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8 Tips for Writing an Emergency Action Plan

Emergency Planning
by Kelly Lagana
"Yesterday we told you that OSHA strongly recommends that all businesses have an emergency action plan (EAP). And this makes sense that employers and workers alike would want to organize what they should be doing in the unfortunate event of an emergency. But that doesn’t mean putting together an EAP is easy."

Here are eight key points to consider when developing an EAP:

  1. Do not store your action plan in electronic form only; make sure hard copies are readily available.
  2. List the location of important utility shutoffs, and include digital photos of them so that they can be located quickly and easily.
  3. List any equipment or machinery that must be shut down in an emergency and the name of the person(s) who has responsibility for doing so.
  4. Have each department review all pertinent parts of the plan to ensure accuracy and workability. Often, if one person is charged with writing the plan, he or she will write something that looks good on paper but works poorly in real life.
  5. Conduct periodic drills to ensure employees know what to do in an emergency.
  6. Be sure to include provisions in your plan for visitors to your facility.
  7. Since emergencies don’t always happen on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., when writing your plan, be sure to take into account variations in emergency procedures that account for differences in shifts or days of the week.
  8. List in the plan the locations of special equipment (for example, special protective suits to be used in the event of a chemical release) and emergency supplies (food, water, etc.) in the event employees are stranded at your facility.

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EAP at the Bare Minimum

At a minimum, every EAP should include the following information.

Emergency coordinators. The employer should designate at least one or more coordinators and backup coordinators with clearly delineated responsibilities in developing procedures; assessing situations; calling for medical, rescue, or fire assistance; declaring an emergency, evacuation, or shelter in place; contacting neighboring businesses/buildings about the nature of the emergency; and directing the shutdown of operations.

Worksite leaders. Team leaders ensure that the planned operations and procedures are followed in their areas, including:

  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical facility operations before they evacuate
  • Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Training for people who will assist with evacuation

Floor plans. Floor plans or workplace maps that clearly show multiple escape routes and refuge areas should be included in the EAP, posted in several high-traffic locations, and given to local first responders.

Employee warning system/communication system. Set up a system that will reach employees everywhere in the workplace with instructions and information on emergency information. If there are workers who are hearing impaired or don’t speak or understand English, make contingency plans, such as the use of flashing lights or other visual signals.

Accounting for employees. It is important to designate an area away from the workplace where employees can assemble following an emergency, in order to see who is accounted for and who might be missing. Also designate cellular or out-of-area numbers where employees can leave an "I’m OK" message.

Evacuation of the disabled. Determine how self-identified blind, deaf, or disabled employees are to be evacuated or taken to areas of refuge.

Medical aid/first aid. OSHA requires that at least one on-site person be adequately trained to provide first aid unless there is a healthcare facility for treating injured employees within 3 to 4 minutes for life-threatening emergencies, and medical personnel be identified for consultation.

Fire prevention plans. The OSHA Act also requires written fire prevention plans.

Workplace violence. Employers should consider the possibility of workplace violence when creating their EAPs. Select a code word that employees can use to indicate there is a threatening situation.

Temporary employees and contractors. Temporary employees and contractors in production areas should be given a shortened presentation that includes emergency evacuation routes, hazardous substances on-site, and any other information needed to avoid injury and lessen the company’s liability from possible workers’ compensation claims.


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Want to Get It Done Fast?

If you are having trouble getting started writing your EAP or looking to make sure your existing EAP is compliant with OSHA, use these Safety.BLR.com EAP writing tools to help you out.

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