Emergency maintenance can be an all-hands-on-deck disaster for facility and maintenance teams. Emergencies can involve everything from 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. 

What is emergency maintenance? 

A maintenance emergency is when you need to complete work immediately to keep people and assets safe. If you leave the situation unattended, there’s a strong possibility of problems in both the short and long term.  

First, emergencies require team members to coordinate quickly, which means they must suspend work on all other tasks until they have resolved the issue. The longer teams are focused on the emergency, the more time it takes them to eventually go back and catch up on the other work.  

So, the emergency you deal with today might be putting you behind schedule on work you’d planned to complete next month. 

And because they can quickly get out of control, with emergencies you’re always running additional risk of injury. Even a simple accident can create problems for labor scheduling. And with serious injuries, you can face civil litigation and criminal prosecution, on top of the fines that come regulatory fines. The organization must also deal with reputational risk. 

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 the two do share 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 the 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. These can include: 

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

There are many reasons 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 do happen, so you can fix the problem more effectively and efficiently. 

The best course of action to take to prepare for and prevent emergencies is to have standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your planned and scheduled maintenance. 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 them as soon as possible. 

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

Implement a preventive maintenance program 

Preventive maintenance is a set of planned, routine tasks that ensure equipment is in good working condition. Preventive maintenance software helps when creating your scheduled preventive maintenance program. 

On top of implementing a preventive maintenance plan, make sure to: 

  • Train you team is well and set up a system for keeping everyone up to date on industry best practices 
  • Use tools only as recommended by their manufacturers 
  • When doing a replacement, use original equipment manufacturer parts when it makes economic and practical sense 
  • Have your checklists and procedures easy to access and understand for your technicians 
  • 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 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 access to these plans and tasks from anywhere, all the time 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. Make sure your workers are not in immediate danger and that technicians do their work safely. Follow these four steps to prepare for emergency maintenance. 

  1. Determine what your emergencies are

Before you decide, you’ll need to know the difference between what an “emergency” and simply “urgent” maintenance looks like for you and your company. You must define this to your team as the two types of maintenance sometimes overlap.  

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. Regardless of when they happen, the maintenance team must jump into action. When a pipe bursts and starts flooding the office late Saturday night, you can’t wait until Monday morning to fix it.   

Non-emergencies tend to develop over time and have worst-case scenarios that are unlikely to lead to immediate business disruptions. You can wait to fix them during regular business hours.  

Defining what your emergencies are helps your company better maintain your assets and resources because it allows you to more accurately prioritize work. 

  1. 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: 


When a worker reports an issue to someone in charge, the matter in question is evaluated, and a work order is generated. Members of the maintenance team must monitor the work order from start to finish, in many cases handing pieces of paper back and forth. 

Asset management solution 

Using facility management software helps the maintenance team record incidents, tasks, emergency maintenance and data so that you have access to and can analyze important data that helps you get an idea of how to prevent emergencies in the future and overall improvement. Implementing the software simplifies these processes for you because you don’t have 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 the department. 

  1. Outline emergency maintenance procedures

When you’ve defined your emergencies and have a system for sharing information when they do, you need to make a list of which emergencies may occur and create procedures. If one were ever to happen, your tech team already knows which steps to take. 

These can include assessing the situation and damage, notifying the right person, and isolating the danger. Making the right information available for your team of what to do in these emergencies helps mitigate risk. Remember, the last thing you want is a member of your team trying to help but accidentally making things worse or putting themselves into even more danger.   

  1. Implement facility management software

Make sure all the hard work you put into planning is available right when the team needs it. With a modern facility management platform, facility and maintenance professionals have instant access to critical information as soon as they need it.  

Modern asset management platforms can also help you with onboarding and ongoing training. Techs can review the material related to handing emergency maintenance whenever they have time or as part of a structured program. 

You can also use the software to keep a record of employee safety training, for example certificates for safe handling of hazardous materials and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) courses. 

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.