Learn everything you need to know about an emergency evacuation plan: what is it, why it’s important, what to include, and how to write an effective emergency evacuation plan
Published 1 Dec 2022
An emergency evacuation plan is a set of procedures developed by employers to help facilitate safe evacuations in case of workplace emergencies. Emergency evacuation plans usually contain exit routes, locations of designated safe areas, and the specific steps to follow for each type of emergency.
The purpose of an emergency evacuation plan is to ensure the safety of employees and visitors during an emergency. Since the nature of an emergency can’t be known beforehand, employers have a duty to protect employees regardless of what may happen. This entails preparing for different scenarios in which employees could be exposed to life-threatening danger.
Emergencies can be classified into 4 main categories. Within each of these categories are the different types of emergencies to prepare for:
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), while any type of emergency may require an evacuation, it should still be decided on a case-by-case basis. To make this decision much quicker during an actual emergency, employers must assess the vulnerability of their workplaces to the different types of emergencies in advance.
Ask the following questions:
An emergency evacuation plan should include the following elements:
Below is a sample emergency evacuation plan for earthquakes:
Emergency Evacuation Plan Sample | Page 1
Emergency Evacuation Plan Sample | Page 2
View the full version of the emergency evacuation plan sample for earthquakes PDF here.
For employers that need a guide on how to write an emergency evacuation plan for their workplace, refer to the steps below:
Assess the vulnerability of your workplace to the specific emergency. For example, flooding, which is the most common natural disaster in the US, may pose a greater risk to workplaces situated on lower levels or flood-prone areas. Additionally, certain natural disasters tend to occur in specific areas and it’s important for you to know if your workplace is in a higher risk area.
Determine if evacuation or shelter-in-place is more suitable for this type of emergency. Usually, shelter-in-place is recommended for emergencies wherein the danger is outside of or in close proximity to the workplace. Examples of emergencies requiring shelter-in-place are chemical incidents across the street from or nearby the workplace and tornado warnings.
Identify the need for greater resources or assistance such as special equipment and/or extra facilities for handling a critical emergency. Consider the possible need for consultation with experts and/or local emergency services. This is especially crucial for workplaces in hazardous environments.
Map out exit routes in the floor plans. Follow these best practices from OSHA:
Walk through the exit routes yourself to check if it can facilitate a safe and efficient evacuation. Remember that exit routes should have adequate space (since employees may not follow a one-line policy during an actual emergency).
Scout a potential safe area or assembly point. Ask the following questions while you’re there:
Identify instances wherein the area could still be unsafe or the danger of the emergency could possibly reach the area. Also consider the number of employees you’ll be evacuating to this safe area. If possible, ask neighboring offices or establishments if they will also be using this area for evacuation.
If you decide to share the area with another workplace during evacuations, ask for their number of employees and check if both your employees and their employees will fit in the designated safe area.
Once you have decided on the exit routes and on the designated safe area, develop a step-by-step evacuation procedure for each area in the workplace. For example, if an employee is in room 1, they must follow specific steps to go through exit route 1 and then get to the designated safe area.
If you have more than 25 employees, consider establishing a procedure for employees to digitally check-in and verify that they are safe (as opposed to or to supplement the in-person headcount done by the evacuation wardens). Identify protocols for what should be done once all employees have been accounted for and if the emergency continues or increases in severity.
Hold a meeting with employees to discuss the appropriateness of exit routes, safe areas, and evacuation procedures. Note down suggestions, comments, and points for further clarification. Revise the emergency evacuation plan based on employee feedback. Then, present the revised emergency evacuation plan to employees for approval.
Assign evacuation officers, wardens, and assistants. Establish a chain of command:
Once the plan has been approved by employees, distribute copies (preferably digital) to all employees (including part-time) as well as frequent visitors and third-party workers.
Set a date for employee training on the specific emergency evacuation plan. This may include test runs, drills, and other practical exercises. Set intervals for training (e.g., every 3 months). Consider enrolling employees in emergency training programs provided by credible organizations such as the American Red Cross or the local fire department.
Regularly review and update the emergency evacuation plan. Changes in the workplace will also warrant a review and update of the plan. Additionally, feedback or results from training exercises can lead to major revisions in the plan. For each update and revision, employees must be notified and retrained accordingly.
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Learn more about specific emergency evacuation plans below:
Special consideration must be given to the evacuation of children from family child care homes since children cannot be responsible for their own personal safety.
Unlike a home setting where parents or guardians only need to focus on the evacuation of 2 or more children, teachers in family child care homes will often be responsible for large groups of children.
Step 1: List the contact details of local emergency services.
Step 2: Identify the level of the home where the children are cared for, and if applicable, the other areas they have access to.
Step 3: Determine how the children will be evacuated (i.e., all together or separately and how the teacher will move the children to the evacuation site, etc.)
Step 4: Identify the following evacuation sites and list their addresses, person/s to contact, and their phone numbers.
Step 5: Inform parents about evacuation sites and specify procedures for parent reunification.
Since warehouses are extremely susceptible to fires, employers that own or manage warehouses should take great care in preparing an evacuation plan for fire emergencies. A warehouse emergency evacuation plan should contain the following elements:
Safe evacuation from factories can be especially challenging since some processes in manufacturing involve Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHCs) and the use of dangerous equipment. To be adequately prepared for any type of emergency, a factory must have an emergency evacuation plan with the following elements:
A construction site emergency evacuation plan should include the following elements:
For employers that want to be ready for anything and completely protect employees from harm, follow these 5 tips in preparing an emergency evacuation plan:
SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) is a safety management platform that employers can use to create and share their emergency evacuation and action plans. You can do the following (and more!) with iAuditor:
An evacuation plan template is used by employers to guide them in writing their evacuation plans. It ensures that all of the essential elements of an evacuation plan are covered. Employers can use this evacuation plan template to do the following:
An emergency evacuation checklist is a general list of steps that instructs employees on what to do in case of an emergency. Employers can add, remove, and edit items in this emergency evacuation checklist. It contains the following items:
Employers can use this emergency evacuation plan template to prepare for various types of emergencies in the workplace. The template allows you to do the following:
Erick Brent Francisco
Erick Brent Francisco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, he is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. His experience in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail helps enrich the quality of information in his articles.
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