

Records and Books to be Maintained by a Cooperative Housing Society

Rights and Duties of Tenants in Housing Societies

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