Rock to Road

Safety: September 2016

Emergency preparedness essential at work

September 21, 2016  By WorkSafeBC

In late December, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island experienced an earthquake that reminded people of the importance of being prepared for an emergency situation. Emergencies and disasters can occur any time without warning. The more you are prepared for them, the better you will be able to act, minimizing panic and confusion when an emergency occurs.

Relatively speaking, small businesses may have more to lose than large companies when a disaster – natural or otherwise – strikes. Because of high costs or lack of resources, many smaller companies have less rigorous business-continuity plans in place, and some have no formal processes at all. All businesses should be proactive by developing an emergency response plan and can start by asking three basic questions: How well prepared is your business now? What procedures do you already have in place for an emergency situation? What potential emergency situations could occur?

Follow these basic guidelines to develop an effective emergency response plan for your workplace:

  • Determine the conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary.
  • Designate primary and secondary evacuation routes and emergency exits. Make sure they are clearly marked and well lit. Post signs. Install emergency lighting in case a power outage occurs during an evacuation.
  • Ensure that evacuation routes and emergency exits are wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating people; clear and unobstructed at all times; and unlikely to expose evacuating people to additional hazards.
  • Coordinate your plan with the local emergency management office.
  • Designate “evacuation wardens” who help others during an evacuation and account for employees.
  • Establish specific evacuation procedures and a system for accounting for evacuated employees.
  • Hold emergency drills at least once a year to ensure that employees know what to do in an emergency and to test the effectiveness of emergency exit routes and procedures. Keep records of such drills.
  • Consider the transportation needs of employees.
  • Post evacuation procedures where employees can read them.
  • Establish procedures for assisting people with disabilities.
  • Consider how you would access important personal information about employees in an emergency (for example, contact numbers for their home, next-of-kin, and medical care). You could store emergency contact information for employees in sealed envelopes or on USBs kept offsite.

Educate your employees about the types of emergencies that may occur, and train them in the proper course of action for emergency situations. Make sure they understand the components of your emergency response plan and who will be in charge during an emergency.


What emergency information is necessary?

  • Provide employees with information such as checklists and evacuation maps.
  • Post evacuation maps in strategic locations.
  • Consider the information needs of customers and others who visit your business.

How often should training take place?
You should conduct training sessions at least once a year, or whenever you:

  • Hire new employees.
  • Designate evacuation wardens or others with special assignments.
  • Introduce new equipment, materials, or processes.
  • Find, through exercises, that employee performance needs to be improved.

First aid
After a disaster or emergency situation, emergency services (fire, police, and medical) may be disrupted or unavailable for some time. It may be necessary to provide immediate care for an injured person if medical professionals cannot be reached. It is important to have a complete first aid kit and employees who have up-to-date first aid training.

Employee support
Employees are your most valuable asset. Providing support for them after an emergency will help them, which will in turn help your business continue to run as smoothly as possible. The range of services that you can provide or arrange for employees includes: crisis counselling; reduced or flexible work hours; cash advances; salary continuation; care packages; and daycare.

While it may seem like a lot of work and planning for an emergency situation that may never occur, it makes good business sense to be prepared.

This article was written by WorkSafeBC and can be downloaded at

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