Preparing your business for an emergency

Natural disasters and emergency situations can strike without warning. It's important to be ready for all sorts of emergencies, whether:

  • natural – such as floods, drought, fire, landslides and storms
  • human caused – such as crime, terrorism or riots
  • technological – such as explosions, building or bridge collapse.

During an emergency, the main aim is to ensure your business continues operating. By carefully researching and planning before an emergency happens, you can help make sure your business is ready.

An emergency management plan will help guide your business before, during and after an emergency. It should document some of the following steps. This page covers how to put these into practice, and prepare your workplace and staff for an emergency.

1. Take out insurance for your business

Insurance can help your business get back on its feet if things go wrong. You can insure against disasters and for business disruption – to cover your losses during the recovery period.

If you already have insurance, check that it covers you for potential risks. Read your product disclosure statement carefully – don't assume you're covered. Look up the definition of certain terms such as floods as they may vary among insurers. You may only have cover for some disasters if you have chosen additional cover.

2. Choose a suitable business location

Make sure you have a suitable property for your business. You may need to consider things like:

Ongoing maintenance is important. In fire prone areas, ensure you maintain the surrounding areas:

  • remove leaf litter and long grass
  • clear gutters regularly.

3. Back up and secure your data

One of your priorities should be to store important business documents in a safe location, including:

  • registration records
  • financial records
  • customer data.

Regularly back up digital records, and store the backup in a secure offsite location or in a cloud-based storage. When considering data protection devices (such as fire proof safes) check the type of data that you can store in them. For example, some fire proof safes should not store digital data as the media can melt in high temperatures.

Check you have up-to-date virus protection, secure networks and firewalls, and secure password protection procedures.

4. Prepare your emergency contacts

Keep a list of key emergency phone numbers in a secure location. These should include the local state emergency, police, fire and ambulance services.

You could also include a list of recovery contacts, such as your:

  • insurance company
  • bank
  • building society
  • employees
  • suppliers
  • other key people.

5. Review your evacuation procedures

Your business should already have an evacuation procedure as part of your workplace health and safety (WHS) obligations. Consider expanding your current evacuation procedures to include emergency scenarios such as a flood, bush fire or severe storm.

6. Create an emergency kit

Your emergency kit should include useful items and documents you may need in an emergency, such as:

  • key documents
  • phone numbers
  • a torch
  • first-aid kit
  • portable radio
  • plastic bags
  • spare batteries.

Keep this in a prominent place that is easy to get to.

7. Set up an emergency action team and communicate

Communication is essential when preparing your business for an emergency. Your emergency management plan should include people who are responsible in an emergency situation. Make sure you set clear roles and responsibilities and provide appropriate training. Train employees in as many areas of the business as possible.

Get your emergency staff to communicate relevant emergency information to all your employees. Display your evacuation plan, key phone numbers and emergency supplies in a prominent location and let your employees know where to find them.

8. Rehearse your emergency management plan

Regularly rehearse with your staff what to do in an emergency. Consider expanding on your fire evacuation drills to include emergency scenarios you'll be much better prepared.

9. Ensure your ABN details are correct

Make sure your ABN details and business location are correct on the Australian Business Register (ABR). Government agencies use this information to check if you are eligible for financial assistance, grants or support during emergencies.

Did you know?

Your main business address on the ABR should not be a post office box or tax or BAS agent address (unless you are running your business as a tax or BAS agent).

To ensure you have access to the right government financial support, we need to know the physical street address of your business or organisation.

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