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Emergency Action Plans (EAPs): Why You Need One and What You Need To Make One

Editor’s Note: We’re happy to present our second article in our security series with Paul Armstrong of Q11 Protective Services and Chris Chapeta of Bastion Security Read on and let us know your questions!

Question time: Does your company have a robust Emergency Action Plan (EAP)?

If you answered with some hesitation, then it’s safe to say that your company doesn’t have an EAP in place. So it’s safe to say your company is not safe in case of an emergency. Realistically, this question should be answered with a hard yes or no, as any uncertainty indicates that emergency and safety protocols have not been communicated effectively within your company. And communication and planning is key to running a safe, secure office.

This is why I’m here to explain the importance of office preparedness and EAPs! In the next three minutes—which is about how long it will take for you to read my blurb—I’ll go over all the details of why you need an EAP (legally speaking) and what you need to do to draft a plan that is simple, yet actionable. Remember that without an Emergency Action Plan, your company could face litigation or, even worse, suffer a loss of life (if an incident occurs) so it’s essential you get your EAP right the first time!

Here’s what you need to know about planning and communicating an Emergency Action Plan.

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Note to Self: Do not follow Dwight Schrute’s example.

Does My Company Really Need an EAP?

Yes. Unless you have fewer than 11 employees, the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires businesses to have both an EAP and a Fire Prevention Plan for emergency preparedness.

It doesn’t matter what your company does—whether it’s an architectural firm, zoological foundation or paper supply company—OSHA expects you to fully comply. Posting an evacuation sign or a policy stating “No space heaters” doesn’t cut it.

Moss Fire

Part of being an office ninja means that you are responsible for facilitating and organizing employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. The law also requires you to account for everyone in the workplace. Worst case scenario, you will have to answer the Fire Chief’s question, “Is there anyone left in your building?” Knowing where all of your company’s employees are prevents The Chief from deciding if he/she must send a young fire officer in 70 lbs of gear and a respirator to search for your employees. If the fire officer is injured or worse, three guesses who is responsible. Without an Emergency Action Plan, your company is opening itself up to a lawsuit.

With the official lecture out of the way, here are three other reasons an EAP will help your company.

  • You will increase your company’s ability to recover from financial losses, damages to equipment or products or business interruption. If all of your employees know how to operate a fire extinguisher properly, they can stop a flame from becoming an inferno that can burn up part or all of your building.
  • You will promote teamwork amongst employees and management. Assigning tasks and leaders to coordinate safe evacuation empowers employees, and meeting to discuss modifications in the EAP as needed makes them stakeholders in the company’s activities.
  • You will establish favorable relationships with law enforcement leaders and firefighters who know you have an EAP and have communicated details of it with your employees. Think of the number of times you have seen a disaster happen at a business on the news.There’s always a soundbite of an official saying the company was obviously not prepared for what occurred. That scenario can be prevented with a preemptive plan to set up your EAP.

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What Do You Need to Include in an EAP?

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation (fire/earthquake) and exit route assignments
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan

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What’s the Best Approach to Creating an EAP?

Don’t over engineer this one, folks. If you receive the wrong kind of help with writing the plan, it can become complicated, confusing, and impossible to implement. Believe me when I tell you I have seen some plans that make War and Peace seem like an easy read!

Keep it Tactical. Keep it Simple.

Here is my tried and tested approach using:

  • Easy-to-follow procedures for evacuations, earthquakes, fires, fire alarms, gas leaks, power outages, elevators, medicals, active shooter situations (both inside and outside the building) and hostile persons in your lobby
  • Quick and effective headcount methods
  • “Sweeping the building” methods
  • Visualized plans of the EAP, including grab-and-go marked up photos and maps showing exit paths, locations for fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, AEDs, gas and water shut off valves, etc.
  • Clearly defined meeting points outside the building (in agreement with the fire department)
  • Meeting and greeting the local fire department and conducting a friendly but informative walkthrough
  • Visitor accountability
  • Employee and Incident Management responsibilities
  • Landlord and Building Management responsibilities (remember; they don’t cover your office)

So folks, let’s dial it back to burning question (excuse the pun)…

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Does your company have a robust Emergency Action Plan? What questions do you have about helping put one into place?

Responses

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  1. I am so glad you are doing this series. There are so many companies that have plans but seem to really keep the important parts to themselves, passing on only the “in case of fire, get out” part to the general staff, or “active shooter–lock your door.” Seriously? What about get out if you can, turn off your phone, lights, and lock up if you can’t. So I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

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