Developing a company emergency plan is essential for creating a safe working environment for all employees. This plan will help you minimize damage during a range of emergency situations by ensuring all staff know how to react and what protocols to follow. In this guide, we’ll cover what to include in a company emergency plan, how to maximize success, and how to ensure it is implemented effectively. 

What is a company emergency plan?

A company emergency plan is a document outlining the actions needed in case of different types of emergencies. These emergencies pose an immediate danger to your employees, customers or the public so strategic action must be taken to minimize harm. Examples of emergencies that should be covered in your plan include fires, floods, tornados, active shooters, and explosions. 

 

Why is it Important to Have an Emergency Plan?

It is critical to have a company emergency plan in place and to conduct regular training so all employees are familiar with it. Here are some reasons why you should set up an emergency plan if you don’t already have one:

  1. Shows your commitment to safety

The safety of staff and customers should be a priority for all businesses. Having an extensive emergency plan in place shows your commitment to safety and builds trust in your brand. 

  1. Improve regulatory compliance

Non-compliance with government regulations can result in hefty fines. Ensuring your emergency plan and protocols align with local regulations will help avoid unnecessary fines or mandatory shutdowns. 

  1. Improve responsiveness in emergencies

Without a plan to follow, employees won’t know how to react to emergencies, which can lead to panic and slow responses. However, with a solid company emergency plan, everyone will know how to react and responsiveness will improve, leading to less risk of injury. 

  1. Minimize risk through assessment

Having a company emergency plan involves regular training and risk assessments, meaning potential risks are identified much more quickly and minimized before becoming a threat. 

 

Benefits Of Having An Emergency Plan

It may seem like creating a company emergency plan and implementing regular training is a strain on time and resources. However, there are several key benefits of doing this. 

  1. Reduced Downtime

Emergencies cause operational downtime, product loss, and loss of earnings, impacting profits. However, with a solid emergency plan, you’ll reduce this downtime by implementing a rapid response to minimize damage. 

  1. Cost savings

Although it may cost an initial outlay to create the plan and implement training, it is usually less expensive to do this than pay for regulatory fines and repercussions of poorly managed incidents. 

  1. Improve relationships

Showing a commitment to safety within your community helps to improve customer relationships as well as employee trust in the firm. When you act promptly in the face of an emergency, your business becomes a trusted entity in the community, helping to improve customer loyalty and staff retention. 

 

What Should A Good Company Emergency Plan Include?

A good emergency plan should include responses to a range of potential emergency situations. Also, rather than having generic information, it should be customized to your work environment and give as much detail as possible. 

In general, a good emergency plan will include the following:

  • The chosen method of reporting fires and other emergencies
  • An evacuation procedure for employees
  •  Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, including exit points and refugee areas
  • Names, positions and emergency contact numbers for all members of staff
  •  Procedures for employees who perform critical roles such as shutting down plant operations or other essential services performed while others are evacuating

It is also useful to include the location of an alternative communication point in case of an explosion. As well as an offsite location where duplicate documents are located in case of fire or other destructive emergencies.

 

Under What Conditions Should You Call For An Evacuation?

In many types of emergencies such as tornados, floods, or other natural disasters, local authorities will order evacuations. You may also be ordered to switch off gas, electricity or water supplies.

However, in cases when the emergency is not affecting the wider community, you may not receive immediate outside intervention. In this case, it’s important to know when to call for an evacuation.

Designate a person to be in charge of instructing evacuations in case of emergency. This will be the person staff turn to for instructions on how to proceed.

The top priority should always be the safety of staff and customers. So, in the event of a fire, an immediate evacuation should be called and all persons should be instructed to go to a predetermined meeting point at a safe distance outside of the building.

However, in other emergencies, an evacuation may not be the best course of action. For example, if you’re dealing with a gas leak several blocks over, remaining indoors may be the best approach.

Whether or not you call for an evacuation will depend on the type of emergency you are faced with. Having prior knowledge of how to react in different scenarios will help prepare designated leaders to respond in the safest way.

 

Types Of Plans To Develop

 

There are two different levels of company emergency plan and which one you choose will depend on your business. For example, an emergency plan for fire will be needed for buildings and storage facilities, however, employees probably won’t need to be trained on the business continuity section of the plan.

Here are the types of emergency plans and when they will need to be implemented:

Facility-level plans 

Facility risk management plans describe how specific sites will respond to different emergency situations. These will include evacuation protocols, equipment use, activation procedures, etc. These are the plans that employees will have access to and be trained in regularly.

Corporate/enterprise-level plans 

These are corporate processes to help the business remain functional following an emergency. These will include information on security, product liability, reputational issues, and business continuity. Most employees will not need access to these, but management level staff and above will be familiar with this level of emergency plan.

 

How Should The Plans Be Organized And What Is The Appropriate Level Of Detail? 

At a minimum, your company emergency plan should meet all applicable regulatory requirements set out by your local authorities. However, the main goal of your emergency plan is to minimize damage when faced with an emergency, so it will often need to include much more detail to make them user-friendly rather than just regulation compliant.

Ensure the plans are in a logical format and are easy to follow. The best way to test the plan is to give it to employees to assess. Do they understand the protocols laid out? Would they know how to respond in an emergency by following those guidelines alone? If they are confused by the plans, they are not giving enough clear detail.  

The plans should also contain enough detail for each type of emergency that your business could face. There is no use only covering fire if your business is located in a hurricane zone. It needs to include all possible emergency situations and give detailed instructions for each.

Remember, although detail is necessary, it needs to be user-friendly. Add bullet points and checklists to help staff understand the information provided. Also, consider adding links to external sources of further information on government guidelines for different types of emergency.

 

How To Communicate During An Emergency

Clear communication during an emergency is crucial to minimize harm. Firstly, you need a clear way of alerting all employees to a potential threat. This must include provisions for those who are blind, deaf, or disabled.

 

Here are some steps to provide clear communication during an emergency:

  • Have distinct, recognizable alarms that all employees are familiar with that signal evacuation or the implementation of your emergency plan.
  • Ensure you have an emergency communication system such as portable radios or a public address system to give information to your staff.
  •  Ensure all alarms are audible and visual so everyone in the office knows when they are activated. You may also need to consider tactile alarms if required by members of staff.
  • An intuitive tool such as AlertMedia could also be used to ensure emergency messages are received by all members of staff.

 

Types Of Emergencies And Plan Details Needed

Let’s now take a look at different types of emergency you need to include in your company emergency plan, what to take into consideration for each, and the things you’ll need in each instance.

Fire

Between 2007 and 2011, over 3000 fires broke out in office properties each year. Most were caused by cooking equipment, electrical faults, or intentional acts. Office fires are a real threat and so a fire emergency plan is a crucial component of your company plan.

The most common cause of fires in offices is cooking mishaps. So to help minimize the risk of fires, ensure all staff are regularly trained on cooking and fire safety in the staff kitchen (if you have one). This will include training on the use of fire extinguishers and how to deal with grease fires.

 

Roles needed for fire safety

  • Chief fire warden: the main person responsible in the event of a fire. They will ensure doors have been closed, bathrooms and break rooms are checked, and will do a headcount at the designated gathering point.
  • Assistant fire warden: the person in charge of sounding the alarm and alerting employees of the fire. They will also call the fire department and gather reports from employees. This should preferably be someone in an administrative position who has access to the communication system.
  • Route guides: these are designated people who are most familiar with the evacuation routes. They will guide people out of the building and ensure routes are clear.
  • Floor monitors: these are the people who leave the building last after checking the area is clear. They will each have an assigned area to cover and will report back to the chief warden.

 

Supplies needed

  • Fire alarms in working order that are regularly checked
  • Emergency lighting
  • Fire doors (if applicable)
  • Escape ladders (if applicable)
  • Bullhorn/Megaphone/Traffic Controller Wand for the chief warden
  • Clear signs marking all exit routes
  • Maps showing the floor plans and exits (in large offices)

 

Earthquake

Earthquakes occur with no warning and can quickly cause mass panic if there is no plan in place for employees. If your business is located on or near a fault line, this should be included in your company emergency plan.

Things to consider:

  • Pick “safe places” for employees to go. Examples included under a sturdy table or desk, against a thick interior wall away from windows.
  • Bookcases or tall furniture can easily fall during an earthquake so should be avoided.
  • Those who move as little as ten feet during an earthquake are most likely to be injured, so encourage your employees to find the nearest location to take shelter as safely possible.
  •  Include a “drop, cover, and hold-on” practice in your emergency plan. This means dropping under something sturdy, covering the eyes and head, and holding onto something stuck in place. 
  • Earthquake procedures should be practiced twice a year to help reinforce this safety behavior in employees.

 

Evacuation & Rescue

Your plan should include a meeting area for after the earthquake for rescue. This will help you account for any missing people and ensure everyone has a safe place to get to.

Most injuries in an earthquake are caused by falling objects, so include rescue plans for any employees trapped beneath debris.

 

Supplies needed:

  • A battery-operated NOAA weather radio to follow reports
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Cell Phones and cordless power banks

Appoint a point of contact who will take a roll call at your designated meeting place. There should also be a back-up person in case this point of contact is not available. This person will then be able to liaise with an emergency rescue team if needed.  

 Supplies needed:

 

Tornado

Tornados are another emergency you should plan for if your office is in a tornado zone. Tornado warnings in these areas, when possible, are broadcast on radio and television, so it’s important to keep monitoring updates to know how and when to implement your emergency protocols.

Things to consider

  • You should have multiple layers of redundancy in case of a tornado. This means keeping back-ups of data in digital files as well as a second physical location if possible.
  • The best place to shelter from a tornado is in the basement. Never evacuate the building if the tornado is close by as this will put all staff at risk. Instead, plan to get to the lowest floor of the building and find the smallest room to shelter. Under a stairwell or in a closet also work.
  • If time allows, moveable objects outside the office including signage, plants and trash containers should be moved inside to minimize damage to surrounding areas.
  • Important documents and paperwork should be kept in secure filing systems to minimize damage.
  • All valuable equipment should be housed in the interior of the building away from exterior windows where possible.

Supplies needed:

  • A battery-operated NOAA weather radio to follow reports
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights and batteries
  •  Cell phones and cordless power banks

 

Active Shooter

Active shooter emergencies happen quickly, often evolving in just 10 to 15 minutes. So it’s important to have a rapid response action plan in place.

Things to consider

  • Law enforcement should be contacted immediately and informed of the situation. An armed police force will arrive quickly.
  • Employees should be advised to stay where they are and secure the door. If they are out in the open, they should find the nearest secure room to hide in.
  • Ensure all staff are aware of the nearest two exits so they have an escape route when needed.
  • When a shooter is within close range and there is no way to flee or hide, attempting to incapacitate the shooter should be used as a last resort.

Active Shooter Training

Many local authorities provide active shooter training sessions to help staff prepare for the situation. This training session will include:

  • Recognizing the sound of gunshots 
  • Reacting quickly and effectively when hearing gunshots or witnessing the shooter
  • When to evacuate
  • How to hide and secure your position
  • How to react when law enforcement arrives

These sessions are invaluable if you are concerned with active shooter emergencies and will help ensure staff react quickly and correctly.

 

Hurricane

Businesses in Houston and the Miami/Orlando/Tampa regions are hit hard by hurricanes. So businesses in these regions as well as other areas that have experienced hurricanes, need an effective emergency plan.

Back in 2008, Hurricane Ike caused significant damage to the Russo company. However, it recovered quickly and reported higher-than-average sales after the event. This was because they had a solid emergency plan in place which helped them minimize damage and get back up and running swiftly.

Supplies needed:

  • A battery-operated NOAA weather radio to follow reports
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Cell Phones and cordless power banks

Things to consider

  • Employees should be instructed to take shelter on the lowest level. Basements or below ground are ideal.
  • A loud warning system is needed as well as a light system for those who are hearing impaired.
  • A point of contact should be appointed to take a roll call and ensure all employees are accounted for.
  • Ensure provisions for the aftermath of the storm accounting for potential floods, fires, downed lines, and other consequences of the hurricane.

 

Flood

In the US, natural and human-made floods are the most common form of disaster experienced. 20% of all insurance claims are for man-made floods (e.g. plumbing faults or leaks). But despite the prevalence of floods, many businesses fail to include an emergency plan for this situation.

Your flood plan will vary depending on your business. For instance, an office in a high rise is much less at risk than a construction site.

Things to consider:

  •  Ensure your emergency plan is tailored to your business premise and takes into account your location.
  • Plan for emergency shutdown of electricity and other key supplies to minimize damage.
  •  Run regular flood drills and evacuation scenarios to keep your staff prepared for a flood situation.

Supplies needed:

  • A basic disaster supply kit including emergency and medical supplies.

 

Civil Disturbance

A civil disturbance may be a riot, crimes in progress, hostage situations, or individuals threatening violence. These situations need an emergency plan to help employees stay calm and cope with the high-stress situation.

 

Things to consider

  • There are a variety of different civil disturbance situations which you should plan for. Which ones take the most of your time will depend on which threaten your specific business most. For example, a large ground floor office may be more susceptible to riot damage than a small office on a higher floor of a building.
  • Law enforcement should be the first point of contact.
  • Check with local authorities to see if any training is offered on dealing with specific types of civil disturbance such as threatening individuals.

 

Explosion or bomb threat

Emergency plans are needed for dealing with both an explosion and a bomb threat. An explosion may be intentional, such as a terrorist attack. However, it may also be due to a gas leak. When adding this to your company emergency plan, you’ll need to include both a physical security plan and a bomb incident plan.

A physical security plan will include implementing protection for employees, property and facilities against terrorist acts. This will focus on minimizing entrance to the building and efficient removal of suspicious objects to reduce the risk of explosions.

The bomb incident plan, on the other hand, outlines the procedures to follow when an attack is executed or a bomb threat is given.

Things to consider

 

  • A chain of command is needed in the event of a bomb threat or explosion. Your organization should appoint a chief warden who ensures all members of staff meet at the designated refuge point and will liaise with law enforcement and bomb disposal unit.
  • The main priority when a bomb threat or explosion happens is the quick, safe evacuation of the building. Appoint route guides to help escort people to the designated refuge area safely. They will also check their designated area to ensure everyone has been evacuated safely.
  • Additional training may be useful to train employees in recognizing potential bomb threats and acting accordingly.  
  • Routine evacuation drills should be done to ensure staff know how to evacuate the building safely and quickly.

 

How to Start Crafting A Plan

 

Step 1: Identify Risks 

Start by identifying which emergency situations your business is vulnerable to. These will be included in your plan. 

Step 2: Designate a coordinator or committee 

Designate a plan coordinator to head up creating a plan. This person will then liaise with those in positions of authority to create a company emergency plan. If your business is large, you may need a full committee to create the plan. 

Step 3: Ensure regulations are met

Ensure you are familiar with the regulations of your security and emergency plan and that these are met. This will give you the basis of your emergency plan. 

Step 4: Design an evacuation plan

One of the most important elements of your emergency plan is the evacuation protocol. This will be used in several different emergency situations so it’s important to make this clear and easy to understand. 

Step 5: Don’t overlook special circumstances

Ensure your plan covers special circumstances such as employees with mobility issues, those who are hard of hearing or blind, etc. As well as any special regulations for storage of chemicals, use of heavy machinery, or other special circumstances related to your business. 

Step 6: Training and revisions

The most important element of an effective company emergency plan is constant training and revision. Ensure you have training protocols in place to ensure your staff are familiar with all emergency procedures. If you find any holes or problems with the plan, immediately turn to the coordinator or committee to review the plan and make the necessary adjustments. 

 

Top Tips for a Successful Emergency Plan

Here are some of our top tips for minimizing errors and increasing the success and efficiency of your company emergency plan:

 

1. Include employees in the process

The best emergency plans involve employees in the planning process. They are the ones who will be implementing the plan when emergencies arise, so it’s good to get their perspective on what they think will work best.

2. Invest in regular training

You could have the most well-crafted emergency plan in the world, but if you don’t offer regular training and fire drills, it won’t get implemented effectively. Make sure you give proper training on implementing the plan and conduct regular drills to keep your employees up to date on correct protocols.

3. Keep it centrally located

A copy of your emergency plan should be kept in a central area of the office where everyone has access to it. This could be a physical copy of the plan or a PDF version on a shared server.

4. Update the plan regularly

As your systems and processes in your business change, your plan should be updated to reflect these. Ensure you are continually updating the plan to reflect changes in senior staff members, updated regulations, updated first aid training, and other important changes.

 

Appointing People

Your emergency plan should include input from multiple people across the company. The best approach is to put together a team of individuals with clearly defined roles. As part of your ongoing training, this team can meet up to keep up to date with changing policies and updates.

When choosing who to appoint, pick the most reliable, competent people in your team. You will need several people across departments who are first aid trained, as well as an evacuation coordinator, a point of contact, as well as any other roles which fit your specific business.

This is another key area where employees should be involved in the process. Ensure the people chosen are willing to take on the responsibility of the role and are happy to undertake regular training.

Ask for recommendations from senior members of staff of who they think would best suit different emergency situations roles.  

 

Testing and Improving The Plan

Testing your company emergency plan is the best way to expose gaps or missing information. This is best done with drills and exercises to test how well the plan handles emergencies. If any discrepancies are found, the plan can then be improved.

 

First, walk through the completed plan with business leaders and record all feedback. This will help spot initial holes in the plan before undergoing time-consuming drills.

Once leaders and senior members are happy with the plan, you can move on to introducing the plan to employees. At this stage, employees will need training on how to approach and understand the plan and what is expected from them.

Once your employees understand the emergency plan, a training exercise can be implemented.

To do this, come up with an emergency scenario and explain this to everyone involved in the drill. Then implement the emergency plan as if the scenario was actually happening.

Be prepared for things to go wrong during your drill – this is to be expected during the training process.

After the drill, record all feedback, review how it went, and make any adjustments to improve the plan moving forward.

Finally, you’ll need to regroup with senior staff and leaders to review how the exercise went as well as all feedback from staff.

Moving forward, conduct regular training drills to ensure your staff and ready for real-life scenarios. Constantly provide feedback and adjust the plan as needed to make it as efficient as possible.