6 Tips to Plan Your Workplace Emergency Drills + Downloadable Safety Checklist

Preparing your organization for the unexpected requires a lot of careful planning. While taking preventative action can’t entirely put a stop to hazards or accidents, it can greatly reduce the potential risks and consequent costs. Above all, having a contingency plan in place is crucial for keeping your employees safe.

In addition to providing adequate personal protective equipment for every one of your employees, training all personnel to remain composed during emergencies is also important. Conducting routine emergency drills allows employees to familiarize themselves with evacuation and safety procedures, and understand exactly what their roles are in the event of an emergency. 

Here are a few useful tips to help you develop an emergency plan that is right for your organization.

1. Conduct Tabletop Exercises

Before conducting a full-scale drill, having discussion-based tabletop exercises can be a great way to help each employee understand their role in an emergency situation. It is much less stressful than an actual drill, and allows everyone to clarify responsibilities. Another advantage of a tabletop exercise is it allows everyone to validate plans and capabilities in a cost-effective way.

Pro tip: Test hypothetical situations and evacuation plans ahead of time so each employee can familiarize themselves with their duties before a full-scale drill takes place.

2. Define the Scope of the Drill

Defining the specific objectives of an emergency drill is crucial preparation for an effective practice run. For example, clarifying who should participate, what functions of the organization will be evaluated, and what type of emergency situation will be addressed are all objectives that can be addressed. This way,  the organization can synchronize efforts across departments and work towards a common goal. 

By summarizing the drill scope and crafting a thorough purpose statement to outline the goals and reasons for the exercise, everyone across the organization can refer to the statement when questions arise and remain on the same page. 

Pro tip: After defining the scope of the drill, figure out what equipment and supplies you’ll need during the drill in order to plan ahead. 


3. Change Up Scenarios

Emergency light up sign in buildingEmergencies can occur in an endless number of ways, and it’s important to be prepared no matter what the situation might be. If an emergency exit or evacuation route is blocked in the case of a real emergency, employees must be able to respond immediately and seek an alternative route or action.

Instead of regularly practicing the same emergency drill, switch up scenarios in each exercise to make sure that employees are capable of reacting to different conditions. This will help employees develop the ability to think on their feet and respond to emergencies in a safer and more efficient manner.

Pro tip: During the drill, make certain members of the emergency response team unavailable to ensure that employees can react swiftly in any condition.

4. Establish Metrics and Compare Results

Establishing standards and metrics is an essential way to compare drill performance results. These success metrics can help your organization gather valuable information on each emergency drill and analyze variables. For example, if the objective is to decrease employee response time to the alarm, the results should be properly documented and assessed after each practice.

After carefully analyzing the data collected, the team can be more intentional about the goals for the next drill, and have a clearer understanding of what needs to be improved.

Pro tip: Document each drill using an emergency report checklist to help analyze performance with objectivity and consistency.

5. Don’t Announce Emergency Drills

The main purpose of conducting emergency drills is to prepare employees for unexpected situations. If each drill were announced beforehand, employees would be less likely to take them seriously. 

Without a sense of urgency and unpredictability, drills would not be helpful in preparing employees for emergencies. While planning for unexpected drills may take a lot more effort and internal coordination, the results will make the extra effort worth it in the long run. 

Pro tip: To ensure safety best practices are met, plan for your team to engage in a surprise emergency drill at least every six months.

6. Use Observers to Identify Loopholes

Construction workers pointing to something on the jobsiteHaving a trained independent observer at each emergency drill is important for identifying loopholes or flaws in the evacuation process. Since observers have the experience and level of expertise for specific drill practices and activities, they provide great value in the evaluation process. After each practice, observers can provide their observations and present suggestions for improvement.

Pro tip: Instead of selecting an employee as an observer, hiring an independent third-party observer could increase the chance of spotting potential faults during the drill.

Important Types of Emergency Drills to Practice

To be fully prepared for unexpected situations on the jobsite, it’s important for employers and employees to practice emergency drills regularly. Start investing in your workplace safety by conducting these four types of common emergency drills:

1. Fire Drill

Everyone should be equipped with sufficient fire-fighting equipment so that it is easily accessible in case of an emergency. High-risk sites like construction and any job working with flammable materials should frequently conduct fire drills and regular safety inspections to ensure adequate precautions are in place. 

2. First Aid Drill

Someone performing CPR on another person

Life-threatening accidents can happen at any workplace, and there is nothing more important than knowing how to administer first aid in these situations. Whether the person just suffered a severe cut or experienced a heart attack, basic first aid knowledge will always come in handy to help provide initial assistance before medical help arrives.

3. Chemical Spill Drill

When working with toxic substances such as plasticizers, surface-active agents, and concrete mixture chemicals, having a chemical spill response plan is essential. In addition, practice drills should also take into account the type of chemical involved since the safety procedure may vary. 

4. Electrocution Drill

Serious injury and even death can occur from exposure to electrical hazards on jobsites. To ensure employees’ safety, employers should conduct regular practice drills to educate employees on what to do if a coworker is electrocuted. Apart from saving the lives of others, drills can also teach employees how to properly use personal protective equipment as a last line of defense.

Emergency Drill Report Checklist

Emergency drill report checklists are important for making sure each drill is fairly evaluated and all bases are covered. For example, was everyone present and accounted for during the drill? Were all rooms and surroundings checked appropriately? And did everyone evacuate in a safe and timely manner?

Using a drill report checklist not only ensures that each performance is well-documented but it also helps streamline emergency procedures. Download the checklist below to create a template for your own workplace.

Emergency drill checklist graphic

In addition to using an emergency drill checklist, here are some essential supplies needed to complete an emergency drill:

  • Megaphone for guiding employees to safety during evacuation
  • Working fire detectors to signal the start of a fire drill
  • Emergency first aid kits in case of injuries
  • Well-lit exit signs to help employees navigate evacuation routes

Developing a thorough emergency drill plan is more than just copying and pasting policies and procedures from another company. Each organization is unique and therefore requires thought and effort to craft a plan that is tailored to the organization.

After creating a comprehensive safety plan, it is even more important to conduct emergency drills that adhere closely to what has been mapped out. Lastly, the most crucial step of performing drills is the assessment and evaluation process afterward. This helps organizations gain a better understanding of which procedures could be improved in the future. 

Though routine emergency drills might not be the most exciting activity, they are absolutely necessary for ensuring the safety of all employees. All company owners should make an effort to examine their current contingency plans and proactively develop a plan of action to better respond to foreseeable risks.

Whether it’s through taking preventive measures to ensure worksite safety, training employees on how to use fire safety equipment, or scheduling regular tabletop exercises, emergency drills can help everyone be prepared. Ultimately, employees’ wellness and safety should always be your number one priority. 


Sources: HSDL