This is A Successful Emergency Response Plan in Construction

by | Feb 16, 2024

Many will remember the classic line from the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” If you work in the construction industry, you know that in the process of building, one thing is certain – issues and risk are inevitable and plentiful.


For this reason, it’s crucial to be prepared and have an emergency response plan in construction. A solid crisis communication plan will enable you to communicate clearly with all your stakeholders should an issue arise.


This blog will highlight a few of the most common pitfalls in construction. As you read, keep in mind how a good system of crisis communication can help prevent risks, lessen their impact, and even help you recover when calamity strikes.


Know Your Stakeholders

Navigating the complexities of any crisis requires proactive communication with all your stakeholders. An emergency response plan in construction requires a masterful understanding of the web of relationships within your industry. Each stakeholder is a vital influencer in determining the outcome of resolving any issue or crisis.


Employees: The Foundation of Resilience


Imagine this scenario: an unfortunate accident injures one of your workers on the construction site. Your employees will look to you for guidance and reassurance that you are in control of the situation. They will also be crucial to helping you respond, recover and thrive in any crisis.


They are, after all, your first line of defense. By establishing clear protocols and ensuring employees are trained to follow them, you not only safeguard their well-being but also fortify the project’s integrity. Remember, an informed employee is an empowered one, able to act swiftly and smartly when every second counts.


Customers / Clients: The Pillars of Trust


Nothing is more important than your customer. Whether it’s a municipality, a company, or developer, it’s one of the first phone calls you will have to make if something bad happens. By keeping the lines of communication open and transparent, you reassure them that their investment is in capable hands. Timely updates and an action-forward approach can turn a potentially negative situation into a testament to your company’s reliability and commitment to client satisfaction.


Investors: The Sustainers of Growth


Investors are the pillars of your company’s growth and future. If something happens on site that could potentially affect their bottom line, investors need to know. Transparency will help maintain trust with your investors moving forward. Let investors know what’s happening and what you’re doing to resolve the issue.


Project Partners: The Harmony of Collaboration


Large construction projects typically include many financial stakeholders from engineering firms, architects, municipalities and so on. An emergency response plan in construction is a unifying force, aligning all partners under a common goal: the project’s continuity and success. It’s a coordinated dance to ensure that every step, every development, is communicated with precision and purpose.


Subcontractors: The Mesh of Reliability


Subcontractors add layers of complexity to your operational fabric, each thread as crucial as the next. In emergency scenarios, these relationships need to be managed with a nuanced understanding of their roles and concerns. Their schedules, manpower, and deliverables—each aspect needs to be addressed within your response strategy to maintain workflow and uphold contractual obligations.


The Public: The Canvas of Perception


The construction site is a visible entity, and the public’s perception is painted by the strokes of your company’s actions, especially during crises. The public’s interaction with your project may seem peripheral, but it holds considerable weight. A transparent approach, especially facilitated by a construction PR agency, can shape the narrative positively, ensuring that public sentiment remains favorable, and the project’s reputation, unblemished.


What Can Land You in Hot Water?


It’s bound to happen. You can avoid planning for an inevitable risk or prepare for the situation and tackle future emergencies head on. We’ve made a step-by-step guide emergency response plan for some of the most common emergencies and crises that can arise on a job site.


Employee Accident and Injury

When an accident strikes on-site, it hits everyone hard. It’s a moment that tests your resolve and the depth of your planning.


Four First Steps:

  1. Immediate Care: Dial 911 immediately! Administer first-aid/CPR to injured personnel and designate a person to meet ambulance/EMS to direct them onto the site and take them directly to injured personnel. Secure the scene and ensure everyone’s out of harm’s way.
  2. Notify and Note: As soon as the crisis has been detected, on-site personnel should notify their site supervisor who will then notify the Project Manager. An investigation should then begin documenting what happened, what actions have been taken and other pertinent details. All appropriate authorities/Government agencies should also be notified immediately.
  3. Circle Back: Once the dust settles, gather your crisis communication response team to conduct a hot wash. Assess how the issue was managed, what can be improved upon and any changes you will implement to improve response and communication practices. Clear, open dialogue builds a safer, better tomorrow.
  4. Stand by Your Team: Offer to support those affected. It’s about more than just liability; it’s about showing your team they truly matter.


Fires and Explosions


A blaze or a blast can strike at any time. The response needs to be just as swift in its efficiency.


First Steps:

  1. Clear Out: Get everyone to safety immediately. Then begin a roll call ensuring every person on your job site is accounted for.
  2. Call the Authorities: Firefighters, ambulance services and police will need to be alerted. Cooperate fully with them and communicate clearly with them on building blueprints, job site logistics and any other information they may need in an emergency.
  3. Damage Report: After the all-clear, it’s time to size up the situation. Assess the severity of the situation in terms of loss of life, injuries, property damage, and how you can prevent it from happening again?
  4. Talk About It: Your employees and your stakeholders need to understand how you have responded to the issue at hand. Be upfront about the impact and your next moves.


Workplace Harassment

Harassment issues can also be a reputation destroyer. Dealing with it starts with recognition and ends with action.


First Steps:

  1. Take It Seriously: Investigate claims immediately. Demonstrate that your workplace has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of harassment in the workplace.
  2. Support those Impacted: Listen to employees who voice concerns, investigate claims, and make it clear that your company does not tolerate that behaviour.
  3. Policy Patrol: Are your HR policies and practices up to date? If not, it’s time to reinforce them. Education, prevention, intervention.
  4. Keep Lines of Communication Open: This isn’t a hush-hush issue. Keep your team in the loop about what you’re doing to address issues and invest in workplace harassment training.


Environmental Spills


Environment spills have the capacity to be more than a local story. If communities and waterways are impacted, the scope of the crisis could lead to national media exposure. You cannot afford to make any mistakes when responding to an emergency of this magnitude. ALL eyes are on you.


First Steps:

  1. Contain It: Stop the spill from spreading. This is job number one.
  2. Report It: Alert the appropriate Government and environmental agencies. Full transparency is your friend.
  3. Say It: Prepare a hold statement for the media and draft up key messaging to have on hand in case of an environmental spill. Let the community and other stakeholders know what happened, who you are cooperating with in the cleanup, and how you’ll prevent it form occurring again. Own it and be proactive about communicating it so that you shape the narrative of the story.
  4. Fix It: Start the cleanup and fix the damage. Show that your company is a good steward of the land, not just a contractor.


Project Delays


Delays can drag your company’s name down. But handled correctly, they can also show your mettle.


Four First Steps:

  1. Pinpoint the Problem: What is causing the delay? Identify it.
  2. Reset the Clock: Update your timelines and let everyone know. Predictability breeds patience.
  3. Mitigate and Move: Put in place measures to minimize future delays.
  4. Communicate Consistently: Shape the narrative of your story with consistent messaging with all stakeholders in person and written communiques. Consistent updates with the same messaging means no nasty surprises for anyone involved.




Legal entanglements? They’re thorny. Clarifying who’s at the wheel when the wheels come off is crucial.


Three First Steps:

  1. Consult Your Lawyer and UNDERSTAND The Case: Your lawyers should be consulted at the beginning of any sign of a major issue. They should work in coordination with a crisis communication specialist to offer a legal lens on what messaging is being relayed and how to your stakeholders.
  2. Internal Recon: Gather the facts, document the incident, and interview witnesses. Build your case from the inside out.
  3. Strategic Sharing: Tell your stakeholders what they need to know without stepping outside any legal guidelines.

Nicole Harris

Nicole Harris is the Founder and CEO of Solv Communications, a leading Reputation Management and PR agency in the Prairies. As a former network television news anchor and reporter, Nicole has gained deep insight into the power of earning trust through strategic communication. Over her 15-year career in the media she has covered some of the most high- profile risk management stories including cyber breaches at Fortune 500 companies, product recalls, workplace violence and everything in between. Nicole and her team’s extensive industry knowledge and strategic guidance will help you focus on what is in your control to mitigate risk and minimize damage to your reputation. It’s all about prioritizing strategic planning to spot an issue, effectively manage it, and develop action plans to safely steer you through any situation before it damages your reputation. Nicole has developed and delivered bespoke reputation management, strategic, and media training for senior executives, board members, politicians, and celebrities.

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