Disaster strikes without warning and can leave employees confused and lost. Anticipating emergencies prevents this. Disaster contingency planning gives them clear instructions and an idea of how to react to sudden situations. If you’re concerned about making their safety a priority, consider planning ahead.

What disasters do you prepare for?

A disaster contingency plan anticipates and prepares for workplace emergencies that are natural or artificial. Even though you can’t predict when disasters will happen, it’s possible to plan for them.

There are two types of disasters you can prepare for:

  • Natural disasters: Nature causes these disasters. They include floods, earthquakes, fires, outbreaks of disease or tornadoes.
  • Man-made disasters: Humans cause these disasters by accident or on purpose.. These include chemical spills, explosions, biological threats or cyber-attacks.

These kinds of disasters always happen, so prepare for both to be safe. You can tell how likely a disaster is by looking at your location, the season, history and any current events. 

Start by looking at the location of the organization. Depending on where it's located, some disasters are more likely. For example, consider preparing for floods if you work in an area close to the ocean. Similarly, you wouldn’t prioritize cold weather threats if you're in an area with only high temperatures. Still, it’s best to prepare for everything to stay ahead.


How do disaster contingency plans help?

Since events happen randomly, unprepared people might panic in response. To prevent this, have a disaster contingency plan. These keep employees informed on the best way to react to dangerous situations. 

Preparing for everything is best. Extra planning takes effort, but natural disasters need individual emergency plans because you'll uniquely respond to each. For example, a tornado forces you to stay in the building, while fire forces you to evacuate. So, consider one for each event instead of having one evacuation plan.

Disaster contingency plans protect the organization and employees:

  • Protect against injury: Informed employees know the safest way to react to disasters.
  • Provide safe spaces: Some disasters might force you out of your building. Anticipating this allows you to continue work at a secure location seamlessly.
  • Allows security: If you’re prepared, you can provide employees with protection ahead of time.
  • Ensures a good response: With planning, employees will react to disasters calmly and in a timely manner.

The safety of employees is a top priority. Preparing for an emergency will only positively impact you. Beyond that, you probably are required to. Even if the organization isn’t located in zones prone to natural disasters, OSHA requires companies with 10 or more employees to have written emergency plans.


Prepare for the worst

Preparing for disasters keeps your employees safe. Storms — including hurricanes — are becoming more dangerous as time goes on. This means things you may not consider risks should be accounted for. It’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. 

In addition, some disasters may strike in unexpected places. Take Texas, for example. For nearly a week after December 25, 2022, most of the state was below freezing and experienced frigid conditions. The temperatures were typically high there, so many people had no experience with severe winter weather. 

Because people assumed they didn’t have to plan for the cold, many were in dangerous situations with no resources. Even if the chances are low, anticipate the worst scenario to be ready. To emphasize the contingency plan, post signs, evacuation routes and bulletins so employees can refresh themselves on the program whenever they want.


React accordingly

Disaster contingency planning allows employees to react calmly to emergency events. Prioritize their safety by adequately preparing them. To do so, make your plans unique. Each situation should have a specialized response. They should know whether to evacuate or shelter in place. 

Furthermore, they should be aware of the following steps after doing so. For example, if an explosion occurs at a nearby processing facility, your employees should know to stay in place and wait for an official response. 

Train them on the correct reactions and have regular meetings to check up. Also, running drills as part of your planning might be worth it if you’re in a disaster-prone area. Disasters can be frightening, but it is calming to know how to respond. 


Focus on recovery

After preparation and reaction, recovery is how to commit to employee safety. Sometimes, you won’t be able to get back to work after an emergency event. Flooding, fire, explosions or other disasters might make the building unusable. 

Also, it might be tough for employees to travel back. A proper disaster contingency plan includes steps to take after the initial event has passed. To start, the location should be easily accessible to employees. To prioritize their safety, they should only return to work if roads are clear and the building is structurally sound. 

Beyond that, cleanup is a large part of recovery. Imagine that employees return to work only to be met with a building soaked by floodwater. They should have a clean environment to work in if their safety is a priority. 

Additionally, disasters might cause further damage if you avoid cleanup. For example, flood damage that isn’t taken care of causes mold damage. You can protect a building against issues like this with planning. Make sure crews clean up all damage and remove potential hazards. If the damage is severe, keep your employees safe by having them work at an alternate space until cleanup crews fix things. 


Prepare to protect

Proper planning anticipates disasters to keep employees safe. You may never need to use some of your contingency plans, but they’re still necessary since emergencies happen unpredictably. Preparing, reacting and recovering according to plan prioritizes everyone’s safety.