Emergency maintenance is an all-hands-on-deck nightmare for any team. It has negative impacts on business, causes safety issues or even loss of life. You need to take these situations seriously, and a big part of that is preparing for them before they happen so the team can react quickly.

An emergency where immediate maintenance is essentially any repair that you need to do immediately to keep people and assets safe. If left unattended, the damage could be substantial and even hurt your bottom line and have reputational costs.

Anytime there is a situation where emergency repairs are needed, the fix is not always done quickly. These situations require team members to coordinate and suspend all other tasks until the issue is resolved. The longer teams are focused on the emergency, the more time it takes them to eventually go back and catch up on the other tasks. 

Emergencies cause so much stress for you and your team. These situations have the possibility to cause a significant amount of loss, and it sometimes is hard to get the emergency under control. Instead of running around putting out fires and putting your assets and team in harm’s way, minimize your risks with preventive measures.

When you create a preventive plan, you are preparing for the future to lower risks and have a procedure in place for when emergencies inevitably arise. It’s impossible to plan when these types of events occur, but this way, you cut down response times to minimize loss of assets and time, and keep people out of harm’s way.

What is an example of emergency maintenance?

First, it’s worth noting that “unplanned” maintenance is not the same as “emergency” maintenance. Though this is a common misunderstanding and they do have similarities, emergency maintenance is generally events such as:

  • Fires
  • Service outages
  • A sewer line backing up into a unit or complex
  • Air conditioning going out in extreme temperatures
  • Elevators breaking down with people trapped inside

Emergency maintenance is classified as anything that leads to health and safety issues. There are two kinds of emergency maintenance, depending on the type of building and location in which it occurs.

Residential maintenance is when emergencies pop up in places where people live, such as apartments, hotels, or assisted living communities. Examples of what this looks like include:

  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • No water
  • Burst pipes
  • Leaking roofs
  • Broken AC units

Address these situations  immediately to keep those who live in these hospitality and residential areas safe and prevent companies from suffering any loss.

Industrial emergency maintenance occurs within industrial locations from either accidents, untrained staff, or someone dropping the ball on a scheduled task that leads to a complete failure of an asset. This can be:

  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Gas Leaks
  • Electricity outage
  • A boiler breakdown or explosion
  • Pipes or tanks breaking or leaking

There are many reasons for why these types of emergency events occur, but the best way to prevent them is to make sure you have trained workers and have a plan in place.

How can you prevent emergency maintenance?

Emergencies are impossible to avoid, but there are ways to help prevent them and better prepare for when they happen so you can fix the problem much quicker.

The best course of action to take to prepare and prevent is to have planned and scheduled maintenance SOPs. These plans need to be in place for you to stay ahead of the maintenance curve. That way, you have some control over your operations and can rest assured that even when unavoidable emergency repairs come up, your team has the knowledge and the right plan in place to fix it as soon as possible.

There are a few different strategies that you need to use to help you and your team prevent emergency repairs, and you need to choose which best matches your assets. Preventive maintenance is generally the best option.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance is a set of planned, routine tasks that ensure the equipment is in good working condition. CMMS software comes in handy when creating your scheduled preventive maintenance plan to help prevent emergencies from catching you and your team off-guard.

There are a few other smaller ways to help prevent emergency repairs by incorporating them into your preventive maintenance plans, such as:

  • Ensure your team is well-trained
  • Use tools in ways only recommended in their manuals
  • When doing a replacement, use parts from the manufacturer
  • Have your checklists and procedures easy to access and understand for your techs
  • Make sure the workers who operate potentially dangerous and critical assets are knowledgeable about all aspects of the equipment, including safety procedures

Using the right software, managing, scheduling, and planning your inspections and tasks is easy. All your data is stored and updated across the board in the cloud, meaning no more outdated paper lists or spreadsheets, and you won’t have to worry about your team looking at out-of-date work orders or plans. 

Your team having ready access to these plans and tasks helps give you the edge you need over your maintenance schedule and prevent emergency repairs to minimize risk and loss and extend the lifespan of your assets. 

How should you prepare for emergency maintenance?

Your top priorities are health and safety. You have to make sure your workers are not in immediate danger and that technicians do their work safely and effectively. This is why you must have a plan in place for when emergencies happen.

Additionally, there are four steps to take when faced with an emergency maintenance situation:

1. Determine what your emergencies are

Before you make a plan, you’ll need to know the difference between what an “emergency” and ‘urgent’ maintenance looks like for you and your company. You have to clearly define this to your team as the two types of maintenance sometimes overlap and have similarities.

So how do you identify the “real” emergencies? 

Emergencies: happen fast and cause safety or health issues. They also cause major business disruptions and need immediate attention 

            Urgent: non-emergencies that are easy to fix during regular business hours

Defining what your emergencies are helps your company better maintain your assets and resources.

2. Outline your emergency maintenance workflows

This is where you create a workflow of what to do when emergencies occur. The various ways to report, record, and process are:

  • Manual response: when a worker reports an issue to someone in charge, the matter in question is evaluated, and a work order is generated. This work order needs to be monitored from start to finish.
  • Automated response: a system that detects anything wrong within your assets and high-risk equipment without a person manually doing any work. This means that the system shuts down if any failure or danger is detected and generates maintenance requests on its own. 
  • CMMS: utilizing CMMS software helps record incidents, tasks, emergency maintenance and data so that you have access to and are able to analyze important data that helps you get an idea of how to prevent emergencies in the future and overall improvement. CMMS software simplifies these processes for you instead of having to rely on unreliable spreadsheets and paper documents.

Keep in mind that the workflow that you decide can be a mix of any of these. It just depends on what is best for you and department.

1. Outline emergency maintenance procedures

When you’ve defined your emergencies, you need to plan what emergencies may occur and create lists of procedures for your technicians to adhere to when faced with an emergency. That way, if it were ever to happen, your tech team already knows what steps to take.

These can be steps such as assessing the situation and damage, notifying the right person, and isolating the danger. Having a general outline available for your team of what to do in these emergencies helps reduce danger.

2. Implement CMMS software

Human error, incompetence and lack of training, and machine failure are the most common reasons emergencies occur. To ensure your scheduled tasks don’t get ignored or forgotten, you need to automate maintenance. CMMS software helps you automate these processes, which reduces your workload and makes tasks more clear and accessible to your team.

CMMS makes your life easier by helping you:

  • Schedule work and letting your team know, so nothing falls through the cracks
  • Store data for easy access to all maintenance history which helps with diagnosing failures
  • Offer real-time communication between team members and those in charge
  • Have instant access to all lists, lock out/tag out procedures, documents, and safety guidelines 

When an emergency does occur, one of the most important things you need to do is determine what went wrong by getting to the root of the problem. 

So how do you do that? Use the ‘5 Whys” method.

Though the number of questions you ask yourself can vary, the general idea of the “5 Whys” method is that you address the obvious answers first, but by asking yourself more questions, your answers will eventually boil down to the root cause of your problem. Whatever cause you determine, you’ll understand how to prevent it from happening in the future, or at the very least, have it happen less. 

CMMS software makes your work easier. Data, tasks, and schedules are all stored in one place, and reduces the amount of human error, overlooked tasks and misunderstandings within your team.

Who benefits from emergency maintenance prep?

You and your team benefit from taking the proper steps to ensure you have a plan in place for when emergencies occur. Both teams and managers need to know how to minimize risks and to prevent loss of life and resources from happening by having a procedure on hand that’s understood across the board. 

This is made easier when you use the right CMMS software to keep up with your maintenance tasks, scheduled repairs, and inspections and have accurate, up-to-date data available to you and your team, so nothing falls through the cracks.

Having a solid system in place with trained technicians is the most important step to take to prevent emergency maintenance requests.

Next steps

The best way to decide is to talk with someone from the industry. All you need to do is find the right provider. 

Hippo has many ways to help. We can answer your questions, help you book a live software demo, or even set you up with a free trial.


CMMS software solutions help maintenance departments keep critical assets online for less money by streamlining processes and capturing and leveraging reliable data. Unlike older management systems, a modern CMMS lives in the cloud, ensuring everyone has access to up-to-date data. Organizations across industries can see concrete benefits from the systems, including more uptime and less wasted time and money. When choosing a CMMS, it’s essential to consider not only the features but also the complete user experience, including implementation, training, and ongoing support.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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