Making an effective emergency plan for your small business

Having a good crisis plan in place will help you avoid hitting the panic button if disaster strikes your small business.

Having a good emergency plan in place will help you avoid hitting the panic button if disaster strikes your small business.

By Harry Brown

It would be nice if nothing ever went wrong, wouldn’t it? Sadly, that’s not the way the world works. One of the biggest threats to your small business is a dangerous emergency. The way to protect yourself in this scenario is to plan ahead so you’re ready should disaster strike.

Here’s how you go about getting a good emergency plan together.

Think about the worst things that could possibly happen

One of the most effective ways to build the perfect emergency plan for your small business is this: Brainstorm all of the worst-case scenarios you can possibly think of. Once you have a good array of awful situations in your imagination, you’ll be better prepared to… well, prepare! You should not only be trying to think of ways to manage or control a situation. You also need to think pragmatically about how people will immediately react in a given scenario.

Assign responsibilities

You may be the boss, but you can’t do everything! Hey, you may not even be there on the day that an emergency scenario takes place. (Which your employees might think is somewhat of a conspiracy, but hey.) You need to outline who is going to do what if something happens. If you’re not there, then who is in charge? Who will see to any first aid needs? Who will take on the response coordination duties? Assign people these ‘emergency responsibilities’ now to avoid complications in the future.

Have the equipment you need on-site

Don’t assume that you shouldn’t have particular equipment because emergency services will have them. Let’s say your building is on fire. (Remember, I said “worst-case scenarios”!) Let’s also say an employee of yours is having trouble walking, but you need to get them out of there as soon as possible. The thing you’d want in this scenario is a rescue stretcher. Ambulances and firefighters will have one of those, for sure. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect to have one in your office. After all, you can’t always wait for emergency services to arrive.

Emergency numbers at the ready

Generally, people will only have the “big” three-digit emergency phone number in mind. But the situation may not always require emergency police or ambulances. If the situation is the sudden eruption of a water pipe, with no injuries, then you’ll need an emergency number for a contractor and clean-up crew. Remember all the scenarios you thought of earlier? Think about who you would need to contact in each of those situations. Find the number and write it down in a location that is known to everyone.

An exit strategy (and a map)

Of course, the meat of any good emergency plan is an exit strategy. You need all the exits clearly marked. You need to let employees know what exits they should use – not every form of escape may be safe in a given scenario. There also needs to a meeting place outside where you have all agreed to meet. One thing you should have in your office is a map of your office that outlines the emergency procedure. The map should mark the routes to the exit, as well as the location of any emergency equipment. And yes, that means you should also keep the emergency equipment in the same place!

Have a communications plan in place

Depending on what happens, you may need to let customers/clients know as soon as possible what has occurred and what this means to them. This means having access to their contact information offsite do you can quickly communicate with them. With cloud computing, storing customer contact data offsite is easier now than it used to be.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll make it easier – and safer – to deal with any disaster that might strike your small business.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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