Planning for Workplace Emergencies

South Battery flooded Monday, September 11th due to Tropical Storm Irma. Photo by  Post & Courier  staff member Brad Nettles.

South Battery flooded Monday, September 11th due to Tropical Storm Irma. Photo by Post & Courier staff member Brad Nettles.


Is it too soon for the Lowcountry to breathe a post-Irma sigh of relief? As a whole, the Charleston area seems relatively unscathed, but many are still on edge about hurricane season… And for good reason. If the Harvey devastation along the Gulf Coast doesn’t inspire you to get your emergency preparedness ducks in a row, nothing will. But in our mad rush to buy ALL the water and fill up on gas, we tend to forget that emergency preparedness extends well beyond stocking up on non-perishables.

Every business needs an Emergency Action Plan. Own a business? Great! This post is for you. Work for a business? Awesome! This post is also for you. Emergency Action Plans affect all of us… employers, employees, consumers and the community at large.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a workplace emergency as “an unforeseen situation that threatens your employees, customers or the public; disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”  This includes natural disasters (such as hurricanes) and a whole lot more. Here are a just a few examples…

  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Fires
  • Civil disturbances
  • Workplace violence

That last one certainly hits home given the tragic shooting at Virginia’s on King in August. No amount of planning can prevent or rectify that kind of senseless violence. Unspeakably terrible things can and do happen. And while we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we do have control over how we react... as individuals, as organizations and as communities.

Emergency Action Plan Resources

The following OSHA resources may help you to better anticipate and prepare for workplace emergencies…

Workplace Emergency Communication Checklist

An Emergency Action Plan should address communication procedures, such as contacting local authorities, but most EAP procedures will be limited to immediate response. Emergency communications may go on for hours, days, weeks or (in some cases) months. The following checklist may help your organization to more thoroughly prepare and implement communication strategies in the short and long-term...

  • Notify your marketing resource of the emergency, or appoint a resource to handle emergency communications.
  • Ensure that your emergency communication resource has current contact information for employees and clients as well as access to all communication channels (social media profiles, email marketing platforms, etc.).
  • Communicate important information such as business closings, emergency response efforts, impact to available product or service offerings, etc. to managers, employees, existing clients/customers and the public in that order. Leverage appropriate communication channels to do so. A call or text may be a suitable way to notify managers and employees, while media outlets may be an appropriate way to reach the public.
  • Cancel, reschedule or replace scheduled promotions (social media posts, social media ads, blog posts, email campaigns, events, etc.) that may be impacted.
    Example: An ice cream shop has to close for a week due to fire damage. They have “flavor of the day” posts scheduled to go out on Facebook. Those posts should be canceled or replaced with updates about shop cleanup.

Please consider ongoing communication as part of your emergency planning process, and consider adding this checklist to your Emergency Action Plan. Click below to save and print a pdf version.

Workplace Emergency Communication Checklist


Kendall Flock