It is crucial to develop a plan that outlines what you will do when faced with an emergency.
Your emergency management plan should be clear and easy to follow for all your staff members. The plan is most effective when everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities during an emergency.
There are three important stages in emergency management planning. They are:
- identifying incidents and developing emergency response procedures
- staff training
- implementing and monitoring the emergency plan.
Develop your Emergency Management Plan
Use the template below to record possible incidents and develop emergency response procedures.
The template shows how to list incidents and assign actions and people.
Step 1: Identify possible emergencies
You can also speak to your local council or your Regional Tourism Board about the emergencies that occur in your area.
Remember – you have a duty of care to customers and staff as part of the Occupational Health & Safety legislation, which includes employees, contractors, visitors and customers. Preparation will help to ensure the safety of everyone.
Triggers for different crisis events
Once you have identified the emergencies that might impact your business you should identify triggers that will activate your emergency plan.
Your triggers will depend on:
- your circumstances and location
- the nature of the imminent disaster
- the advice of the state's emergency services agencies.
Your triggers should be concrete, measurable and suitable to your specific business situation.
When identifying your triggers, consider:
- the level of physical risk to your business and the risks to people's lives
- the location of your premises or business activities
- your duty of care to your employees and customers and the time it takes to inform them of a risk or threat, especially if they are vulnerable or have special needs
- the advice provided by emergency services agencies.
Make sure you understand the three levels of warnings to determine the triggers for your safety procedures for each of the levels:
- Warning (Watch and Act)
- Emergency Warning
Emergency Services may send an SMS or voice message to landlines to warn people of an emergency. This system is called Emergency Alert.
Step 1: Develop emergency response procedures
Once you have created a list of possible incidents, the next step is to decide what you will do when these incidents occur.
Once you have decided the actions that need to be taken, you will need to appoint a person or persons to complete the response.
Included in your actions should be how you will stay informed during a crisis. This may include:
- downloading the VicEmergency app and creating a watch zone
- monitoring VicEmergency website
- use the news or Bureau of Meteorology website to monitor the forecast
- listening to the radio on high-risk days
- signing up for information from your regional Tourism Crisis Management Group.
It is important to receive timely and important information during a crisis as it will help reduce the uncertainty of your situation and any unnecessary stress.
The VicEmergency website provides the Victorian community with one, centralised location for emergency warnings and information for a range of events, including:
- water safety
- shark sightings
- traffic hazards.
The website also has planning, preparedness and recovery information related to emergencies.
In addition to information about how to prepare for and respond to emergencies, VicEmergency now includes advice that assist communities in their recovery after a crisis event.
For help with English, you can call the Translating and Interpreting Service on free call number 13 14 50 and ask them to telephone the VicEmergency Hotline.
Accredited visitor information centres
In many cases, emergency service agencies will send updates to accredited visitor information centres in Victoria so information can be passed on to visitors and tourism businesses.
To receive the latest information about the crisis response and recovery process for the tourism industry, make sure you are listed with the nearest accredited visitor information centre and the database of your regional and local tourism associations.
If you are a member of these organisations, you should automatically be on their contact databases.
Communicating with customers and staff
How well you communicate can have a major impact on how comfortable customers feel throughout the emergency.
Ways to communicate to customers and staff include:
- Preparing a bulletin and keep it updated. The tone should be factual and calm with an emphasis on following the advice of the emergency services. Try drafting an example of a bulletin now. Decide on your layout and standard headings so you have this at hand if you need it.
- Updating your website and plan how you will use your social media channels to post timely information for immediate consumption.
- Holding staff meetings.
- Sending out staff specific communication to keep them informed throughout the emergency. Remember to also keep staff who are not currently at work informed.
Providing accurate information
Provide your customers with official information that will help them to make informed decisions about what they should do.
Providing incorrect advice to any member of the public in relation to a crisis event may put you in a position where you are liable for their safety.
How to provide official emergency information
- Encourage customers and staff to check VicEmergency for the latest information.
- Refer customers to Parks Victoria for park and forests closures.
- Display information and maps from VicEmergency. For example, install an information board at reception.
- Provide customers with resources such as community information guides and visitor safety brochures to help them understand what to do, for example on high risk days or if there's a fire.
- Free resources are available to order through the VicEmergency Hotline by phoning free call number 1800 226 226.
- If you need to inform customers verbally, share with them the official advice and advise them of where they can seek more information.
- For help with English, there is a Translating and Interpreting Service on free call number 13 14 50 who can put non-English speakers through to the VicEmergency Hotline.
Disruption to communication activities
Consider the following:
- Know if your business's landline telephones need to be connected to the power supply.
- If you have a telephone that works with battery backup equipment during power outages, test the battery periodically, understand how long it should last, learn how to replace it, and consider having a spare battery that is always fully charged.
- If you have a telephone that won't work if there's a power failure, then you need to consider how this might impact your business.
- If you're not sure if your phone will work during a power failure, you should:
- read the instructions for the telephone to see if there's a warning label stating that this type of telephone will not work if there's a power failure.
- test your telephone – unplug it from the electricity supply and make a call (make sure the phone is still connected to the telephone socket).
- If you don't need to use the phone right away, you can disconnect the battery to prevent it from draining and plug it back in when you need to receive or make calls.
- Charge your mobile phone if you're advised of an imminent emergency. Also, consider keeping an extra battery and a car charger on hand.
- Charge your laptop or tablet computer. If your electricity goes out but secure WiFi is available in your community, you may be able to use your laptop or tablet to stay online and in touch.
- Official emergency broadcasters are an important source of information during emergencies, so consider keeping a battery-operated, solar-powered, or hand-crank-operated radio or portable television for use during power outages.
Telephone network failure
- Limit non-emergency phone calls – this will minimise network congestion, free up "space" on the network for emergency communications, and conserve battery power if you are using a mobile phone.
- For non-emergencies, try text messaging from your mobile phone.
- Conserve your mobile phone battery power.
- Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call – redialing a mobile call multiple times in quick succession can increase network congestion, further limiting the ability of all users to place calls.
- If you have 'call forwarding' on a landline phone in your business, consider forwarding those calls to your mobile number –particularly in the event of an evacuation – so you can continue to receive incoming calls to your business telephone number.
Option 1: Evacuate your business
Having clear evacuation procedures avoids confusion and possible injury during an emergency.
Evacuation will be recommended if there is an imminent threat to you and evacuation can be undertaken safely. In fast-moving emergencies, you may not receive a warning or a recommendation to evacuate.
Under Victoria's emergency management plan, the recommendation to evacuate people is based on:
- the scale of the threat
- modelling and predictive information
- specific populations
- health and safety risks.
How will I know when to evacuate?
You should remain vigilant on days of severe or extreme weather events by proactively listening for warnings and other emergency information.
- check incidents and warnings on the VicEmergency website
- call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 240 667
Listen to your emergency broadcasters:
- ABC Local Radio
- commercial radio
- designated community radio stations
- free-to-air television.
You may also receive an emergency warning via your landline or mobile phone (Emergency Alert), VicEmergency app and website, or local contact (door knocking or police car loudspeaker).
What do I do when I am advised to evacuate?
When evacuating, follow all directions and instructions from emergency services:
- immediately follow the directions contained in the evacuation advice from emergency services
- secure your premises if time permits
- follow your evacuation procedures.
The safest option in the lead-up to an emergency is to always leave early.
Leaving early is the recommended course of action and should be your first consideration and included in your planning.
Leave early on high-risk fire days
If there is a fire in your area – you should not rely on a call to evacuate. On Catastrophic or Extreme days, the safest option is to leave fire risk areas before fire threatens.
Incident on site
For more information on fire and evacuation, consult your local fire authority (Fire Rescue Victoria or Country Fire Authority), local council or shire.
If you're in a multi-tenanted building, make sure the building manager run practice evacuations for all tenants as part of your lease arrangement.
Option 2: Stay where you are
There may be some circumstances, such as fast-moving emergencies, where a safe evacuation is not possible and it's safest to stay where you are. You should understand the different threats and plan for all possibilities.
If you are instructed by the emergency services to stay where you are and find shelter, do so immediately.
Step 3: Staff involvement and training
Everyone who works at your business should be trained up in your emergency procedures.
Decide what training your staff will need to implement your emergency management procedures, and when and who will deliver this training. Training may involve exercises such as evacuation practice. After undertaking an exercise, allow staff the opportunity to provide feedback. This will help identify any issues that came about during the exercise so that procedures can be improved.
- it's strongly recommended that at least one first aid-trained staff member is present during opening hours
- it's crucially important that staff are fully involved in any emergency procedures and that your procedures are practiced regularly.
In addition to training, make emergency procedures and information available to staff, such as posting contact numbers near telephones and in operations manuals. Include emergency information in newsletters, on your company intranet, in periodic employee emails and other communication tools.
Step 4: Implement your emergency management plan
During an emergency you should monitor the situation and use the triggers you have identified in your plan to know when to act.
Planning is a continuous process. To be effective in an emergency you need to regularly update your plan to reflect changes to your business and environment. These changes should be communicated to staff and updated in training programs.
It's important to remember that planning for an emergency is a proactive, consultative and ongoing process. You can't do it on your own and the risks can change.
Make sure you speak to your local emergency services regularly.