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Emergency Action Planning

Emergency Action Planning

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LISA RIVERS
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
Workplace Safety Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

The ability to egress a building safely and quickly during an emergency is a major component in ensuring your place of business or workplace is safe. From a fire and life safety standpoint, tragic and horrific events have occurred in assembly buildings, including churches, restaurants, theaters and stadiums. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) list of deadliest public assembly and nightclub fires in the U.S. include the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago in 1903 (602 deaths); the 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston (492 deaths); the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky, in 1977 (165 deaths); and The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003 (100 deaths). The combination of large groups of people and buildings with egress problems has given many of these fires a tragic notoriety in the country’s public safety history.

One of the most effective ways to ensure your workplace is safe is to have a well-thought-out written emergency action plan in place. If you have less than 10 workers, you can convey the plan orally to everyone. Ensure you train all employees what to do in an emergency, and review the plan with new hires or newly assigned workers so they are familiar with it and their responsibilities.

Your plan should include identifying all emergency exit routes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and NFPA provide general requirements for means of egress. The Department of Labor’s 29 CFR 1910.35 defines a means of egress as “a continuous and unobstructed way of exit travel from any point in a building or structure to a public way and consists of three separate and distinct parts …” The three parts of an emergency exit route include:

  • Exit access – Leads to an exit

  • Exit – Allows for safe travel to the exit discharge

  • Exit discharge – Leads to the street, walkway or refuge area

OSHA requires “each exit route be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route,” 29 CFR 1910.37(b)(1). In addition, OSHA requires: “Each exit must be clearly visible and marked by a sign reading ‘Exit,’1910.37(b)(2); “Each exit route door must be free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of the exit route door,” 1910.37(b)(3); “Each doorway or passage along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit must be marked ‘Not An Exit’ or similar designation, or be identified by a sign indicating its actual use (e.g., closet),” 1910.37(b)(5).

In most cases, OSHA mandates there be at least two emergency exit routes to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency. However, more exits may be required depending on the number of employees and size of the building. The only exception to this rule applies to smaller businesses where individuals can exit safely in the event of an emergency. In these cases, one route may be acceptable.

As an employer, it is your job to ensure you adhere to federal regulations and base the number of emergency egress routes on the size of your organization. For more information on emergency action plans, visit the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/oshasoft/ or the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center website at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Workplace/EmergencyPlanningandResponse.aspx.


  • 16 April 2018
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1590
  • Comments: 0
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