Getting Started - General Preparedness and Response

Getting Started - General Preparedness and Response

2015 – United States Department of Labor (OSHA)

This page provides employers, responders and recovery workers with emergency preparedness and response guidance and resources that apply to a variety of potential hazards. This page includes information for two audiences: (1) general business employers who need information on preparing for emergencies, and (2) emergency response and recovery workers.

General Business:

OSHA's Fact Sheet on Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies (PDF*) summarizes key elements of emergency preparedness and response: establishing emergency plans, training workers on the plan, providing personal protective equipment, and engaging in organized response operations. The Fact Sheet also highlights the importance of having a chain of command and maintaining warning and communication systems.

Effective preparation is essential to conducting organized and thorough response operations in an emergency situation. Some businesses may be required by regulation to establish Emergency Action Plans meeting certain requirements (see 1910.38 and OSHA's compliance policy (PDF*) for more information). Effective plans should take into account what personal protective equipment workers may require, as well as other resilience resources for emergency responses. Employers should also be aware that some states have OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plans that may have more stringent requirements than what Federal OSHA requires. Click here for more information about which states have their own occupational safety and health programs.

OSHA provides several guidance resources that may help with planning for emergencies that require evacuations, including Emergency Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool and publications on how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations, emergency exit routes (PDF*), and evacuating high-rise buildings (PDF*).

The following resources also provide useful guidance for emergency planning and response:

Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness Requirements and Guidance. This OSHA document details emergency response and preparedness requirements for a number of specific industries.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Inspection Procedures. This page provides information on enforcement of OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard. provides preparedness resources as well as information about current emergencies. The Red Cross Ready Rating Program is a resource for businesses, organizations, and schools to evaluate and improve their level of preparedness for emergencies.

Response and Recovery Workers:

Organization of Response Operations

Experience with past emergencies has shown that agencies and organizations participating in a response need to act in a coordinated manner in order for the response to be effective. The Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which builds on ICS, were developed to create a flexible yet standardized approach to incident management. In particular, NIMS emphasizes local control of an incident with support from state and federal authorities if the scope of the incident requires resources beyond those available from local authorities. For more information about ICS and NIMS, visit OSHA's ICS eTool and the NIMS Resource Center.

At the national level, emergency response and recovery operations are governed by the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan (National Contingency Plan or NCP) for oil spills and hazardous substance releases, and by the National Response Framework (NRF) for other types of emergencies. Under the NRF, OSHA is the lead agency for the Worker Safety and Health Support Annex. OSHA has created a QuickCard that covers protecting workers under the National Response Framework.


Selecting the appropriate equipment for an incident and providing training on its proper use are crucial for protecting workers during a response. Visit OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety and Health Topics page or the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) page on PPE for detailed guidance about selecting appropriate PPE. The National Institute of Justice has developed guidance for first responders on the selection of communication equipment (PDF) for use with protective clothing and respirators.


OSHA provides a Disaster Site Worker Outreach Training Program for workers who provide skilled support operations, such as demolition, debris removal, or clean-up services during a response. The following training resources may also be useful for response and recovery workers:

National Preparedness Directorate - National Training and Education

National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training

Hazard Assessment and Health and Safety Plans

Emergency response operations for hazardous substance releases and clean-up operations at hazardous waste sites must comply with OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, 1910.120. Paragraph 1910.120(q) of the standard establishes for emergency response operations, including the creation of a Health and Safety Program (HASP). For more information on HAZWOPER, see OSHA's HAZWOPER FactSheet (PDF*), or OSHA's booklet on Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response (PDF*).

OSHA's Electronic Health and Safety Program is a computer program that helps safety and health professionals design a Health and Safety Plan (HASP) and determine appropriate controls for hazards likely to be present during clean-up operations.

Other Government Resources

NIOSH's website offers a variety of workplace safety and health emergency response resources. NIOSH also worked with a number of federal agencies (including OSHA), state health departments, labor unions, and volunteer emergency responder groups to develop the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) system which provides guidelines for protecting emergency responders over a full range of emergency types and settings. See NIOSH's ERHMS webpage for more information, including fact sheets and training.

For incidents involving the transportation of hazardous material, the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration offers an emergency response guidebook.


Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300.

eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.

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