Many external threats are outside of your control, but preparing for them is within your control. A strong environmental contingency plan can help you respond to environmental disasters in a way that minimizes loss, business interruption and liability.

Environmental Emergencies and Disasters

When creating an emergency plan, it’s important to consider what events are possible. This will depend on many factors, and possible disasters may be natural or caused by humans.

Additionally, natural disasters may trigger industrial disasters, meaning that the two often need to be considered together. For example, a severe storm may cause a leak involving toxic chemicals.

Possible environmental disasters and emergencies include the following:

  • Hurricanes
  • Floods
  • Wildfires
  • Structural Fires
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornadoes
  • Winter Storms
  • Nuclear Disasters
  • Oil Spills
  • Hazardous Gas Leaks
  • Hazardous Chemical Spills

Emergency Preparedness: Assessing Your Resources

When you’re working on your contingency planning, it’s a good idea to review the resources that could help you. For example:

  • Who are the people on your team who can help with the plan? Who will be responsible for creating the plan?
  • What emergency planning tools and environmental contingency plan templates can you use?
  • Which third parties can you rely on? These might include insurers, financial institutions, partners and vendors.
  • What federal or local agencies are relevant? Consider reporting requirements and safety regulations.

Emergency Procedures: Identifying Priorities

Emergencies tend to be chaotic and confusing. You may be pulled in multiple directions at once as you try to tend to everything that needs your attention. As a result, some of the most urgent tasks may be overlooked. To avoid this, it’s important to establish your priorities ahead of time.

The number one priority should always be human health and safety. Consider what will be needed to keep your workers and others on the premises safe.

  • Are the exits clearly marked and easily accessible?
  • What are the evacuation routes that people can use to safely leave the area?
  • What lines of communication will ensure that people are aware of imminent dangers?
  • Who can people contact during an emergency for help?
  • What supplies do they need in case they are trapped on site during an emergency? Supplies could include food, water, radios, blankets, flashlights, batteries and first aid supplies.
  • What hazards on the site, such as toxic or flammable materials, do they need to be aware of, and how should these hazards be handled? Conduct a chemical inventory.

According to, after safety, the second priority should be stabilization of the incident. Depending on the type of emergency and the details of your business operation, incident stabilization may include the following:

  • Extinguishing a small fire
  • Containing a chemical spill
  • Administering first aid
  • Notifying the proper agencies

Your Contingency Plan: Before, During and After

A good contingency plan should include the steps that need to be taken before, during and after potential emergencies and disasters. When creating your plans, consider the following questions.

  • What training and practice drills will be used to prepare your team for potential emergencies?
  • How will you be notified of potential threats? Advance warning can have a big impact on your company’s efforts to keep people safe and mitigate the damage.
  • What emergency warning systems will be used when there is a substantial threat? Think about the warning systems in place for various emergencies, from tornados to chemical leaks and fires. Designate a person to be in charge of emergency warning systems, alarms and detectors.
  • During the emergency, what steps must be taken to ensure safety and contain the incident? Write down the actions needed, the decision makers in charge of each step and the tools and resources available.
  • If your company’s operation is impacted, who will need to be notified? This could include your insurance company, your vendors and customers, your employees and clients, as well as regulatory and governmental agencies.
  • After the emergency, what resources will be available to help with the recovery? Document available resources and the person in charge of each.
  • When will the building be cleared for workers to return? Designate a person or a team to be responsible for ensuring safety.
  • How will this information be communicated to workers? Consider your communications systems and how they might be impacted.
  • If recovery takes a prolonged time, can some business operations continue in the meantime? Can work be done remotely or at another site? What resources will be needed to make this possible?