By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

I was once told by one of my former bosses/mentors, that when it comes to employees “you will always have the same personalities, just different names.” Let’s look at the definition of personality for just a minute. No, I am not going to turn this into English class, but it is worth a look for the sake of discussion and understanding. Personality (according to Google) is “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.”

So, what influences the development of a person’s personality? Would it be a person’s environment that they live in? I would also like to think that life experiences play a big part in developing a personality. With the latter, I believe training is part of life’s experiences that mold or develop who we are and how we respond to different situations. I believe that is why the military, law enforcement, and fire departments conduct training exercises. Training helps us achieve the desired outcome of any situation we might encounter.

When it comes to emergency situations, do we know how all our co-workers are going to respond to the immediate threats? Some might respond very well and take control of a situation and direct others in the immediate area of what needs to be done and who should do what. Another type may just freeze, and literally not move or act in any desirable manner. Those individuals that act in a manner that help us achieve a positive outcome, have probably had some training.

We do not know how everyone is going to react until a situation arises, and this is why we have emergency action plans. This is a plan that helps us all, hopefully, respond in a manner that will achieve a desirable outcome. An emergency action plan should address topics of fire, medical emergency, weather (tornado), violence in the workplace and hazardous material spills or exposure, for example. NIRMA has a template for a county emergency action plan in the Model Road Department Safety Manual for member counties to review and modify to fit their needs.

After the emergency action plan is modified to meet member needs, it should be reviewed annually and practiced so that some level of “muscle memory” can be developed. This will help our co-workers react without having to think too much. Hopefully they can just go into respond and react mode doing all the right actions appropriate for the situation being encountered.

I would like to stress this is NOT a document to just print off and hang on the wall without even filling in the county name in the document. Review it, modify it, adopt it, and use it! Develop the muscle memory needed to respond appropriately in emergency situations you may encounter.

I would also like to say that when you train for emergency situations, you really get to know your co-workers on a whole different level. If someone is not as strong as others, you are better able to manage around a situation like this until they are trained to the level you desire.

It’s not that any individual is wrong in their response, but just that they had different life experiences. Our different personalities can be a challenge and more often than not, a blessing. Let’s make sure we all make it home at night!

If you have any questions about emergency action plans, do not hesitate to contact me at or c: 402-310-4417.