Emergency Action Plans… an overview


We truly hope that no organization ever needs to implement an emergency action and response plan, but because of significant moral and increasing legal obligations, it is a topic that should be addressed. Although many of the people in our facilities are regular members, that status does not confer upon them knowledge of what to do or where to go in case of an emergency. Even if we post evacuation plans and instructions to follow in case of emergencies (and if we do not, we definitely should), we must assume that the majority of our patrons will not have bothered to read that material. If we made the mistake of posting it on a bulletin board with other material, we can be almost assured that it will not be referenced in an emergency. Thus, it is extremely important that all of our staff be familiar with what must be done in any emergency, both because the executive director (or other designated individual) may be off premises or unavailable at the critical moment and because time may be of the essence.

Emergency action plans should be formulated to protect the life and safety of members, guests, and staff as well as all the personal and business property found on site. Some facilities may not be exposed to all of the following potential calamities, but all should be seriously considered before related contingency plans are rejected.

  • Medical emergency (serious injury or injuries, heart attack, etc.)
  • Fire (or indication thereof)
  • Power (or other utility) outage
  • Bomb threat
  • Gas leak (natural, LP, chlorine, or other)
  • Earthquake
  • Civil disturbance (from a single threatening individual to a riot)
  • Severe weather (thunder storm, hurricane, tornado, flood, snow)

Specific procedures and training related to the various emergencies should be provided as outlined in related Risk Management Topics, which are available for the above classes of emergency. Although the specifics may differ, each of the following should be addressed:

  • Notification (on-site alerting and off-site summoning of assistance)
  • Necessary responses and actions to an alarm
  • Equipment needed (if any)
  • Proper evacuation procedures

Although drills are probably not necessary, regular reviews of the procedures with staff are suggested, for example, one type of emergency response per staff meeting. In addition, all response procedures, including narrative text for announcements, should be maintained in a conspicuously labeled, easily locatable manual near the front desk (or somewhere else that is always staffed and has access to telephone and other necessary communication devices).


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