Emergency Preparedness and Response

Emergency Planning: Protect Your Employees and Your Bottom Line

Are you ready for a severe emergency? Many businesses aren’t adequately prepared and as a result 40% of businesses affected by a disaster never reopen.

Fires and explosions impact some 70,000 U.S. businesses and cause 200 employee fatalities each year. Other emergencies such as natural disasters, chemical spills, and incidents of workplace violence also take their toll.

It’s tempting to believe these events will never occur at your workplace, but the reality is that emergencies can occur anywhere, any time. And the fact is that most businesses just are not adequately prepared.

A 2013 emergency preparedness survey conducted by Staples found that less than half of employers report being prepared for severe emergencies, and nearly 40 percent said their small business does not have emergency safety training or drills.

But according to Bob Risk, senior strategic safety, health, and preparedness manager for Staples, “It’s much easier to prepare for an emergency than to explain why you didn’t.”

Is your company ready to deal with an emergency? Most U.S. businesses aren’t. Participate in BLR’s upcoming “Emergency Management Summit,” an interactive extended webinar, and get the tools and information you need to plan for and manage any workplace emergency. Click here for details.

Emergency Action Plan

The heart of your preparation is an emergency action plan (EAP) that covers the actions the company and employees must take to ensure safety in a crisis. Although not all employers are required to have an EAP, OSHA encourages it.

An EAP needs to be inclusive and reflect all the possible emergencies that could occur. It should be tailored to a particular site and based on a thorough hazard assessment as well as an understanding of the risk tied to a site’s location, weather patterns, etc. See 29 CFR 1910.38 for more information about EAP requirements.


You should train employees on the EAP as you would train them on any safety or health program. Frequent practice drills are an important part of ongoing emergency training.

Once employees are familiar with the basic procedures to follow in an emergency, it can be beneficial to introduce obstacles into your drills that mirror unforeseen circumstances that could occur during a real emergency. For example, force employees to use an alternate exit route, or plan for some key personnel to be absent so that their backups get a chance to practice their emergency duties.

Join us on March 26 for an interactive extended webinar designed for safety managers and HR professionals that will focus on everything you need to know about how to prepare for and respond to a crisis situation. Learn More.

Living Documents

According to Bob Sem, president of Sem Security Management, organizations with the most successful emergency plans view them as living documents that are constantly being revised and updated as a result of changes in the workplace, neighborhood, etc.

And in order to succeed, an emergency plan must also be embraced by employees. “I preach that the most powerful, least costly, and most neglected safety and security measure is ownership and engagement by all employees,” Sem says. After all, incidents don’t discriminate, and when an emergency hits, the impact is not limited to managers and safety committee members.

The bottom line, according to Sem, is that planning will pay off—both in employee safety and in the success of the business. “If something does happen, it is impactful, costly, and painful in ways that make all the preventive work and cost definitely worth it,” he emphasizes. So take the time to review and refresh your emergency plans to ensure that you are ready for whatever might come your way.