Resources - Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Management Guide For Business & Industry - STEPS 1 AND 2

A step-by-step approach to emergency planning, response and recovery for companies of all sizes. Sponsored by a Public-Private Partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


A hurricane blasts through South Florida causing more than $25 billion in damages. A fire at a food processing plant results in 25 deaths, a company out of business and a small town devastated. A blizzard shuts down much of the East Coast for days. More than 150 lives are lost and millions of dollars in damages incurred.

Every year emergencies take their toll on business and industry -- in lives and dollars. But something can be done. Business and industry can limit injuries and damages and return more quickly to normal operations if they plan ahead.

To begin, you need not have in-depth knowledge of emergency management. What you need is the authority to create a plan and a commitment from the chief executive officer to make emergency management part of your corporate culture.

What Is an Emergency?

An emergency is any unplanned event that can cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, customers or the public; or that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the facility's financial standing or public image. Obviously, numerous events can be "emergencies," including:

  1. Fire
  2. Hazardous materials incident
  3. Flood or flash flood
  4. Hurricane
  5. Tornado
  6. Winter storm
  7. Earthquake
  8. Communications failure
  9. Radiological accident
  10. Civil disturbance
  11. Loss of key supplier or customer
  12. Explosion

The term "disaster" has been left out of this document because it lends itself to a preconceived notion of a large-scale event, usually a "natural disaster." In fact, each event must be addressed within the context of the impact it has on the company and the community. What might constitute a nuisance to a large industrial facility could be a "disaster" to a small business.

What Is Emergency Management?

Emergency management is the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from an emergency.

Emergency management is a dynamic process. Planning, though critical, is not the only component. Training, conducting drills, testing equipment and coordinating activities with the community are other important functions.

Making the "Case" for Emergency Management

To be successful, emergency management requires upper management support. The chief executive sets the tone by authorizing planning to take place and directing senior management to get involved.

When presenting the "case" for emergency management, avoid dwelling on the negative effects of an emergency (e.g., deaths, fines, criminal prosecution) and emphasize the positive aspects of preparedness. For example:

  1. It helps companies fulfill their moral responsibility to protect employees, the community and the environment.
  2. It facilitates compliance with regulatory requirements of Federal, State and local agencies.
  3. It enhances a company's ability to recover from financial losses, regulatory fines, loss of market share, damages to equipment or products or business interruption.
  4. It reduces exposure to civil or criminal liability in the event of an incident.
  5. It enhances a company's image and credibility with employees, customers, suppliers and the community.
  6. It may reduce your insurance premiums.


  • Step 1 -- Establish a Planning Team
  • Step 2 -- Analyze Capabilities and Hazards
  • Step 3 -- Develop the Plan
  • Step 4 -- Implement the Plan


There must be an individual or group in charge of developing the emergency management plan. The following is guidance for making the appointment.

  1. Form the Team. The size of the planning team will depend on the facility's operations, requirements and resources. Usually involving a group of people is best because:
    1. It encourages participation and gets more people invested in the process.
    2. It increases the amount of time and energy participants are able to give.
    3. It enhances the visibility and stature of the planning process.
    4. It provides for a broad perspective on the issues.

    Determine who can be an active member and who can serve in an advisory capacity. In most cases, one or two people will be doing the bulk of the work. At the very least, you should obtain input from all functional areas. Remember:

    1. Upper management
    2. Line management
    3. Labor
    4. Human Resources
    5. Engineering and maintenance
    6. Safety, health and environmental affairs
    7. Public information officer
    8. Security
    9. Community relations
    10. Sales and marketing
    11. Legal
    12. Finance and purchasing

    Have participants appointed in writing by upper management. Their job descriptions could also reflect this assignment.

  2. Establish Authority. Demonstrate management's commitment and promote an atmosphere of cooperation by "authorizing" the planning group to take the steps necessary to develop a plan. The group should be led by the chief executive or the plant manager. Establish a clear line of authority between group members and the group leader, though not so rigid as to prevent the free flow of ideas.
  3. Issue a Mission Statement. Have the chief executive or plant manager issue a mission statement to demonstrate the company's commitment to emergency management. The statement should:
  4. Define the purpose of the plan and indicate that it will involve the entire organization

    Define the authority and structure of the planning group

  5. Establish a Schedule and Budget. Establish a work schedule and planning deadlines. Timelines can be modified as priorities become more clearly defined.

    Develop an initial budget for such things as research, printing, seminars, consulting services and other expenses that may be necessary during the development process.


This step entails gathering information about current capabilities and about possible hazards and emergencies, and then conducting a vulnerability analysis to determine the facility's capabilities for handling emergencies.

Where Do You Stand Right Now?

Review Internal Plans and Policies

Documents to look for include:

  1. Evacuation plan
  2. Fire protection plan
  3. Safety and health program
  4. Environmental policies
  5. Security procedures
  6. Insurance programs
  7. Finance and purchasing procedures
  8. Plant closing policy
  9. Employee manuals
  10. Hazardous materials plan
  11. Process safety assessment
  12. Risk management plan
  13. Capital improvement program
  14. Mutual aid agreements
Meet with Outside Groups. Meet with government agencies, community organizations and utilities. Ask about potential emergencies and about plans and available resources for responding to them. Sources of information include:
  1. Community emergency management office
  2. Mayor or Community Administrator's office
  3. Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)
  4. Fire Department
  5. Police Department
  6. Emergency Medical Services organizations
  7. American Red Cross
  8. National Weather Service
  9. Public Works Department
  10. Planning Commission
  11. Telephone companies
  12. Electric utilities
  13. Neighboring businesses
While researching potential emergencies, one facility discovered that a dam -- 50 miles away -- posed a threat to its community. The facility was able to plan accordingly.

Identify Codes and Regulations. Identify applicable Federal, State and local regulations such as:

  1. Occupational safety and health regulations
  2. Environmental regulations
  3. Fire codes
  4. Seismic safety codes
  5. Transportation regulations
  6. Zoning regulations
  7. Corporate policies

Identify Critical Products, Services and Operations

You'll need this information to assess the impact of potential emergencies and to determine the need for backup systems. Areas to review include:

  1. Company products and services and the facilities and equipment needed to produce them
  2. Products and services provided by suppliers, especially sole source vendors
  3. Lifeline services such as electrical power, water, sewer, gas, telecommunications and transportation
  4. Operations, equipment and personnel vital to the continued functioning of the facility

Identify Internal Resources and Capabilities

Resources and capabilities that could be needed in an emergency include:

  1. Personnel -- fire brigade, hazardous materials response team, emergency medical services, security, emergency management group, evacuation team, public information officer
  2. Equipment -- fire protection and suppression equipment, communications equipment, first aid supplies, emergency supplies, warning systems, emergency power equipment, decontamination equipment
  3. Facilities -- emergency operating center, media briefing area, shelter areas, first-aid stations, sanitation facilities
  4. Organizational capabilities -- training, evacuation plan, employee support system
  5. Backup systems -- arrangements with other facilities to provide for:
    1. Payroll
    2. Communications
    3. Production
    4. Customer services
    5. Shipping and receiving
    6. Information systems support
    7. Emergency power
    8. Recovery support
One way to increase response capabilities is to identify employee skills (medical, engineering, communications, foreign language) that might be needed in an emergency.

Identify External Resources

There are many external resources that could be needed in an emergency. In some cases, formal agreements may be necessary to define the facility's relationship with the following:

  1. Local emergency management office
  2. Fire Department
  3. Hazardous materials response organization
  4. Emergency medical services
  5. Hospitals
  6. Local and State police
  7. Community service organizations
  8. Utilities
  9. Contractors
  10. Suppliers of emergency equipment
  11. Insurance carriers

Do an Insurance Review

Meet with insurance carriers to review all policies. (See Section 2: Recovery and Restoration.)

Conduct A Vulnerabilty Analysis

The next step is to assess the vulnerability of your facility -- the probability and potential impact of each emergency. Use the Vulnerability Analysis Chart in the appendix section to guide the process, which entails assigning probabilities, estimating impact and assessing resources, using a numerical system. The lower the score the better.

List Potential Emergencies

In the first column of the chart, list all emergencies that could affect your facility, including those identified by your local emergency management office. Consider both:

  1. Emergencies that could occur within your facility
  2. Emergencies that could occur in your community

Below are some other factors to consider:

Historical - What types of emergencies have occurred in the community, at this facility and at other facilities in the area?

  1. Fires
  2. Severe weather
  3. Hazardous material spills
  4. Transportation accidents
  5. Earthquakes
  6. Hurricanes
  7. Tornadoes
  8. Terrorism
  9. Utility outages

Geographic - What can happen as a result of the facility's location? Keep in mind:

  1. Proximity to flood plains, seismic faults and dams
  2. Proximity to companies that produce, store, use or transport hazardous materials
  3. Proximity to major transportation routes and airports
  4. Proximity to nuclear power plants

Technological - What could result from a process or system failure? Possibilities include:

  1. Fire, explosion, hazardous materials incident
  2. Safety system failure
  3. Telecommunications failure
  4. Computer system failure
  5. Power failure
  6. Heating/cooling system failure
  7. Emergency notification system failure

Human Error - What emergencies can be caused by employee error? Are employees trained to work safely? Do they know what to do in an emergency? Human error is the single largest cause of workplace emergencies and can result from:

  1. Poor training
  2. Poor maintenance
  3. Carelessness
  4. Misconduct
  5. Substance abuse
  6. Fatigue v

Physical - What types of emergencies could result from the design or construction of the facility? Does the physical facility enhance safety? Consider:

  1. The physical construction of the facility
  2. Hazardous processes or byproducts
  3. Facilities for storing combustibles
  4. Layout of equipment
  5. Lighting
  6. Evacuation routes and exits
  7. Proximity of shelter areas

Regulatory - What emergencies or hazards are you regulated to deal with?

Analyze each potential emergency from beginning to end. Consider what could happen as a result of:

  1. Prohibited access to the facility
  2. Loss of electric power
  3. Communication lines down
  4. Ruptured gas mains
  5. Water damage
  6. Smoke damage
  7. Structural damage
  8. Air or water contamination
  9. Explosion
  10. Building collapse
  11. Trapped persons
  12. Chemical release

Estimate Probability

In the Probability column, rate the likelihood of each emergency's occurrence. This is a subjective consideration, but useful nonetheless.

Use a simple scale of 1 to 5 with 1 as the lowest probability and 5 as the highest.

Assess the Potential Human Impact

Analyze the potential human impact of each emergency -- the possibility of death or injury.

Assign a rating in the Human Impact column of the Vulnerability Analysis Chart. Use a 1 to 5 scale with 1 as the lowest impact and 5 as the highest.

Assess the Potential Property Impact

Consider the potential property for losses and damages. Again, assign a rating in the Property Impact column, 1 being the lowest impact and 5 being the highest. Consider:

  1. Cost to replace
  2. Cost to set up temporary replacement
  3. Cost to repair

SIDE BAR - A bank's vulnerability analysis concluded that a "small" fire could be as catastrophic to the business as a computer system failure. The planning group discovered that bank employees did not know how to use fire extinguishers, and that the bank lacked any kind of evacuation or emergency response system.

Assess the Potential Business Impact

Consider the potential loss of market share. Assign a rating in the Business Impact column. Again, 1 is the lowest impact and 5 is the highest. Assess the impact of:

  1. Business interruption
  2. Employees unable to report to work
  3. Customers unable to reach facility
  4. Company in violation of contractual agreements
  5. Imposition of fines and penalties or legal costs
  6. Interruption of critical supplies
  7. Interruption of product distribution

Assess Internal and External Resources

Next assess your resources and ability to respond. Assign a score to your Internal Resources and External Resources. The lower the score the better.

To help you do this, consider each potential emergency from beginning to end and each resource that would be needed to respond. For each emergency ask these questions:

Do we have the needed resources and capabilities to respond?

Will external resources be able to respond to us for this emergency as quickly as we may need them, or will they have other priority areas to serve?

If the answers are yes, move on to the next assessment. If the answers are no, identify what can be done to correct the problem. For example, you may need to:

  1. Develop additional emergency procedures
  2. Conduct additional training
  3. Acquire additional equipment
  4. Establish mutual aid agreements
  5. Establish agreements with specialized contractors

Add the Columns

Total the scores for each emergency. The lower the score the better. While this is a subjective rating, the comparisons will help determine planning and resource priorities -- the subject of the pages to follow.

SIDE BAR - When assessing resources, remember that community emergency workers -- police, paramedics, firefighters -- will focus their response where the need is greatest. Or they may be victims themselves and be unable to respond immediately. That means response to your facility may be delayed.

Source: FEMA

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Copyright ©2000-2019 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).