Business Insurance

Emergency Action Plans

By Julie Beezley, Leavitt Group

Will your current plan stand up to any emergency?

If you watch news headlines of late, you can find terminology associated with crisis to be used with increasing frequency.  Crisis is no longer used to just describe robbery, earthquake, or medical emergencies.  Adding to that list are words such as civil unrest, workplace violence, and, in more recent times, active shooter, to name a few.  Do your employees know what to do and what their roles are in the event of an emergency?

It is prudent for every business to have emergency action plans for every type of crisis.  These plans would act as guidelines because as anyone who has been involved in a crisis would tell you, the situation can change from moment to moment.

The purpose of a crisis management team is to determine how the different emergency situations would be handled, put together written procedures for pre/ post emergencies, and meet again after any crisis to evaluate the effectiveness of the original plan or procedures.  The team should then make necessary adjustments and notify all parties involved of said changes.  The crisis management team should be made up of volunteer and appointed employees.  Those appointed serve due to their experience or expertise in the areas of safety.

What follows by no means covers emergencies in their entirety, however it does give thought to what all businesses should be prepared to deal with.  There are many similarities in how the following emergencies are handled; nonetheless, each business should have a written plan and review the plan with employees on a regular basis.

Medical Emergencies

Regardless of the size of your business (number of employees, number of floors or offices within a building), it is critical that each employee knows what to do in the event of a medical emergency, either with a co-worker or a visitor.  The nature of the emergency dictates what happens.  Who are the first responders and what are their roles?  Who calls for emergency medical services? Do your employees know what to do if they come across an unconscious individual?  Who, on your staff, is currently trained to provide medical assistance?  Knowing what to do can make the difference between life and death.

Emergency Evacuation Plan

Since many emergencies may involve the evacuation of your business, a written and posted emergency evacuation plan should include a physical map of your business that identifies the building’s emergency exits.  The map should also show locations of stairwells.  In the event of a fire or earthquake, stairwells would be used for exiting instead of the elevators.  The location of the designated meeting spot should also be identified on the map.  The designated meeting spot is where all employees are to meet upon exiting the building so that they can be accounted for.

Depending on the size of your organization, it may be best to have department safety leaders who can assign a “buddy system” to those in their departments.  It would be their responsibility to lead the people in their department to safety and to account for each person once all have evacuated to the designated meeting spot.

Natural Disasters

When unexpected acts of nature occur, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, severe flooding, blizzards, and earthquakes, the disaster itself will determine the steps taken.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards require that one seek shelter, whereas severe flooding has one seeking higher ground. Generally, procedures for these types of disasters are written on what to do if you are at work or if you are at home when disaster strikes. The end goal is the same: get through the duration of the disasters, take account of damages and resources, seek medical help if needed, and locate co-workers or family members to find out their status.  Ensure employees know the location of emergency shelters inside the building and within the community.

Active Shooter

It is unfortunate that this even needs discussion but since the term “active shooter” describes an armed intruder indiscriminately shooting within a confined space, and since this type of tragedy has taken place in general environments, it is now a real threat to every business.  Do your employees know how to warn others in the building of an active shooter?  Do they know that they should hide immediately and lock themselves in spaces, putting as many barriers between themselves and the shooter?  Are procedures in place so they know when it is safe to come out?

Communication During/After Disasters

Depending on the size and scope of a crisis, it may be difficult to get assistance from local medical or law enforcement authorities.  Communication going out and coming in may be temporarily impossible.  At some point, a business may realize that it is on its own and will have to handle its own injured or any casualties until authorities are available.  Do your employees have a means of communicating with one another when electrical-driven services are incapacitated (such as battery-operated two-way radios).  How do you “triage” and prioritize who needs assistance first?  The ability to communicate during and after a tragedy is crucial to the recovery of a business.

In summary:

  • Assemble a crisis management team.
  • Identify threats or emergencies that could occur while at work.
  • Identify a designated meeting spot (in event of evacuation).
  • Develop a communication protocol.
  • Develop a team of first responders.
  • Assemble this written plan and disseminate it throughout the organization.
  • Ensure ALL employees understand their role in each type of event.

Your emergency action plan is a living document that should be adjusted with time and the occurrence of events.  To make it an effective plan, everyone needs to know their role and what to do.  It is a lot like insurance – you have to have it but hope you never have to use it.


Julie Beezley joined the Leavitt Group in July 2010 as vice president of safety training. She brings her clients an extensive background in insurance, safety program development and implementation, and the restaurant industry.  At the Leavitt Group, Julie is primarily responsible for the customization of written safety training programs as well as conducting behavior-based safety coaching (BBSC) sessions, injury and illness prevention programs (IIPP), and safety calendar training sessions.