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Emergency Action Planning

In light of the recent public safety power shutoffs across California, I thought it might be a good time to review Emergency Action Planning. The following information comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a written document required by particular OSHA standards. The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Well developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan, likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.

At a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements:

+ Means of reporting fires and other emergencies

+ Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments

+ Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate

+ Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed

+ Rescue and Medical Duties for Employees Performing Them

+ Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted

Although they are not specifically required by OSHA, you may find it helpful to include the following in your plan:

+ A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems.

+ The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion.

+ A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees' emergency contact lists, and other essential records.

Drafting an Emergency Action Plan is not enough to ensure the safety of your employees. When an evacuation is necessary, you will need responsible, trained individuals who can supervise and coordinate activities to ensure a safe and successful evacuation. An EAP will be useful only if its content is up to date and employees are sufficiently educated and trained before an actual evacuation.

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