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Emergency Action Plans for Small Businesses: Preparedness and Safety in Critical Moments

Lance Guillory
January 17, 2024

Emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any given time. The key to keeping your employees and patrons safe in such situations lies in thorough preparation. Lack of sufficient preparation often leads to substantial losses for your business and a grueling road to recovery. To maintain stability and minimize damages, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) serves as your trusted resource in times of crisis. Take a look at some of the things included in an EAP and explore the advantages these security plans offer your small or medium-sized business. 

What are Emergency Action Plans?

An Emergency Action Plan is a formal document that provides a structured framework for employees to respond during emergencies. More than creating a safe work environment, EAPs outline protocols, procedures, and guidelines to follow during an emergency. This offers clear and concise directives for prompt and efficient responses to various situations. As such, a well-written EAP will:

  • Promote order and facilitate sound decision-making in stressful situations, reducing the impact of mass confusion during an emergency. 
  • Outline the allocation of responsibilities during emergencies, ensuring each individual knows their role and acts promptly in accordance.
  • Provide specific steps for safeguarding employee and patron safety, as well as protecting property and reducing business interruption.

Regular updates to the EAP, once written, are essential to its effectiveness and relevance to operations. It is a dynamic document. As problems arise, circumstances shift, and legal or federal requirements change. For instance, as your small business grows, the number of employees might also increase. Your EAP should cater to this new staff and their designated responsibilities in certain emergencies.

Emergency Situations Your Business Might Encounter 

Before developing an EAP, take a close look at the security threats your business may be exposed to. Conducting a thorough Physical Security Risk Assessment of these potential threats and hazards can help you better develop an EAP that addresses your specific needs. 

Some emergency situations your business may face include:

  • Workplace violence and active assailant incidents 
  • Acts of terrorism, particularly on-site, in school, offices, or public places
  • Medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, or accidents on-site
  • Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes
  • Fire outbreaks or power outages
  • Hazardous material/chemical spills

Your business must be ready to respond, considering the potential economic and human toll that comes with such emergencies. 

Serving as a stark reminder is the Garden Grove incident. In 2019, a walk-in insurance office in California became the scene of a brutal stabbing attack. The individual inside the office suffered grave injuries as a result of multiple stab wounds inflicted by the assailant. The assailant, wielding multiple knives, managed to enter this public, accessible location to execute the attack and continue on a spree. 

Emergencies can happen at any time and in any place. A well-prepared EAP puts you in a position to prevent this type of loss, protect lives, and help you get back to business. 

Key Components of an Effective EAP

The components of an EAP vary depending on the types of emergencies for which the plan is being developed, and the needs of the organization that is developing the plan. Regardless of the business size, certain steps and procedures are commonly included. 

Below are a few elements every organization's EAP should contain:

  • Evacuation procedures and escape routes: EAPs provide evacuation routes and guidelines for emergencies, including exits, assembly points, and special instructions to follow.
  • Alerting staff and patrons: Employees should be trained in spotting potential hazards and how to recognize danger signs. The EAP should specify who alerts certain employees during emergencies.
  • Reporting emergencies to authorities: The plan should include guidelines for promptly reporting any danger or emergency to the appropriate authorities and first responders.
  • Accounting for personnel: During evacuations, it's crucial to account for everyone on site so that no one is left behind. EAPs should include a system to track employees, contractors, and visitors.
  • Identifying a media liaison: In the event of a media-attracting emergency, it is crucial to assign a spokesperson trained in handling press inquiries and conveying accurate information. Your EAP will designate this.

Benefits of Having an EAP for Small Businesses

Every business should consider developing an EAP as a fundamental part of their safety and risk management strategies. In critical moments, knowing what to do is often the difference between life and death. The procedures outlined in your EAP help train employees on the right steps to take when faced with a potentially dangerous situation, and this provides numerous benefits for both employer and employees. 

Show employees that their safety and well being are a top priority for you with an EAP in place, as it should be. You have a duty of care when it comes to those in your workplace. The benefits of having proper emergency action plans are as follows, and certainly not limited to: 

  • Cutting down on financial losses: EAPs help you prevent or reduce the impact of security incidents, resulting in fewer damages and losses to your business.
  • Minimizing injury: By providing clear guidelines for handling emergencies, an EAP can minimize injuries and accidents during critical moments.
  • Facilitating efficient communication: Communication is key in critical situations. An EAP ensures that everyone is informed and on the same page, promoting efficiency and avoiding confusion.
  • Compliance with regulations: Some industries have specific safety regulations that businesses must adhere to. An EAP can ensure compliance with such requirements.
  • Bringing order into a chaotic situation: In times of crisis, chaos can easily take over. An EAP provides a structured plan that helps maintain order and control in the midst of chaos.

Does Your SMB Need an Emergency Action Plan?

While OSHA requires just certain companies to have EAPs, it is highly recommended that every organization and company have one. Physical organizations and brick-and-mortar companies, such as schools, hospitals, shopping malls—any walk-in establishment—should especially consider having an EAP in place. Employee and patron safety should always be a top priority.

Brick-and-mortar EAPs often include detailed evacuation plans, emergency contact information, designated roles and responsibilities during emergencies, procedures for accounting for all personnel, as well as any necessary first aid or medical assistance protocols. Regular drills and training sessions should also be conducted to ensure that all employees are familiar with the plan and can act quickly in case of an emergency.

Prioritize Safety: Establish an Effective EAP for Your Business

The ability of your company to effectively respond to these situations is what matters most when it comes to the safety of you, your employees, and others involved. Prioritize developing an effective EAP as part of your overall safety and risk management strategies. Never underestimate the importance of being prepared.

Looking to create an Emergency Action Plan for your SMB? Get in touch with our team of emergency response specialists for professional guidance and support. Safe Haven is fully equipped to create a customized security plan that meets your needs.

Don't wait until it's too late. Keep operations running seamlessly with an EAP today.

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