Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Basics
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 the result of natural, technological, or man-made causes including the following examples:
- Extreme weather
- Land slide
- Volcanic eruption
- Aircraft crash
- Structure collapse
- Business interruption
- Dam/Levee breaks
- Air pollution
- Hazard materials release
- Power/Utility failure
- Nuclear accidents
- Transportation failure
- Civil unrest
- Economic downturns
- Enemy attack
- General strike
- Workplace violence
- Fuel/Food shortage
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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
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.
What are the elements of an Emergency Action Plan
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.
Who must have an Emergency Action Plan?
An EAP is required if you have fire extinguishers and employees evacuate.
Almost every business is required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan (EAP). OSHA may require you to have an EAP if:
- fire extinguishers are required or provided in your workplace, and
- employees 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
Evaluating Your Workplace
Evaluate the workplace to prepare for emergencies.
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.
Sprinklers are part of a fixed extinguishing system.
Below are four additional OSHA standards that relate to ways to protect yourself and others during
- 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
Conduct the following steps to successfully develop and implement your plan:
- Development the emergency action plan;
- Establish authority;
- Conduct employee training and plan review;
- 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.