What to Include in Your Workplace Emergency Action Plan

Kayla Naab

Emergency preparedness is an essential part of human life. At home, we have an emergency action plan for every situation. We keep plans, equipment, and gear in place in case things go awry. We teach our children and family members how to escape, evacuate, or hunker down for inclement weather, fight fire, call for help, and handle a variety of life’s biggest surprises. We all internalize emergency action for every situation whether we realize it or not - always looking for our safest exit or best route in case of potential harm. 

It’s innate, to protect ourselves and the ones we care about. But there’s one question that often gets overlooked when we discuss emergency preparedness in general: what if an emergency happens during the workday?

Most people go to work every day not thinking about potential emergencies and imminent harm, and that’s what we want. Employees have enough to think about without also combating a deluge of worry over the uncontrollable. 

However, if employers and office managers are also ignoring this all-important consideration, consequences could be serious. Lead the charge by establishing clear, documented plans for every type of emergency. If you haven’t already, now is the time to develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for your workplace. 

What to Include in an Emergency Action Plan: 

Your company’s EAP isn’t just one document or flyer about the emergency exits and alarms in the building. In fact, those are just components of a comprehensive EAP. Your plan should include a variety of procedures, plans, instructions, and diagrams to help your team react appropriately to any emergency. Here’s how:  

1. A Go-To Plan for Every Emergency

In general, you’ll want to begin your EAP research by making a list of all the potential emergencies your team could encounter. These may include:

  • Natural disasters. Include the types of inclement weather and natural disasters that are prone to happen in your area, and the appropriate actions for each, specific to your building.
  • Fire. Emergency action may be different for fires within the building than for wildfires or fires that happen proximally. Make plans for small emergencies like extinguishing small kitchen fires and big ones, like evacuating a burning building.
  • Violence. Whether your building is entered by an intruder or there’s a larger act of violence happening in your city, your people need to be prepared for how to lock in or get out. 
  • Medical emergencies. If an employee chokes, falls ill or sustains an injury, other employees may need to act. Outline when, why, and how. 
  • Building problems. Your facility may experience problems like backed-up plumbing or a power outage, or you might endure something more serious like a caving roof or broken window. In any case, your team needs to know how to act. 

These aren’t exhaustive, but they may get you thinking about other emergencies that might happen around you. List those out and take stock of the ideal actions for each situation. Start with those.  

2. Set Up Safe Spaces 

Unified meeting spaces 

When emergencies happen, togetherness is a step to survival. If everyone is dispersed to different working areas, meeting rooms, restrooms, and throughout your campus, this may be difficult. Decide on one core meeting place where everyone is to report as soon as they are able. This will help you account for anyone who may be missing as well as rally troops to act in tandem and delegate tasks. 

Shelter in place 

Another type of space you may need is a shelter from varying degrees of harm. The ideal space to meet and seek safety may vary depending on the circumstances. Make sure you set out the best places to meet if there’s a tornado or earthquake, a flood, an intruder, an act of violence, or something else. 

3. Evacuation Procedures

When staying isn’t the safest plan, your people will need to know where (and how) to leave instead. A chaotic mass exodus from your building will not only be unproductive and difficult to execute, but could be unsafe, too. Create the proper routes and processes for evacuation in any circumstance. Include plans for who leaves from which doors, who stays back and in which circumstances, which windows are safe to exit from if necessary, and how to leave the building secure when you go. 

4. Emergency Communication Plans

Thoughtful, calm, and clear communication is a  massive part of surviving in an emergency situation. The ECP to your EAP should include:

  • How emergencies are announced to the team
  • Where employees can find out about office closures during inclement weather
  • A phone tree or communication dispersal plan to use during an emergency 
  • Methods of communication and contingencies for when things break down
  • Hierarchies of leadership and decisions about who should be communicating to whom
  • Allergy and medical records, safety procedures, and resources 

5. Building Security and Control Contingencies 

Every facility is different. While buildings are generally required to have adequate exits, smoke alarms, and posted emergency routes, ultimate safety and security go beyond that. Does your building have a way to mass lockdown all doors and exits in the event of an intruder or outside force of harm? Inversely, does your building have any kind of overrides for unlocking doors or accessing safe spaces in the event of an emergency? What happens if something happens to your main security force or the IT person who knows all of the big, hairy passwords that no one else has access to? Make sure you coordinate with all of these people 

6. Equipment and Preparedness Kits 

Your facility probably has a fire extinguisher, smoke and CO alarms, and a first aid kit. Do your employees know how to use them? To avoid confusion (and even bigger problems), write up instructions for the use of all emergency gear and post those instructions in a common space - preferably both in the facility and online.

To go beyond that, what else might your team need to be safe, stay safe, and return to safety in the event of an emergency? Have you stashed enough water and food in the event that you’re locked in or forced to stay? Do you have flashlights or a backup generator in the event of an outage? Are you equipped to survive in a more serious situation than a cut or scrape? Brainstorm with your team and consult this survival preparedness list

7. Documentation and Resources 

Finally, it’s important to disseminate resources to your team that helps them conceptualize the possibility of an emergency at work, and inform them of proper recourse. These could include anything from active shooter protocol to CPR training to a refresher on fire safety. No resource is too simplistic to include, as you never know what formative training your employees may have on survival basics, first aid, or any other type of emergency preparedness. 

Workplace Safety is about More Than the Work Itself 

When we talk about safety in the workplace, the conversation is centered around safety protocol within the work itself. However, keeping your people safe and secure is about more than that. In the event of an emergency that’s entirely outside your control, you need to have a plan in place to keep everyone safe. Don’t wait until an emergency happens to make that plan. Start now and craft an EAP that will grow with your organization.

Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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