Emergency Preparedness in Everyday Life and Work

Life is busy!  Just keeping up with everyday activities and tasks is a challenge for most people.  While we may think about what might go wrong on any given day, we are often not thinking about out-of-the-ordinary emergencies.  How ready are you for when things go significantly haywire?  This article talks about basic emergency preparedness in everyday life.

What Could Happen Next? Assessing Emergency Risk in Everyday Life

First, pull out a piece of paper and pen, or open a blank page in your online journal, and for just a few minutes, write down the most disruptive and generally unexpected things that could happen in your everyday life.  For this exercise, we are not talking about hurricanes, terrorist attacks or pandemics.  We are focused instead on the most common emergencies that can disrupt life.  Here are some examples:

  • Car accident
  • Critical health emergency in your immediate family
  • Emergencies involving non-local family or friends, where you would have a role in a response
  • Break in essential services (no power, or significant failure in home – like a pipe bursting


There may be others for you – these are just prompts to get you out of everyday thinking and into emergency-thinking mode.  Now, think through the actions and activities that you would need to engage with should these events occur.  Here are some general question prompts:

  • Would you know who to contact and do you have easy access to that information, ideally in both online and offline formats?
  • Can close friends or family access your home in case of an emergency? (For pet and family care, to pick up essentials, to allow in emergency services)
  • If something happened to you or a family member, can someone find your emergency contacts easily? Does it include a primary care contact for medical needs?
  • Do you know how to quickly notify service providers if your power or internet goes out or if there was a water emergency?
  • Do you have advanced medical directives easily available for you and your family, and are they on file with your doctor or local health system?
  • Have non-local, close family members given you emergency contact information for local support should you need to go there?
  • How much gas is in your car? How much cash do you have on you, or could you get to quickly?
  • You have 10 minutes to get ready to leave home for 2-3 days. Do you know what you would grab?

A lot of articles on emergency preparedness take a “go big” approach, focusing on emergency plans and kits – and this higher level of planning certainly has its role and place.  However, it is also useful to think about the small things you can do on an everyday basis that can make an emergency just a little easier to absorb and respond to.

Emergency Readiness at Work

In addition to everyday emergencies that involve family and friends, there may be unexpected emergency events at work. As with the previous sections, take a few minutes to write down workplace emergencies that you are most concerned about. Here are some examples for prompts.

  • Medical emergency for an employee at work
  • Employee unexpected does not show up to work
  • Break in essential services (no power, infrastructure disruption)
  • Emotional crisis in workplace – threat of workplace violence or emotional disturbance

Now, think through the actions and activities that you would need to engage with should these events occur. Similar to the discussion above, here are some general question prompts:

  • Do colleagues know how to contact you in an emergency?
  • Do you know how to contact your colleagues if they did not report to work as expected?
  • Do you have emergency contact lists for colleagues if there was some type of incident where it would make sense to contact a friend or family member?
  • Have you established protocols for when you might contact friends or family if you have not heard from your colleague within a certain timeframe?
  • How quickly could you gather essential items and leave work if needed?
  • Do you know how to exit the building in case of a threat? Where would you go?
  • If you were not able to access your office for a few days, could you keep working? What could you do regularly to make your work more portable in an emergency?
  • Do you know how to quickly account for colleagues in an emergency?
  • If you lost access to your work network, how might it change your access to the information you would need to answer the questions above? So often, we assume we would be able to access the network or Internet to get the information we need – in fact, that may be the first thing to go wrong.

How you approach these questions may depend on how much you and your office are working in a remote, telework, or in-person environment.  More distributed workforces mean that offices need new ways to account for people and manage local or distant events involving employees.  This makes the “emergency pause and reflection” exercise above worth doing periodically or when conditions significantly change.

For more on workplace safety, Pryor offers several training options in the OSHA and Workplace Safety category.  Human Resource professionals can also learn about compliance with different workplace safety regulations and requirements.

Pop Quiz:  10 Questions

Here are 10 “Yes/No” questions to answer to do a pulse check on your level of emergency preparedness on an everyday basis.

  1. If your cell phone charged at a more than 50% level right now?
  2. If you have a car, is the gas tank more than 50% full?
  3. Do you have a list of emergency contacts listed somewhere visible in your home?
  4. Do you have emergency contacts marked on your phone or on you when outside your home?
  5. Do you have an emergency medical directive and do your emergency contacts know where it is?
  6. Do you have enough cash on you to pay for a cab ride home, from most places you go during a normal day?
  7. Do you have quick access to cash to buy food, water and emergency supplies to last 1-2 days?
  8. Do you know how to determine if there has been a local emergency that is impacting your water or power supply?
  9. If you had to leave town for 2-3 days, do you know where you would go within 5 miles (emergency shelter), 50 miles (temporary evacuation), or within 200 miles (longer-term relocation)?
  10. Do you have a list of things to take with you if you had just 10 minutes to vacate your home?

The more “Yes” answers, the better you are generally prepared for an emergency.  If you had a lot of “No” answers, think of just one or two easy changes you could make to increase your preparedness level.

Living a Prepared Life

On a very practical level, how we live our everyday lives can help improve our emergency preparedness.  Our organizational skills, general resilience level, ability to stay emotionally regulated – these are all areas that support us both when things are going well and when emergencies occur.

Here are some general tips for building resilience for an emergency:

  • Stay Healthy: Maintaining your physical and mental health can help us better cope with emergencies. This includes regular exercise, healthy eating, managing stress, getting enough sleep and seeking support when needed.
  • Have a Standard Life Rhythm: It may seem counter-intuitive, but having a regular schedule and patterns gives you a baseline cadence that can help you in an emergency. This is because you can better access your muscle memory, so you know what may be impacted and what should come next when things go awry.
  • Stay Flexible and Adaptable: Staying attuned to the world around you – and learning to be more present in the moment – can help you be more flexible and adaptable in an emergency.  When an emergency happens, make a mental note that you will need to plan to be flexible, so you can adjust your plans and actions based on the evolving situation.
  • Help Others and Build a Community Network: Establishing a regular pattern of helping others, even when there is no emergency builds your network and resilience when things go wrong – either for others or yourself. Individual acts of kindness build community, which can be invaluable in times of stress when you too may need some help.
  • Continued Learning: Keep yourself updated on relevant community resources. If you have aging relatives, start early to understand options should an emergency lead to longer or more-intense support needs. Being more knowledgeable will help you be better prepared in an emergency.

Browse our offerings in Personal Development for resources and tools to support stress management, emotional intelligence, project and time management, communication, goal-setting and more.