AbleToTrain by Willing & Able

The five steps to emergency planning

Emergencies can happen at any time. An office is engulfed in flames after an explosion. Hundreds of computers in high storage are shaken by an earthquake. A power outage causes critical equipment or processing lines to shut down. Perishable goods are submerged in contaminated flood water during a flood.

When a disaster strikes, how you respond in the next minute could mean the difference between your business property surviving or being destroyed. And your ability to survive is contingent on your own preparedness.

Whatever type of business you have, whether it’s an office building, a healthcare facility, a manufacturing plant, a shopping mall, a college campus, or a warehouse, you’ll need an emergency response plan to ensure your company survives the worst-case scenario.

Five steps to success

Planning begins with thorough research and foresight on the part of management. The steps are simple, but it takes time to figure out what you might be up against and what resources you’ll need both inside and outside the company.

Step 1: Determine your needs.


  • Is there any permanent fire protection? Is it actually in use?

  • Do employees know where and how to use fire extinguishers and fire hose stations?

  • What risks are there during processing or storage?

  • What materials are on hand and ready to be used in the event of a natural disaster?

  • Is there a limit to the number of people who can work or the amount of equipment that can be used?

  • Have key personnel been educated and trained?

  • Is there a requirement for drills and staff training?

Step 2: Create a written policy.

There should be three statements in this paragraph:

The company’s intent and goals are stated in the purpose. It also lays out the groundwork for responding to certain site-specific incidents.

The policy lays out the strategy and the commitment of top management. Review the plan at least once a year to ensure that it is up-to-date and includes changing conditions, as well as that personnel are available and qualified to respond.

Responsibility identifies the people who create and maintain the emergency response plan by name or title.

Step 3: Determine response levels.

Set up an ERT on-site. Create specific job assignments, such as the ones listed below, and train employees accordingly. Some major corporations, such as airports or large manufacturing plants, may employ much larger workforces.

A small business with only a warehouse and an office may only require one person to complete the task. The plan is launched by the Emergency Coordinator, who also organizes training for the ERT to respond effectively during and after an emergency. Analysis of each department’s site-specific hazards, outlining all the scenarios every emergency could take, strategizing protection, and determining responsibilities for each member of the ERT are all major responsibilities.

Preparation for a fire. Your pre-fire plan with the public fire service is one of the most important aspects of developing a response plan. Conducting a site visit with the fire department on your property is an important part of pre-fire planning, as it ensures that your personnel and firefighters will work together in the event of an emergency. Firefighters must be familiar with your facility’s layout and hazards. It’s critical that everyone involved understands who does what, when, and where.

During the site visit, you’ll need a site plan that shows the property’s layout as well as a checklist of items that includes the level of response that both your staff and firefighters will require. It’s possible that some coordinated training will be required.

Step 4: Educate your workforce.

Prepare personnel for each level of response that the firefighting team will require. Drills with the onsite team should be established, and they should be coordinated with the public fire service and other outside agencies. The ERT should be prepared to respond to natural disasters both before and after they occur.

Step 5: Conduct the audits.

Changes will occur, and they must be well managed as they do. An audit of your equipment, storage, and property can help you figure out what has changed in the past and what you want to do in the future. At the very least, two things must be done:

  • Schedule audits at regular intervals. At the very least, they should be done once a year.

  • Develop a procedure for accounting for changes in construction, occupancy, protection, and exposures. Make sure the person in charge of the emergency response team is aware of them.

The main goal of your emergency response plan is to control a loss by preventing or minimizing damage. It is necessary to take two assumptions seriously in order to do it correctly:

  1. Your company will face an emergency at some point in its history. Never take it for granted that it will happen to someone else. What makes you think that?

  2. Management commitment is required for readiness. If management expects emergency responders on the scene to be committed to their jobs, they must also be committed to preserving business property.