How to Make an Emergency Action Plan
No one is ever fully prepared for an emergency. They almost always come out of left field. However, you can be as prepared as possible with a well-thought-out emergency response action plan. The purpose of an emergency action plan is to organize and facilitate the actions required of employees and employers during emergencies in the workplace. To help you keep your employees safe, let’s look at everything you need to know as the emergency action plan director and how to write an emergency action plan.
What is an Emergency Action Plan?
The emergency plan definition (also known as an emergency response action plan) refers to a written procedure that outlines the best response to different kinds of emergencies. An emergency response action plan is an important part of the safety procedures of an organization or business. Developing an effective and safe emergency response action plan and training your employees on how to follow it can hugely decrease employee injuries and property damage while making sure visitors are safe in the case of an emergency.
You can use a company emergency action plan in a number of different kinds of emergencies. While you can use a similar response in different types of emergencies, each type of emergency requires its own unique plans — especially when they happen in a crowded workplace. That’s why you first need to figure out which emergencies are most likely to affect your business or organization, then move forward with developing the right emergency response action plan for your needs.
Types of Emergency Responses
The different types of emergency responses include evacuation, sheltering, shelter-in-place, and a lockdown.
If evacuation is the best form of emergency response in your situation, you need a warning system that can be heard throughout your organization’s building in order to promptly notify and evacuate all of your employees. You can test out your alarm or warning system to ensure all employees can hear the system throughout the entire building.
If you don’t have an alarm or warning system, you can use air horns, a public address system, or other methods to notify everyone to evacuate. You should make sure to use the evacuation sound signal during any planned emergency drill practices so that your employees are familiar with the evacuation sound and know what to do when they hear it.
You should also make sure that there are enough exits free in the building for emergency situations. Walk around the building and make sure that any exits are designated with signs and enough lighting for people who need to exit the building quickly. Remove anything that blocks the exits.
Make sure there are two or more exits from dangerous areas on each floor of the building. If you have a larger building, you might need more exits on each floor, according to fire and building codes. Walk down every stairwell, exit the building, and continue walking away from the building until you reach a safe area. You can use this safe space as an evacuee assembly area. Once in the assembly area, be sure to do a headcount.
Select a team leader for evacuations and assign additional employees to manage and direct the building evacuation process. You can also assign one or more people per floor to direct the employees towards the closest exit. We recommend setting a backup director in case the primary director is unavailable. You can ask employees if they need any assistance evacuating the building and assigning aides to help those with disabilities. You can also contact the fire department to help you create a plan to evacuate people with disabilities.
We recommend having a full list of employees and managing a log of visitors at the main office area, reception area, or front desk. Make sure that someone is available to take the lists of employees and visitors from the office area to the assembly area during the building evacuation process. You can use these lists to ensure that everyone is accounted for and let the fire department know. A hazard like a chemical spill or a fire can potentially block an exit, so make sure that the building evacuation team can direct employees to another exit if needed.
Sheltering is another potential emergency response strategy. You should have a warning or alarm signal go off if a tornado warning is broadcasted, for example. When the alarm signal sounds, all of your employees should move to a shelter in the strongest location within the building. Your shelters can include locations like interior rooms with reinforced masonry construction or basements. You can test out possible shelter-in-place sites by performing a practice tornado drill to determine whether the location will safely hold all of your employees.
It’s important to give as much early warning as possible since there could be very little time for your employees to take shelter once a tornado or other natural disaster is approaching. You should also buy an emergency alert system radio and listen to weather forecasts and warnings on local TV and radio stations. You can also subscribe to free email and text weather warnings. If possible, purchase a wireless radio for news updates and keep portable chargers at full battery in case the power goes out during your emergency.
Shelter-in-place is an excellent emergency response strategy for situations where an explosion or an act of terrorism happens. Your shelter-in-place plan should include directions for everyone to move to the middle of the building and away from any doors or windows. You should also warn anyone working outside to enter the building and seek shelter immediately.
Close outside windows and doors and shut down the air handling system of the building. You should make sure that everyone stays sheltered in place until you receive confirmation from public officials that it is safe to leave the building.
Lockdowns are a similar emergency response strategy that has, unfortunately, become more familiar to us in the last few years. If you hear or suspect any gunfire near or inside your building, it’s crucial that all of your employees know to be silent and hide quickly. In active shooter situations, there often isn’t time to get to your designated shelter area, and employees will need to take cover where they can as quickly as possible. Your employees should go into an office or closet, close and lock the door, and barricade the door if possible.
Train your employees to hide in the corner of a room, out of the line of sight from windows or doors, or under a desk in this particular emergency situation. You can also train a selection of people to broadcast the lockdown warning from a safe space so that everyone is aware of the lockdown and the dangerous situation unfolding.
Developing an Emergency Action Plan
Based on the categories above, here are our best tips for creating an emergency response action plan:
- Understand what can happen in an emergency. In order to create an emergency action plan, you first need to have a thorough understanding and expectations of what can occur in an emergency. Go over your risk assessment, think about the performance objectives you’ve created for your emergency plan, and decide how much you want to spend on developing your company emergency action plan. You need to spend at least the amount that is required by legal regulations.
- Assess what resources are available. Think about the internal and external resources available for incident stabilization, including public emergency contractors and services. Public emergency services include emergency medical services, hazardous materials services, and rescue services, all of which might be provided by a local fire department, a local agency, a private contractor, or a local department. We recommend reaching out to local law enforcement to help you develop an emergency response action plan for any security-related threats.
- Document available resources. We also recommend figuring out whether the external resources out there have the info they need to handle any type of emergency. If they don’t have the necessary information, then you should figure out which info is needed and make sure to document the information and knowledge in your emergency response action plan.
- Prepare emergency procedures. You should go over any potential threats or hazards and develop specific emergency procedures to address each of these threats and hazards.
- Plan warnings, notifications, and communications. Emergency response action plans should include communications, notifications, and warnings. You should identify and allocate the best protective action for each threat and hazard to keep your employees and others in the building as safe and secure as possible. Figure out how you will warn your employees and others in the building to take these protective actions. You should also develop procedures and protocols to alert first responders, including management, trained employees, and public emergency services. Figure out how you will communicate with your employees and managers during and after the emergency and incorporate the communication into your emergency action plan.
- Assign roles and responsibilities. Next, it’s time to assign roles and responsibilities to your facility managers and building owners, as well as any employees and managers within your organization. Give specific managers and employees the role of keeping people away from dangerous areas and controlling access to the emergency location. Other employees can be responsible for knowing the various locations and control functions for building protection, life safety, and utility systems, including sanitary, water, electrical, and ventilation systems; fire suppression systems; emergency power supplies; warning, communication, alarm, and detection systems; security and surveillance systems; and pollution containment and control systems. Certain employees should have the responsibility of supervising and operating these systems if needed.
- Create a site and facility plan. We recommend taking the time to document knowledge and information about your facility so that public emergency service officials have that information and can safely stabilize an emergency incident. For example, if a utility system fails, it will be helpful for emergency responders to have documents with information about building systems. Create a site and facility plan and plans for every building floor to outline instructions for operating all equipment and systems, as well as the layout of buildings, entrances, parking areas, emergency equipment, access roads, and controls for building protection and utility systems.
- Train personnel. You should also train your employees and managers so that they know the warning signs and are familiar with any alarm and detection systems. Go over these plans and be sure to schedule training sessions with your employees, so that they know their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency.
If you want to learn more about how to write an emergency action plan to keep your employees safe, contact Community Action Security. We can help you develop your emergency response action plan and explain all you need to know about our commercial security services.