Emergency Response Plan Basics
We can’t control when and where emergencies occur. But knowing what to do in an emergency can keep you safe. These emergency response plan basics will help you identify your responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
OSHA has certain requirements for emergency response plans. These include reporting procedures, evacuation procedures, exit routes, and what to do after evacuations. Your emergency response plan will be specific to your workplace and its hazards. Ask for clarification if you need further explanation of your duties.
Part I: Workplace Emergencies and Disasters
Your first notification of an emergency will probably be an alarm. Alarms are generally audible, but they can also be visual. Your facility may use different types of alarms for different emergencies. Make sure you know these alarms so you can respond instantly.
Some companies have internal emergency response numbers. You may need to call both 911 and this emergency response number. Check your emergency response plan for specific procedures.
When you call 911:
- Use the four ‘W’s: where, what, who and when
- Give them your address or the nearest intersection
- Provide building number and any details you can
- Tell them everything you know about what happened
Do not call 911 during a natural disaster unless it has caused additional emergencies.
Evacuation procedures should be outlined in your emergency response plan. Each work area should have a diagram showing exits, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits. Many employers designate evacuation wardens to direct employees and visitors during evacuations. You’ll need to:
- Evacuate immediately
- Know the exit route from areas you’re regularly in
- Have a secondary exit if first is blocked
- Follow procedures for shutting off equipment
- Leave calmly
- Remember–Don’t stop to retrieve personal items
After evacuating, go to your designated “muster point” and wait for a head count. If someone is missing, tell your supervisor or an evacuation warden. Remain calm. Chaos makes it difficult to confirm if someone is missing. If someone is mistakenly thought to be missing, it may result in a dangerous search to find them. Stay until you’re given permission to leave.
Shelter in Place
In some emergencies, you’ll need to move to a safe room. This is called “shelter in place.” “Shelter in place” is generally used during severe weather or if going outside is dangerous. Calmly go to your building’s designated location. This is usually an interior room with no windows on a lower floor.
Part II: Medical Emergencies
In the event of an accident or disaster, stop and assess the scene first. This helps prevent anyone else, especially you, from further injury. Anyone with possible broken bones or a neck, head or spine injury cannot be moved.
Some medical emergencies are obvious, others are not. If you suspect a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately. It’s better to call for assistance and not need it than to risk death due to delay.
Choking occurs when an object becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe. Because choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, administer first aid immediately.
- Hands clutched to the throat
- Inability to talk or cough
- Difficult, noisy breathing
- Skin, lips and nails turning blue
- Loss of consciousness
If a conscious choking victim is unable to cough, speak, or breathe, send someone to call 911 first.
If the victim is choking:
- Lean them forward
- Give 5 back blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand
- If airway still isn’t clear, perform the Heimlich Maneuver
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver:
- Stand behind the person
- Wrap your arms around their waist
- Tip them forward slightly
- Make a fist with one hand
- Position it slightly above their navel
- Grasp fist with the other hand
- Give 5 quick abdominal thrusts
- Repeat until blockage dislodges
If you’re the only rescuer, perform assistance before calling 911.
Proper care for minor and major cuts keeps bleeding under control.
For simple wounds:
- Gently apply pressure with clean cloth
- Seek medical assistance if bleeding doesn’t stop
- Rinse wound with clean water
- Clean area around wound with soap and clean washcloth
- Keep soap out of wound
- Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment
- Cover wound with a clean bandage
For severe or internal bleeding, call 911 immediately.
Burns and Chemical Exposures
Not all burns are equal. First-degree burns cover a small area with no blistering or broken skin. These need only first aid and pain relief. Second- and third-degree burns require professional medical attention. If there is blistering, broken skin, a loss of feeling, or if the burn covers a large area, provide first aid and then call for help.
For smaller burns:
- Run cool water over burn for at least 30 minutes
- If burn is small, keep it completely under water
- Do not attempt to immerse large, severe burns in water
- Do not cover burn with anything except clean, non-stick bandages
- Do not scrub burn
- Do not apply soap, ointment, or home remedies
For severe burns:
- Flush burn
- Elevate burn above heart
- Don’t offer victim anything to drink or eat
- Cover victim with a blanket to maintain a normal body temperature until medical help arrives
In general, if you are splashed with a chemical:
- Check its safety data sheet for specific procedures
- Immediately go to the nearest shower, eyewash or sink
- Flush area for at least 15 minutes with clean, cool, running water
- Remove contaminated clothing
- Seek medical advice
Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains are common. Remember how to treat them with the acronym RICE:
- Elevate injured area
Over-the-counter medication is an option. Follow the dosage guidelines.
Emergency response plans help prevent injury and minimize damage. But even the best plan is only as good as the people carrying it out. Learn and practice your roles for emergency situations so you can act immediately when disaster strikes.