A workplace emergency plan can help your small business prepare for the unexpected, ensuring worker safety and continued business operations.

According to FEMA, up to 90 percent of small businesses fail within a year of facing a serious emergency if they are unable to resume operations within five days. In 40 to 60 percent of serious incidents, businesses never reopen.

Improve your business’s resilience by creating a workplace emergency plan with these tips.

Plan for Different Kinds of Emergencies

Workplace emergencies can pose a risk to employees, customers or the public. They can also disrupt operations and lead to serious consequences for the business or the community at large. Disaster can strike when you least expect it, resulting in workplace illnesses, injuries and damage or loss of business assets.

Workplace emergencies vary in type and severity, so ensure your emergency plan prepares your organization for a range of possible emergencies, including:

  • Medical alerts
  • Fires or explosions
  • Industrial accidents
  • Severe weather
  • Natural disasters
  • Acts of violence
  • Suspicious packages

Assess the Risk to Your Business

One of the first steps to creating a new plan is to understand what can happen. Risk assessment can help you identify hazards and threat scenarios. Not all small businesses will face the same hazards and threats. Your risks will depend on the nature of your business, your business area, your facilities and other factors.

For example, if your business is in Northern California, you likely do not need to create a hurricane preparation plan but do need to prepare for wildfires.

Prepare a Strategy to Address the Risk

According to FEMA, there are five strategic areas involved in the emergency management process:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Mitigation
  • Response
  • Recovery

For some emergencies, businesses can lessen the risk of occurrence with preventative or protective measures, while the impact of other emergencies can be mitigated with an effective workplace emergency plan. An effective response can save lives and protect business assets, while a focus on the recovery process can help your business bounce back quickly.

Plan to Respond Accordingly

Some situations require responses that address the specific hazard or threat. Typically, responses fall into one of four action categories:

  • Evacuate—Employees and customers promptly exit the building via designated escape routes and assemble in predetermined areas or shelters.
  • Take shelter—Employees and customers move to basements or interior rooms away from windows until danger has passed.
  • Shelter in place— Employees and customers move away from entrances and exits to second and higher floors and may shut down the building’s air handling system.
  • Lockdown— Employees and customers hide under desks or in interior rooms and remain quiet, barricading doors to keep out threats, if possible.

Take the Next Step

When you are ready to create your own workplace emergency plan, take the next step by reaching out to resources in your community and online. You can coordinate with your local emergency services to learn about best practices, response times and more. Explore regulations and requirements for your industry via OSHA emergency preparedness resources and research small business insurance options on Property coverage, Business Interruption Insurance and more.


Creating workplace emergency plans can help your organization better prepare for the unexpected. By creating a plan now, you can help ensure your business is resilient in the face of unforeseen challenges.