The Evacuation Planning Series

Emergency Action Plans, also referred to as Emergency Management or Evacuation Plans, are required in many jurisdictions, including those such as Massachusetts that adopt NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code.   Such a plan must be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) as a condition of occupancy, whether initial or longstanding.

Though considered best practice for any and all commercial properties, the Code only mandates the Emergency Action Plan if you are classified as one of the following building/occupancy types (NFPA 1, Section 10.2):

  • High-rise;
  • Healthcare or ambulatory healthcare;
  • Residential board and care
  • Hotels and dormitories;
  • Assembly;
  • Special amusement buildings;
  • Educational (i.e., K-12);
  • Bulk merchandising retail buildings;
  • Underground and windowless structures;
  • Facilities storing or handling hazardous materials as defined by NFPA 1, Chapter 60; or
  • Where required by the AHJ.

The Plan is required to be submitted to the AHJ and updated when requested.  The Plan should be unique to the specific building in question, with consideration given to its architectural configuration, occupancy program/arrangement, ability of staff on site to act swiftly in an emergency to assist in evacuation and features of fire protection.

Specifics associated with the length, arrangement, and content of the Plan is at the discretion of the AHJ, but is minimally required to include the following (NFPA 1, Section 10.8.2):

  • Procedures for reporting of emergencies;
  • Occupant and staff roles and responsibilities in different emergencies;
  • Evacuation, relocation and/or shelter-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, emergencies, and hazards (this is often supplemented with evacuation diagrams);
  • Accommodations to assist occupants/staff with disabilities;
  • Appropriateness of the use of elevators;
  • Design and conduct of fire drills; and
  • Description of all features of fire protection and life safety systems.

Be mindful of additional expectations of the AHJ, which may be memorialized in amendments to the Code or city ordinances.  Boston, for example, scales the expectation for a Plan to additional building types (Boston Fire Prevention Code (Section 72-1-02)).  Said buildings are as follows:

  • That house building occupants below grade of such total numbers that their movement under emergency evacuation in fire conditions;
  • Buildings that include significant amounts of combustibles that would make it difficult or impossible to evacuate the occupants in a fire condition;
  • Buildings where a particular configuration (height, length, width, depth, type of construction, or topography) would hinder effectiveness of fire department operations;
  • Buildings 70-feet in height; and
  • Apartment buildings and hotels.

If you would like additional information or would like assistance in preparing an Emergency Action Plan, please contact

Application of any information provided, for any use, is at the reader’s risk and without liability to Code Red Consultants. Code Red Consultants does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in this blog as applicable codes and standards change over time. The application, enforcement and interpretation of codes and standards may vary between Authorities Having Jurisdiction and for this reason, registered design professionals should be consulted to determine the appropriate application of codes and standards to a specific scope of work.