Emergencies can happen anytime, including during business hours. You can’t predict when they will happen, but you can take actions to make your business more prepared.

Identify the risks to your business and staff

An important step to getting prepared is finding out what the risks are and how they can impact on your business. Risks include natural hazards, health emergencies and utility failures.

If you have staff, talk to them about the risks they think are most relevant to your business.

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Keeping everyone healthy and safe at work doesn’t necessarily mean buying expensive equipment and lots of paperwork. It does mean taking a proactive approach and getting everyone at work involved.

Make an emergency plan for your business

Businesses have an obligation to be prepared for an emergency. In most cases we can’t predict when an emergency will happen, but we can make plans to make sure our staff are safe, our financial and personal losses are reduced and we are able to get back to business as soon as possible.

Your plan should include the following.

  • Emergency procedures for fire, earthquake, tsunami and other hazards.
  • Assembly points, wardens and first aid training.
  • How to contact staff, suppliers, clients and insurance providers.
  • Alternative arrangements if you are unable to access your premises, files, etc.
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Business.govt.nz has a guide on what to include in your emergency planning, including identifying risks, developing emergency procedures, insurance cover and contacting and supporting staff.

Do NOT run outside during an earthquake

It is frightening to stay in a building immediately after an earthquake, but it is much safer than immediately going outside.

When you eventually evacuate, take your wallet, coat, bag and grab bag. You are more vulnerable if you leave these things behind. Large open areas with no tall buildings, power lines or other hazards immediately adjacent are best as an evacuation assembly area.

 Man doing Drop, Cover and Hold under his office desk

Look after your staff

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff, including caring for them during and after emergencies.

Start by involving your staff in identifying risks and making an emergency plan. Talk to them about what they, and their families, would need to get through an emergency.

Make sure your staff have personal workplace emergency plans so they know who to contact at work in an emergency and have a plan to get home safely.

This personal workplace emergency plan will help you plan for an emergency during working hours.

personal-workplace-emergency-plan-en-nov20.docx docx 181 KB
personal-workplace-emergency-plan-en-nov20.pdf pdf 221 KB

Resilient Organisations has advice for looking after staff after an emergency, called Staffed or Stuffed.

Provide supplies for your staff

In an emergency, your staff may be stuck at work or unable to take transport home for a day or more.  

Ensure you have enough supplies for everyone onsite, including visitors, to get through the first few days together.  

  • Buildings are damaged

    You may need dust masks, work gloves, hard hats or tools such as wrecking bars and sledge hammers.

    Staff are unable to leave the building

    You’ll need food and water (at least three litres per person) for three days or more, sanitary items, etc.

    Staff are unable to use their usual transport to get home

    Encourage staff to have supplies in their work grab bags in case they need to walk home or to their meeting place. Make sure they have household plans with their families that include how they will get home, who they will travel with, where they will meet if that can’t get home, etc.

    People are seriously injured

    You may have to provide for people with serious injuries until help arrives. Make sure you have blankets, stretchers, a complete first aid kit, etc.

  • These suggestions for equipment and food are guidelines only. The amount and types of equipment and food you have at work will depend on the number of staff, the nature of your business, the type of building, and your location.

    • Blanket, foil
    • Blanket, wool
    • Stretcher, foam
    • Stretcher, board
    • Rope, poly 30m
    • Rope, sisal 12m
    • Torch, batteries
    • D batteries
    • Radio, batteries
    • AA batteries
    • Gloves/debris
    • Dust mask
    • Goggles
    • Water
    • Water tablets
    • Hard hat
    • Bucket
    • Plastic bin bags
    • Wrecking bar
    • Saw, wood
    • Saw, hack
    • Sledge hammer
    • Cutter/pliers
    • Axe
    • CD first aid kit
    • Meths stove for water
    • 3 ltr billy for water
    • Matches (pkt)
    • Lighter
    • Disposable gloves
    • Toilet paper
    • Sanitary needs
    • Broom
    • Brush/pan
    • Disinfectant
    • Mouth guards
    • Light sticks
  • Example food requirements for 25 people for 3 days

    Ensure basic food supplies are also in the cabinets. Food items should be replaced on an annual or bi-annual basis.

    The following is a suggested menu; note that the quantities are quite small, and may not be adequate for people doing physical labour.

    Example: DAY 1

    • Baked beans, 10 x 820g cans
    • Cream corn, 10 x 440g cans
    • Raisins, 4 x 12 mini box packet
    • Muesli bars, 3 x 8 bar box

    Example: DAY 2

    • Tuna in water, 10 x 425g cans
    • Potato salad, 10 x 310g cans
    • Raisins, 4 x 12 mini box packet
    • Muesli bars, 3 x 8 bar box

    Example: DAY 3

    • Spaghetti, 10 x 820g cans
    • Green beans, 10 x 425g cans
    • Raisins, 4 x 12 mini box packet
    • Muesli bars, 3 x 8 bar box

    Additional Food/supplies

    • Barley sugars, 9 packets
    • Chocolate, 9 king size blocks
    • Paper plates, 125 x 25cm
    • Plastic forks, 100
    • Methylated spirits 1 x 1 litre
    • Can opener x 4
    • Large garbage bags (for sanitation) 25

Build relationships

Get involved in your local business community. Get to know your local Chamber of Commerce, industry organisations, business neighbours, competitors and suppliers and talk to them about their emergency and business continuity plans. In an emergency, you may be able to help each other get back up and running faster by sharing equipment, premises, etc.

 Three workmates filling out their personal workplace emergency plans

Create contingency plans

Develop a contingency plan for your whole business, including staff, information, assets, customers, suppliers and distribution channels.

  • Identify your core business needs, and how you’d manage in an emergency.
  • Back up your data.
  • Know how to contact staff and suppliers.
  • Test your back up systems.

Follow the Shut Happens action task list to create contingency plans for your business.

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Continuity and contingency planning is about being prepared for all types of disruptions, e.g. an earthquake, broken equipment or losing a supplier — and quickly getting back on your feet. Use the business.govt.nz step-by-step guide to get your plan sorted. It’s vital to your business’s survival.

Prepare a plan for your farm or lifestyle block

Rural communities, businesses and individuals need to adapt and build resilience to adverse events, like natural disasters, severe weather, and biosecurity incursions.

Your animals are your responsibility. You need to include them in your emergency planning and preparation. Failing to plan for them in case a disaster happens (such as an earthquake or flood) puts lives at risk.

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The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has advice for preparing a plan for your animals in an emergency, including checklists for different types of animals and different emergencies. Work through the checklists to develop your plan.