Make sure everyone is safe
The first thing to do in response to an emergency is to make sure everyone is safe. This should be the first step of your immediate response plan.
Example immediate response plan
The following process is a common immediate response plan for protecting the health and safety of your staff, clients and visitors:
- Evacuate and call emergency services – The staff member trained in and responsible for first point emergency response evacuates all staff, visitors and clients to the designated 'safe place'. If required, call emergency services to respond to the crisis situation and to attend to any injuries.
- Secure the area – Secure the immediate emergency area to prevent further danger to others. In situations that could require police or WorkSafe investigation, securing the area will also prevent potential contamination.
- Document details and complete incident report – Record the details of the emergency so you can report those details to appropriate authorities such as police, WorkSafe or management. Where required, advise staff members' emergency contacts of the incident using the contact information you have recorded in their staff records.
- Provide relief where required – Once those involved have been attended to, help them to register at a local relief centre, if there is one. This step will depend on the type of disaster – for example, bushfire.
Ensure key personnel are aware of the process, including supervisors, fire wardens and first aid officers.
Follow your crisis response plan
In a crisis, often shock and trauma will take over and you'll be unable to respond to the emergency with the same mental clarity you believe you would.
Having crisis response plan already prepared will help guide your actions to make sure nothing is missed – making it more likely the situation will have the best possible outcome.
Creating a crisis response plan
Our template can help you create an emergency response plan:
Practise your crisis response process and keep the document on hand in case of emergency.
Assess the damage
When assessing the impact the crisis has had on your business, look at the aspects most at risk:
- profile (perception of your brand)
Damage to people
- Are the people involved injured or distressed (physically, emotionally or psychologically)?
- If there are injuries, where can people be treated? What ongoing treatment will be available?
- What will be the impact on individual injuries or trauma on the business and potentially for how long?
- Are there other people readily available to take the place of those injured or traumatised? If not, where will you find the help you need?
Damage to processes
- Are there going to be any interruptions to your normal operating processes?
- What contingencies can you put in place to get the business processes back to normal in the shortest possible time?
Damage to premises
- Is there physical damage to the premises? If so, what is the extent of the damages?
- For how long will the damages affect the normal flow of business?
- Do you need to get alternative premises to operate from during repair or restoration?
Damage to providers
- Have your providers been affected, or are there issues in your environment that prevent your providers from supplying you?
- How long may these issues continue and will these issues require alternate providers?
Damage to profile
- Has this particular crisis had an impact on your customers' perception of your brand or profile?
- What actions do you have to take to repair your profile or reinforce your brand message?
Damage to performance
- Is the impact on the future of your business significant enough to consider whether you should reopen your business?
Plan your return to normal
Once you've assessed the initial damage, think about what you'll do long term.
Your options might include:
- re-establishing the business – the CPA Australia Disaster Recovery Toolkit can help with this process
- exiting the business
The time it takes for a business to return to close to normal operating levels after a crisis will depend on:
- the level of damage to premises, stock, supplies, equipment and other assets
- your insurance cover and time taken for the claim to be paid
- whether you can access grants or government assistance
- your business's financial position
- your recovery and reopening plan
- your communication and relationships with employees, customers and suppliers
Exiting your business
Deciding to leave your business can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it's necessary.
Exiting your business might involve:
- selling the business
- passing the business on to someone else
- merging the business with another
- closing down
- liquidation (selling the assets)
- forced closure (filing for bankruptcy)