Do your warehouse or distribution center employees know what to do if there’s a fire in the building? What about how to handle a medical emergency, or where to go if there’s an earthquake, tornado or other severe weather event? What about how to safely respond to a hazardous material spill or building security issue?

If you can’t answer each of those questions with a confident “yes,” then it’s time to develop, implement, or revisit your organization’s and your facility’s emergency action plans.

These written documents outline your operation’s procedures that should be followed during specific incidents. They delineate a chain of responsibility for such things as deciding when to evacuate or shelter in place, who is authorized to speak with the media, how to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation, which outside emergency response organizations (paramedics, law enforcement, fire departments) to contact when, and how to address any internal or external formal reporting or documentation of the incident required by insurance, municipalities, or federal government organizations after the event.

Everyone in the building should be trained (and re-trained) on these plans and procedures at least annually. Doing so will help equip your team with the skills and knowledge to help see them through a crisis of varying proportions, such as a medical issue, a fire or other catastrophic event, or another unexpected warehouse emergency. Being prepared by knowing what to do in a given scenario can often help a person tamp down on their immediate reaction — which is frequently panic — and instead respond to the situation calmly and safely.

Training should include drills and exercises to practice, refine, improve, and confirm the plans’ effectiveness. These can include workshops or seminars (online or in person); active discussions among teams — perhaps during the pre-work shift meeting — to talk through different scenarios and responses; or functional simulations, such as a real evacuation similar to the fire and earthquake drills we all practiced during our first 12 years of schooling. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) offers a variety of resources to help develop these exercises, including a Preparedness Toolkit.

For organizations who haven’t developed a set of emergency actions plans yet, or those who wish to update or modify their existing procedures, there are a variety of best practice guidelines and training resources available based on the specific scenario. These include:

Having experienced more than one of these types of incidents first-hand during my career, I feel it’s also important to plan to host an internal debriefing post-event. Obviously, the organization’s key leaders should be involved, as well as anyone directly involved in the incident and the response to it. In some cases that may be a handful of people; in others, it may be the entire workforce of an operation.

In addition to allowing everyone to hear the facts about the incident that just occurred, it’s also an opportunity to talk through how the emergency response plan was executed. Discussion points should include what went well, what did not, and areas for improvement in the future. Additionally, persons who were most directly impacted by the incident may need some additional time off and/or emotional support to help them recover from the experience. Consider having mental health professional resources available as needed should employees need some extra assistance in processing the event.

Looking for more information about the types of solutions DCS can implement in your operation that enhance worker safety? Connect with us.


Danny Krause, Manager of Safety and Quality,

Danny Krause serves as the Manager of Safety and Quality of Designed Conveyor Systems and has 15+ years of experience in leadership roles with complex integrated conveyance systems for MHE, DC operations, and baggage handling operations. He is a forward-thinking safety specialist with a positive record managing crew, materials, and site activities. In his free time, he enjoys being on the water and spending time with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter.