Responding to Employee Emergencies

This document provides guidance on maintaining emergency contact information and best practices for responding to SMPH employee emergencies.

In the event of an emergency that requires an immediate response, call 911. Otherwise, HR staff should be the first and main point of contact.

Emergencies can happen at any moment and with little warning. SMPH-HR recognizes the importance of being prepared to respond when an employee’s health, safety, or wellbeing is at risk. A key part of this preparedness is identifying clear communication protocols including, but not limited to, contact information and processes. 

Emergency Contact Information

An emergency contact is the individual you would like HR to call if you experience a health, safety, or well-being emergency while working. These contacts are used for notification purposes only. Naming someone as your emergency contact does not give them authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.  

Consider the following when selecting an emergency contact: 

  • Does the person know, or have access to, personal information about you such as health conditions, medications, allergies, health care providers, names of family members, where your children attend a school or daycare, etc.? 

  • Is the person authorized to act on your behalf in the event of an emergency, such as picking up your children or other family members from the school/daycare, providing you with a safe ride home, retrieving necessary items from your home, etc.? 

  • Is the person easy to contact? 

Use of Emergency Contact Information

Emergency contact information is a confidential personnel record that only HR staff have access to and may only be provided to others in the event of an emergency. Situations that may result in the need to access emergency contact information include, but are not limited to: 

  • Illness or medical emergency during work time or in the workplace

  • A workplace accident or injury (including remote work locations)

  • An employee who does not show up for work and is unresponsive to communication attempts from their supervisor and HR


Guidelines for Maintaining Emergency Contacts

Employees are responsible for keeping their personal and emergency contact information up to date via the MyUW portal. It’s important to frequently review your personal and emergency contact information and make necessary updates. Below are guidelines to help you maintain accurate information: 

  • Add an annual reminder to your calendar to review your emergency contacts 

  • Review your emergency contacts with every life event to ensure the information is still accurate (marriage, divorce, family death, job change, move, etc.) 

Additional instructions can be found on the Updating Local and Emergency Contact Information KB.


Preparation Guidelines

Preparation is essential when responding to employee emergencies. Too often we do not take the time to prepare or do not know how to prepare. This can lead to panic, uncertainty, and missteps in our response. Below are guidelines to prepare for an employee emergency at work.  

  • Make employee emergency resources quickly accessible by saving them to your bookmarks bar, desktop,  etc. This includes, but is not limited to:

- This KB    

- Department Resources

- Campus Resources (Policy Library, UWPD resources, etc)

- MyUW Remote Work Agreement Landing Page 



  • Know your HR staff contact(s) and the best way to contact them. Department leadership and HR staff should determine a shared communication plan, using the Employee Emergency Communication Plan form. 
  • Departments should review and maintain communication plans and other resources at a minimum of once per year and anytime there are staffing changes that directly impact the processes.
  • It is UW policy that Remote Work Agreements (RWA) include the current remote work address. The employee is responsible for initiating updates via MyUW and submitting a new RWA.

Responding to Emergencies

Work with your HR Staff as needed. All situations are unique and handled on a case-by-case basis.

In an emergency, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether it is best to call the emergency contact, the police department (non-emergency), or 911. It is important to remember that communicating with an emergency contact is for notification and non-urgent response purposes.  

   Use  the following guidelines if an employee emergency occurs while working: 

  • The supervisor or another employee involved should call 911 if the health and safety of the employee requires an immediate response. 

  • Contact  HR staff, who will call the emergency contact. Departments should follow their Employee Emergency Communication Plan created in conjunction with HR, if applicable.   

  • Refer to the Emergency Response Follow-Up section below for additional steps. 

911 Calls 

These will typically be made by the supervisor or another employee that is witnessing the emergency, not HR staff. Employees should follow these guidelines:  

  • Dialing 911 from a campus building phone will connect the call to UW-Madison Police dispatch. If dialed from a non-campus phone, the call will first be routed to a dispatch center other than UW-Madison Police.  

  •  Stay on the line with the dispatcher. Dispatch will ask for the address, location, and a description of the emergency.  

    • For remote work emergencies, a supervisor, designated department leadership, and/or HR can access the remote work address from the employee’s Remote Work Agreement (RWA).  

    • If the caller does not have access to view the RWA, a coworker should contact HR while the caller stays on the phone with dispatch.  

  • The caller should answer the operator’s questions as thoroughly as possible to ensure appropriate resources are dispatched and should provide a phone number where they can be reached.  

Remote Work Emergencies 

In the event an emergency occurs while an employee is working remotely, their remote work address can be found in  the official HR system,  HRS, or on the employee’s RWA. HR staff, designated department leadership, and supervisors have access to view Remote Work Agreements. It is UW policy that Remote Work Agreements include the current remote work address. The employee is responsible for initiating updates via MyUW. 

A Remote Work Agreement can be searched for on MyUW’s Remote Work Agreement Landing Page under View a Remote Work Agreement. Be sure to select the most recent agreement by referencing the “Last Date” column.  

Employee home/personal contact information is considered confidential except for specific business uses.  Contact HR staff with any questions.  

Wellness Checks 

A wellness check (also known as a welfare check as well as a Safe and Well check) is an in-person visit from law enforcement, especially in response to a request from an individual who is concerned about the person's well-being. 

SMPH values the health, safety, and well-being of our employees as well as their emergency contacts. If a department is concerned about an employee's well-being (i.e. if an employee is not showing up for work and is not responsive to multiple contact attempts), a wellness check may be necessary. Given the unknown nature of wellness checks, it is important that they are conducted by trained emergency professionals (police, paramedics, first responders, etc.) and not HR,  SMPH employees, or emergency contacts.  

The following guidelines should be used in these situations:  

  • Departments must contact HR staff if there are concerns about an employee’s well-being and should be prepared to provide any relevant information such as last point of contact, attempts to contact the employee, any prior concerns, etc.  

  • HR will first attempt to make contact with the employee and will leave a voicemail stating to respond by a certain date/time.

  • HR will then attempt to call the emergency contact on file in an effort to locate the employee (unless there are concerns that would warrant a direct call to the police to conduct a wellness check).

  • If the employee and emergency contact are unresponsive, or the employee can not be located, HR may determine to contact the police and request a wellness check. 

 Note: Each situation is unique and therefore handled on a case-by-case basis.    

Emergency Response Follow Up

After an employee emergency occurs, the situation and steps taken should be documented and stored in an appropriate place determined by the department and/or HR staff. It is best practice for all staff involved to collaborate on the Employee Emergency Debrief Form as their post response follow up. 

If appropriate, resources should be provided to the employee. This could include, but is not limited to, the following:  


Keywordsresponse 911 emergency contact injury injured welfare wellness welness urgent hospital police dispatch   Doc ID127610
OwnerSarah J.GroupSMPH Human Resources
Created2023-05-04 10:01:30Updated2024-04-08 07:46:03
SitesSMPH Human Resources
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