Get Emergency Ready at Work
Get Emergency Ready at Work

It is important to remember that an emergency can take place anyplace and at any time. The “Get Emergency Ready at Work” preparedness guide addresses the most common emergency situations, including procedures for fire alarms, lockdowns, active attackers, medical emergency and upon receipt of suspicious packages or threatening communications. While this guide could not possibly address every emergency situation that could occur, it does provide response procedures that can accommodate various situations, such as those listed above. It does not replace existing Emergency Plans and Procedures, including Fire Safety Plans, but rather works in conjunction with these documents.

This guide was prepared in cooperation with the City of Toronto Corporate Security, Toronto Emergency Management, Toronto Fire Services and the Toronto Police Service.

An emergency can happen at any place and time, while you’re at home and even when you’re at work. If you were required to shelter in place or evacuate from your current location, would you be ready? Here are some things to consider when thinking about being prepared at work.
You may want to make sure you have the following supplies handy at work if you are faced with an emergency situation. For example, you could keep a knapsack or an easy-to-carry bag close by with some of these items (making sure you replenish them before expiry dates).

Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes at your desk.
Walking home in your heels isn’t fun.

Carry some emergency cash
ATMs might not work during emergencies. You will need cash for necessities.

Meeting places for family.
Communication modes (cell phones may not work.  Have a designated spot to meet.


  • Emergency Food Bars
  • High Energy, No Prep/Low Prep Foods (Jerky, Granola Bars, Cocoa/Soup Packets)


  • Clothing and Gear for all seasons
  • Coat, Hat, Gloves, Boots
  • Umbrella
  • Hand Warmers
  • Change of Clothing (Socks, extra sweater)
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes

Light Source

  • Flashlight
  • Extra Batteries
  • Non-Battery Flashlight
  • Glow Sticks
  • Flare Gun for car


  • Extra Mobile Charger
  • Signal Whistle
  • Pencil & Notebook
  • Emergency Multi-Powered Radio (e.g. hand crank, shake, etc.)

Personal Items

  • Time Passers, Cards, Book, Game
  • Extra medications

Important Papers & Money – most of these you can store on your mobile device

  • Emergency & Non-Emergency Numbers
  • Emergency Family Contacts:  Phone, Address & E-mail
  • Contacts at:
    • Home
    • Work
    • School
    • Day Care
    • Out of Area
    • Out of Province
    • Current Copies of Family Photos & Identification Cards
  • Personal Medical Information such as:
    • Medical Providers
    • List of Medications
    • Special Medical Equipment
    • Medical Conditions
    • Vaccinations
    • Blood Type
    • Allergies & Sensitivities
    • Health Insurance
    • Emergency Cash

If you discover fire

  • Alert others in your immediate area
  • Leave the fire area, closing all doors behind you
  • Activate the building alarm system, using the nearest fire alarm pull station
  • Call 911

Fire alarm systems

Most facilities employ a single-stage fire alarm with some larger facilities utilizing a two-stage fire alarm system. With a single-stage fire alarm, all building occupants must evacuate upon activation of the fire alarm. With a two-stage fire alarm system, the affected floors would receive an evacuation alarm, while the remainder of the facility will need to prepare
to evacuate.

In the event of a fire alarm

Fire safety plans are unique and specific to every building. Employees should be familiar with
the fire safety plan for their work place and trained in building evacuation procedures. Fire
safety plans should be posted in a common area and readily available.

Single-stage alarm system

  • Evacuate immediately if you hear an alarm
  • Follow the directions of the fire wardens and building security staff
  • Do not use the elevators
  • Evacuate to the pre-determined assembly areas, well away from the building

Two-stage fire alarm system

  • In a Stage One alarm, prepare to evacuate
  • In a Stage Two alarm, immediately evacuate using the nearest exit
  • Listen to the announcements transmitted over the building’s public address system
  • Follow the directions of the fire wardens and building security staff
  • Do not use the elevators
  • Evacuate to the pre-determined assembly areas, well away from the building

In the event of a medical emergency

Immediately call 911 and provide the emergency medical dispatcher with:

  • Your name and telephone number
  • The building name and address
  • The floor you are located on and your location on the floor
  • The nature of the emergency and any details available

Ensure scene is safe and provide first aid based on your level of training:

  • Tell patient that help is on the way
  • Stay with patient until help arrives

Call security as soon as possible – if they are onsite, they may:

  • Attend the scene with a first aid kit and/or an automatic external defibrillator and provide
    first aid medical treatment
  • Update 911 on the patient’s condition and the exact location where emergency medical
    services personnel should attend
  • Have a co-worker greet the emergency personnel and escort them to the patient’s
    location quickly

There are three basic types of lockdown situations:

  • Shelter in place
  • Hold and secure
  • Full lockdown

Shelter in Place

This type of lockdown situation is normally referred to when an environmental threat is
present outside and it is not possible or advisable to evacuate the facility. This type of action is normally in response to an air contaminant and involves keeping the air contaminates outside the building and keeping persons from unnecessarily putting themselves in medical danger.

Example – gas leak or chemical spill outside of the facility.

What to do – if it’s safe to:

  • Listen to instructions from emergency responders or building security staff
  • Proceed inside the building (if not already inside)
  • Close and secure exterior doors
  • Close windows
  • Turn off heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems
  • Encourage people to remain inside the building until the threat has passed

Hold and Secure

This type of lockdown situation is used when a serious environmental/physical threat is present outside of the facility or in the neighbourhood and prevention measures need to be enacted to protect individual(s) from leaving the facility and entering into an area of danger, or prevent the threat from entering the facility.

Example – active shooter in an area near the facility.

What to do – if it’s safe to:

  • Listen to instructions from emergency responders or building security staff
  • Proceed inside the building (if not already inside)
  • Close and secure exterior doors
  • Close windows and blinds
  • Turn off lights
  • Keep away from exterior doors and windows
  • Encourage people to remain inside the building until the threat has passed

Full Lockdown

This type of lockdown situation is used when the physical threat is already in the facility and
measures need to be enacted to prevent the threat from accessing areas where potential victims
are or may be, or to protect individuals from entering areas where the threat may be present.

Example – active shooter inside the facility.

What to do – if it’s safe to:

  • Listen to instructions from emergency responders or building security staff
  • Move to a safe area
  • Close and secure doors and windows
  • Barricade doors with furniture or wedges if unable to secure
  • Turn off lights
  • Keep away from doors and windows
  • Silence cell phones
  • Remain silent
  • Lay on the floor if gunshots are heard
  • Call 911 if it is safe to do so and if you have information such as location of attacker
  • DO NOT open the door for anyone – police and security staff will have a key and announce
    their entry
  • Remain in the lockdown response until police or security staff release you
  • If a fire alarm should sound during a full lockdown situation, do not automatically evacuate unless you smell smoke. Security or building management staff will likely give instructions through the building’s public address system


Threatening communication is any form of communication that is intended to manipulate,
control, hurt, and/or intimidate in order to cause a change in the target’s (victim’s) behaviour.
Threatening communication can be sent in a number of ways such as mail, email, social media,
telephone, voicemail, etc.

Upon receipt of threatening communication

  • Treat all threats seriously
  • Immediately contact security staff
  • If the communication is deemed to be threatening, you will be requested to also report the incident to the Toronto Police Service

If the communication is received in writing:

  • Limit handling of the letter
  • Keep the envelope
  • Do not time stamp or write on the letter
  • Contact security staff

If the communication is received over email, do not forward the email to others.

If the communication or photos is received over social media:

  • Take screen shots of the threats
  • Note the date and time received
  • Note any other details about the threat that you can perceive (location, device being used, user handle names, etc.)
  • Do not respond or engage with the user
  • Contact security staff

If the communication is received over the phone or voicemail:

  • Note the date, time and phone number
  • Write down what was said in detail
  • Do not argue with the caller
  • Do not transfer the call
  • Do not make any further calls from the extension that the call was received on
  • Upon completion of the call, immediately move to a different phone and report the details of the incident by calling security staff

Any threats of self-harm or harm to others or the environment should be reported as soon as possible to your local police service. Use the non-emergency number but use
your own discretion (and/or discuss with a supervisor) whether the threat is serious or
urgent enough to call 911.


A suspicious package is a package or envelope found or received by mail, courier or delivered in person, which arouses the suspicion of the receiver because of suspicious indicators such as
construction and/or marking characteristics.

A suspicious package may be incorrectly addressed or poorly wrapped, or it may be a hoax (made to look like a device). Suspicious packages may indeed contain dangerous materials such as an explosive device, some type of blade or a chemical or biological agent.

Each type of suspicious package poses separate difficulties.

Upon receipt of a package or envelope, the handler should first look for any indicators which may lead them to believe the package contains a threat.

If you determine a package to be suspicious:

  • DO NOT touch, open, smell, shake or move it
  • DO NOT carry the package to show others or allow others to examine it
  • DO NOT use radios or mobile phones in vicinity of suspicious packages
  • Immediately notify police by calling 911
  • Immediately notify security staff
  • Immediately notify your supervisor/manager and fire warden
  • Have building operations shut down the HVAC system
  • Have remaining building employees search their individual areas for suspicious packages
  • Evacuate area once exit routes are determined safe

If the suspicious package was found:

  • Attempt to establish ownership of the package by asking others around if it is theirs, did anyone see it placed there and if so by who, etc.
  • Check for secondary suspicious packages in area and on routes leading away from the area in which the original package was found
  • Once determined safe, evacuate surrounding area

If you come into contact with a leaked product:
In addition to the above procedures,

  • Isolate yourself from others – leave the room or area
  • Remove all clothing and place in a sealed plastic bag or container
  • Flush your eyes with lots of water
  • Decontaminate yourself using soap and water
  • Change into uncontaminated clothes (clothing stored in drawers or closets is likely to be uncontaminated)
  • Follow directions of emergency response personnel


An “active attacker” is an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.

Response actions

When an active attacker is in your vicinity, you must immediately react. It is critically important to prepare yourself, mentally and physically, to deal with the situation.

  • Your first action should always be to RUN
  • If getting away from the active attacker is not possible, HIDE
  • If you can’t run, and it isn’t possible to hide, or if you are found, FIGHT


If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to get away from the active attacker. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow
  • Leave your belongings behind
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active attacker may be
  • Keep your hands visible to any emergency response personnel
  • Call 911 when you are safe


If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active attacker is not likely to find you. Ideally, your hiding place should:
Be out of the active attacker’s view

  • Be in a room with a lockable door or one that can be secured with furniture and/or wedges
  • Have heavy furniture such as cabinets and desks that you can use to block the door and hide behind
  • Have no sources of noise (silence phones, TV, radio, etc.)


If evacuation or hiding out is not possible, as a last resort, you should attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active attacker by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against them
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons
  • Yelling
  • Committing to your actions

Police response
When the police arrive:

  • Remain calm and follow instructions
  • Drop any items in your hands such as bags, jackets, etc.
  • Raise your hands and spread your fingers
  • Avoid quick movements towards the officers
  • Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling
  • Do not ask questions when evacuating

Run/Hide/Fight is used with permission from the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public and Homeland Security.


Bomb threats can be delivered in a number of ways including over the phone, through email,
in writing, etc. Bomb threats are designed to disrupt the normal flow of business by creating an atmosphere of anxiety or panic. While the probability of receiving a warning where an explosive device has been placed is quite low, it is important that all threats be treated seriously. Evacuations and/or detailed searches do not automatically occur for all bomb threats. The decisions on actions that are taken is specific to each threat.

In the event of a bomb threat

If you receive a threat by phone, email or mail:

  • Immediately contact security staff
  • Do not delete any email messages
  • Limit handling of a written threat
  • Call 911

If you receive a phone threat:

  • Remain calm and ask the caller the following questions:
    • What time will the bomb explode?
    • Where is it?
    • What does it look like?
    • Where are you calling from?
    • Why did you place the bomb?
    • What is your name?
  • Write down as much information as possible including: the time, telephone number, exact words used, identifying characteristics of the caller, etc.
  • Immediately contact the police through 911
  • Immediately contact security staff
  • Follow the instructions given by security staff and the police