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Emergency Action Plans: Why Your Business Needs One

Updated: May 11

Does your company have an emergency action plan? If so, when is the last time you took a serious look at it? Active threats can happen anywhere. Are you prepared?


A Sitting Duck


Nobody was ever trained for this; we were just teachers doing what we did every day.” - Columbine High School Faculty Member, following the 1999 Columbine shooting.


During the 1950’s, the icy breath of the Cold War reached American classrooms with the introduction of “duck-and-cover” drills, intended to simulate safety maneuvers in case of an atomic attack. Children were trained to get under their desks, cover their heads, and wait for an “all clear.” Even now, our earthquake and tornado drills look largely the same. We have been programming people to dive under tables with their head in their hands for all manner of hazards for decades.


In 1999, the Columbine High School librarian frantically told students to get down and crouch under tables in response to the presence of active shooters in the school. There was a door located in the library leading outside, which could have been used to escape. Out of 13 deaths and 24 injuries during this tragedy, 10 students were killed in the library. In 2007, at Virginia Tech University, 32 students and professors were killed and 17 were injured. 27 of these individuals were in rooms where no action was taken against the shooter, specifically in the form of a door barricade. The gunman systematically walked down classroom aisles shooting students under their desks as they hid there.


While these examples and the most widely known active shooter incidents are school-related, the reality is that only 21% of these events take place in schools; 44% take place in businesses. The number one location for active shooter events is not a school; it is a place of business, making this issue largely one of workplace violence.


When you think of an office, what do you picture? A printer, a water cooler, maybe a planted ficus in the corner? All surrounded by what? Desks. How many people, at the sound of a gunshot, would respond according to an instinct that has been reinforced and drilled perhaps hundreds of times in their life by hiding the first place they can find: under a desk? It’s close, it’s convenient, and it feels isolated, especially in a private office or a cubicle. However, unless used for a short time while waiting until it is safe to move toward an exit or a room with a door that can be barricaded, it can make someone a sitting duck.


Emergency Action Plans


On the other hand, how many people are aware of their company’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP)? How many companies have an updated, discussed EAP?


Emergency action plans should include evacuation, relocation, and secure-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, and its risk. The plan for active shooter and hostile events must include the location and identification of lockable spaces and rooms as well as the locations of exit doors that lead directly to the outside or to a stairwell. There should be clear instructions on how to secure any lockable doors.

The EAP also involves a notification procedure which alerts employees to the situation (without being confused for a building fire alarm signal) in a timely manner. In addition to its alert plans and protective preparedness, a business must have emergency communication plans in place with local first response agents, such as the local fire department, police department, and hospitals.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be furnished by businesses to employees for emergency use. This equipment may be first-aid supplies, blood and wound control tools, masks, and gloves. Barricade devices and other emergency supplies such as flashlights and water bottles are also important to have on hand.


Communication systems and emergency plans should be drilled and reviewed on at least an annual basis. Organizations should develop their plans with the ability to communicate both internally and externally. There should be a pre-scripted mass warning message ready to be sent to all relevant personnel and emergency services with the following information:


Who is sending the alert? What is happening? Where is this happening? Who is affected? What action should be taken?


A well-communicated emergency action plan is the difference between a survivor and a sitting duck.


If you are a business owner and you have to ask yourself, “Do I have an emergency action plan?” You don’t. Make one. You can’t afford the alternative.


Lockdown International is dedicated to bringing a variety of training programs, security products, educational tools, and proactive measures to businesses, schools, and other communities.


We partner with clients to create and implement custom proactive solutions based on their risk assessment. To learn more, please visit our Instructor Course.


Requirements of Emergency Action Plans are according to the 2018 edition of the NFPA 3000 (PS): Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. Guidelines listed here are not exhaustive. For complete EAP standards, please consult the National Fire Protection Agency standards.

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