Emergency Action Plans: What They Are and How to Create One

by | Oct 26, 2022

OSHA standards state that all employers are required to create emergency action plans. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Code is in agreement, as it also requires workplaces to have emergency action plans. With such high importance placed on these requirements, it begs the question: What exactly is an emergency action plan, and why are they needed?

An emergency action plan (EAP) is defined by OSHA as a written document with the purpose of facilitating and organizing employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. While fire emergencies are typically the most common emergency in the workplace, the reality is that an effective EAP can help you plan for all sorts of potential emergencies. Let’s take a close look at what should be included in an emergency action plan and how to begin creating one.

OSHA EAP Standards

OSHA Standard 1910.38 provides, in detail, the requirements for any workplace EAP. It states that:

Minimum elements must include:

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.

Employee alarm systems must be available and maintained by the employer, with a distinctive signal for each purpose, and comply with the requirements of Standard 1910.165

Training must be provided by the employer to designated employees, so that they may assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of other employees.

Reviews of the EAP must occur between the employer and all employees:

  • When the plan is developed or the employee is assigned initially to a job
  • When the employee’s responsibilities under the plan change
  • When the plan is changed

NFPA Requirements

According to the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, a minimum of seven items must be addressed in a facility’s EAP. These items include:

  1. Procedures for reporting of emergencies
  2. Occupant and staff response to emergencies
  3. Evacuation, relocation and shelter-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, emergencies, and hazards
  4. Appropriateness of the use of elevators
  5. Design and conduct of fire drills
  6. Type and coverage of building fire protection systems
  7. Other items required by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ)

Although these are the only mandates in the NFPA Code, they also provide a list of eighteen additional items that should be considered when preparing your EAP, such as:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Procedures specific to each type of emergency
  • Assisting people with disabilities
  • Training
  • Documentation
  • Inspection and maintenance of a building’s life safety features
  • Drills
  • Post-event planning and review

Where to Begin

With so many requirements to comb through, creating an EAP can feel like a daunting task. Certain elements will remain consistent, but each workplace will need its own unique plan. So where should you begin?

You can also view our blog post Need Help With Your Emergency Action Plan?, where we provide simple tips to help you navigate the confusion. We suggest:

Erring on the side of caution by balancing detail and readability. Your EAP can include not only evacuation routes, but also a map showing important alarm switches, extinguishers, and utility shutoffs.

Conducting monthly drills to familiarize building occupants with proper procedures, allowing an EAP to be used to its full potential.

Assigning emergency coordinators who have been thoroughly trained to lead in emergency situations.

Safety Maps to Complement Your EAP

As the industry leader in fire evacuation and security mapping services, we are familiar with emergency action plans and their requirements. For over a decade, our team of safety experts and professional illustrators have worked together to create accessible, code-compliant maps our clients can use to assemble a more comprehensive EAP. If your organization is in need of safety mapping assistance, please contact us or reach out to request a quote anytime.

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