Are you Prepared to Handle an Emergency Spill Response?

By Maricha Ellis VP of Marketing & Sales Operations, Stericycle Environmental Solutions | July 16, 2017

With the summer storm season upon us, it's especially important for hotels to be prepared for hazardous waste emergencies caused by severe weather. Preparation for such events is crucial for safely and compliantly handling emergency spills.

Not only is proactive planning for environmental emergencies valuable from a compliance standpoint, but it can help minimize the damage inflicted within your hotel and the surrounding area, as well as reduce the risk to the health of your guests and staff members. Taking action to prepare your property and staff in the event of severe inclement weather and other common environmental emergencies can also minimize cleanup costs. By following a few simple precautions and educating yourself on some of the most common environmental emergency circumstances that can take place on hotel properties, you can make a concerted effort to reduce the damages and expenses that can result from these events.

While there are a multitude of environmental emergencies that can occur at your hotel, some situations are more likely to occur than others. Natural disasters, flooding, container leaks, fuel spills and unknown substance handling are the five most common environmental emergency circumstances you may find yourself managing the response efforts for in your hotel.

Natural Disasters

To mitigate the risks of injury, damage to the surrounding areas and environmental harm, a successful emergency response plan and team should be in place, ready to be enacted at any time a natural disaster should occur. There are several factors that must be considered when devising an emergency response plan in anticipation of a storm or other severe weather events. From standard best practices such as moving or securing all hazardous chemicals prior to the arrival of severe weather to completing the mandatory paperwork and reporting following the cleanup, there are many precautions and elements that should be considered and prepared for accordingly.

Natural disasters often result in fuel, chemical and other hazardous substances being spilled into air, land and water. However, advance preparation in anticipation of a major storm or weather emergency can go a long way in reducing the damage, time and costs associated with emergency response cleanups. For the hazardous waste that cannot be removed prior to the arrival of the severe weather, there are several safety precautions to follow when securing the materials that will remain on site. Solids and powders can be covered in plastic and secured properly, and the correct lids should be securely fastened on containers. Containment areas should be set up and properly cleaned. Known waste areas should also be cleared out in advance of a major weather event.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.