3 Keys to Effective Emergency Plans



In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, there are a great number of retailers in Texas and Florida working hard to pick up the pieces and determine the next steps to get back on their feet. Flooding didn’t just impact homes, it impacted stores, destroying inventory and disrupting business.

Even if you’re not in a hurricane zone, winter is right around the corner, and with it will undoubtedly come other extreme weather conditions. Then there are emergencies that have nothing to do with weather—fires, gas leaks, power failures or worse can have a serious impact on your business.

That is why it’s crucial to have a plan in place for emergencies and make sure your team knows what to do should disaster strike. In fact, if you have more than 10 employees, the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires you to have a written plan

So, what do you need to know?

1. Understand Your Insurance
While not directly related to an emergency plan, ensuring that your store and your goods are covered should something go drastically wrong will go a long way toward ensuring the longevity of the business. Know what kinds of emergencies are covered and which are not, and make sure to carefully review that paperwork each time you renew your policy, in case of any changes. 

2. Develop a Response Plan 
Make sure you’ve created and documented a plan in accordance with OSHA’s guidelines, including how employees should report emergencies, evacuation procedures, a plan for accounting for all employees after an evacuation, rescue and medical duties if employees perform them, and names or job titles of those to be contacted in such situations. 

3. Train Your Team
Spend a staff meeting talking through the plan with your team and ensure covering emergency information is included in each employee’s onboarding and early training. Then create a plan for reviewing this information with team leads, managers and/or employees who open and close the store regularly, so that there is always a staff member on hand who knows the policies. 

Pet Store Specifics
The tips above are pretty standard for any retailer—but pet stores with live animals have a few additional details they’ll need to think through while creating their plan. Whether you carry fish, hamsters, or rescue kittens, make sure employees know what to do for these animals in an emergency situation. 

The unfortunate reality is that some emergencies may not allow all of animals in the store to be saved. However, in some cases, employees may be able to take actions to ensure the animals will be okay, even if the emergency situation impacts the store for an extended period of time. 

Thinking through these situations in advance can help ensure the best possible outcome should disaster strike. 


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