Reports of major emergencies around the world reveal many of the same problems. Simple measures that are well within the scope, responsibility and capacity of management were not carried out, such as:

  • nobody had been given the responsibility for making decisions or giving instructions during an emergency
  • there was no risk assessment undertaken or emergency management plan in place
  • staff failed to provide clear direction and no exercises or training had been conducted

Planning the emergency response

It's crucial to develop a plan that outlines how you would respond if an emergency incident occurred.

Your emergency management plan should be clear, well considered and accepted by you and your staff. The plan will be most effective if everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities in responding to an emergency.

Important stages in emergency management planning are:

  1. identifying and developing emergency response procedures such as triggers and evacuations
  2. staff training and involvement
  3. implementing and monitoring the emergency plan.

Planning and procedures

Developing well thought out emergency response procedures can have a significant impact on how efficiently and quickly you can guide everyone to safety.

Your procedures should identify answers to the following questions:

What is the appropriate trigger to activate your emergency management plan? 

  • Identify your trigger points for activating your emergency management plan
  • For more information see the Decide when to act page

How are you going to be kept up-to-date regarding the emergency situation?

How will you communicate updates to your visitors about an environmental risk, such as Total Fire Ban days during the bushfire season?

How will you keep staff and visitors informed about the status of the emergency?

How will you warn employees and customers, and identify conditions under which an evacuation would be ordered, or business services would cease?

  • Identify how and who will communicate with employees and visitors if an emergency occurs, including people with special needs
  • For more information see the Decide when to act page

How will you conduct an evacuation (including evacuation routes, exits and assembly areas) and account for all people on the property or those participating in an activity conducted by the business?

  • Identify evacuation routes and emergency assembly sites
  • Identify who is in charge of managing the response if an emergency arises and an evacuation is needed
  • For more information see the Evacuation procedures page

How will you maintain communication with staff, visitors, emergency services and suppliers, in the case of a power failure or the shutdown of telephone lines?

How will you maintain copies of important information to help carry out emergency response and recovery activities?

How will operations be closed down?

How will operations be restored? 

Which staff have the skills to help you in an emergency and who can you rely on to react calmly and professionally?

  • Identify staff who have first aid qualifications and train further staff if necessary
  • Have a list of telephone numbers and addresses of staff
  • Identify which staff have the skills to help you in an emergency, and who you can rely on to react calmly and professionally.

Create an emergency management plan

Write down all of the activities and procedures you identify in your emergency management plan.

Clearly distinguish the responses that are appropriate for different types of emergencies when preparing your plan. Contact the relevant emergency service agencies to assist you with your emergency management planning.

Set out what needs to be done, by whom and when. It can be a good idea to identify what needs to be done immediately, and what needs to be done in the following 24 or 48 hours.

It can also be valuable to meet with your neighbours and other businesses to compare plans, and to work out how to communicate with and support each other in the case of an emergency.

You may like to make checklists of all the things to do to put your plan into practice and to identify backups for key jobs in case someone is away.

Staff involvement and training

Everyone who works at your business should undergo some form of training in your emergency and crisis management procedures.

Decide what training your staff will need in order to implement your risk and emergency management procedures, and when and who will deliver this training over a 12 month period. Training may involve exercises such as evacuation practice. After undertaking an exercise, allow for an opportunity for staff to provide feedback on whether any issues were identified so procedures can be improved for next time.

  • It's strongly recommended that at least one first aid-trained staff member is present during opening hours.
  • It's crucially important that staff are fully involved in any emergency procedures and that your procedures are rehearsed at regular intervals

In addition to training, make emergency procedures and information available to staff, such as posting contact numbers near telephones and in operations manuals. Include emergency information in newsletters, on your company intranet, in periodic employee emails and other communication tools.

Implement your emergency management plan

Implementation requires more than just carrying out the plan during an emergency and the training mentioned above. It means acting in advance on particular recommendations that were identified while developing emergency processes and procedures for your business.

Planning is a continuous process. To be effective in an emergency, plans, the environment and policies must be regularly checked, tested and updated as conditions in your business change. This could include an addition of a new building or a new tour program. These changes should be communicated to staff and training programs updated.

It's important to remember that planning for an emergency is a proactive, consultative and ongoing process. You can't do it on your own and the risks can change.

Make sure you speak to your local emergency services regularly.

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