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Prepare for disaster with an emergency action plan

Every demographic has its own set of disasters lying in wait to destroy your business and everything you’ve worked for. Below is a step-by-step guide to creating your own emergency plan as well as what to include in an emergency map to keep your employees safe in the event of an unexpected disaster. Stay prepared with an emergency action plan checklist with Lumiform’s free online templates.

What Is an Emergency Action Plan?

An emergency action plan (EAP) details the step-by-step procedures of what a company and its employees need to do in case of an emergency, such as any major weather event, terrorist threat, power outages, or cyber-attacks. This prewritten, preplanned document strives to limit the loss of life, injury, property damage, and revenue.

An EAP is very similar to a business continuity plan (BCP) with the distinct difference that an EAP is a short term plan responding directly to the challenges of the post-disaster event while a BCP anticipates the long term consequences. Both, however, aim to keep the business operational amidst tragedy.

A workplace EAP should be developed in every company with more than 10 employees according to OSHA’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Each emergency procedure plan should be based on the proven legal model, which provides certain guidelines for its preparation. Accordingly, each plan must contain procedures, rules of conduct, responsibilities, and telephone numbers for emergency situations. In addition, general information such as overview plans may also be included. Workplace emergencies can include, for example, storms, prolonged power outages, management deaths, epidemics, or pandemics such as Covid-19.

This article deals with the following topics concerning emergency planning:

1. Benefits of an emergency action plan

2. Don’t forget to add these to your EAP

3. What do you need to do to implement and EAP in your business?

4. What is an EAP action map?

5. How a digital application supports emergency planning

Thunderstorm with flash of lightning near a settlement

How Can an Emergency Action Plan Benefit my Workplace?

A contingency plan is a must-have for every company—it’s public law 95-596. Even if companies weren’t legally obligated to have one on record, there’s still a plethora of reasons why it’s beneficial to instate one. For example, it protects against ambiguities, unnecessary injuries, material damage, and other undesirable events that we’ll dive into in the section below.

  1. Reduces the Number of Injuries and Death
    There are so many companies out there that place profits before people. We see it time and time again on the news: companies using child labor, companies putting their workers at risk, companies endangering the lives of their customers. There’s no excuse! Money is replaceable. Human lives, however, are not. And the quality of a person’s life also needs to be taken into account. No matter how much money a victim wins in a lawsuit, they will never regain the mobility of their legs or live without pain. Whatever injury they suffered in the accident, they will never be who they were.
  2. Minimizes the Risk of Lawsuits

    Reducing the number of injuries and death will keep your moral compass pointing North, but at the end of the day, you are still a business, so let’s talk numbers. If you do not comply with public law number 95-596, and you are caught without the necessary documentation, you’re looking at imprisonment (from x amount of years to life) and a fine anywhere between $10,000-$70,000 according to United States code title 18 sections 1111 and 1114.
    Having a plan in place that keeps your employees safely out of harm’s way will have the combined benefit of keeping the lawyers out of your office and you out of court.

  3. Keeps the Business Up and Running
    A staggering 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. But it gets much worse. 25% of businesses fail in the first two years and another 90% fail in just three years after disaster strikes. If you analyze those statistics, you’ll find that just a measly 10% of businesses actually survive an unexpected calamity. That’s why being prepared is of utmost importance. Be among that 10% and prepare for every eventuality and inevitably. Get the right insurance, type up an emergency action plan, supplement that with a business continuity plan, and when all that’s said and done, you might as well also craft a disaster recovery plan.
  4. No Need for Insurance Claims
    Don’t misinterpret this bullet point, you still need insurance—there’s a reason 90% of businesses fail three years after disaster strikes. Of course, it’s always better to not have to use it, but that’s not the reality we live in. And if you’ve ever been in a car accident or taken a little excursion to the emergency room, you know firsthand that insurance doesn’t pay for everything. It’ll be easier on the wallet to use preventative measures to preserve the property you already have than to rebuild from scratch, especially if you have to pay out of pocket.
  5. Helps You Stay Self-Sufficient
    Government relief funds do exist for those experiencing a crisis, but it’s better to never have to rely on the government for what can be done yourself. The government, after all, is not a business and is definitely not run like one. The funds you do receive will most likely come late and be nowhere near the amount you’ll need to cover all the unexpected expenses wrought by whatever misfortune has befallen your business. And how great would it be if you did all the prep work, educated all your employees on their respective roles, kept your business up and running, and on top of that, you received a government relief fund?

An outdated emergency action plan poses a threat to every company. It can lead to devastating losses such as multiple casualties and financial imbalance. Keeping your plan up to date ensures that the correct instructions are available in the event of an operational emergency. In addition, a risk assessment has been known to repeatedly uncover previously unrecognized hazards. Based on these analyses, safety and health officers can supplement the current, preventative measures with these findings so that the EAP remains up to date and up to code.

If you’re looking to capitalize on any of the aforementioned benefits, then use the free example of our emergency action plan sheet.

What Should You Include in Your Emergency Procedure Plan?

An emergency action plan checklist is a tool used by safety and health officers in companies or small and medium-sized businesses to record and implement their guidelines for workplace emergencies.

The following standard elements should be included in any workplace emergency plan:

  1. Procedure for reporting a fire or other emergency
  2. Procedures for emergency evacuation, including the type of evacuation and allocation of escape routes
  3. Procedures to be followed by employees who must continue critical operations in the plant before evacuation
  4. Procedures that all employees must take into account after evacuation
  5. Procedures to be followed by staff performing rescue or medical tasks
  6. Name and job titles of the staff in charge of the emergency action plan.

Act with Foresight: Establish an Emergency Action Plan

Emergencies can occur in the workplace at any time. Therefore, safety and health officers must ensure that all employees are prepared to react in such an event. The use of checklists can help in a variety of ways: Training, preparation, monitoring, and regular emergency exercises.

1. Deploy an interdepartmental team

Occupational health and safety authorities recommend that relevant persons such as employees with knowledge of the work, employees with experience in investigative procedures, and representatives of local government should all consist of the team in charge of handling workplace emergencies. OSHA also recommends that these parties should establish an emergency plan and update it regularly. This is because working in an interdisciplinary team helps to make the workplace emergency plan more comprehensive, accurate, and realistic.

2. Regularly carry out emergency drills

The employees in charge of the emergency policy should consistently conduct a company-wide emergency exercise to not only determine the plan’s effectiveness but also familiarize employees with emergency procedures. This will also prepare them for decisive action in the event of a real disaster. However, you should note the difference between announced and unannounced emergency exercises. Safety officers should first start with an announced exercise to consolidate the emergency measures in the minds of the employees and test the effectiveness of any new revisions to the established plan. From there on out, employees should practice unannounced exercises, as they will provide a more realistic overview of the plan’s integrity.

3. Analysis of the measures from the emergency action plan

For the analysis of the emergency exercises, checklists can be used to record the events in real-time. Subsequently, safety and health officers can evaluate the data and, if necessary, adjust the measures in the emergency plan.

In the best case, a cross-departmental team is again put together for this purpose. This team determines the root cause of the mismatch between performance and procedure and discusses how a high level of performance can be maintained. To this end, a critical list of questions can be drawn up to check the effectiveness of the emergency action plan.

4. Offer training

Training makes it easier for employees to continue to do the right thing in emergencies. Designated Health and Safety Officers should identify the best practices from the emergency action plan, such as remembering to handle the spill by the instructions described in the safety data-sheet if the emergency exercise was a chemical accident. Any changes to be applied to areas in need of improvement should be accompanied by appropriate training to consolidate the new knowledge.

5. Establish aids in the daily work routine

Additional reading, pictures, and signage aids should be posted throughout the building, so employees always have access to pertinent emergency information. These aids include:

  • Stickers with the emergency numbers on all phones
  • Notices with the emergency numbers and general rules of conduct
  • Escape and rescue route plans
  • Alerts to the alarm signal in emergencies (e.g. siren, loudspeaker announcement)
  • Fire protection regulations

6. Inform persons outside the company

Every emergency action plan should also include instructions for visitors and employees of external companies. Most companies will inform these persons with a safety guide or leaflet which is offered upon sign in at the site of operation.

7. Carry out practice emergency exercises regularly

At least once a year the company should carry out an emergency exercise. This will test the emergency plan’s effectiveness. In high-risk industries, such as construction and manufacturing, OSHA recommends these exercises be conducted quarterly. In the medium to low-risk industries, such as retail and hospitality, an exercise should be carried out every six months. Regular emergency drills are a good way for the company to proactively create and continuously develop a safety culture in the workplace.

Stock of protective masks according to emergency action plan

What Elements Should Emergency Action Plan Maps Show?

EAP maps fall under the reading, pictures, and signage aids that are required to successfully implement the action plan. But what should a map look like, where should you post it, and what things should you include to make your map easy to read?

Emergency situations aren’t exactly known to give you the time to get your affairs in order before you have to take shelter or run for the hills.

They happen out of the blue, fast, and usually bring with them a surge of panic. No one has the time to figure out how to read a complex map for the nearest exit when there’s a raging inferno nipping at their heels. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the design of your map is clearly labeled, uses symbols, and is large enough that no one has to squint to read it.

Even more importantly, a disaster shouldn’t be the first time your employees are reading the emergency map. As mentioned above, announced and unannounced emergency drills should be practiced at least once a year with emergency aids being supplied during each session. Ideally, employees should be so well-practiced in the plan, they shouldn’t even have to reference a map.

In short, an emergency action map should include the following clearly labeled points:

  • Evacuation Routes
  • Handicap Evacuation Routes
  • Evacuation Chair
  • Assembly Points
  • Weather Safe Rooms
  • Fire Alarms
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Alarm Pull Station
  • Fire Alarm Annunciator
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Storage
  • First Aid Kits
  • Roof Accessibility
  • Phones
  • Electrical Panels
  • Chemical Spill Kits
  • Stairs
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
  • Pedestrian Walkway
  • Elevator
  • You Are Here

The emergency map should be crafted to reflect attributes of your business, location, building size, surrounding area, and on-site hazards. That means no two emergency maps will look the same as they will cater to the specific needs of each individual business. For example, a hospital will have designated locations for PPE storage and chemical spill kits. However, it’s unlikely a real estate business will have a need for those particular safety measures.

Test the Emergency Action Plan with Digital Checklists

It’s a hassle to try to organize and document an emergency action plan with only the aid of paper and pen. Tracking developments, making updates, and implementing measures are easier done with a digital application. With the help of technology, you get the added perk of instantly notifying your coworkers of any recent updates or changes made to the plan.

With Lumiform’s mobile app, a company’s emergency plan can be easily reviewed via tablet or smartphone – online or offline. The desktop software creates checklists and immediately evaluates the collected data. This significantly reduces the risk of information loss and documentation errors. Clean, transparent documentation helps to meet all the requirements of an emergency action plan.

With Lumiform’s digital solution, companies can play it safe in their contingency planning by taking advantage of the following benefits:

  • With the flexible form construction kit, you can create an individual emergency action plan within minutes, which can be updated at any time.
  • During the emergency drills, take and upload pictures, comment on them, and see where improvements can be made.
  • Have the workplace emergency plan at hand at all times – online and offline.
  • Emergency exercises and training courses are carried about 30%-50% faster than exercises conducted without the use of a digital aid.

To make it easier for health and safety experts to work with digital checklists, we have put together some ready-made emergency action plan templates to help get you started. All templates can be adapted to internal company and legal requirements at any time – no programming knowledge is required.

Try Lumiform for free

Fire fighters use a water hose to put out a building fire
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