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Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Emergency Action Plan Basics

The only effective solution to any problem is to address its cause.

Workplace Emergency

A workplace emergency is an unforeseen situation that threatens your employees, customers, or the public; Disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.

Emergencies may be natural or man-made and include the following:

Workplace Emergency
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Sample Emergency Action Plan
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What is an Emergency Action Plan?

The Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is an "action plan" to organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.

Well developed emergency plans and proper employee training will result in fewer injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. On the other hand, a poorly prepared plan may lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.

Putting together an EAP that deals with those issues specific to your worksite is not difficult.

  • It involves taking what was learned from a workplace evaluation and describing how employees will respond to different types of emergencies.
  • It takes into account your specific worksite layout, structural features, and emergency systems.
You will find it beneficial to include a diverse group of representatives (management and employees) in the planning process and to meet frequently to review progress and responsibilities. The commitment of all employees is critical to the plan's success in the event of an emergency. Ask for their help.

More information on Emergency Action Planning.

Effective Emergency Action Plan

EAP vs. ERP - RMP Corp.

At a minimum, the EAP must include the following elements:

  • Ways to report fires and other emergencies;
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments;
  • Procedures to be follow by those who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
  • Procedures to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for those who are to perform them;
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

You may find it helpful to also include the following in your plan:

  • A description of the alarm system used to notify employees to evacuate and/or take other actions.
  • Make sure alarms used for different actions are distinctive. You might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems.
  • The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion; and
  • A secure on- or off-site location to store originals or duplicate copies of important documents.

Emergency Action Plan Necessity

Almost every business is required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan (EAP). OSHA may require you to have an EAP if:

  1. fire extinguishers are required or provided in your workplace, and
  2. anyone will be evacuating during a fire or other emergency.

The only exemption to this is if you have an in-house fire brigade in which every employee is trained and equipped to fight fires, and consequently, no one evacuates.

In most circumstances, immediate evacuation is the best policy, especially if professional firefighting services are available to respond quickly. There may be situations where employee firefighting is warranted to give other workers time to escape, or to prevent danger to others by spread of a fire. In this case, the employer is still required to have an EAP.

Evaluating Your Workplace

The best way to protect yourself and others is to prepare for an emergency before it happens by doing a thorough assessment of the workplace. Think about possible emergency situations and evaluate your workplace to see if it is sufficiently prepared using the following OSHA standards:

  • Design and construction requirements for exit routes- 29 CFR 1910.36. This standard contains requirements for the design and construction of exit routes. It includes a requirement that exit routes be permanent, addresses fire resistance-ratings of construction materials used in exit stairways (exits), describes openings into exits, defines the minimum number of exit routes in workplaces, addresses exit discharges, and discusses locked exit route doors, and exit route doors. It also addresses the capacity, height and width of exit routes, and finally, it sets forth requirements for exit routes that are outside a building.
  • Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes - 29 CFR 1910.37. This standard includes requirements for the safe use of exit routes during an emergency, lighting and marking exit routes, fire retardant paints, exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations, and employee alarm systems.
  • Emergency action plans (EAP) - 29 CFR 1910.38. Again, the EAP facilitates and organizes employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.
  • Fire prevention plans (FPP) - 29 CFR 1910.39. The purpose of the fire prevention plan is to prevent a fire from occurring in a workplace. It describes the fuel sources (hazardous or other materials) on site that could initiate or contribute both to the spread of a fire, as well as the building systems, such as fixed fire extinguishing systems and alarm systems, in place to control the ignition or spread of a fire.

Evaluating Your Workplace (Continued)


Below are four additional OSHA standards that relate to ways to protect yourself and others during an emergency:

  • Portable fire extinguishers - 29 CFR 1910.157. Workplace fires and explosions kill hundreds and injure thousands of workers each year. One way to limit the amount of damage due to such fires is to make portable fire extinguishers an important part of your fire prevention program. When used properly, fire extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or controlling a fire until additional help arrives.
  • Fixed extinguishing systems - 29 CFR 1910.160. Fixed fire extinguishing/suppression systems are commonly used to protect areas containing valuable or critical equipment such as data processing rooms, telecommunication switches, and process control rooms. Its main function is to quickly extinguish a developing fire and alert occupants before extensive damage occurs by filling the protected area with a gas or chemical extinguishing agent.
  • Fire detection systems - 29 CFR 1910.164. Automatic fire detection systems, when combined with other elements of an emergency response and evacuation plan, can significantly reduce property damage, personal injuries, and loss of life from fire in the workplace. Its main function is to quickly identify a developing fire and alert building occupants and emergency response personnel before extensive damage occurs. Automatic fire detection systems do this by using electronic sensors to detect the smoke, heat, or flames from a fire and providing an early warning.
  • Employee alarm systems - 29 CFR 1910.165. The purpose of the employee alarm systems standard is to reduce the severity of workplace accidents and injuries by ensuring that alarm systems operate properly and procedures are in place to alert employees to workplace emergencies.

Developing the Emergency Action Plan

Drafting an EAP is not enough to ensure the safety of your employees. When an evacuation is necessary, you will need responsible and trained individuals who can supervise and coordinate activities to ensure a safe and successful evacuation. An EAP will be useful only if its content is up to date and employees are sufficiently educated and trained before an actual evacuation.

Conduct the following steps to successfully develop and implement your plan:

  1. Development the emergency action plan;
  2. Establish authority;
  3. Conduct employee training and plan review;
  4. Review, coordinate and update the plan.

We will be covering these four EAP steps in the following modules of this course. Now that you have read through the basic overview of an emergency action plan, find out how to develop the written plan in the next module. But first, make sure you take the module review quiz.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following in NOT required in an effective Emergency Action Plan?

2. Which of the following criteria must be met for OSHA to require an emergency action plan?

3. Which of the following is the "exception" to the requirement for an emergency action plan?

4. What is the best way to protect yourself and others from emergencies?

5. Which of the following areas need NOT be considered to evaluate your workplace to see if it is sufficiently prepared?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.