Workplace Emergency Preparedness

Is your workplace prepared for emergencies like natural disasters and power outages? Learn how to create your own workplace emergency preparedness kit to keep workers safe.

Natural disasters, climate change-driven extreme weather, global health crises, and other emergencies can happen at any time, and without warning. Does your business have the tools in place to manage these emergencies without delay? If not, it’s time to start preparing for the unexpected. You can start assembling an emergency preparedness kit for your business today, to help keep you and your employees safe. 

What Is a Workplace Emergency Kit?

An emergency kit for the workplace contains the essential supplies you’ll need to keep yourself and your staff prepared for an emergency. Emergency preparedness involves thinking ahead and getting ready for emergencies before they happen. While it’s not typically on employees’ minds, emergency preparedness should be a top priority. As a decision-maker at your business, it is your job to ensure that, should a business be threatened by a natural or man-made disaster, employees are equipped with essential survival supplies. 

What Emergencies Are Likely Where You Live? 

If you’re able to predict and prepare for likely emergencies, you’ll have more time and confidence when you and those around you need to evacuate, shelter in place, or take other safety precautions. Companies should be prepared for any emergencies that are likely to occur in their areas of business, and those can include: 

  • Natural disasters, including earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires 
  • Active shooters or workplace intruders 
  • Harsh weather conditions, such as snow or ice storms, avalanches, or extreme cold and heat 
  • Power outages
  • Gas leaks and carbon monoxide leaks 
  • Workplace fires 
  • Global health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic 

You may already have a good idea of emergencies that are likely in your area, but you can double-check using the National Risk Index for Natural Hazards, a tool from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Using this map, you can enter your location and see which emergency situations are most likely to occur near your place of business. 

This map, for example, may show that your workplace is at risk for exposure to tornadoes. You can use that information to make decisions about what you include in your kit, such as an NOAA weather radio that allows you to hear weather forecasts and communicate with others. 

What Considerations Are Specific to You? 

All businesses have basic things in common, such as the need to keep people safe and to be able to communicate in the event of an emergency. To better prepare yourself and your employees, it’s important to keep in mind your unique circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • You work at a large company and need to assemble and safely store individual kits for hundreds of employees. 
  • You have animals in your business and need food, medications, and other supplies to take care of them during an emergency
  • You work in a hot climate and need to provide an adequate supply of fresh water for your employees during a lockdown or shelter-in-place emergency situations. 
  • You work in a cold climate and may need to protect employees from exposure during a power outage or other extreme weather event.

Are There People Who Require Special Assistance? 

Some employees may require special assistance while evacuating or preparing to lock down at a business, and it’s important to take note of that while you’re building out your emergency preparedness kit. For example, you’ll need to prepare ahead of time if your employees:

  • Use mobility aids
  • Are accompanied by a service animal 
  • Have dietary restrictions or allergies 

Be sure you’re aware of employees who may require mobility assistance or have medical or dietary needs, and appoint people to help them during an emergency. You can find more information about helping individuals with disabilities cope in emergency situations here. You should also have a plan in place to make sure individuals who require emergency medication are able to receive it. This can include storing the medication in your emergency kit, instructing the employee to always have their medication on hand, or keeping a supply with the office administrator. 

Emergency Preparedness Kit Checklist

When assembling the emergency preparedness kit for your business, the items you choose will depend on the factors mentioned above. However, any emergency preparedness kit should include the following: 

  • First aid kit
    • Bandages of various sizes and applications 
    • Gauze and trauma pads
    • Medical tape
    • Instant cold packs
    • Rubbing alcohol or antiseptic wipes
    • Cotton swabs
    • Disposable gloves
    • Emergency blankets
    • Face masks 
    • Instructions for using the first aid kit
  • Food and water (enough for up to 72 hours)
    • Water bottles or pouches
    • Non-perishable food, such as:
      • Granola bars
      • Canned goods
      • Dried fruits, vegetables, and meats 
    • Water purification tablets
    • Disposable plates, cups, and flatware
  • Hygiene and sanitation
    • Toilet paper roll
    • Wet wipes
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Toilet bags with chemicals
    • 5-gallon bucket with toilet seat lid
    • Tarpaulin and duct tape for privacy
    • Personal hygiene items, such as: 
      • Toothbrushes
      • Toothpaste
      • Combs and brushes
      • Contact lens solution
      • Feminine products
    • Plastic garbage bags
  • Lighting and communication 
  • Administrative purposes
    • List of employee names, including photos
    • Emergency contact information for all employees 
    • List of employees with special medical or healthcare needs 
    • Information about business emergency procedures like evacuation or shelter-in-place plans 
    • List of emergency contact phone numbers, including those for the fire department and police department
  • Entertainment 
    • Playing cards, board games, or movies 

Ready-made emergency kits that come complete with many of the items listed above are widely available and can be a good first step toward emergency preparedness. 

Where and How to Store Your Emergency Kit

To ensure your emergency preparedness kits can be located immediately in a time of crisis, it’s important to store them in easily accessible locations. This can include a closet near your workplace’s entrance or near the administrator’s desk. Employees elected to oversee emergency plans should know where these kits are located, and how they can access them during an emergency. 

When assembling your kits, store safety items like first-aid materials in airtight containers or plastic bags. All items can be stored in a backpack, which is easy to grab and keep handy during an emergency. If you’re assembling multiple individual emergency kits, you can also store those in backpacks or drawstring bags. 

Take care that confidential information, such as employee names, photos, emergency contact information, and medication, should be kept in an emergency kit that will be used only by an individual or people in charge. 

How to Maintain Your Workplace Emergency Kit 

It’s important to review and maintain your kit over time, after you’ve used your work emergency kit, or as your company grows and experiences turnover. Review your kit at least every six months or after major company changes. Take the following steps to keep all items usable and well-stocked: 

  • Update the list of employee emergency contact information for all employees, including photos, names of employees, and employee medication and medical supplies.
  • Discard and replace expired items.
  • Check batteries. Be sure to replace extra sets of batteries as well. 
  • Update information in your kit if your business moves locations, primary or secondary emergency personnel leave the company, or if evacuation routes or meeting places change. 

Appoint Employees to Be In Charge

Facilities managers are often tasked with managing emergency preparedness, but it’s also a good idea to appoint people to help. Appoint a primary and secondary person to grab the office emergency kit on the way out, and people to review and update the kits regularly. These leaders should also receive training to avoid confusion during an emergency. 

Additional Resources for Businesses 

If you’d like to learn more about emergency preparedness in the workplace, take a look at the following resources. 

Workplace Emergency Preparedness Kit Checklist

We’ve put together some essential emergency preparedness kit items, as recommended by FEMA and the CDC, as well as other items that may be helpful for your business. Use the emergency kit checklist above to reference while you’re assembling your own kit. 

Prepare Your Business for Emergencies Now 

When businesses prepare for future emergencies, it can help ensure that employees and other workplace personnel have the tools they need and understand what to do to keep themselves safe in the event of an emergency. Creating an office emergency preparedness kit or multiple kits is an investment in the health and safety of your people and your business.