Answered By: Kristie Keuntjes, Learning Services Coordinator
Last Updated: Jan 09, 2019     Views: 38

What is an emergency response plan?

An emergency response plan details the steps and actions personnel will take in an emergency situation like a disease outbreak or a natural disaster.  

Why is it important to create an emergency response plan?

An emergency response plan can hasten the actions taken by employees.  The first actions taken in the beginning of an emergency are critical because lives are at stake, and it is important to ensure employees are educated about what steps to take and when.  

What are the steps to take when writing an emergency response plan?

  1. Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential threats/scenarios.  It is important to understand what could happen to help you determine what resources, plans, and procedures you will need to prepare in the event of the emergency.  
  2. Keep in mind you will not be able to prepare for everything.  There is no way to determine every contingency that may happen during an emergency or identify every problem you will encounter.  It is important to keep this in mind as focusing on writing a plan for absolutely everything will detract from the ability to create an effective plan.  It is easy to lose the important processes by overcomplicating the set emergency response plan.  
  3. Determine your audience.  Who is the primary audience of the plan?  Doctors?  Nurses?  General staff?  Patients?  Who is the first person to pick up the plan in the event it needs to be used?  
  4. Identify resources needed.  What will you need to stabilize the emergency?  Who will you need?  What equipment will be required?  Will you need additional public emergency services like the fire department or police?
  5. Create an organizational chart.  The organizational chart identifies who is in charge during the emergency and who will report to whom.  The chart can clarify what each group of people will be responsible for like logistics, technical support, etc.
  6. Write your core plan.  Your core plan provides guidance to all components of the response, and it can be divided into modules, chapters, etc.  Breaking down the information can ensure the responders to the emergency can take action without reading the plan in its entirety.  The segmented approach can also help responders easily identify the implementation approach, staffing needs, reporting, and available resources.  
  7. Ensure formatting is easy to read.  You want to include figures, images, and reiterate important parts of the plan.  Be sure not to overcomplicate important actions.  Your plan needs to be organized in a way that makes sense.
  8. Ensure your document is easy to update and flexible.  Your institution may need to make adjustments or changes to the plan at any time, so your plan needs to be created with a way to update later.  Your plan must be flexible to ensure the plan remains relevant even in a rapidly-changing situation.
  9. Watch your wording.  Every word included in the emergency response plan has to have a purpose for being included in the way that it is included.  Time is critical, so your plan needs to be as clear and concise as possible. 
  10. Train personnel.  Ensure they know what the plan is, where it is, and how to use it.  
  11. Facilitate exercises to practice your plan.  

What does an emergency response plan look like?

Here are some examples of existing emergency response plans:



Allen, H. (2016). 10 things to consider when writing outbreak response plans [PowerPoint]. Retrieved from

San Francisco Department of Public Health. (2011). Infectious disease plan. Retrieved from

Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.) Emergency response plan.  Retrieved from

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