From a large-scale disaster to an unresolved power fault, an emergency action plan (EAP) is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and will soon be included in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code.

OSHA 1910.38 Emergency Action Plans is defined as “Written and oral emergency action plans. An emergency action plan must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available to employees for review. However, an employer with ten or fewer employees may communicate the plan orally to employees.”

EAPs are broadly scoped, covering many aspects of a company and its facilities. It should also provide specific details that ensure electrical systems are prepared for unexpected power interruptions in order to minimize damage and disruption. This article provides recommendations on what should be included in the electrical power section of an EAP and reviews the challenges companies face with equipment repairs and startups after an emergency event.


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ben Franklin coined this phrase in 1736 to remind the citizens of Philadelphia to remain vigilant about fire awareness and prevention. As is true of many of his quotes and advancements, it still has great relevance today, especially relating to electrical power reliability.

The best practice for risk mitigation is proper planning, training, and quick response to potential problems or impending hazards. This is the best strategy for keeping workers safe, protecting against property loss, and limiting or avoiding the interruption of business operations. 

Electrical emergencies can be caused by human error, equipment malfunction, weather, or natural interference. Some can be anticipated, like seasonal weather cycles where companies routinely deal with the threat of wind, flooding, or fire; others are unpredictable, seemingly random but always at the worst time. In many cases, the electrical power system plays a critical role in circumventing injury and loss and the safe re-energization to restore power and resume operation.

Emergency events

According to the U.S. Record of Natural Disasters, five of the top 10 most costly disasters in 2021 occurred in the U.S. 

Natural Disasters reported in 2021 included seven hurricanes, 1,377 tornadoes, 22 floods, 58,948 fires, and 19 earthquakes.

While there are too many causes to calculate, some other notable causes of unexpected events include tree and foliage interference, animal infiltrations, cable faults (across the country, medium-voltage infrastructure is aging and failing), and equipment malfunction due to poor maintenance.

Here are a few examples of companies that were prepared with an EAP or, in hindsight, realized the importance of creating one for the future. 

Case study 1

Customers with critical power needs usually have detailed emergency preparedness plans in place. One nuclear submarine manufacturer has a detailed EAP that includes routine maintenance procedures. According to the plan, field engineers are scheduled to perform electrical systemwide maintenance and testing before hurricane season to verify equipment operation and health. When Hurricane Sandy hit, they knew their electrical equipment was working properly. This knowledge, combined with their familiarity with the system configuration and emergency response protocols, contributed to a speedy recovery process.

Case study 2

A data center customer in a flooded area took on water, which shut down the main switchgear. This customer had recently created an EAP. Before the event, the customer installed a secondary DC power system as part of that action plan. Additional backup generators were added to the system to ensure the data center’s operation until the switchgear could be repaired. 

Case study 3

A manufacturing customer’s EAP included scheduling an electrician to be on standby during a recent event. However, that step was not taken. So, while the electrician could respond remotely to some of the electrical issues, the power could not be restored until he could come out and test equipment and verify the safety and suitability of the system to be energized. 

Often, companies are not aware that the International Electrical Testing Association — ANSI/NETA ATS Standard recommends acceptance testing before re-energization after a system repair. The standards also require an updated arc flash study after significant changes or repairs have been made to the system. 

(The ANSI/NETA ATS Standard is a consensus standard, bringing together in one standard, a collection of nationally recognized specifications and recommendations for acceptance testing of electrical power systems and equipment. The NETA standard is used worldwide by individuals seeking to ensure that the electrical power equipment and systems in their care operate reliably and safely in conformance with industry and manufacturer standards and tolerances.)

Case study 4

A hydroelectric generating plant experienced a shutdown of its main output transmission line. Upon investigation, it was found that the insulators on the transmission tower were damaged. (Many older plants lack redundant systems, leaving only one point of output, thus making faults particularly costly.) Since the shutdown was to the main output line, the damage halted the facility’s generation capabilities, significantly impacting revenue. 

The cause was a squirrel climbing across the equipment, causing a short-circuit and damage to the insulators. Fortunately, this customer had an EAP in place. An important part of that plan had a spare parts inventory, so the emergency response partner was able to source the needed parts from their inventory, install a replacement insulator, and restore the output line in a matter of hours. 

Case study 5

A customer at a natural gas power plant had a breaker trip offline, which shut the power production down. When the in-house engineer went to reset the breaker, it would not close. In this case, there was no EAP. However, The customer contacted a technician that had been on-site in recent months for another issue. The technician could troubleshoot the issue and close the breaker in 30 minutes, and the system was reenergized in less than three hours. Prior experience with the facility and electrical system was critical to a speedy response time and recovery. The plant has an hourly revenue generation of $30,000 to $40,000. In this case, a quick response time was key to minimizing revenue loss. 

At a post-event meeting with the customer, the technician explained that the breaker tripped as it should have due to a temporary fault in the power system. But, as is often the case with breakers that have not received routine maintenance, it stuck open and would not close. Therefore, the customer created an EAP that included a regular maintenance program. This would ensure their readiness for the next inevitable emergency event.

Creating an EAP

EAPs take many forms. A facility’s electrical power section of the plan should take into consideration the criticality of its operation; worker requirements and safety before, during, and following an emergency; the geographical area where the facility is located; and the types of emergencies the facility is likely to encounter. 

As mentioned earlier, EAPS should include a dedicated section covering the electrical power system, and the best place to start is with an assessment.

EAP facility assessment

  • Identify the types of emergencies the facility will likely encounter in its industry and geographical area.
  • Conduct a risk assessment; walk the facility and identify electrical equipment and areas at risk due to their location, configuration, and criticality. 
  • Determine if anything can be done at the facility to secure the equipment or the area to mitigate risk in the event of a flood, fire, or other equipment damaging events.
  • Map an evacuation plan. Consider how to move workers out of the affected area or off-site and how to bring emergency response vendors and resources on-site safely. 
  • Consider how to keep your business in operation, if possible, during or immediately after the crisis has passed. Make a plan utilizing battery and UPS units, generators, and redundant power systems. 
  • Identify information resources needed to assist the response process. This might include weather applications and emergency fire and police services. Make sure this information and related apps are accessible by mobile device.
  • Consider a mass notification tool to inform employees and vendor partners of the situation and communicate instructions.

Once you have thoroughly assessed your facility’s operation and the electrical power assets and evaluated the risks associated with different types of emergencies, you are ready to begin building the electrical power section of your EAP. 

EAP Components

1. Emergency Categories and Response Protocol — Written response protocol/strategy outlining how the response team will handle different emergencies.

Every Emergency Action Plan starts with an overview of the facility, areas of risk, and types of threats that the plan will address. Response strategies should be summarized with details to follow in the subsequent sections. 

Different types of threats may require different kinds of responses. In addition, specific personnel are assigned to lead the response, and roles and responsibilities are identified. It is always good to have multiple people assigned to the tasks, considering shift times and on-site availability as an event may occur at any time. 

2.  Emergency Response Policy — Written policies, procedures, and processes that will guide the actions, responsibilities, and practices of individuals in the business that will respond to an incident.

The emergency response policy provides a game plan that guides the actions of those responsible for directing employees, securing resources, preparing for, and responding to emergencies. The emergency response policy should establish: 

  • Response team roles and responsibilities
  • A command center where response teams have access to power and communication recourses and can meet to coordinate execution measures. 
  • Communication protocols
  • Procedures guiding facility evacuation and work from home and return to work coordination. 

3.  Emergency Vendor Directory — An electronic and physical book of key companies and emergency contact information. Includes first and second responders for each company resource needed.

Critical to the success of any Emergency Action Plan is knowing which resources and suppliers to rely on when a quick response is needed. These relationships should be set up in advance. The more familiar the vendor response teams are with the facilities, procedures, and policies, the more successful the emergency preparedness and response efforts will be. It is recommended that at least 2 or 3 vendor relationships be established and included in the directory. This is important since service providers will likely be in high demand if the emergency is not isolated to a single facility.  For easy access, emergency partners should be identified with contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Below is a concise list of services to include in your directory:

  • Local Utility
  • Electrical Contractor
  • Electrical Testing Company
  • HVAC Service Company
  • Plumbing Company
  • Electrical Engineer 
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Spare Parts Supplier
  • Generator Rental
  • Fire Department
  • Hazardous Waste Mitigation
  • Police Department
  • Flood, Fire, Wind Damage Restoration

4.  Engineering Document Library — Digital and physical resources will help the facility’s emergency responder identify critical power supplies, locate equipment affected, navigate the system configuration, and reference setting and maintenance schedules. 

Electrical system engineering documents should always be kept up to date. In an emergency, it is critical to know whether settings and single-line diagrams are current. We suggest a periodic review of engineering documents and arc flash studies. NFPA 70E states that arc flash hazard calculations need to be reviewed every five years or whenever there is a significant change in the electrical system.

The Engineering Document Library should minimally include: 

  • Single-line diagrams
  • Coordination and short circuit study
  • Arc flash studies
  • Protective device setting
  • Recent maintenance schedule and scope of work

5.  System Prioritization — An equipment and systems priority list that identifies high-priority assets to be protected, noting their location, handling and regulatory requirements.

In an emergency, response time can save lives, limit damage to equipment, and reduce operational downtime. Some electrical equipment and systems are more critical in all facilities. A system prioritization section provides a schematic that diagrams the electrical system(s) with notations indicating which areas support critical operations and should receive attention first. The main power input and output lines will be the highest priority. The standby, emergency backup, and UPS power systems will also be essential to secure and maintain the ongoing recovery process.

6.  Emergency Response Directory — A reference book of stakeholders

The Emergency Response Directory includes internal personnel responsible for enacting and managing your response plan, along with vendors and services that will be critical to recovery.

The emergency response directory should be a resource that provides the location, email address, and phone numbers of the internal key stakeholders responsible for taking action pre-, during-, and post-event. 

7.  Standby Emergency Power Response — Resources and backup power and generator systems will maintain emergency and safety applications and critical UPS functions. 

Critical operations that cannot afford power interruptions should make advanced plans for an oncoming threat. A field technician should be on-call or brought on-site throughout a storm emergency, so they are available to assist with any electrical power needs that might arise. 

8.  Routine Maintenance Records Library — Historical maintenance schedules and test results documenting pre-season checks and routine maintenance required to expedite recovery and insurance claim procedures. 

The best risk mitigation investment is ensuring your electrical power system is maintained properly with routine maintenance services. Emergency preparedness procedures should be considered and accommodated in regularly scheduled maintenance programs. Minimally, a good maintenance plan should include:

  • Inspection, testing, and timely repairs to all electrical equipment
  • Removal of debris, clean-up, and resolution of insulation degradation
  • Generator and/or DC power backup assessments. Ensuring fuel and fuel quality are adequate for almost any emergency.
  • A spare parts inventory, including components required to support the main power system in case of equipment failure. This may include: 
  1. Circuit breakers
  2. Fuses
  3. Insulators
  4. Cables to connect temporary power
  5. Oils and insulating fluids

Getting parts during an area-wide emergency will be a challenge. Even if the emergency is isolated to your facility, access to replacement parts may still be challenging, given today’s supply chain issues. 

9.  Emergency Preparation & Training — Training materials and emergency drills. 

While many companies have established emergency policies and procedures, they often neglect emergency training. We all recall the practice of fire drills in school, and the reason for these types of training and drills is to ensure that when there is an immediate threat, everyone knows what to do and where to go. Those responsible for preparing for a weather emergency should be familiar with the policies and procedures. The Emergency Action Plan should be centrally located and accessible in digital and physical formats. There may not be time or the ability to focus on locating and reading the steps required to protect assets and workers once the emergency is imminent.

10.  Notification Protocol — A mass communication tool that allows leadership and the emergency response team to communicate to all stakeholders in the event of a server shutdown or power outage. 

Cell phones will work well if the event is isolated to a facility. Group communication lists should be set up in advance, so they are easily accessed when notifications are necessary. There should also be a secure means to communicate directly with the emergency response team.  

Cell phones provide a convenient communications tool; however, if the emergency affects the surrounding area, and the grid goes down, the plan must include other communication devices and protocols. The emergency response team needs a reliable alternative communication device. Walkie-talkies, Satellite radios, HAM radios, and CB radios are potential options depending on whether the team is located in one area or spread across a wider geographical area. 

Initial communication with larger groups of employees often takes place first via company instant messaging applications, email, or cell phone. Protocols for communications should be established, and employees should be instructed on where to go to receive updates in the event of an area-wide extended power outage. Access to the internet may be spotty, but communications on several platforms will be most effective. This might include posting updates to the company website, intranet sites, or the phone answering system.

If you already have an Emergency Action Plan and have not reviewed it lately, now is a good time. Review the plan. Schedule training. Call a meeting with the identified emergency responders, ensure they are familiar with all aspects of the plan, answer questions, and clarify roles and responsibilities. An Emergency Action Plan review should minimally take place annually, along with employee training. 

Emergency response call protocol

ERS receives hundreds of emergency calls each year and has found that the most successful responses start with crucial information being provided during the first contact. 

A company’s emergency responder will usually contact the local authorities and then the service providers needed from the Emergency Response Directory. In the case of an electrical system emergency, they will call the local service center to report the problem and request support.

During the call, the facility emergency response manager should provide as many details as possible about the issue, including:

  • Cause of the emergency
  • Equipment affected
  • Operations affected
  • Location of the equipment
  • Recent maintenance date
  • Criticality of electrical damage, the danger of electrical shock, or other risk factors
  • Instructions on when and where to meet

To address the problem, the service center manager then engages the operations team to dispatch the proper equipment and technician resources to the site. 

Annual review

If you already have an Emergency Action Plan and have not reviewed it lately, now is a good time. 

Annual reviews should include a plan review, training, emergency responders' team meeting, clarification of roles and responsibilities, verification of inventories of equipment, verification of vendor/supplier contacts, updates to emergency responders directory, and updates to engineering and maintenance documents.


Emergencies can happen at any time. The most effective way to handle a crisis situation is to prepare by creating an emergency action plan. NFPA and OSHA require written Emergency Action Plans and specific businesses have additional regulations due to their part in the country's infrastructure or handling of hazardous materials. 

Best practices for minimizing the impact on your electrical power system in the event of an emergency:

  • Have an Emergency Action Plan
  • Establish emergency response partnerships
  • Regularly review emergency policies and procedures with employees and vendor partners 
  • Maintain a spare parts inventory
  • Maintain electrical systems with a routine maintenance plan