Emergency Operating Procedures
What You Need to Know & Address
Emergency Operating Procedures (EOPs) are critical to emergency planning and preparedness for any facility. According to FEMA, emergency operating procedures means, “A document that assigns responsibility to organizations and individuals for carrying out specific actions at projected times and places in an emergency that exceeds the capability or routine responsibility of any one agency.”
Many people working on EOPs confuse them with plans; however, they are much different because emergency operating procedures are not as specific as emergency plans. Plans will be very specific and will differ according to emergency type such as fire, active shooter, flooding, etc. Procedures on the other hand are broader and say “if there’s a fire, the fire department will respond and take over the response.”
Writing EOPs can be difficult, and mistakes are often made. One of the biggest mistakes made is that once written, people forget about them or don’t update them. To be most effective, EOPs must be a continuous cycle of review and testing. Much like the Emergency Management Cycle, EOPs should be written, trained on, tested, reviewed, and amended often. Risk assessments should also be part of the EOP writing and review process. Your risk assessment shows weaknesses in your safety plans and EOPs work to fill in those gaps.
Your EOPs should explain responsibilities of those responding to different incidents/emergencies your facility may face. For example, all local first responders should be listed and their roles and responsibilities during an incident. Others to include in your emergency response procedures are titles such as: medical coordinator, public works, facility/maintenance, communications coordinator, public information officer, resource manager, etc. Have a name, phone number, email address, and image for each person listed in your procedures to minimize confusion. Storing this information electronically can help streamline the response process.
Finally, it is important to remember to recruit help when writing or amending EOPs. One person’s advice and opinion is not enough for well-rounded and inclusive emergency response procedures. Get input from safety team members and local first responders to increase preparedness and get feedback of current procedures.
Emergency operating procedures are a small piece of the large puzzle of emergency preparedness and planning. Without this small piece though, the puzzle is never complete. Although complex, EOPs are essential to effective planning and preparedness.