Since the accidents that occurred in Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2019), in the state of Minas Gerais, several topics related to accident prevention and its treatment have gained prominence and raised a debate about the effectiveness of existing legislation.

The Law 14.066/20, with important changes in the standard establishing the National Dam Safety Policy (Law 12.334/10), was enacted in this context. The new text made clear the concern to adopt preventive measures to safeguard human and material losses. Among the changes brought about by Law 14.066/20, the following stand out:

"Art. 4. The foundations of the National Dam Safety Policy (PNSB):

II – information and the stimulus to the direct or indirect participation of the population in preventive and emergency actions, including the preparation and implementation of the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and access to its content, with the exception of personal information;

Art. 11. The preparation of the EAP is mandatory for all dams classified as:

I - medium and high associated potential damage; or

II - high risk, at the discretion of the supervisory body.

Single paragraph. Regardless of the classification of the associated potential damage and risk, the preparation of the EAP is mandatory for all dams intended for the accumulation or disposal of mining tailings. 

Art. 12.  The PaE shall establish the actions to be carried out by the dam entrepreneur in the event of an emergency situation, as well as identify the agents to be notified of this occurrence, and shall at least:

III - preventive and corrective procedures and actions to respond to emergency situations identified in accidental scenarios;  

  • 2 - The entrepreneur must, before the beginning of the first filling of the dam reservoir, prepare, implement and operationalize the PAE and hold meetings with the communities for the presentation of the plan and the implementation of preventive measures provided for therein, in joint work with the municipal authorities and the protection and civil defense agencies.

Art. 15. The PNSB should establish an education and communication program on dam safety, with the objective of making society aware of the importance of dam safety and developing a culture of accident and disaster prevention, which should include the following measures:

Art. 18. [...]

  • 3 - It is mandatory, for the entrepreneur or his successor, the monitoring of the safety conditions of the deactivated dams and the implementation of preventive measures of accidents or disasters until their complete mischaracterization."

One of the measures to increase preventive work was the obligation to develop the so-called Emergency Action Plan (EAP) – a preventive plan for cases of risk or disruption of dams. In the previous legal text, the measure was only mandatory for dams considered to have high potential associated damage.

In addition to the laws mentioned, the state of Minas Gerais, through the Law 23.291/19, regulated by the Decree 48,078/20, established rules and obligations for emergency action plans of companies with dams in the state.

The idea of creating an emergency plan observing the particularities of each company, regardless of sector and size, is a strategy that brings more agility, security and economy in coping with a crisis.

Recent air accidents, data leaks – increasingly frequent – complaints of slave-like labor, environmental damage, among other situations that forced companies to spend a lot of money and, mainly, time because they were not prepared to face a crisis, show the importance of having a plan.

Considering the trends of the most modern legal-legislative mechanisms, which aim at preventive and consensual solutions to face and solve crises, developing an emergency plan becomes essential for companies.

Knowing the importance of this feature, how can a company create it?

The first step is to structure committees, form groups for the preparation, monitoring and updating, as necessary, of an emergency plan.

After structuring the committees, it is important to define roles and responsibilities of the members, so that each of them knows exactly what to do in a possible crisis, saving time and money in solving the situation.

In a later step, governance procedures are outlined. Those responsible for conducting any crises are appointed and tasked with implementing and managing the plan.

It will also be necessary to develop business continuity plans focused basically on how the company will behave in the face of a crisis to reduce any impacts on its day-to-day life. This is one of the most important points of preventive work, since it establishes the direction to be followed by the entire organization to overcome the critical moment.

Another relevant point is the adequate flow of information: what data will be passed between the committees and, mainly, what the contact channel will be in case of crisis.

In general, after a serious event, public entities, press and affected parties contact the company to verify what occurred and obtain information about the measures taken. The organization of the flow of information is therefore fundamental.

In addition, periodically reviewing all these procedures is vital for them to stay up-to-date and adequate to the reality of the constantly evolving company.

Preventive planning is not only useful to save the company time and money in emergency situations. It also allows an analysis of the risks to which the organization is exposed. Having these risks scaled and an action plan ready to mitigate impacts can make all the difference in the face of a crisis and even ensure the survival of the company.