Ultimate Guide to Emergency Action Plan

fire alarms in emergency action plan

What is an Emergency Action Plan?

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a written document required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards, designed to address potential emergencies that could occur in the workplace. It outlines procedures and responsibilities to ensure the safety of employees during an emergency. With an emergency action plan in place, organizations can prepare employees for unexpected situations, enabling swift and organized responses that can save lives and minimize injuries.

Some procedures commonly found in emergency action plans include:

  • Building Evacuation
  • Reporting Emergencies
  • Locating Emergency Evacuation Locations
  • Personnel Accountability
  • Fire Extinguisher Types and Instructions for Use
  • Shelter-in-Place Procedures
  • Emergency Communications
  • Building Specific Information

EOC Meaning in Emergency Action Plans

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is a centralized command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management. It serves as the hub for decision-making, resource allocation, and strategic planning, ensuring a coordinated and effective response to emergencies. The EOC collects and analyzes information, monitors the situation, and disseminates critical information to ensure all stakeholders are informed and can respond appropriately.

Emergency Reporting System in Emergency Action Plans

An emergency reporting system is a structured process and technological infrastructure designed to facilitate the quick and accurate reporting of emergencies within an organization. This system ensures that emergency information reaches the appropriate personnel and authorities promptly, enabling a swift response.

The system typically includes multiple communication channels such as alarms, public address systems, mobile alerts, and digital notifications. An effective emergency reporting system helps minimize confusion, reduce response times, and enhance overall safety during emergencies.

OSHA Emergency Action Plan Requirements

Under OSHA 1910.38 Standard (Emergency Action Plans), an emergency plan must meet several key requirements to ensure safety during workplace emergencies:

    • Procedures for Reporting Emergencies: Clear instructions on how employees should report fires and other emergencies.
    • Evacuation Procedures: Detailed emergency evacuation procedures, including emergency escape route assignments.
    • Personnel Accountability: Methods to account for all employees after an evacuation to ensure everyone is safe.
    • Rescue and Medical Duties: Assignments for rescue and medical duties, specifying who is responsible for performing these tasks.
    • Emergency Contact Information: Names or job titles of individuals who can be contacted for further information or clarification of the EAP.
    • Means of Reporting Fires and Other Emergencies: Systems and processes for reporting emergencies, such as alarms and communication protocols.

While OSHA provides the regulatory framework for workplace emergency preparedness, there is a guidance system that offers a broader incident management approach. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a comprehensive national framework designed to manage all types of emergencies and incidents by emphasizing coordination, interoperability, and unified command.

By combining OSHA’s regulatory requirements with the holistic incident management system of NIMS, organizations can develop emergency action plans that not only meet legal obligations but also ensure a well-coordinated and effective response to emergencies of any scale.


What are the 5 Components of an Emergency Plan?

5 components of emergency plan


Prevention involves actions taken to avoid or minimize the likelihood of emergencies. This includes identifying potential hazards and implementing measures to reduce the risk of these hazards leading to emergencies. Examples include regular maintenance of equipment, implementing safety protocols, and conducting safety audits.


Mitigation refers to efforts made to reduce the severity or impact of an emergency. These measures are put in place to lessen the potential damage or harm caused by emergencies. Examples of mitigation include installing fire suppression systems, reinforcing buildings to withstand natural disasters, and creating barriers to prevent flooding. Mitigation efforts aim to protect both people and property by minimizing the effects of an emergency.


Preparedness involves planning and preparing for emergencies before they occur. This includes developing and practicing emergency operations plan, conducting drills and training exercises, and ensuring that emergency supplies and equipment are readily available. Preparedness also involves establishing communication plans and assigning roles and responsibilities to employees.


The response component focuses on the immediate actions taken during an emergency to protect life and reduce economic losses. This includes executing evacuation procedures, providing medical assistance, and activating emergency response teams. Effective response relies on clear communication, quick decision-making, and coordinated efforts among all involved parties.


Recovery involves actions taken to return to normalcy after an emergency. This phase includes repairing damaged infrastructure, providing support to affected individuals, and reviewing the response to improve future emergency evacuation plans. Recovery efforts aim to restore normal operations as quickly as possible while addressing the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of the emergency.


8 Steps to Conducting an Emergency Evacuation Plan

evacuation assembly point wall sign

1. Evaluate the Emergency

Start by identifying potential emergencies that could affect your workplace, such as fires, chemical spills, natural disasters, or active shooter situations. Conduct a risk assessment to understand the likelihood and impact of these emergencies. Evaluate the specific hazards present in your workplace and determine how each emergency could affect the safety of employees and operations. This evaluation will inform the development of appropriate evacuation procedures.

2. Determine Exit Routes

Identify all possible exit routes in your building. Ensure there are multiple exits to provide options in case one is blocked. Evaluate each route for safety and accessibility, considering factors like stairwells, corridors, and emergency exits.

Clearly mark all emergency evacuation routes, assembly points, shelter areas, and muster points with visible signs. Use illuminated signs where necessary to ensure visibility in low-light conditions. Place signs at key points along the routes to guide employees towards exits. Regularly inspect and maintain these signs to ensure they remain visible and legible.

3. Identify Safe Areas

Designate safe areas where employees should assemble after evacuating the building. These areas should be at a safe distance from the building and away from potential hazards. Ensure these locations are accessible and can accommodate all employees. Communicate the locations of these safe areas to all employees and include them in evacuation maps.

4. Develop Evacuation Procedures

Create detailed steps for evacuating the area. Include specific actions for different types of emergencies and ensure the procedures are easy to follow.

Four Types of Evacuations

  1. Stay in Place: Employees and visitors remain inside the building or a designated assembly area. This type of evacuation is used when it is safer to stay indoors than to go outside, such as during severe weather or chemical spills outside. Procedures may include moving to interior rooms away from windows, sealing doors and windows, and waiting for further instructions from emergency responders.
  2. Building Evacuation: Employees and visitors follow the emergency evacuation plans to reach safe assembly points outside the building. Personnel accountability is conducted to ensure everyone has safely evacuated, and emergency services are contacted to address the threat.
  3. Campus Evacuation: Students and employees move to a designated assembly area away from the campus, following specific routes to avoid hazards. Coordination with campus security and local emergency response workers is crucial for a safe and orderly evacuation.
  4. City Evacuation: Employees and residents safely evacuate an entire city or large urban area. Authorities issue emergency evacuation orders and provide information on evacuation routes and shelters. Traffic management, public transportation, and emergency response personnel play key roles in facilitating the evacuation.

5. Discuss with Employees

Communicate the evacuation plan to all employees. Hold meetings to explain the procedures, answer questions, and address concerns. Ensure that everyone understands their role in the evacuation process. Provide written copies of the plan and post key information in common areas.

6. Assign Responsibilities

Designate specific roles and responsibilities for employees to ensure an organized emergency evacuation. Implement ICS or the Incident Command System to establish a clear chain of command during emergencies. Assign roles such as Incident Commander, Safety Officer, and Operations Chief to manage different aspects of the response.

7. Conduct Training Exercises

Regularly practice the evacuation procedures with drills and exercises to ensure everyone knows what to do. Conduct discussion-based sessions, such as a tabletop exercise, where team members gather to review the response procedures to simulated emergency situations. These exercises help identify gaps in the plan and improve coordination.

8. Review and Update the Plan as Needed

Regularly review the evacuation plan to ensure it remains effective and up to date. After each drill or emergency, conduct an After Action Review (AAR) to evaluate the response. Identify what worked well and what needs improvement. Incorporate these feedbacks from drills and real emergencies to improve the plan.


High-Rise Building Evacuation Plan

When an emergency strikes, evacuating high-rise buildings presents unique challenges. Preparing in advance with a well-structured emergency evacuation plan is crucial to ensure the safety of all employees. Specific evacuation plans for high-rise buildings provide clear procedures for both employers and employees, ensuring a safe and orderly evacuation during emergencies.

For employers, it involves establishing and communicating a comprehensive emergency evacuation strategy, conducting regular drills, training emergency response teams, and maintaining clear and accessible exits. On the other hand, employees should familiarize themselves with evacuation routes, participate in drills, and follow designated procedures during an emergency. If trapped, employees should stay calm, signal for help, and take measures to prevent smoke inhalation. This plan promotes coordinated and efficient evacuations, reducing risks and enhancing safety for everyone in the building.


FAQs about Emergency Action Plan

Why are emergency action plans important?

Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) are important because they prepare organizations and employees for unexpected emergencies, ensuring swift and organized responses. This preparation can save lives, minimize injuries, and reduce property damage during incidents.

What is an emergency plan checklist?

An emergency plan checklist is a detailed list of tasks and items that need to be addressed and implemented in an Emergency Action Plan. It typically includes procedures for reporting emergencies, evacuation routes, assembly points, personnel accountability, and emergency contact information.

Who has overall responsibility for managing the on-scene incident?

The Incident Commander has overall responsibility for managing the on-scene incident. This individual coordinates all response activities, makes critical decisions, and ensures effective communication among responders.

What is the rule of evacuation?

The rule of evacuation is to prioritize safety by quickly and calmly exiting the building using designated evacuation routes, avoiding elevators, and moving to a safe assembly point. It emphasizes following the established emergency procedures and instructions from emergency personnel.

Who should be trained on the contents of an emergency action plan?

All employees should be trained on the contents of an Emergency Action Plan. This training ensures that everyone understands their roles, evacuation routes, emergency procedures, and how to respond effectively during an emergency.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.