Emergency Response Planning

As Kiwis, we know that natural disasters can strike at any time. We need to be ready for anything - whether it’s an earthquake, fire or an accident - and the first step to being prepared is a good emergency response plan. With that in mind, we've put together some quick tips to help you with your planning.

People come first:

  • Make sure you have a system in place for getting in touch, and their current emergency contact details
  • Know your headcount – how many of your team are on-site and need to be accounted for. If evacuation is required, take the register to the evacuation point so you can sign everyone off
  • Check the sign in register to make sure visitors are safe

The key is being prepared!

  • Know where the alternative exits are
  • Keep a list of your emergency equipment (such as extinguishers, fire blankets and when they were last tested) and where they are located
  • Make sure workers know where the evacuation point is and ensure it’s in a safe place, away from obvious fire, earthquake or flooding hazards
  • Make sure everyone is aware of what the emergency procedures are, and remind them at Toolbox Talks or prestart meetings
  • Know where your nearest Civil Defence assembly point is
  • Keep a list of what’s in your Civil Defence kit
  • Where possible, make sure everyone has emergency supplies, like a “Go bag”, which should be filled with water, food, First Aid kit and other emergency needs.
  • Keep a list of people who have specific skills and responsibilities in an emergency and their contact details
  • Keep a list of fire wardens and the date they were trained
  • Keep a record when your emergency plan was tested
  • Do regular trials of your plan to make sure it’s effective
  • Keep a list of emergency contacts, including useful services such as the doctor/medical centre, hospital, poison centre, local council, pollution hotline, neighbours, insurer, plumber and electrician
  • In case of chemical/environmental emergency (like a diesel spill), store appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which is available for everyone on-site. Make sure everyone is trained in the safe control of the chemicals you have on-site and emergency procedures associated with their use

 When disaster strikes:

  • Turn on your radio for advice and information
  • Know the Civil Defence warning signal
  • Know your nearest Civil Defence post and police station
  • Makes sure you have provisions available in case you are stuck at work for several days
  • Report to your manager any events that harm people or damage property

 If an earthquake strikes while you’re at work, remember:

  • Keep calm
  • Drop, cover and hold
  • Do not run outside, stay indoors where practical
  • Keep away from windows and heavy furniture
  • If necessary, evacuate using a previously identified route. Take bags, phones, wallets and emergency supplies

 After the quake, make sure to:

  • Gather staff together and establish what has happened to everyone. After stairs are checked, try to gather workers in one place
  • If the building is damaged, turn off water, electricity and gas at mains if safe to do so and conserve your water
  • Treat any injuries
  • Get in touch with your neighbours – they may need help
  • If help is needed, go to your nearest Civil Defence post

 Be extra careful when re-entering buildings after an earthquake:

  • If you’re a business owner, listen to Civil Defence advice and when safe, make a careful external inspection of your building
  • If you’re a worker, wait until your boss tells you it’s safe to go back to work
  • If you see cracks, or have the slightest doubt about the safety of the building, get an expert report before going inside
  • Once you are cleared to enter the building, be extra vigilant as the contents of the building may have shifted, material may have fallen and there could be unexpected hazards
  • If you know there are chemicals or other dangerous materials, make sure to wear PPE and be very careful when going inside.


Remember to: Stop – look – assess – and don’t take any risks!


If a tsunami happens while you’re at work and your business could be affected, remember to:

  •  Go to high ground immediately - know in advance your route to a safe location
  • Go at least one kilometre inland or 35 metres above sea level. Make sure to leave room for the people behind arriving behind you
  • Don’t be tempted to go “sightseeing”
  • Listen to the radio for information and follow Civil Defence instructions

 In case of a hazardous substance spill:

  • Raise the alarm
  • Evacuate if necessary
  • Identify the substance (if safe to do so)
  • Put on PPE
  • If safe to do so, close off source of the spill e.g. secure tops or lids
  • Remove sources of ignition, if flammable substances are present
  • Identify the danger posed by the spill, but only respond if safe to do so
  • Refer to the safety data sheet or call a certified handler or other specialist for advice
  • If necessary, call emergency services and advise the local council
  • Use your spill kit if appropriate and safe to do so. Prevent the chemical from entering drains or leaving the site
  • Dispose of waste safely, as set out in the safety data sheet

 In case of a fire:

  • Raise the alarm
  • Evacuate
  • If safe to do so, activate any emergency shut down systems
  • Call 111 and your manager
  • If it’s a small fire and it’s safe to do so, use your fire extinguisher – if it’s a large fire, don’t try to extinguish it – retreat to a safe distance and call 111
  • Don’t use water on petroleum or electrical fires
  • Do not endanger yourself
  • Make sure you have an escape route

Site Safe's health and safety advisors can help you with emergency planning, or download a free emergency response plan template here. The Civil Defence website also has useful information about what to do in a disaster.