Emergency preparation for retail businesses

You should prepare for emergencies that are most likely to occur and have the greatest impact on your business.

Potential emergencies include:

  • biosecurity threats (pest and animal disease outbreaks)
  • workplace accidents or deaths
  • dangerous material spills, leaks or explosions
  • loss of power, infrastructure or transport disaster
  • terrorist or major criminal incidents
  • climate change risks.

To get back to business sooner, use these 4 stages to help your business manage an emergency:

Top 10 tips to manage an emergency

Use these top 10 tips to prepare your business. For detailed steps, continue reading below.

  • Tip 1

    Make a plan

    Create a business continuity plan to identify your risks and plan what you will do

  • Tip 2

    Check policies

    Check workplace policies and procedures to reduce the risk of biosecurity threats, workplace accidents and other emergencies

  • Tip 3

    Train staff

    Ensure staff know and understand business policies and procedures

  • Tip 4

    Review insurances

    Check your insurance and finances are adequate to cover risks

  • Tip 5

    Conduct emergency drills

    Do regular emergency drills with staff, customers and guests and document in your plan

  • Tip 6

    Report incidents

    Know how to report legally notifiable incidents

  • Tip 7

    Wellbeing and safety

    Offer support to any impacted staff

  • Tip 8


    Communicate the steps you've taken to resolve the emergency and prevent it reoccurring

  • Tip 9

    Promote your business

    Develop marketing strategies to promote positive news

  • Tip 10

    Recovery planning

    Record lessons learned and update policies, plans and staff training

Prevent and prepare for an emergency event

Make a plan

Consider what actions you can take to prevent or reduce the likely effects of an incident and prepare steps to plan for, respond to and recover from unavoidable events.

Complete a business continuity plan (includes an emergency plan) to help you prepare, respond and recover from a workplace accident, serious injury, incident or crisis.

Prepare or update your emergency plan – you have a legal responsibility as a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) to ensure there is an emergency plan prepared for your workplace.

Steps to include in your plan:

  • identify the key emergencies most likely to occur and that would have the most negative impact on your business
  • prepare a risk management plan (part of your business continuity plan) to prevent or reduce key risks
  • plan how to respond if emergencies do occur
  • identify staff emergency roles and responsibilities
  • share team contact details
  • record customer, supplier, insurer and emergency contacts
  • identify and record local emergency alerts and contact channels
  • prepare an emergency kit
  • create a business emergency evacuation plan and procedures (e.g. identify assembly points, assign roles, shutting down operations process)
    • use the emergency plan fact sheet from Safe Work Australia to prepare your plan
    • appoint first aid officers and provide training
    • conduct regular emergency drills with staff, visitors, customers and/or guests and document in your plan
  • create an event log to record information, decisions, actions and 'before and after' damage photos for insurance purposes
  • plan how to recover from an incident
    • identify alternate off-site locations and introduce ways for staff to work remotely
    • explore alternative stock or equipment suppliers if supplies are disrupted.

Plan for specific emergencies

As part of your risk management plan consider how likely and what impact the following emergencies could have on your business and ways to prevent or reduce these risks.

Respond during an emergency

Know where to get the most up to date information and where to get help if you need it. Always phone Triple Zero (000) in a life-threatening emergency and follow emergency services' advice.

If a workplace emergency (fire, police) occurs:

  • immediately phone Triple Zero (000) and follow emergency services' advice
  • keep staff, visitors and customers safe
  • activate your business emergency plan and assign emergency roles
  • collect your emergency kit
  • secure business premises, stock and equipment, information, records and data if there's time.

If a workplace accident or medical incident occurs:

Report all notifiable biosecurity incidents immediately to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Biosecurity Queensland) on 13 25 23 . Examples of notifiable incidents may include:

  • animal health and diseases – including emergency diseases, blisters on the mouth or feet of stock and abnormally high mortality rates in animals or plants)
  • plant pests and diseases – including weeds that may be new to Australia, unexpected crop failures, a sudden and unexplained fall in production
  • pest ants, including fire ants, report to 13 25 23 or complete the online fire ant yard check form
  • contaminants (e.g. heavy metals, asbestos, residual organochlorine pesticides or pathogenic bacteria) above a prescribed threshold.

Report suspicious behaviour or extremist activities immediately to the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400. Suspicious behaviour can include:

  • unusual purchases of large quantities of fertiliser, chemicals or explosives
  • unusual filming of official buildings or critical infrastructure
  • suspicious vehicles near significant buildings or busy public places
  • unattended bags.

Learn more about responding to negative social media or media coverage relating to the incident.

Continue to monitor the situation and follow emergency services or authorities' advice.

  • Communicate regular updates to staff:
  • Communicate with customers and suppliers:
    • advise customers, suppliers and distributors of any changes to your business operations
    • update your website and social media about the situation and any changes to your business operations.

Recover after an emergency

It can take months or years for businesses to fully recovery from some emergencies. Having a plan to respond and recover from an emergency can help speed your recovery, but it can be better to defer big decisions about your business's future until later.

  • Use your business continuity plan to assess your business operations.
  • Consider what your back-up or alternative re-opening options might be, including:
    • using alternative premises (e.g. home, library, suppliers)
    • buying or hiring equipment
    • contracting out work
    • reduce hours
    • providing limited services or products
    • selling online only
    • compare your prices to competitors.
  • Read about suggested key messaging to stakeholders.
  • Provide affected staff or customers with information and contact details for support services.
  • Keep customers and suppliers updated about your business operations and how or when to fill orders or bookings.
  • Answer emails promptly, thank people for support and log customer phone calls.
  • Celebrate and let people know about your recovery steps, milestones or successes.
  • Update your business continuity plan and business policies and procedures.
  • Record lessons learned from your business recovery (e.g. adequacy of insurance policies, emergency planning, IT, accounting and record-keeping systems).
  • Review and update your emergency plan and procedures.
  • Schedule regular emergency evacuation drills and provide appropriate training for staff.


Communication is crucial during an emergency. Your staff and customers will want to know what measures you're taking to manage the incident, reduce its impact and prevent it from happening again.

Consider who your business needs to communicate with during and after an emergency. Key stakeholders may include:

  • staff
  • a regulatory body or agency
  • customers, clients or guests
  • suppliers and distributors
  • an industry body.

It's recommended you talk to staff face to face and phone or email key customers, clients or suppliers who may be directly impacted.

To communicate to stakeholders:

  • use social media channels and your website to get the message out widely
  • use innovative ways such as videos, photos and promotions to advise when your business is back up and running.

You can adapt the messages below to suit your stakeholders.

Key messages following an emergency

  • We are saddened to confirm that a (staff member/visitor/client/guest) was (injured/killed) in an incident today.
  • We are devastated by this accident and our thoughts are with them, their families and those who witnessed the incident.
  • We take the safety of our staff/guests/customers very seriously and we are working closely with authorities.
  • We are working closely with authorities and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to assist in any way we can.
  • We have suspended our operations/tours and will work with authorities to determine when we will re-open.
  • We would like to thank emergency services for their immediate response.
  • Our thoughts are with the individuals affected and their families.
  • Our priority is allowing emergency services to do their job.
  • We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of our (staff, customers and/or guests).
  • Authorities are well prepared to handle events like this, so please follow any directions they make.

Contact your bank

  • Ask your bank about financial hardship options, for example:
    • changing loan terms
    • temporarily pausing or reducing repayments
    • deferring repayments and interest payments (all missed payments and interest will need to be repaid)
    • waiving fees and charges
    • consolidating your debt
    • finance to help cover cash flow shortages
    • deferring upcoming credit card payments
    • increasing emergency credit card limits
    • waiving early termination fees to access term deposits.
  • Provide loan details (account name and number, payment amounts) and an overview of your financial situation.
  • Request a hardship variation by using the sample letter generator from the Financial Rights Legal Centre to send to your bank.
  • Your bank must advise you within 21 days about your hardship request. If you can't negotiate a variation, you can:

Contact utility providers

  • Contact your utility providers' hardship team about electricity, gas, phone or water bill payment options.
  • Contact your insurer – if you are not covered for the emergency situation, find out if you can make a claim under your business interruption or income protection insurance.
  • Contact the Insurance Council of Australia (phone 1800 734 621) if you have questions about your policy or don't know who your insurer is.
  • Check if your insurance policy:
    • funds clean-ups
    • requires authorisation before repairs begin
    • provides emergency or advance funds for wages or recovery activities
  • Gather all information about the claim:
    • complete an event log
    • items to claim and when purchased
    • equipment, furniture you've had to throw away
    • photo and/or video evidence.
  • Make a claim and resolving issues:
    • lodge claim as soon as possible – don't wait for a full damage assessment before making a claim
      • insurers must fast track a claim if you can demonstrate 'financial need' (read item 64 of the General Insurance Code of Practice) – if the insurer agrees, an advance payment must be made within 5 days
      • your insurer must inform you of their decision within 10 business days of receiving your claim
    • contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678 if you can't reach agreement with your insurer
    • phone Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 651 188 if you need information and advice on how to get a claim paid.

Go back to Small business disaster hub for other industries and disasters.