Emergency Preparedness Critical for Small Business Owners

Disasters and emergencies can strike anywhere, anytime, but too many businesses lack a plan to help them deal with a crisis and recover from it.

This puts business owners, employees, and customers at risk in these situations and may also open the business to legal liability.

A smart disaster plan that covers all the bases, down to fire escape routes, active shooter training, and even emergency communications using two way radios can help businesses safeguard their people and their livelihood

According to the Boston Globe, fewer than 50% of small businesses surveyed in a study by Staples said they are prepared for severe emergencies or that the business regularly communicates safety plans to staff. 38% said their companies do not have regular safety training or drills.

Respondents said the emergencies their companies were least likely to be prepared for include excessive heat, gas leaks, flooding, or chemical spills. The study surveyed 400 office workers and 400 managers at companies of various sizes throughout the U.S.


Natural disasters and other emergencies carry huge costs for U.S. businesses. According to the Insurance Information Institute, insured losses due to natural disasters alone in the U.S. totaled $16.1 billion in 2015. When you consider the losses that insurance may not cover, it quickly becomes clear that businesses need solid emergency plans for natural disasters and other emergencies that may arise.

Identifying Possible Emergencies

The first step in better preparing a business for emergencies and disasters is identifying the crises that may occur. Some common emergencies that businesses need to prepare for include:

  • Natural disasters – Fires, floods, snowstorms, earthquakes, and other weather or related events can destroy property and cause injury and death to customers and employees. Business owners need to be aware of the natural disasters their area is prone to and take steps to mitigate the damage these events can cause.
  • Industry-related hazards – Some businesses are prone to certain emergencies because of the nature of their business. For example, a company that manufactures or handles dangerous chemicals may be at elevated risk of leaks or spills. Another company may be at elevated risk of fires or explosions because of processes that occur during the manufacturing of products. Identifying the risks inherent in your business and taking steps to minimize harm should an accident cause and emergency will help you limit your exposure to risk.
  • Medical emergencies – Customers or employees may have significant adverse health events – heart attacks, allergic reactions, falls, seizures, etc. – while on your business property. These events may be caused by something that occurred as a result of your products or services – an allergic reaction to a restaurant’s food, for example – or they may be completely unrelated to your operations. Either way, your establishment needs to have a plan for dealing with these events.
  • Active shooters or other violence – It’s an unfortunate fact that violent acts occur in public places. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, active shooter incidents are on the rise. FBI statistics show that 2014 and 2015 had 20 active shooter situations each, greater than any two-year average in almost two decades. Emergency plans can help employees safeguard themselves and your customers should such an event happen at your facility.
  • Lost child incidents – A split-second lapse in parental attention can result in children getting lost in your store or place of business. These incidents can be very stressful for parents and children alike, even when the child is quickly found unharmed. Having plans in place to secure your facility and locate missing children can help avoid potential tragedies.

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