How to create a successful emergency action plan

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Emergencies can happen at any time and they never take place during a time of convenience, which is why formulating an emergency action plan (EAP) is vital for all organizations. For some organizations, the lack of an EAP can quickly put them out of business when critical situations arise.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires written emergency action plans for many businesses. Beyond that, it is a financially sound decision to maintain an emergency action plan:

  • Up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen.

  • Customers don’t really care if your business is recovering from a disaster, they still expect their products and services on time or they’ll consider your competitors.

  • A good EAP will include outreach efforts that will allow your recovering organization to stay on top of the narrative (informing customers, stakeholders, media, etc.).

  • Insurance rarely covers the entire cost of recovering from a disaster and certainly does not account for lost revenue.

Components of an emergency action plan

Each organization’s EAP will contain preparedness procedures for different types of emergencies. This will depend on a number of factors, including the location of your facilities, whether or not your company works with hazardous materials, how old your facility structures are, etc. Here are some example sections to include in your organization’s EAP:

  • Emergency personnel names and contact information

  • Evacuation routes and assembly points

  • Emergency phone numbers

  • Utility company emergency contacts

  • Emergency reporting and evacuation procedures

  • Medical emergency

  • Fire emergency

  • Extended power loss

  • Chemical spill

  • Structure climbing/descending emergencies

  • Telephone bomb threat checklist

  • Severe weather and natural disasters

  • Workplace violence

  • Active shooter situation

It’s important to remember that emergencies may have long lasting effects on your organization, even after the initial event has been resolved. So you’ll want to include medium to long-term action items for certain emergencies, particularly if your business or organization may need to be shut down for a period of time. Lost income and increased expenses can devastate even a financially healthy organization in the event of an emergency.

Creating the response plan

After you’ve decided which emergencies you’ll have in your organization’s emergency action plan, it’ll be time to get down to the details and decide how the response will unfold. Let’s go over some tips for EAP response:

  • Make sure the orders are clearly defined and communicated. Simplicity is not always an option for more complex response tactics, but try formatting your plan’s documentation in a way that is easily digestible by those who are going to need to refer to it.

  • Create evacuation paths that are easy to follow and understand.

  • A plan is only as good as the people carrying it out. Regardless of who created the EAP, make sure there is at least one person (it may be one for each department in larger organizations) that knows the plan well enough to carry it out during an actual emergency. This person will not only need to follow the orders in the plan, but also be willing to get others to follow these orders.

  • Have procedures in place for employees or other community members who should remain during the initial stages of the emergency to take care of additional hazards. This may include employees that must use fire extinguishers or shut down gas / electrical systems to keep a bad situation from getting worse.

  • Be prepared for the loss of computer hardware and software and find ways to back up or recover it.

  • Identify who is able to perform medical care at your organization and make sure they are in the proper positions to do so.

After your plan is complete

After your EAP is complete, it’s extremely important that you share it with your entire organization. This part of the process is just as important as the creation of the plan itself, because each member of your organization has a right to know how to best protect themselves and others during an emergency.

The leaders of your organization also need to know the plan so they can provide the necessary resources to carry it out. The EAP is also subject to review on a regular basis so that improvements can be made.

Training sessions and tests may also be required to give everyone at your organization a good idea of how to respond. Training also serves the purpose of testing your plan’s effectiveness in a close-to-real-life situation. Certain parts of the EAP may have been overlooked or perhaps they look good on paper, but when the action hits, it might fall short in its effectiveness.

Learn more about preparing for emergencies.

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