tools & resources

Terrorism Response and Emergency Preparedness

Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere over the world. They are planned to inflict death, destruction and chaos while people are going about their lives (e.g., working or commuting to work).

Overarching themes for employers when developing emergency preparedness plans include effective employee communications, strong relationships with local public health and disaster/emergency officials and agencies, plans for business/leadership continuity.

There is no one business continuity plan that is appropriate for all companies in any location. Emergency planning should be tailored to the needs, obligations, and culture of each company and should be seen as an ongoing, evolving operation that must constantly adjust to changing conditions. Threats may be unique to specific industries, or to certain workplaces and particular workforce personnel. Resources available will also vary greatly, depending on location, inside and outside the US.

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, major global insurers and other vendors have upgraded their emergency medical services for American expatriates and other key employees working overseas for US-based companies. These services can include: emergency medical assistance, evacuation or assistance in finding a hospital or other medical services (and in some circumstances direct cash payments); outbound calling capability to family in the US; free individual or group counseling, up-to-the-minute information about developments as they unfold, and other critical health and emergency services. Contact your vendor and review emergency services available, and communicate these broadly (email, website, webcasts) to employees.

Here is a condensed guide and list of reminders, and a brief catalog of outside resource links that can be consulted and adapted as appropriate.


Employers need to build emergency planning and public health into their cultures; distributing plans is only a start. Plans must be exercised in order to be truly effective. To adequately address the varied concerns and needs of employees, communications should be accurate, consistent, and repeated frequently.

Consider incorporating these components into your employee communications program:

  • Develop systems for communication with employees in a timely manner.
  • Establish and enable website linkage to aid information flow to employees about community efforts and terrorism preparedness and response — at work and in the home.
  • Make messages culturally competent — employers need to address all employees and write plans that are in languages and at reading levels that mirror the workforce.
  • Share and reinforce information about how to address employee stress, anxiety and other mental health needs in the wake of terrorist attacks and other disasters. Encourage access to company-sponsored EAP programs.
  • Inventory and communicate how to get needed services before, during and after an event — from the company, public health agencies, other public/civic institutions.
  • Guard against emergency preparedness burnout — with constant news stories and fluctuating alert levels, individuals can burn out quickly and become immune to the "new normal".


Companies should develop strategic partnerships with local public health leaders to develop collaborative emergency preparedness responses. Such efforts will help assure that responsibilities are clearly defined and coordinated with existing systems and protocols. Furthermore, companies can consider ways to lend their expertise and resources (medical staff and facilities, employee volunteers, etc.) to further enhance the capacity of public service agencies, particularly during periods of high demand for services.

Similarly, public health agencies can identify and disseminate informational, training and other resources for improvement of workplace and community preparedness. Companies should share relevant workforce data, on-site storage of potentially harmful substances and materials, and their emergency plans with the public health agency.

Other things to consider in these public/private partnerships:

  • Obtain dedicated phone lines for employer/senior managers to access experts/authorities.
  • Provide opportunities for education and training by public health and community emergency responders for relevant company staff.
  • Share information related to public transportation and evacuation routes, and community capacity to respond to mass casualty situations.
  • Develop and enact field tests and drills to evaluate community capabilities and response to specific threats.

III. Business Continuity, Security, and Community

Since 9-11, American companies and other global corporations have developed or further refined business continuity and leadership succession plans for use during terrorist events and other disasters. Because they involve many internal departments, regular communication and cooperation amongst appropriate company managers is essential. Businesses should collaborate and connect with community leaders involved in emergency preparedness, such as hospital bioterrorist response coordinators; emergency fire and rescue personnel; and other relevant resources to assist with coordination efforts and facilitate involvement in emergency planning and response.

Business community crisis management planning might also include these elements:

  • Coordinated efforts to account for employees, and provide emergency housing and alternative commuting services as appropriate.
  • Mutual aid agreements between and among other businesses and civic/public agencies.
  • Regular reviews of emergency plans, including drills.

IV. Other Resources

Here are some previously published Business Group resources, and informative websites that you may find useful in preparing for and responding to various emergencies and disasters, both natural and caused by humans.

UK Home Office — UK terrorism information network (what you can do at work):

American Society of Industrial Security:

The National Disaster Education Coalition:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Resource Library

National Business Group on Health Documents (from 2002 toolkit)

Employer Checklist/Additional Resources:

Sample Emergency Preparedness and Readiness Plans: sampleemergencyplan_lgemployersa.pdf sampleemergencyplan_lgemployersb.pdf sampleemergencyplan_lgemployersc.pdf

Related Global Business Group on Health Resources:

Employee Assistance Programs Outside the U.S.A: Toolkit for Employers

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