Plenty of words come to mind when we think of emergencies, but “organized” is not typically one of them. For business emergencies though, it is critical that they are as orderly as possible. This can happen only when you and your employees know what steps to follow in an emergency.
One of the first things we’re told in a crisis is not to panic. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many people do. Just saying, “Remain calm!” is not enough—you need to be ready to execute your emergency plan with a level of precision and decisiveness so your people feel they can trust the next steps toward safety. When you are prepared, even an emergency can be orchestrated thoughtfully to avoid chaos.
Of course, we can’t predict absolutely everything, so we won’t be able to prepare for 100 percent of all eventualities. Tragic events like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 taught us that. But there are several sure steps to follow in an emergency. With cooperative planning and training in advance, you will be ready to execute these steps if the situation ever does arise.
Step 1: Assess Your Risk
When designing an emergency plan, you will first identify all of the assets you need to protect. Your people are by far your most important assets. Others may include your facilities, parts and products, intellectual property, technology, office furniture and supplies, and company vehicles. All of these assets are at risk when an emergency arises.
What are the emergencies that are most likely to occur? IT outages, weather-related events, power failures, and natural disasters are the most common. But each location where your company operates—including home offices of remote workers—may have its own variables and risks to assess. Some things to consider are:
- Weather and geological events common in those areas
- Security and IT support in your facilities
- The nearest emergency response organizations and hospitals
- The number of employees who may be affected
Step 2: Survey the Work Environment
Each facility likely differs in design, evacuation routes, surrounding area, and even the demographics of the staff located in each building. Some locations may have handicapped employees, the elderly, or even children in an office daycare. Are there elevators or stairwells? Cubicles or remote rooms? An easy route for emergency vehicles? A staffed front reception desk or onsite warehouse? Are there any hazardous materials stored at any of the locations?
Each of these factors may come into play during an emergency. You should also understand what emergency resources are available in each location, such as overhead sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and defibrillators. In the event of an emergency, company leaders and first responders will want to know where these are located.
Use this template to build a comprehensive emergency response plan.
Step 3: Identify Leaders and Administrators
In an emergency, there needs to be designated leadership. Choose people in each facility to carry out different aspects of your plan and to keep people informed. You may want to identify multiple leaders on each floor or area of the building to ensure that no matter where employees are located at the time of the critical event, they have someone nearby who knows what to do.
Be sure every employee knows who these leaders and administrators are. Have a backup person named in case the designated one is absent. Equip this person with the technology they need to send and receive information.
Step 4: Choose an Emergency Notification System Vendor
Your chosen administrators and leaders need more than email or phone to reach every employee. A mass alert system distributes important information quickly to everyone or to a specific group of people. It is important that the software enables these admins to send and receive information across multiple communication channels—such as text, email, phone, social media, and app push. Depending on your employees’ workflow, you may also want to be able to use desktop takeover to relay time-sensitive emergency messages.
Ask your emergency notification system vendor if the product enables mapping and geofencing to give leaders and first responders an interactive view of people in relation to different threats. If a hurricane is threatening, you will want to see exactly which offices and which employees are going to be affected. Then you can tailor your message to people based in those different areas.
When seconds count, you want to be sure you have the latest information and can instantly and reliably send alerts and instructions to everyone involved with a real-time communication solution. Even better is a two-way communication tool that allows you to confirm your employees’ safety and offer assistance to anyone who may still be in danger.
Step 5: Design an “All-hazards” Plan
A common pitfall of many planning efforts and emergency notification systems is that they are too narrowly focused. Most companies have regular fire drills to test out their solutions, but fewer prepare for active shooters. And even fewer prepare for something like a gas leak. While it’s good to plan for specific contingencies, that’s not enough to be truly prepared for the myriad possible threats to business continuity. For that, you need an all-hazards plan.
Most emergencies fall into one of four categories: weather or natural event, power or IT outage, security event, or health and safety incident. Your plan can and should be flexible enough to adapt to each of these different situations. Your task is to design an “all-hazards” plan that specifically addresses the following things that are likely to come into play during any emergency:
- Evacuation routes from buildings and general areas
- Chain of command and contact details
- Nearest onsite resources
- Contact information for first responders
You can then plan around “what-if” scenarios with more specific instructions based on the risks you previously assessed. These may include “What if the power goes down and there is no way to use phones or computers?” or “What if the elevators and stairwells are unusable?” Document these contingencies, and adapt any emergency messaging you would need to send out for each scenario.
Step 6: Practice the Plan
Once the plan is in place, it’s time to practice. An old military adage refers to “The Six P’s of Success”:
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
But there is a seventh “P” your success depends upon. Proper prior planning and practice prevent poor performance. Every employee should be required to participate in regular emergency drills. We are all familiar with fire drills, but what do you do if there is a tornado or an IT outage? What happens when there is a workplace violence situation? Consider alternating the drills to include multiple scenarios.
Many organizations have found success with a strategy known as the “tabletop exercise.” It gives your employees the chance to act out particular emergency scenarios and the company’s planned response. This can help illuminate problems and potential improvements with your plans so they’re as strong as possible should you need to put them into action.
When a critical event happens, everyone at risk will be grateful for knowing what to do, and they will be much less likely to panic. Remember, the goal is to avoid chaos and delays in your safety response. The only real remedy is to have everyone fully aware of what they are to do in case of an emergency.
Make Every Step Count in an Emergency
No matter the size of your organization, you and your employees deserve to work in a safe environment. While you may never need to trigger the emergency alarm, it’s nice to know that when it sounds, there is a comprehensive emergency response plan in place. Preparing on the front end and choosing the right emergency notification system vendor will increase the odds everyone makes it out just fine.
Download Our Emergency Response Plan Template
Use this template to build a comprehensive emergency response plan to keep your employees safe.
What are the 6 steps emergency planning process? ›
- Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team. ...
- Step 2: Understand the Situation. ...
- Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives. ...
- Step 4: Plan Development. ...
- Step 5: Plan Preparation, Review, and Approval. ...
- Step 6: Plan Implementation and Maintenance.
- Stop to assess the situation – watch out for danger. ...
- Make sure it is safe to approach the scene. ...
- Make the area safe. ...
- Assess the victim. ...
- Call for help.
- Resuscitate and treat injuries as necessary.
The Joint Commission has identified a hospital emergency operation plan's six key elements: communication, resources and assets, safety and security, staff responsibilities, utilities, and clinical and support activities.What are the six functions of an emergency operations center? ›
The common functions of EOCs is to collect, gather and analyze data; make decisions that protect life and property, maintain continuity of the organization, within the scope of applicable laws; and disseminate those decisions to all concerned agencies and individuals.What are the 7 emergency management steps? ›
- Planning – Work through many emergency scenarios. ...
- Training – ...
- Drills – ...
- Education – ...
- Technology – ...
- Coordination – ...
- Communication –
An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document required by particular OSHA standards. [29 CFR 1910.38(a)] The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.What are priorities in emergency response? ›
When an emergency occurs, the first priority is always life safety. The second priority is the stabilization of the incident. There are many actions that can be taken to stabilize an incident and minimize potential damage. First aid and CPR by trained employees can save lives.What are the elements of emergency response plan? ›
- All possible emergencies, consequences, required actions, written procedures, and the resources available.
- Detailed lists of emergency response personnel including their cell phone numbers, alternate contact details, and their duties and responsibilities.
- Floor plans.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items: Water - one gallon of water per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation. Food - a supply of non-perishable food to last for several days. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert. ...What are the five primary phases of the emergency Operations Center EOC planning process? ›
- situation crisis.
- action planning.
WHAT ARE THE ABCS of emergency response? ›
The ABC's of first aid are the primary things that need to be checked when you approach the victim, Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Prior to CPR, ensure that the airway is clear, check to see if the patient is breathing, and check for circulation (pulse or observation of color and temperature of hands/fingers).What are emergency response functions? ›
Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) is the grouping of governmental and certain private sector capabilities into an organizational structure to provide support, resources, program implementation, and services that are most likely needed to save lives, protect property and the environment, restore essential services and ...What are emergency operating procedures? ›
The term 'Emergency Operating Procedures' (EOPs) relates to written documentation or instructions detailing all relevant steps and activities of a process or procedure. An EOP provides employees with a reference to emergency practices, activities or tasks.What are the 4 main steps of dealing with emergency? ›
Current thinking defines four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.What are the five things to do during emergency? ›
- Follow your emergency plan.
- Get your emergency kit.
- Make sure you are safe before assisting others.
- Listen to the radio or television for information from local officials and follow their instructions.
- Stay put until all is safe or until you are ordered to evacuate.
Four Core Elements of Emergency Preparedness
Care-related emergencies. Equipment and Power failures. Interruption in Communications, including cyber attacks. Loss of all/portion of facility.
When an emergency occurs, the first priority is always life safety. The second priority is the stabilization of the incident. There are many actions that can be taken to stabilize an incident and minimize potential damage. First aid and CPR by trained employees can save lives.What is the first thing to do in an emergency situation? ›
First Things to Do in Any Emergency
Decide whether it is safer to evacuate or shelter-in-place. Once safely evacuated or sheltered-in-place, call for help using 911 and clearly explain what you know about the situation. Provide first aid for any injured people. Move any people who are injured away from further danger.
Be sure your bug-out bag includes the following: Water (have one gallon per person, per day, for three days); food (have a three-day supply of nonperishable items); can opener; battery-powered radio; flashlight; extra batteries; moist towelettes and garbage bags (for sanitation needs); local maps (if your preplanned ...What are the six critical areas of disaster response? ›
The six critical areas are com- munication, resources and supplies, security, staff responsibili- ties, utilities management, and patient care.
What are the 5 C's of incident command? ›
ICS divides an emergency response into five manageable functions essential for emergency response operations: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance and Administration. The basic structure of ICS is the same regardless of the type of emergency.How many phases are there of emergency response? ›
Emergency managers think of disasters as recurring events with four phases: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. The following diagram illustrates the relationship of the four phases of emergency management.What is the first step in emergency planning process? ›
The first step when developing an emergency response plan is to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios.What are the 4 steps in planning for emergencies? ›
List potential emergencies. Estimate likelihood of each emergency. Assess the potential human impact. Assess the potential property impact.What is step 3 of the emergency planning process? ›
Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives. Step 4: Plan Development. Step 5: Plan Preparation, Review, & Approval. Step 6: Plan Implementation and Maintenance.