Crucial Considerations When Responding to Emergencies
When a disaster hits, people need to know what to do. Waiting for instructions slows down the situation and puts more people at risk. As you get more serious about disaster preparedness, list out the following steps on paper for reference when responding to emergencies.
While there’s no way to predict when an emergency will occur, there are ways to prepare for it. Whether you’re a building owner or manager or an employee working on-site, knowing what to do in the face of sudden disaster goes a long way toward minimizing damage or harm and protecting your assets.

History of Responding to Emergencies
In 1971, President Nixon created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which became responsible for coordinating national and local disaster response activities.
As part of the Long Range Public Works Planning Act in 1974, Congress required that all federal agencies develop emergency plans for their facilities. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush signed the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.
The law expanded FEMA’s role in emergency planning, including requiring state and local governments to establish comprehensive emergency management programs with individualized emergency plans based on risk assessment.
In 2008, a presidential directive issued by George W. Bush established a National Preparedness Goal (NPG). The goal was to be able to “prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”
It further required agencies at every level of government to develop a Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) designed specifically for their agency.
What is an Emergency Situation?
“An emergency is any event or occurrence that requires immediate action and poses a threat to health, safety or welfare.”
A disaster is an emergency that overwhelms local resources and requires a multi-jurisdictional response. In other words, the situation is beyond the control of the local people who are expected to deal with it.
When responding to emergencies, attend to the situation until everything is resolved.
A threat may be:

  • Direct and specific, such as a major fire on a single floor of a building
  • Indirect, such as the threat of widespread power outages
  • General (such as a hazardous material spill or widespread flooding)

Some common types of emergencies can include:

  • Earthquakes/landslides
  • Fire
  • Floods/hurricanes/tornadoes
  • Structural collapse
  • Terrorism
  • Tsunamis/avalanches/blizzards
  • Volcanic eruption

That’s not all. There are plenty of other emergencies to watch out for depending on your surroundings.
Why Do You Need an Emergency Management Plan?
The purpose of the emergency management program is to minimize the effects of emergencies on people and property. This can be accomplished through action before an event occurs, or through action during or after an event. Examples of actions taken prior to an event include:

  • Development of plans to assure adequate warning;
  • Planning for evacuation;
  • Preparation of community resources to support evacuees;
  • Identification of available manpower, food, shelter and other resources;
  • Training for various roles in an emergency; and

Lastly, it also prepares you to assist other agencies during an emergency.

Responding to Emergencies: The 5 Principles of Emergency Response
1. Prevention and protection.
This step is about preventing a crisis from occurring in the first place. For example, you can take out fire insurance on your home, install smoke detectors and use fire extinguishers to prevent fires from occurring in your home.
2. Response.
If a crisis does occur, this step involves your response to that crisis. For example, you can call 911 if there is a fire in your home or evacuate your house with the help of a family member.
3. Mitigation.
This step involves reducing the extent of the damage caused by the crisis. For example, you can use a fire extinguisher to reduce the damage caused by a house fire and prevent it from spreading to other areas of your home.
4. Recovery.
After you have taken steps to mitigate damage after a crisis, this step involves restoring normalcy as quickly as possible. For example, you can call an insurance agent to restore normalcy after a house fire or stay with family or friends until your home is restored after a flood occurs.
5. Lessons learned and planning for future events.
This step involves learning from past mistakes and planning accordingly for future emergencies.
Six Steps in Emergency Management
As part of emergency management, there are seven steps that must be taken to ensure that a situation will be handled in the most effective manner.

Responding to emergencies when there’s a state of emergency

Proper planning prevents poor performance. These seven steps to emergency management are not necessarily followed in order by all organizations but every emergency operation will follow these seven steps.

Step 1: Identify the emergency

Step 2: Assess the situation

Step 3: Alert and notify

Step 4: Stimulate and evaluate the response

Step 5: Control the incident

Step 6: Recover and reconstitute

1. Identify the emergency
The first step in any emergency is to identify what the actual problem is. This step usually involves identifying what sort of disaster or emergency has occurred. It also involves identifying its scope (the size of the event) and its level (the amount of damage it has caused).

Responding to emergencies

A formal emergency management plan should include policies and procedures for handling several different types of emergencies: fires, illness or injury among employees, natural disasters, hazardous materials exposure and other dangerous situations.

A good plan also specifies what people should do during the emergency and how they should contact appropriate personnel and agencies.

2. Assess the situation
Your first response will probably be based on gut feelings or impressions gained from what you see and hear. But later on, you’ll need to put together a report that is convincing enough for insurance claims, police reports and court proceedings.
To do this, you’ll need to do some serious investigating into the cause of the problem and the extent of the damage. You may need to call in experts for advice or hire professionals for help with cleanup efforts or repairs.
If, for example, an employee falls ill at work, assess how much she can help herself (for instance, by getting to a bathroom) before contacting someone else for assistance (such as sending someone from human resources).
Also, assess victim symptoms when responding to emergencies — can she tell you what’s wrong? Do her symptoms suggest any potential dangers? Do they suggest any immediate basic first aid measures?
3. Alert and notify.
Next, make sure everyone who needs to know about the emergency gets notified immediately through phone calls, emails or text messages.
Phone calls are useful for immediate warnings, but they should be kept brief because they will consume phone lines needed by others trying to make calls during the crisis.
Alerts are used to notify people of an event or update that is occurring, requiring immediate attention or action.
Alerts can be sent via email, text message (SMS), pagers, or any other form of messaging that can be used to inform individuals of the event and provide instructions on what action is expected of them.
Note that this may not always be done for all events as some alerts may not require immediate attention.
Notifications are used to notify people of an event that has occurred, requiring immediate attention or action, but where there is no expectation of urgency.
A notification is similar to a page in that they are typically used to locate a person who needs to respond to the event such as their presence is required at the affected location or their assistance is needed in the response effort.
Notifications can also be used when it is expected that response efforts will take a significant amount of time and it would be beneficial for employees working on related efforts to shift their focus from the primary incident and begin working towards recovery.
4. Stimulate and evaluate response by those affected
Once an injured person has been located, they should be evaluated for treatment priorities based on their injury or condition.
Victims of flash burns are first priority; other burn victims, second; patients with trauma injuries, third; patients with smoke inhalation injuries, fourth; respiratory distress patients, fifth; and control of other hazards (fire or additional victims), sixth.
An important step in evaluating casualties is determining whether or not they have been rescued by bystanders or have already received medical assistance.
5. Control the Incident
The goal of mitigation is to prevent further damage. It can be achieved by removing any volatile components from a chemical fire or spill, extinguishing smaller fires before they become larger ones, and protecting buildings from possible collapse by using sandbags, floodlights, hoses, etc.
It may also mean setting up barriers such as dikes, walls, and trenches, or it could mean establishing physical limits to the spread of a chemical spill by using absorbent materials such as sand, sawdust, or vermiculite.
6. Recovery
During the recovery phase of emergency management, you will formulate a plan for returning operations back to normal as soon as possible; however, you first need to do any necessary clean up and repairs.
You must also take care of any problems caused by the incident such as treating injuries or evacuating people if necessary. You should start making contact with people who will help with rebuilding after the incident because you need
Important Tools to Prepare Your Business for Emergency Situations
Emergency management in the workplace is an important consideration for business owners. There are both natural and man-made emergencies that can occur, but preparation is key to successfully dealing with these situations.
Tend to all your business’s emergency needs by keeping the following items on hand:

  • Emergency contact list and phone numbers for any contractors you might use to help cleanup after an emergency, including a handyman or cleaning services.
  • A first aid kit stocked with any medications you may need, from pain reliever to allergy relief.
  • Phone numbers for emergency services, including police, fire and EMS, as well as any regional emergency response contact number.
  • An emergency evacuation plan for personnel, including floor-by-floor descriptions of your business building and designated evacuation routes for each level.

Lastly, you may need a disaster recovery plan for any equipment you may have that could be damaged in an emergency (computers, servers and so on).

Other Important Considerations When Responding to Emergencies
Since you can’t predict emergencies, it’s a good idea to prepare for them. It is also important to know what laws apply to your business and how state and local authorities may respond.
Obey the law.
You have a legal responsibility to protect your employees, customers, visitors, and the public from harm.
Your workplace may need to be evacuated in an emergency, so you should plan for how you’ll get everyone out safely. This includes having an up-to-date fire evacuation plan and conducting regular fire drills.
Have an emergency response plan.
Make sure that your workplace has an emergency response plan that explains what you’ll do in case of an emergency. This plan must include escape routes and procedures for employees with disabilities or those who are unable to move quickly.
Have a business continuity plan.
A business continuity plan describes what you’ll do after an emergency like a power outage or when your building is damaged to help your business resume normal operations as soon as possible.
You should also keep records of important contact information and business documents in a safe place offsite (like at home) so they’re not lost in an emergency.
Research, research, research.
This is a critical step in emergency management. You must know the laws, regulations and procedures that apply to the area where you work.
The last thing you want is for your department to fail because you didn’t follow the law or you made assumptions about what was required. Always know all applicable laws and regulations before taking action.
Seek help when needed.
If you don’t have expertise in a specific area, don’t hesitate to seek help from someone who does.
For example, if you need information on how to set up an incident command post but don’t know how to ask someone who has experience with it to help you out. This will save time, money and resources on your
Mistakes to Avoid When Responding to Emergencies
These are the most common mistakes we see in emergency management planning. While this list is not comprehensive, reviewing it will help you avoid some of the most common errors.

  • Not creating, practicing and updating a written emergency plan.
  • Not knowing who to contact in an emergency, what each person’s duties are, and whether they can be reached.
  • Failing to test the plan periodically (after any major changes).
  • Failing to maintain and update the plan as needed.
  • Not working with an outside expert or consultant on an annual basis to review the plan and make recommendations for improvements.
  • Failing to provide adequate training to staff members on how to implement the plan and follow its procedures during an actual emergency.
  • Failing to practice the evacuation or lockdown procedures at least once a year.

Other mistakes include:

Panic is contagious and it can spread quickly. The first thing you need to do when a crisis occurs, or even before it occurs, is to calm yourself down and control your emotions.
Try to remain calm and keep a level head. If you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, try not to panic because it can cause you to make bad decisions that might lead to further injury or even death.
Going on a looting spree
If there’s an emergency such as a hurricane or flood that wipes out your food source and makes grocery stores inaccessible then looting will not help you survive.
Looting places you at risk of being arrested as well as harming others. It also puts pressure on local business owners to rebuild their stores and eliminates opportunities for them to earn money during the rebuilding period.
The first thing people usually do when an emergency occurs is overreact to the situation. Sometimes the best course of action is to stay where you are, evacuate only if necessary and remain calm.
If the disaster is minor and doesn’t pose any immediate threats then taking actions like evacuating unnecessarily can actually create more problems than it solves.
Leaving pets behind
Most people forget to care for pets during emergency situations. When developing a plan, be sure to incorporate pet safety. Still, you shouldn’t risk your life by going back to save a pet.
Top 3 Apps to Connect With Others During an Emergency
When responding to emergencies, the last thing you should be worrying about is how to contact someone. Emergency response apps make it easy for you to notify your friends and family of a crisis. Here are five free apps to help you in an emergency:
1. Red Panic Button
This app alerts contacts that you’re in an emergency situation. You can also use it to send GPS coordinates, photos and videos of the incident.
If you’re trapped somewhere, users can request for help from the local authorities or get directions to your location based on your last known location. It’s available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
2. ICE
ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency,” which makes its goal pretty clear — alert your contacts when there’s an emergency.
It also allows you to add important medical information about yourself so responding first responders can know what services are necessary when assisting you during an emergency. The app is available for iOS and Android devices.
3. Helping Saver
One feature this app offers is the ability to set up a survivor list with your loved ones so they can track your location on their cell phones in case of an emergency.
4. Triage
This app allows you to provide first responders with your name, contact info, medical conditions and medications, allergies, and other useful information. The app is available on Android and iPhone.
5. Lifeline
With this app, a single tap will send prerecorded audio messages to the contacts you’ve chosen in case of an emergency.
It also has the ability to record live audio messages so that if something changes with your condition mid-message, you can still communicate with those trying to help you. The app is available on Android and iPhone.
6. Life360
This app lets family members track each other’s locations on a map so they can check on one another during an emergency. It also has a “Circle of Safety” feature that allows users to notify selected friends and family that they are in a dangerous situation and need
Finally on Responding to Emergencies: How to Alert Others
If you have an emergency, it’s important to let the right people know. But which ones are they? In most cases, it’s probably your family, friends and neighbours. You can also tell your local police department or fire department in case of a more localized emergency.
To initiate an emergency response via text, use the word “911” followed by your current location and the nature of your emergency in a text message. The 911 service will then contact the authorities for you. When texting 911, remember that you must be in an area that has access to cell phone reception or else you won’t be able to text.
To send an emergency text or SMS to another person, enter their phone number then type “emergency” or “911” and their location as it appears on a map (ex: 123 Main Street) then send the message.
Your recipient will receive a text alert of what mobile carrier they use for network services (ex: Sprint) then their location on the map.
This is another great way to inform someone of your current location in case of emergencies such as getting lost when driving, being robbed while out shopping or being near unstable areas after a natural disaster like an earthquake or flood.