Preparing for Emergencies

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Preparing for Emergencies

How would an emergency or disaster affect your business? Relatively speaking, small businesses may have more to lose than large ones if a disaster strikes. Think about your staff, your property, your stock – if any of these were hurt or damaged, how would you deal with it? Are you prepared?

Emergencies and disasters can happen any time with no warning. The more prepared you and your staff are, the less panic and confusion there will be in an emergency. Emergency response drills (see below) are an excellent way to keep them ready.

This module is designed to help you plan ahead.

What Should an Emergency Plan Cover?

Think about the kinds of emergencies that could happen at your location. For example:

  • Fire
  • Robbery
  • Earthquake
  • Flood (from a natural disaster or a broken water pipe)
  • Medical emergency
  • Chemical spill
  • Accident

You need to be prepared for any emergency that you can reasonably foresee happening at some point. That means creating written instructions for dealing for specific situations; training staff; and having appropriate equipment and supplies on hand. It’s the law.

In developing your emergency plan it can help to look at the results from your safety inspections. It's essential to involve staff, since they will be the ones to act on the plan.

What Makes a Good Emergency Plan?

A good plan will:

  • Identify any emergency support you might need (e.g. ability to call 911, fire extinguishers)
  • Cover people working outside regular hours and people working alone
  • Ensure that first aid kits are fully stocked
  • Include a plan to help people with disabilities
  • Include instructions for communicating the emergency plan to customers
  • Involve testing of communication equipment and training in its use
  • Include a drawing or map showing the building layout, first aid location, and the evacuation marshalling station
  • Have signs or posters that include information such as:
    - emergency phone numbers
    - location of emergency equipment
    - who has a cell phone, radio etc.
    - the address of the store
    - contact information for any utilities in the area
    - contact information for work after hours


For many emergency situations, such as a fire, the first response should be to get everyone out of the building. It is a legal requirement for all workplaces to have a plan for evacuation.

  • Make sure everyone recognizes the signal to evacuate
  • Establish a way for people to escape
  • Mark emergency exits and post a map of the route out of the building
  • Establish an alternative way out if possible, in case the usual route becomes dangerous
  • Establish a way to protect and evacuate people who need help
  • Choose a safe place for everyone to meet outside the building to account for everyone’s safe escape

Use Emergency Drills

People need training and practice in following the plan, but in a moment of crisis it can be hard to remember what to do. It can be easy to panic in an emergency.

The best way to train people in an emergency plan is to practice.

Every workplace is required to do an emergency drill at least once a year and keep a record of each drill. The records should be used to improve the plan and you need to document the results.

Use an emergency response drill checklist to create a written record you can use to evaluate and improve the plan periodically.

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