Tag: workplace

Emergency Action Plan in Your Workplace – What Protection Does It Really Provide?


Fire exit signThe US Department of Labor has a division called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA. I’m sure you’ve heard of it!

OSHA deals with a wide variety of employment issues, including protecting privacy, procedures for non-discrimination and retaliation, etc. OSHA also sets standards for safety, including requirements for Emergency Action Plans.  Does your workplace have a Plan?  Is it working for you?  Here’s an overview to start the conversation . . .

Who needs an Emergency Action Plan?

Just about every business. Take a look around your workplace. Do you see any fire extinguishers? If there were a fire, would you and co-workers need to evacuate the premises? These are the two key questions, so if you answer “Yes” to either one, you need to have an Emergency Action Plan!

What are the requirements for a Plan?

  • It must be in writing.
  • It must be kept in the workplace.
  • It must be available to employees for review. (An employer with 10 or fewer employees may simply announce the plan contents in a staff meeting or otherwise orally.)


What does the plan contain?

  • Information about how to report a fire or other emergency (Public address system? Call 911? Pull fire alarm?)
  • Evacuation procedures and identification of escape routes (Nearest exit? Maps or diagrams?)
  • Location of fire extinguishers and who is authorized to use them (Not everyone?)
  • Critical steps to be taken before the workplace is emptied (Shut down equipment? Close doors? Do nothing, just get out?)
  • Procedures for keeping track of all employees after an evacuation (Where are records?)
  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them
  • Who to contact for more information


How often does the plan have to be updated, or shared with employees?

Clearly, a number of plan items need to be regularly updated, such as the list of employees and the list of employees with special emergency skills or who require special training. There doesn’t seem to be a requirement to revise the plan on any regular basis, or to actually practice it. The plan must be shared with all employees covered by it, however, including new employees.

What if we should have a plan, but don’t?

OSHA provides an on-line eTool that you can use to create a basic plan. Just fill in the blanks and print it out. (Note that the material is NOT SAVED if you stop in the middle, so you need to complete all sections in one sitting.) You will discover that the questions, while simple, will force you to make some important distinctions about employee behavior in an emergency. You can find the eTool at:


What’s the bottom line?
An Emergency Action Plan is really only a FIRE EVACUATION PLAN

It is not an emergency preparedness plan or a disaster response plan. It has no provisions for assembling emergency supplies to protect employees or plans to protect the business itself in the event of a disaster. Still, it is a first step to survival awareness.

Action Item: Be sure your workplace has an Emergency Action Plan as a bare minimum

Stay tuned to Emergency Plan Guide Advisories, because we’ll be dealing in more detail on Business Continuity planning.

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Random Acts of Violence — Really Random?

violence on campus

Emergency Evacuation

It may seem a bit off target here to deal with a crime that is outside of the strict definition of “terrorism.” To victims of mass shootings by deranged individuals however, it is as much an act of terrorism as any cause-motivated shooting.  This is true whether the act is perpetrated against co-workers or randomly-selected victims as in the case of the Virginia Tech shootings or the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Less workplace violence than expected?

Perhaps surprising is the fact that workplace violence has not appreciably escalated in the past four years, despite the economic downturn and record unemployment.

But more violence in schools

What is noteworthy is the occasional outbreak of violence in public places and around schools — college campuses and more recently, on an elementary school campus.

While it’s true that few people in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado had any opportunity to foresee the events that would unfold that fateful night in the summer of 2012, many people did know or “sense” that something was wrong with James Holmes. And there were warnings about Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech.

Plenty of warnings

Still, most people likely were deterred from doing or saying anything by fear of civil lawsuits or being branded alarmists.

How to defend against this kind of violence?

It starts with co-workers and supervisors in the workplace. In the case of university communities, it starts with fellow students, teachers and administrators in close coordination with appropriate authorities. This is, of course no easy path to even a partial solution.

Education and an atmosphere of open communication without fear of reprisal are admittedly easier talked about than accomplished. They are elusive goals complicated by the fact that every environment is unique and has its own culture and circumstances.

The best advice is to stay tuned in to your surroundings and resist the temptation to ignore the danger signals.  If you can’t defend against this violence, know how to respond.

Run, Hide, Fight

The City of Houston, with the assistance of a Homeland Security Grant, created a 4-minute training video on how to survive an active shooter event.    You can view “Run, Hide, Fight” here:


CAUTION:  This video, although simulated, contains some intense scenes.  Prepare any audience, even your CERT or neighborhood team, before using it as training.







OSHA Fact Sheets


If you are an employer looking for more guidance regarding workplace preparedness, and are ready to delve into the regulations surrounding this area, OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration — has published a number of informational factsheets on workplace emergencies and workplace preparedness.

Among them:

Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies

This two-page overview lists requirements for companies with more than 10 employees. Sections of the report include:

o Planning
o Chain of Command
o Emergency Response Teams
o Response Activities
o Employee Training
o Personal Protection
o Medical Assistance

How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations (OSHA 3088)

A far more comprehensive document, this 25-page report is written for the employer, to make sure the employer is following all required and recommended procedures to protect the business. This document covers all the items listed in the fact sheet above, with particular attention to fires and evacuations. A comprehensive flowchart on page 11 determines just who is required to have a written Emergency Action Plan.

Both OSHA reports are available at www.osha.gov.

Emergency Plan for Workplace

Step-by-step to workplace preparedness

Simple Plans for Small Businesses

If you own or work in a small business, you may still require a plan.  In the absense of more formal arrangements, download the Emergency Plan Guide’s Seven Steps to Workplace Preparedness.  It will give you a place to start.

Follow up with other Advisories that deal with finding workplace leaders and assembling your workplace emergency response team.