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How to Get Effective Emergency Response Out of an Emergency Action Plan

When disaster strikes—be it a natural disaster, chemical or biological release, fire, explosion, or even COVID-19 outbreak—is your company prepared to act? If you had to think about it, the answer is likely no. Accidents or tragedies oftentimes induce panic. Improper or ineffective planning of these accidents or tragedies can result in lack of focus and direction during a time when every second counts. To prevent this, an effective emergency response is crucial.

How to Prepare for an Emergency Response

Companies who proactively develop and implement an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) are best equipped to respond properly to emergencies. An EAP is a comprehensive, organized document that defines the employer’s expectations for its workers in the case that an emergency occurs. Common standards addressed are routes of egress, work with hazardous materials, use of personal protective equipment, medical and first aid procedures, and emergency contact information.

An effective EAP addresses which response should be taken and can help prevent the following:

  • Confusion
  • Illness or injury
  • Equipment damage
  • Environmental harm
  • Interruption of business operations

Not all employers are required to have a comprehensive EAP, however having such a plan in place will prepare your team for effective emergency response during crisis. Review OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1910.38(a) and 29 CFR 1926.35—or utilize the U.S Department of Labor’s EAP eTool—to see if your business requires an EAP.

What Emergencies Call for an Emergency Response?

Prior to building out an EAP, it is important to identify emergencies that call for an emergency response. Although workplace emergencies vary by industry and can be either manmade or natural, they all require some form of urgent mitigating action.

Common examples of emergencies include damaging weather events (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.), chemical or biological releases, fires or explosions. Additionally, COVID-19 should be considered a workplace emergency that may require an emergency response such as decontamination of surfaces and equipment.

Steps for Implementing an EAP

The best method for emergency response preparedness is the implementation of an EAP. To create an effective EAP, consider the steps below.

1. Arrange a Project Team

Before an effective EAP can be created, you must determine who will help with its development. By including a diverse group in this process, you can obtain information through various lenses in your company: management and field team members may have differing views on how to carry out emergency response, and it’s important to consider all aspects of the plan. Don’t be afraid to also include your local health department and outside representation for help navigating regulations and standards along the way.

2. Assess Potential Risks

Each work environment is unique, which means each EAP and emergency response procedure will vary. Initial risks might be easy to identify, however, thinking outside the box for lower probability accidents is necessary. It is always better to be over prepared than under prepared!

3. Define and Implement Emergency Responses

After the potential risks have been identified, the next step is to determine the correct emergency response procedures to take for each risk scenario. For example, if a chemical spill were to occur onsite, proper cleanup response would be required. An EAP should define the steps needed to contain the spill, along with the correct individuals or entities to contact. Once the procedures are finalized, implementation among the workforce is required.

4. Review

As your company grows and introduces new equipment or procedures, it is important to make improvements to the documents as new threats are identified. At the bare minimum, an annual review should be conducted to see if your emergency response preparedness can be improved. A perfect time to conduct an EAP review is during the National Preparedness Month, hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency annually in September.

5. Reach Out for Help

Even the best of plans can be thwarted given an unexpected disaster. EnviroServe’s emergency response experts can help you navigate the unexpected. Contact (800) 488-0910 for 24/7 service or help establishing EAP best practices at your company.

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