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Course Summary

Lesson 1: Introduction and Course Overview

Course Welcome

Welcome to the EOC Management and Operations online course. This course will prepare Emergency Management Coordinators, senior officials, key EOC personnel, and others to function more effectively in an EOC environment.

After taking this course, you should be able to assess your jurisdiction’s EOC facility and setup.  You should also be able to determine whether your systems and staffing are adequate for your jurisdiction’s needs.  Finally, you should be able to determine tests, training, and exercises required to evaluate your EOC’s operations.


Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


The Role of the EOC

The EOC provides a central location from which government at any level can provide interagency coordination and executive decisionmaking in support of the incident response.

The EOC does not command or control the on-scene response.  The EOC carries out the coordination function through:

Decisionmaking at the EOC affects the incident response as well as the public response.  The decisions made at the EOC are not tactical decisions, however.  Tactical decisions are made by the Incident Commander and the Command Staff at the incident scene.

This course will cover the most significant aspects of EOC management and operations. 


Lesson 2: EOCs and Multiagency Coordination

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


EOCs—The Critical Link in Emergency Response

EOCs coordinate with on-scene incident managers and other agencies and organizations to:

Jurisdictions with well-organized EOCs have several distinct advantages over other jurisdictions during an emergency because they:



EOCs are part of a larger system of multiagency coordination that is integral to domestic response as required by the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

NIMS is a flexible response framework that is applicable to all hazards and jurisdictions.

NIMS represents a core set of doctrine, concepts, principles, terminology, and organizational processes that enables effective, efficient, and collaborative incident management.

NIMS is not:


NIMS Components

NIMS—a nationwide, systematic approach to domestic incident management—consists of five components:


Effective incident management begins with a host of preparedness activities conducted on a “steady-state” basis, well in advance of any potential incident.  Preparedness involves an integrated combination of planning, training, exercises, personnel qualification and certification standards, and equipment certification.

Communications and Information Management

Emergency management and incident response activities rely on communications and information management systems that provide a common operating picture to all command and coordination sites.  NIMS describes the requirements for a standardized framework for communications and emphasizes the need for a common operating picture.  NIMS is based on the concepts of interoperability, reliability, scalability, portability, and resiliency and redundancy of communications and information systems.

Resource Management

Resources—personnel, equipment, and/or supplies—are needed to support critical incident objectives.  The flow of resources must be fluid and adaptable to the requirements of the incident.  NIMS defines standardized mechanisms and establishes the resource management process to identify requirements; order and acquire resources; mobilize, track, and report resource status; recover and demobilize resources; reimburse for resource use; and inventory resources.

Command and Management

The Command and Management component within NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized incident management structure.  The structure is based on three organizational constructs:

Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Within the Ongoing Management and Maintenance component of NIMS, there are two subsections:


EOC Functions

EOCs serve several main functions within a MACS:


EOCs and Multiagency Coordination Systems

Most emergencies are handled by first responders, fire, law enforcement, and emergency medical personnel; but in a large emergency or disaster, the efforts of first response agency personnel and others must be coordinated to ensure an effective response. 

In these situations, Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) play a critical role in acquiring, allocating and tracking resources, managing and distributing information, and setting response priorities among many incident sites. 

EOCs are a critical link in the emergency response chain, enabling incident commanders to focus on the needs of the incident, serving as a conduit of information between the incident command and higher levels of MAC system entities, and promoting problem solving at the lowest practical level. 

EOCs are part of the larger Multi-Agency Coordination System that is integral to the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  NIMS is a flexible framework of doctrine, concepts, principles, terminology, and organizational processes that is applicable to all hazards and jurisdictions. 

NIMS integrates existing best practices into a consistent nationwide approach to domestic incident management. 

Effective Multi-Agency Coordination helps in establishing response priorities and allocating resources, resolving differences among agencies, and providing strategic guidance and direction. 

Multi-Agency Coordination is a system, not a facility.  Entities that may comprise a multi-agency system include dispatch, on-scene command, resource coordination centers, emergency operations centers, and coordination entities in groups. 

As part of the overall MAC system, the EOC provides a central location where government at any level can provide interagency coordination and executive decision making in support of the incident response. 

This course will help you manage and operate your EOC to help ensure a safe, efficient, and effective response to any incident.


EOC Purpose

Remember, the purpose of an EOC is to establish a central location where government at any level can provide interagency coordination and execute decisionmaking to support incident response.

Incidents are best managed at the lowest possible level:

Local EOCs provide resource coordination and support to the on-scene Incident Command.  When local resources are exceeded, State EOCs may provide additional expertise, resources, and support. 

When State resources are exceeded, State EOCs may request additional resource support and coordination assistance from other States or from the Federal Government.


EOC Benefits

An effective EOC:

A single EOC facility functions more efficiently. With a single location, officials can meet, make decisions, and coordinate activities.


ICS/EOC Relationships

Incident Commanders have several critical needs with which EOC personnel can assist.  These needs include:

EOCs can help meet the needs at the incident scene by:


Factors for an Effective EOC

To ensure effective EOC operations, focus on:

Consider these factors when selecting an EOC or alternate EOC, when designing a floor plan for the EOC, or when evaluating EOC operations.  These factors will be covered in more depth in subsequent lessons.


Lesson 3: EOC Staffing and Organization

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


EOC Staffing:  Factors To Consider

There are several key factors to consider when staffing the EOC.

What must be done? 

The tasks to be performed are the critical driver for EOC staffing.  Identifying the tasks will point to the staff needed.

What is the timeframe? 

Extended operations fuel a need for alternate and support staff for 24/7 coverage.

Who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform critical tasks? 

All personnel must have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the duties assigned.  If training or cross-training is necessary, it must occur as part of the planning cycle.

Who has the authority to make critical decisions?

All persons assigned to the EOC must have the authority to do what is required by their jobs.

Each of these factors will be further described in this section.


What Must Be Done?

Begin by considering essential functions to be performed at the EOC.  Proper identification of essential functions is critical for effective EOC operations. Other aspects of the EOC are designed around these functions. 

If an essential function is not properly identified, there will be no arrangements to perform that function. 

On the other hand, identifying too many functions as essential can lead to confusion during EOC operations.


What Is the Timeframe?

The possibility of extended operations will drive second- and/or third-shift personnel, backup personnel, and support personnel needs for EOC operations.


Who Has the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities To Perform Critical Tasks?

When considering EOC staffing, look at:


Who Has the Authority To Make Critical Decisions?

Ensuring that all personnel have the authority to perform the tasks assigned is of paramount importance. 

For example …

The best way to ensure that EOC staff are authorized to perform their essential functions is to predelegate authorities for enacting policy or making decisions.  Most agencies routinely use delegations of authority so decisions can be made in the absence of key decisionmakers.

Delegations of Authority:

During an emergency situation, Delegations of Authority:


Orders of Succession

All agencies activated for EOC operations need Orders of Succession in place.  Orders of succession take effect when government or agency leaders are incapacitated or unavailable in an emergency requiring EOC activation.

Orders of succession should be sufficiently in depth (at least three deep) to ensure an agency can continue managing and directing its operations while remaining viable during an emergency.


Staffing to Support Essential Functions

Essential functions must continue, even with reduced staffing.  Plan for training and cross-training of all EOC staff:

All personnel must be trained for their jobs in the EOC.  As a contingency, specific staff should be cross-trained to ensure that EOC operations can continue with a smaller number of staff than originally planned.


Organizing the EOC Staff

NIMS requires all jurisdictions to adopt ICS as its incident management system.  NIMS does not require EOCs to adopt ICS as their organizational structure.  An EOC should be organized to facilitate effective operations. 

An effective organization has these characteristics:

An EOC should be organized to maximize each of the characteristics of an effective organization.


EOC Organizations

There are typically four ways to organize EOCs:

Each of these organization structures has advantages and disadvantages.  In some cases, the structure selected depends on State law.  In other cases, the structure simply is the one that works best for the jurisdiction.

Each of these organization structures is described next.


Organizing by Major Management Activities

The Policy Group is comprised of the Chief Elected Official, or designee, and immediate staff.  The Policy Group focuses on the overall strategy for the response (beyond the strategy developed by the Incident Commander at the scene), the overall response priorities, and policy setting.  Decisions made by the Policy Group are implemented by the Coordination, Operations, and Resource Groups.

The Resource Group should include representatives from any agency or organization that is providing—or may be requested to provide—resources for the response.  These agencies or organizations may include transportation agencies, utility companies, representatives of business and industry, mutual aid partners, and others. 

The Operations Group should include representatives from each agency with responsibility for any portion of the response.  Units within the Operations Group may include law enforcement, fire, public works, emergency medical services, and other agencies, as dictated by the incident.

The Coordination Group collects and analyzes data, including damage data and damage prediction data.

Advantages and disadvantages of organizing by major management activities are shown below.

Advantages Disadvantages

Organization is relatively simple, with straightforward lines of communication and chain of command.

Linkages with the ICS organization on-scene may be unclear at times because there is not a one-to-one match between the incident organization and the EOC organization. 

All key decisionmakers and representatives of participating agencies are included, as appropriate, within the organization, and all can contribute as needed.

There may be confusion about who does resource ordering, the Operations Group or the Resources Group.

Despite the potential coordination issue, many jurisdictions have used this structure successfully.


Organizing Around ICS

The EOC Command function is not the Incident Commander.  The Incident Commander or Unified Command are on-scene command structures.  The EOC Command function serves a similar role to the Policy Group and makes decisions that establish the overall strategy of the response.

The Operations function has responsibility for coordinating with and supporting on-scene responders.  Branches, Divisions, and Groups assigned to the Operations function can be organized as necessary to support the incident(s).

The Planning function serves the same purpose as at the incident scene—gathering and analyzing information, keeping decisionmakers informed, and tracking resources.  Technical Specialists may be assigned to the Planning function or may be assigned elsewhere, as needed.

The Logistics function also serves the same purpose as at the incident scene, frequently serving as the single ordering point for the incident(s) in its purview, providing overall communications planning for the jurisdiction, coordinating transportation and housing, etc.

The Finance/Administration function provides a coordinated financial management process for the incident(s) in its purview.

The advantages and disadvantages of using an ICS organization in the EOC are shown in the table below.

Advantages Disadvantages

Clarity of roles and functional integrity.  The ICS organization in the field has a clear contact point in the EOC. 

Potential for confusion about command authority at the incident scene versus in the EOC.

Large incident logistical and financial support is often coordinated more easily from the EOC and may relieve the workload on incident and dispatch staff.

No disadvantages

Many jurisdictions have used this structure successfully.


Organizing by ESF

This EOC organization structure is based on the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) of the National Response Framework.  The Command and General Staff have descriptors similar to the ICS model.  ESFs are assigned under each General Staff position. 

The Operations area includes:

The Planning area includes:

The Logistics area includes:

The Finance/Administration area includes:

The advantages and disadvantages of organizing the EOC by ESF are shown in the table below.

Advantages Disadvantages

Coordinates well with on-scene ICS organizations, therefore appeals to local and State EOCs.

State and/or local ESFs may not correspond directly with Federal ESFs and do not correspond directly with the ICS positions in the on-scene Operations Section.

Provides a clear one-to-one relationship with the National Response Framework.

Organizing by ESF requires an enormous amount of additional training to ensure that the agencies responsible for ESFs are able to perform their duties.

Many jurisdictions have used this structure successfully.


Organizing as a MAC Group

A MAC Group is made up of organization, agency, or jurisdiction representatives who are authorized to commit agency resources and funds. The success of the MAC Group depends on its membership.  Sometimes membership is obvious—organizations that are directly impacted and whose resources are committed to the incident. 

Often, organizations that should be members of a MAC Group are less obvious.  These organizations may include the local Chamber of Commerce, volunteer organizations, the American Red Cross, or other organizations with special expertise or knowledge. 

While these agencies may not have “hard” resources or funds to contribute, their contacts, political influence, or technical expertise may be key to the success of the MAC Group.

The MAC Group Coordinator is an optional position to provide supervision to the various units.

The results of the MAC Group’s deliberation are distributed by its members directly to their organizations as well as through the normal chain of command (MAC Entities, Dispatch Centers, etc.).

The MAC Group Situation Assessment Unit collects and assembles information needed for the MAC Group to fulfill its mission. 

The MAC Group Resource Status Information Unit collects and assembles information needed for the MAC Group to fulfill its mission. 

The Joint Information Center (JIC) is a Public Information Unit that coordinates summary information and access to local information sources in the media and other governmental entities. 

The advantages and disadvantages of organizing the EOC as a MAC Group are shown in the table below.

Advantages Disadvantages

Works well to ensure coordination among other MAC Entities.

Lacks clearly defined, standardized relationships to other MAC Entities, since it is a “generic” MAC Entity that can be used at any level of government. Each MAC Group must carefully define its relationship to the EOC, JIC, etc.

Useful when a mechanism is needed to provide short-term multiagency coordination and decisionmaking where no such mechanism exists.  It can be incorporated into existing EOC structures as the policymaking part of the organization.

No associated implementation staff, which makes it difficult to use as a stand-alone EOC structure.


Lesson 4: Determining Communications Needs

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


NIMS Requirements for Communications

NIMS has established two basic requirements for communications:

Each of these requirements will be described on the screens that follow.



Many jurisdictions believe that their communications systems are interoperable but, when in a wide-scale emergency or disaster, interoperability problems emerge.


Interoperability Issues

The results of two surveys point to interoperability problems:

Only 6 of 75 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas received the highest interoperability ratings.
(Tactical Interoperable Communications Scorecards Summary Report and Findings, January 2007)

Emergency workers from only 2/3 of 6,800 communities surveyed claim that they can talk to each other on a routine basis.
(2006 National Interoperability Baseline Survey, December 2006)


Interoperability Factors

The ability for first responders, and those who support them, to communicate with each other is a long-standing issue. 

Interoperability—the ability for public safety agencies to exchange voice and/or data on demand and in real time—has been pointed to as an issue in emergencies as diverse as hurricanes and floods, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. 

Lack of redundant interoperable communications can delay a response, making even the most urgent response inefficient, and ultimately costly to those lives who cannot be saved. 

Why is interoperability such a difficult issue to solve?  Recent studies have identified five key reasons for lack of interoperability—aging or incompatible communications infrastructure, limited funding to update or replace equipment, coupled with different funding priorities and budget cycles, limited and fragmented planning, the reluctance of agencies to give up control over their communication systems, and limited and fragmented radio spectrum availability. 

The communication infrastructure in many jurisdictions is antiquated.  Old equipment means higher maintenance costs, reduced reliability, and obsolescence for public safety agencies.  ,Many systems in use today are obsolete or will become obsolete as manufacturer support is discontinued. 

Some newer digital communications systems lack interoperability with other systems because of proprietary software.  Additionally standards for technology and equipment are limited. 

There is limited funding to replace and update communications equipment, and different communities and levels of government have different funding schedules and budget priorities.  Additionally, regulations in one jurisdiction may conflict with those in another. 

Funding is often stove piped to meet individual agency needs, and spending decisions may be based on old strategies that did not consider the need for interoperability. 

Planning for interoperability remains limited and fragmented.   Without adequate planning, time and money can be wasted, and end results could be disappointing.  Competition among agencies, jurisdictions, and different levels of government inhibit the partnerships and leadership required to develop interoperability.  

Interoperability requires a certain amount of shared management, control, and coordination of policy and procedures.  Agencies are, naturally, reluctant to give up management and control of their communications systems. 

Finally, as public safety agencies share radio frequencies with television and radio, government users, and commercial users, the amount of radio spectrum available to public safety agencies has become fragmented. 

Advancing technology is placing greater requirements on radio spectrum, making it more scarce and more valuable at a time when public safety agencies need additional spectrum to support emerging technologies. 

So how can your public safety agencies, your jurisdiction, and your State improve its communications interoperability?  First determine your current level of interoperability.  After determining where you are, you can work on what you need and how to get it.  This unit will help you with each of these steps.


Determining Interoperability

To determine the level of interoperability, consider these questions:

Who needs to communicate? 

Identify communications requirements by function or position, not by name.

With whom does he/she need to communicate? 

Consider communications needs both inside and outside of the EOC.

What information must be communicated? 

Consider routine information, priority information, and classified or sensitive information.

What means of communication will be used?

Consider all possible types of communication (e.g., radio, telephone, fax, runner).

Making these determinations requires in-depth, position-by-position analysis of the MACS, from the Incident Command Post through the Federal level of government (in the case of Presidentially declared disasters or emergencies). 


Mapping EOC Communications

Answer the communications questions by mapping necessary communications for each function or position within the EOC.  A communications “map” needs to answer the questions:

  • Who? 
  • What?
  • When?
  • How?
Graphic depicting the communications needs of the EOC Logistics Chief, who must communicate with EOC Management, the State counterpart, the Logistics Section Chief at the incident, the EOC Command Staff, Logistics Unit personnel, commercial suppliers, and personnel from other local agencies.

Interoperability can be addressed only after these questions are answered.  Communications must flow from the incident scene through the highest level of the MACS required for the response.


Determining Interoperability—Radio Communications

Radio remains the primary communications method in most jurisdictions. Since radio communications systems are expensive to purchase or update, jurisdictions need to be able to assess their current radio communications capability.


Factors Affecting Radio Communications

Factors that affect radio communications include:

These are a few of the many factors that affect the ability of one agency to communicate with another by radio.  Other factors that stretch beyond system capabilities include:



What will you do if your primary communications system fails?

Much of the communications infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region was heavily damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, making emergency communications difficult or impossible for some period of time. 

Having redundant systems in place and ensuring that all agencies involved in a response know what those systems are and how they will be notified to switch to the backup system may be critical to maintaining communications.

The EOC will likely be responsible for implementing backup communications systems and notifying personnel to switch to the backup system.


Redundancy Summary


All agencies assisting in a response need to switch to a backup system when required. 

Even agencies that are infrequent players (e.g., the public health agency) need the communications capability that backup systems provide.

A system may work in one situation but not in another. 

Multiple backup systems should be planned and exercised. Procedures for switching to the backup systems are needed to ensure that everyone who needs to communicate can.

Backup systems must accommodate secure communications where necessary.

Operational information must be protected from widespread dissemination.


Communicating with the Media

Don’t forget public information!

Some members of the media will go to great lengths for a story.  It just makes good sense to provide the media with the information they—and the public—need.

NIMS requires public information be organized around a Joint Information System (JIS) that is overseen by a Public Information Officer (PIO).

Public Information should consider:

The answers to these questions will determine how the JIS is established and how it will operate.


Using Public Information as Input to Leaders

Public Information also provides critical information to elected officials, agency administrators, and responders.  For example, elected officials and others can tell a lot about whether their message is effective by monitoring:

The JIS should be designed to monitor incoming information as well as outgoing information.


Benefits of a Well-Developed Joint Information System

The JIS is an organized, integrated, and coordinated mechanism for delivery of understandable, timely, accurate, and consistent information to the public during an emergency.

The JIS includes the plans, protocols, and structures used to provide information to the public during incident operations. 

The JIS encompasses all public information operations related to the incident:

JIS Key Elements:


The Public Information Officer

The Public Information Officer (PIO) represents and advises the Incident Command. 

Through the JIS, the PIO coordinates:

Through the EOC, the PIO ensures that the media and, therefore, the public receive a consistent message in a timely manner.


Lesson 5: Determining Information, Systems, and Equipment Needs

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


Information Management:  Questions To Answer

Before you can manage information, you need to determine:


Types of Information

The types of information managed in the EOC fall into two categories:

Emergency operating records include records, regardless of media, that are essential to EOC operations and response support.

Legal and financial records include records, regardless of media, that are critical to carrying out the legal and financial responsibilities for the response.


Identifying and Reviewing Required Information

Identify the information needed during EOC operations by compiling a detailed list of the records. This list needs to be reviewed and updated routinely, at least on an annual basis.

Other events that should trigger a review include:


Maintaining Information

Many of these information types are maintained electronically.  Training, testing, and exercise procedures should ensure that personnel can access the records in an emergency. 

Specific procedures to achieve this capability depend on the nature of the information and the system used to store, retrieve, process, and report the information.


Meeting Information Needs

How you use information will determine how you manage it.  Look at the information used, how it is used, and by whom it is used to determine whether your current management strategy is the best available.

Information Use Information Management Strategy

Information many people need access to


Information that is used at several different locations

Provide easy access, allowing for ease of update and sharing.  Version control is critical for this information.

Secure or classified information

Secure storage access and are critical considerations for this type of information.

Information transmitted to the public

Provide ready accessibility to those with authority to speak to the media.  This information must be kept current.


Providing Information to Key Personnel

During an incident, key personnel rely on timely, accurate information.  An effective operation at the EOC requires access to all of the information needed to make good, timely decisions.  Key personnel must have access to:


Providing Information for Support Personnel

Support personnel have the need for:

Static files are unchanging or change infrequently. Examples of static files are policies and procedures, delegations of authority, and jurisdiction maps.

Dynamic files change frequently or are unique to the emergency. Examples of dynamic files are resource assignments and agency call-down rosters.

An office “Go” kit is a briefcase (or similar container) holding information and supplies the owner will need in an emergency.  Common items included in “Go” kits are:


Meeting Information Needs

Addressing information needs is part of the emergency planning process.  Documentation for each function in the EOC operation should include:


Meeting the Public’s Information Needs

The public also has information needs.  The Joint Information System (JIS) must include:

Agency PIOs should use JIS procedures to coordinate information flow and dissemination with the incident PIO. This ensures an accurate, consistent message to the public.


Determining Equipment and System Needs

Equipment and systems are needed to support information requirements.  The equipment and systems required depends on:


Lesson 6: Designing the EOC

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


EOC Location Factors

The main factors involved in locating an EOC are:


Accessibility:  Areas To Consider

When considering accessibility, there are two main areas of concern:

  1. Can key personnel get to the EOC within the required timeframe?  The timeframe required for key personnel to report will vary depending on the type, size, and complexity of the emergency.  The EOC location should be immediately accessible, regardless of the emergency.
  1. Can suppliers and support personnel get to the EOC without delay, when needed?  Operations lasting more than one operational period will require second-shift personnel.  Larger, more complex emergencies will require additional EOC personnel.  Long-term operations may require supplier support for delivery of supplies or vendor support to make repairs.

Changes in population, highway access, and other factors necessitate periodic review of EOC accessibility.


Accessibility:  EOC Location Factors

Review your jurisdiction’s hazard/vulnerability analysis periodically to determine whether:

The EOC is accessible regardless of hazard. 

Locate EOC so that it will be relatively unaffected by the jurisdiction’s high-risk, high-probability events.

Example:  Flash flooding is high risk and high probability.
Solution:  Locate EOC on high ground on the same side of the river as the normal workplaces of key personnel.

Key personnel can walk to the EOC if necessary. 

Locate EOC where key personnel can walk if necessary to
minimize operational delays.

Traffic disruption occurs with incidents of the size, complexity, and severity that require EOC activation.

New threats pose risk to the EOC. 

Consider effect on EOC with any revision of hazard/vulnerability analysis.

New threats include terrorist acts and construction of high-rise buildings that could collapse in an earthquake.



Is the EOC in a safe location?  Consider:

Other important EOC safety issues include:


Size - Key Points to Consider

The number of staff members needed at any one time

The EOC needs to accommodate the maximum number of
staff members required for large, complex emergencies. 

Rule of thumb:  Allow between 50 and 85 square feet per staff member.  This space allowance includes working, walking, and meeting areas.

The equipment the staff will use on the job

Space planning must include room for electronic
equipment, file storage, maps, and any special equipment
staff members need for EOC operations.

How the equipment is configured


Consider operational requirements:  needed line of sight, private communications, operational security, work groups.  The optimum configuration for operations is not always the most space-efficient.

Additional equipment required to ensure interoperability and redundancy

Do current communications and information management systems  have “plug and play” interoperability?  If not, additional equipment must be planned for in the EOC.

Additional space for conferences, eating and sleeping, and other identified uses

Designate space (away from the noise of emergency operations) for private meetings and conferences.  Staff working during extended operations require space for non-work needs. 


Dealing With a Too-Small EOC

What if the EOC is too small to accommodate all your operational needs?

Here are some options:


Systems Capability

The EOC must be capable of sustaining operations for an extended period of time.  The critical requirements for systems capability include:



Survivability means that the EOC can remain operational for an extended period of time regardless of:

Survivability is the culmination of all factors in the EOC location and design.


Alternate EOCs

Continuity of operations is what distinguishes the EOC.  Damage to the EOC does not absolve the jurisdiction of its coordination responsibilities, or its responsibilities for protecting the public.  All jurisdictions need to identify alternate EOC locations.

The selection of an alternate EOC location should be based on the same factors as for the primary EOC.

Because the alternate EOC is designated for use only when the primary EOC is unusable, jurisdictions may choose not to equip the facility fully.


Alternate EOCs

A decision jurisdictions make when designating an alternate EOC is how to maintain the facility—hot, warm, or cold.

Hot facilities can be used as soon as personnel arrive.  Hot facilities are the most expensive to maintain.  They require duplicate systems and equipment, and the ongoing payment of utilities.

Warm facilities have critical systems and equipment in place.  The EOC can be up and running as soon as utilities and telephones are turned on, computers are installed, etc.

Cold facilities are basically empty shells.  There are no systems and equipment in place and no arrangements for utilities.  Cold facilities require the longest period of time for startup.

If your jurisdiction cannot afford alternate facilities, consider a mutual aid agreement with a neighboring jurisdiction to use its EOC in the event of an emergency that renders your primary EOC unusable.


Lesson 7: Activating and Deactivating the EOC

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


Activating the EOC

Jurisdiction policy determines EOC activation.  Listed below are possible circumstances that would trigger an EOC activation.


The Decisionmaking Process for Activation

All personnel need to be aware of:

The decisionmaking process for EOC activation should be documented in policy.


Activating the EOC:  Authority

Emergency Function (EF) 1

The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is the county’s 24-hour “crisis monitor.”  As emergency situations threaten to occur, the county EMA Coordinator may convene a “Crisis Action Team (CAT)” or activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to facilitate evaluation and incident planning and possible activation and implementation of emergency functions and resources.  Certain near instantaneous events may trigger immediate, full EOC activation.  The EOC is the key to successful response and recovery operations.  With decisionmakers and policymakers located together, personnel and resources can be used efficiently.  Coordination of activities will ensure that all tasks are accomplished and minimize duplication of efforts.

(Excerpted from Jefferson County, AL EOP)

Note that this example of a Managing Emergency Operations statement clearly indicates:


Activating the EOC:  Concept of Operations

The Concept of Operations document for this jurisdiction supports its policy statement for EOC activation.  Review the example below as a model for your jurisdiction.

    1. GENERAL
      1. The County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is the lead agency for facilitating coordination among local, State, Federal, and private-sector agencies and groups within the county.
      2. The EMA Coordinator serves as the key element in emergency planning and is the primary coordinator/advisor for the Emergency Management Council.
      3. The EMA Coordinator or designee is the point of contact (POC) for State assistance.
      4. During a full EOC activation, all EOC representatives are expected to coordinate directly with their functional counterparts in the local/State/Federal government and private sector.

 (Excerpted from Jefferson County, AL EOP)


Activating the EOC:  Roles and Responsibilities

This section, describing the EOC, clearly defines the role of the EOC and the EMA Coordinator.

D. Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

  1. On behalf of the Emergency Management Council, the EMA Coordinator has the responsibility for coordinating the entire emergency management organization.  The Coordinator makes all routine decisions and advises the officials on courses of action available for major decisions.  During emergency operations, the Coordinator is responsible for the proper functioning of the EOC.  The Coordinator also acts as a liaison with the State and Federal emergency agencies and neighboring counties.
  2. The EOC is the central point for emergency management operations….Coordination and supervision of all services will be through the EOC Manager and Section Chiefs to provide for the most efficient management of resources.
  3. During emergency situations, certain agencies will be required to relocate their center of control to the EOC.  During large-scale emergencies, the EOC will become the seat of government for the duration of the crisis…. 

(Excerpted from Jefferson County, AL EOP)

Under this policy, the EMA Coordinator has the responsibility and authority for managing the county’s emergency management organization and the EOC during an emergency or disaster.


Determining When the EOC Should Be Activated

Timing of EOC activation depends on the nature of the incident.  Many jurisdictions have phases of EOC activation.

Time-phased activation is appropriate:


Time-Phased Activation

Consider these Activation Phases.


Determining the Level of Activation

The level of EOC activation should be based on established triggers and communication with the Incident Commander or Unified Command.

Link levels of activation to the jurisdiction’s Hazard Analysis.  The Hazard Analysis then helps define triggers for activation, based on actual or anticipated levels of damage.

Communication between the Incident Commander (or Unified Command) and the EOC is a critical element of an activation decision.  On-scene command has the most up-to-date information about the on-scene situation, knows whether the situation is under control, and is aware of incident needs.


Deactivating the EOC

The on-scene commander is aware of the current incident status and knows:

Consider recovery needs.  Often, the EOC must remain activated to facilitate recovery needs after the Incident Command completes its on-scene mission.


Deactivating the EOC

The decisionmaker for deactivating EOC functions will vary by jurisdiction.  In most cases, the Emergency Management Coordinator will make the decision jointly with agency key personnel and jurisdiction leaders.

EOC decisionmakers should make the decision when to release personnel and other resources only after discussion with on-scene commanders. 

The authority to begin full or partial deactivation should be clearly stated in the jurisdiction’s EOP, and all personnel should know:

Recommendation:  Deactivate in phases.  It is more efficient and cost effective to deactivate personnel as they are no longer needed.


Post-Incident Evaluation

EOC operations should be evaluated after every activation, and every aspect of operations should be evaluated.  The persons listed below should be included in the evaluation process:


After-Action Analysis and Reporting Process

As a minimum, the following activities should be included as part of after-action analysis and reporting:

Recommendation:  Adopt a “nonattribution rule” to encourage open and honest discussion of what worked well and what didn’t.


Lesson 8: EOC Operations

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


EOC Function Review:  Large, Complex Incidents

During large, complex incidents the EOC assumes a coordination role.  As an incident expands in size or increases in complexity, central coordination is needed, and provided by the EOC.

The point of overlap—the ICS/EOC interface—is usually the area of disconnect in emergency planning.


EOC Function Review

The most common ICS/EOC interface issues center around communications, SOPs, resource management, and personnel training.  Communication and Information Management concerns were covered in an earlier lesson.  This topic will address SOPs, resource management, and personnel training.



Develop Standard Operating Procedures for every EOC position.  Be sure to include:


SOP Development and Update

EOC SOP development is a team responsibility.  The Emergency Management Coordinator and each function head should jointly compose the SOPs.

EOC SOPs should be:


Resource Management

Resource management can be an area of confusion between the on-scene command structure and the EOC.  As shown in the table below, however, the role of the EOC complements that of the ICS structure.

Compare resource management at the Command Post versus the EOC:

Command Post EOC

Identify needs

Receive requests

Order resources

Prioritize requests

Check in resources

Locate/order resources

Assign resources

Assign according to priorities

Track resources

Track resource use

Demobilize resources

Pay for resources

The on-scene command structure manages resources based on:

The principles of ICS ensure an orderly approach to identifying incident resource needs.

When incidents grow in size and/or complexity and more tactical resources are required, the EOC and the entire multiagency coordination system (MACS) play an increasingly important role in resource management.


Switching Resource Ordering to the EOC

One common issue around resource managers is the question of when the Incident Commander should request resources from the EOC rather than from the dispatch center.  Many jurisdictions have established triggers to help the Incident Commander make that decision.  Possible triggers are shown in the table below.

Activation of the EOC

Some jurisdictions automatically switch their resource ordering and tracking to the EOC as soon as it is fully operational.

Dispatch workload increases beyond specified threshold

The call load for dispatch rises as an incident expands.  Dispatch may reach a point where it cannot provide dispatch services and/or cannot provide large-incident logistical support.

Establishment of a Unified Command or Area Command 

Multiple agencies with shared responsibility for a response, or multiple incidents with separate Incident Command structures, will need resource management from the EOC.

Normal mutual aid resources are exhausted

There is a need for increased delegation of authority to commit finances.

To help all personnel recognize triggers for switching resource ordering to the EOC, the process should be:

The procedures for switching resource ordering to the EOC should be trained and exercised regularly.


Staffing the EOC

Planning for EOC staffing is a critical aspect of EOC management and operations.  There is a tendency to overstaff day-to-day EOC operations. The staffing equivalents shown in the table below are a reasonable “rule of thumb” for day-to-day EOC staffing.


Over 1,000,000

6 – 20

250,000 to 1,000,000

4 – 8

100,000 to 250,000

3 – 5

25,000 to 100,000

2 – 3

Under 25,000

1 – 2


Day-To-Day Staffing

What functions are covered in the EOC day to day?  Although day-to-day functions vary among jurisdictions of various sizes and threat levels, minimal day-to-day functions include:

There may be additional functions needed for your EOC.  One staff person may have responsibilities for multiple functions.


Emergency Staffing

EOC staffing should expand and contract with the needs of the emergency.

Larger and/or more complex incidents will require a greater level of activation and a larger number of staff.

At full activation, most staff members will be assigned responsibility for only one function or position.


Ensuring Qualified Staff

The Emergency Management Coordinator may not have control over assignment of staff, but does have direct control over the training of emergency management staff.  Working closely with key personnel from other agencies can ensure that staff members are fully qualified for the jobs to which they are assigned.

Some ways to facilitate the training process include:

Developing position descriptions (PDs) for every position.

  • PDs provide a list of the general responsibilities for each EOC position. 
  • PDs serve as a good starting point for determining training needs.

Developing an overall training strategy.

Work with other agency key personnel to create orientations, classroom training, on-the-job training, and a mentoring program.

Providing training opportunities on common tasks. 

Consolidate training needs for personnel from the multiple agencies represented in the EOC.

Using information from exercises and actual operations.

Prior experience, as noted in after-action reports, is a guideline for the skills and knowledge that require training.

Consider cross-training for specific positions to ensure that all critical tasks are covered by qualified staff.


Coordinating With Other Parts of the MACS

Typically coordination with other parts of the MACS occurs when:

The most common coordination point with other parts of the MACS is when external assistance is needed.  A model process for requesting external assistance is shown below.

Graphic showing coordination between parts of the MACS, in systems where the State coordinates mutual aid.

In this model, all requests for mutual aid at the local level are processed through the State. Resource orders to the next higher level of government may first need a formal request for assistance.


Requesting Assistance Within the MACS

When requesting assistance from another part of the MACS, it is important to make the request as complete as possible.  All requests should be made formally and include:

A formal request for assistance should always be followed up by the actual resource order.  The resource order provides detailed information on the kind and type of resource that is needed—what, where, and when.


Tips for Requesting External Assistance

When requesting assistance:


Long-Term Issues

Common long-term issues at the EOC include documentation, resources, staffing, and costs.

Long-term operations usually equate to more damage or damage over an extended area.  Plans need to include strategies for ensuring proper documentation of damage, the resources used, equipment maintenance performed, overtime hours, etc.

Long-term operations take their toll on incident resources.  Human resources need to rotate out of service to eat and rest.  Mechanical resources require refueling or maintenance.  Careful coordination between the Incident Command and the EOC is needed to ensure there are enough resources on-scene and in the staging area for response operations to continue without interruption.

EOC staff need to eat, rest, and decompress during long-term operations.  EOC staffing patterns should include enough personnel to ensure 24-hour coverage for extended EOC operations, including backup coverage.  If necessary, staffing should be augmented through mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions and levels of government.

Long-term operations equate to higher costs.  It is not unusual for jurisdictions to expend their entire year’s overtime budgets for a single long-term incident.  The terms of intergovernmental agreements may include provisions for payment if an incident extends past an agreed-upon threshold.  Add the costs of the response to the financial impact of damage to public infrastructure and resources, and the financial effects can be as catastrophic as the disaster itself. 


Resolving Long-Term Issues

When the incident is expected to last more than one operational period, or when the EOC is expected to be activated for an extended period, issues will invariably arise.  Follow these strategies to resolve long-term issues:

One important way to resolve issues is to ensure that all key decisionmakers are at the EOC.  Having all key personnel in one place facilitates discussion and rapid problemsolving as issues arise.

Senior personnel from the jurisdiction(s) need to be involved at the EOC and need to have the authority to make binding decisions in the moment.


When Mediation Becomes Necessary

During long-term operations, disagreements are bound to occur, and some will not be resolved easily.  It may be necessary for the Emergency Management Coordinator or another senior official to mediate the disagreement.  When mediation becomes necessary, it is vital that the mediator:

Suspend judgment on the issue at hand. 

Even if the mediator has an opinion about how the situation should be handled, the issue cannot be mediated if he or she allows that opinion to influence the discussion.

Listen carefully to both sides of the discussion. 

The mediator should verify that he or she understands what has been said by reflecting back the conversation using his or her own words.

Analyze the discussion and make suggestions. 

After listening to the discussion, the mediator should make suggestions that will satisfy the needs of both sides to the degree possible.

Be careful not to make suggestions sound like the solution is obvious or that the decision has already been made.


Maintaining a Positive Climate

The EOC can be a pressure cooker, especially during long-term operations.  Tension is inherent in the environment.  Although it may not be possible to prevent tension, there are actions that Emergency Management Coordinators can take to mitigate it.

Over the short term, moderate stress can be a motivator, but over an extended period, high levels of stress can be debilitating personally and dysfunctional organizationally.


Resolving High Stress Levels Before EOC Operations

Depending on the incident, stress levels among EOC staff may begin to rise even before activation.  High stress levels before operations must be managed early before they interfere with operations. 

One of the best ways to reduce preoperational stress levels is to ensure that all positions are well documented and that staff are trained and exercised in their job tasks.  Other steps for managing stress before operations begin are shown in the table below.

Look for opportunities to become a team.

Team building can occur during training and exercises.

Schedule briefings to talk about how experienced personnel have dealt with stress. 

Help staff identify signs of stress. Providing useful techniques for reducing stress will help everyone during operations. 


Resolving High Stress Levels During EOC Operations

Stress levels naturally increase during EOC operations.  Too much stress can cause mistakes, however, and mistakes at the EOC can cause injury or death at the scene.

Two ways to identify and alleviate high stress levels during operations are shown in the table below.

Encourage personnel to take breaks away from their desks and to get rest when the opportunity arises. 

Promote good eating habits and exercise. 

Be alert to behavior changes, such as irritability or the inability to make decisions.

Act sooner, rather than later.  Don’t wait until an individual is unable to function.


Managing Stress After Operations

Stress doesn’t end when EOC operations end.  In fact, some people who perform in an exemplary way during operations may experience unbearable stress when operations are curtailed.  Some ways to identify and alleviate stress levels following operations are shown in the table below.  If necessary, professional counseling and other services should be made available to those who can benefit from them.

Conduct stress debriefings.

Debrief when personnel are demobilized and several days after returning to their day-to-day jobs. 

Follow up over time to ensure that personnel are coping effectively. 

Have a casual conversation, or observe as the person completes daily job tasks. 

Involve other people, especially managers and those who know and care about the person. 

The ability to talk through a troubling situation with a trusted friend is often helpful for resolving personal conflict and reducing stress.

Provide professional help, if necessary. 

Professional help is often provided to responders at the scene but may be forgotten for those in the EOC. 


Stress and Decisionmaking

The EOC environment has a great effect on decisionmaking.  As a result of the stressors in the EOC, decisionmakers are more likely to:

Characteristics of decisionmakers experiencing prolonged stress include:


Improving Decisionmaking When Under Stress


Lesson 9: Tests, Training, and Exercises EOC Operations

Lesson Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:


Tests, Training, and Exercises (TT&E) Defined

TT&E for EOC operations can be defined as: 

Measures taken to ensure that a jurisdiction’s EOC is capable of supporting response and recovery throughout an incident period.

This is not an official definition, but it does explain the main goal of TT&E for EOCs.


TT&E as an Integrated Program

TT&E events should be conducted as part of an overall program.

A well-planned and developed TT&E program helps ensure that TT&E events are consistent, progressive, and focused on common goals that will complement and build on each other.


An Effective TT&E Program

Effective TT&E programs share several common attributes.


Goal of TT&E:  Mission Readiness

The TT&E program should blend testing, training, and exercise events to ensure personnel interest levels are maintained and all bases covered.  Information presented should be current and credible!

To achieve the goal of mission readiness, the TT&E program should:



Tests are conducted to evaluate capabilities, not personnel.  From an emergency operations perspective, tests are an excellent way to evaluate:



Training is instruction in core competencies and skills.  It is the principal means by which individuals achieve a level of proficiency.  Typically, a significant part of the TT&E program will involve training.

Training provides the tools needed to:

Training encompasses a range of activities with a common purpose, including:



Exercises are events that allow participants to apply their skills and knowledge to improve operational readiness.

Planners use exercises to evaluate effectiveness of simulations and tests.

The primary purpose of an exercise is to identify areas that require additional training, planning, or other resources to improve the jurisdiction’s mission capability.

An exercise can determine if:



The importance of exercises hit home after the terrorist attacks of 1995 and 2001. FEMA’s Preparedness Directorate in DHS is responsible for managing and updating HSEEP.



HSEEP Concepts

HSEEP reflects lessons learned and best practices of existing exercise programs.  It integrates language and concepts from the:

HSEEP is appropriate for all hazards.  FEMA's and EMI’s curricula are now based on the HSEEP model.


HSEEP Strategy

Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 5 directed DHS to coordinate the development of:

HSPD-8 directed DHS to coordinate the development of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.

HSEEP provides the Nation with a common, consistent platform for its homeland security exercise needs.

The NRP has been superseded by the National Framework Framework (NRF), which improves coordination among responding agencies.


HSEEP Exercise Types

HSEEP has two broad categories of exercises based on the level of fidelity, stress induced, and other factors.  These categories are:


HSEEP:  A Blended Approach

HSEEP facilitates the creation of self-sustaining, capabilities-based exercise programs by providing program management resources for:

By using a blended approach, HSEEP ensures that jurisdictions at all levels of government have the tools they need to implement their doctrine and policy successfully.

The Universal Task List (UTL) and the Target Capabilities List (TCL) are capabilities-based planning tools developed to fulfill that need. 

Universal Task List (UTL):
The UTL is a comprehensive menu of tasks derived from all tasks that may be performed in major incidents as illustrated by the National Planning Scenarios. Entities at all levels of government should use the UTL as a reference to help them develop proficiency through training and exercises to perform their assigned missions and tasks during major incidents.

Target Capabilities List (TCL):
The TCL is a list of capabilities that provides guidance on the specific capabilities that Federal, State, tribal, and local entities are expected to develop and maintain to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from incidents.


Benefits of a Capabilities-Based Exercise Program

There are three main benefits to a capabilities-based exercise program:


Value of Exercises

Benefits arise not only from the exercises, but from evaluating the exercises and acting on the lessons learned.  Exercises have value only when they lead to improvement.

The focus of any exercise should be to identify and eliminate problems before an actual emergency occurs.  Corrective actions are an important part of exercise design, evaluation, and followup.


Additional Benefits of Exercises

Additional benefits of exercises include:

The TT&E Event Checklist, adapted from COOP, is a useful guide for planning a TT&E event.