Lesson Overview

This lesson explains the coordinating structures used to organize and implement response actions.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to

  • describe the coordinating structures and operational planning used to support emergency
Lesson Topics
This lesson is divided into three main topics:
Purpose of Coordinating Structures

In previous lessons you learned that all elements of the whole community have essential roles in preparing for and responding to emergencies and that effective response depends on careful coordination at all levels.

Coordinating structures help organize and measure the whole community’s capabilities in order to:

  • Address the requirements of the Response mission area
  • Facilitate problem solving
  • Improve access to response resources
  • Foster coordination prior to and following an incident

The coordinating structures used to organize response efforts must be scalable, flexible, and adaptable so they can be partially or fully implemented to allow for delivery of the exact resources that are needed, and with a level of coordination appropriate to each incident.

Coordinating Structures
Click on each coordinating structure to hear about its function.

Select this link to access all information presented.


You can learn more about private-sector coordinating structures by completing the following FEMA courses:

IS-660: Introduction to Public-Private Partnerships (https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-660)

IS-913: Critical Infrastructure Protection: Achieving Results through Partnership and Collaboration (https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-913.a)

Local Coordinating Structure

Local jurisdictions employ a variety of coordinating structures to help identify risks, establish relationships, organize, and build capabilities. These structures are generally organized consistently with National Incident Management System (NIMS) concepts and principles. These structures organize and integrate their capabilities and resources with neighboring jurisdictions, the state, the private sector, and NGOs (Nongovernmental Organizations).

Because of local differences, the coordinating structures at this level vary. Examples of local response coordinating structures include local planning committees and local chapters of national organizations. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are an example of a local coordinating structure. CERT programs educate people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and train them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

State, Tribal, and Territorial Coordinating Structures

The coordinating structures at the state, tribal, and territorial levels also vary, depending on factors such as geography, population, industry, and the capabilities of the local jurisdictions.

The coordinating structures are designed to build on the capabilities and resources of partners from across the whole community—some of whom may also participate in local or regional coordinating structures. Many states create independent committees or councils focused on specific functions.

Private-Sector Coordinating Structures

For the private sector, coordinating structures may be an outgrowth of business organizations based on shared geography or common function, such as banking, supply chain management, transportation, or venue management. Examples of such coordinating structures include:

  • Business Emergency Operations Centers
  • Industry trade groups
  • Private-sector information and intelligence centers

These organizations support collaboration within the private sector, coordinate with NGOs, and may serve as a conduit to local, state, and tribal government coordinating structures.

Coordinating Structures Best Practice

The Regional Disability Integration Specialist (RDIS) has an ongoing relationship with disability entities in each state. A goal of the Regional Disability Integration Specialist is to have a Core Advisory Group (CAG) in each state, territory, tribe, and local jurisdiction. The Core Advisory Group is an integral part of emergency management. Some CAGs interface with the jurisdictional emergency manager, while others are part of Emergency Support Function (ESF) 6 and/or 8.

The Disability Integration Advisor (DIA) follows the guidance of the Federal Coordinating Officer regarding coordination with state, territorial, tribal, private-sector, and local entities and structures.

Federal Coordinating Structures

At the Federal level, two key coordinating structures are:

  • The National Security Council—coordinating structure for national policy.
  • Emergency Support Functions—primary coordinating structures for building, sustaining, and delivering the Response core capabilities.
National Policy—The National Security Council

The National Security Council is the principal policy body for consideration of national security policy issues requiring Presidential determination. The National Security Council:

  • Advises and assists the President in integrating all aspects of national security policy as it affects the United States.
  • Is the President’s principal means for coordinating Executive Branch departments and agencies in the development and implementation of national security policy.
Emergency Support Functions

Coordination of Federal incident response is accomplished through Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). ESFs are organized groups of government and private-sector entities that provide personnel, supplies, facilities, and equipment.

Federal ESFs bring together the capabilities of Federal departments and agencies and other national-level assets that work together to deliver core capabilities and support an effective response.

Communities, states, tribal governments, regions, and other Federal departments and agencies may also use the ESF structure, and they are encouraged to work closely with Federal ESFs at the incident, regional, or Headquarters levels if they are activated.

Watch the video on the next screen to learn more about ESFs.

Emergency Support Functions: Overview

Emergency Support Functions, or ESFs, are used by the Federal Government and many States as the primary coordinating structures for building, sustaining, and delivering the response core capabilities.

ESFs are not based on the capabilities of a single department or agency, and the functions for which they are responsible cannot be accomplished by any single department or agency. Rather, Federal ESFs bring together the capabilities of Federal departments and agencies and other national-level assets that work together to deliver core capabilities and support an effective response.

ESFs are organized into fourteen functional areas such as transportation, public works and engineering, firefighting, search and rescue, public health and medical services, agriculture and natural resources, and many more. ESFs may be selectively activated for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents and are assigned to support headquarters, regional, and field activities.

Communities, States, tribal governments, regions, and other Federal departments and agencies may use the ESF structure, or they may employ other coordinating structures or partners appropriate to their location, threats, or authorities. Whatever structures are used, they are encouraged to work closely with Federal ESFs at the incident, regional, or headquarters levels if they are activated.

The ESF Annexes to the NRF describe the scope, policies, and concept of operations of each ESF. In addition, these annexes identify ESF coordinators, primary agencies, and support agencies. Let’s take a closer look at each of these roles.

An ESF coordinator oversees the preparedness activities for a particular ESF and coordinates with its primary and support agencies.

An ESF primary agency is a Federal agency with significant authorities, roles, resources, or capabilities for a particular function within an ESF. During a Stafford Act incident, the ESF primary agency serves as a Federal executive agent under the Federal Coordinating Officer.

ESF support agencies are those entities with specific capabilities or resources that assist the primary agency in executing the mission of the ESF.

The Emergency Support Function Leaders Group, led by FEMA, is comprised of the Federal departments and agencies that are designated as coordinators for ESFs or coordinating agencies for other NRF annexes.

Throughout the year, ESFs plan and prepare with all participating organizations and form partnerships with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. In doing so, Emergency Support Functions are a key element for building our national response capability.

Emergency Support Function Annexes

Each ESF is described in an annex to the NRF which outlines the ESF’s:

  • Purpose.
  • Scope.
  • Relationship to the whole community.
  • Core capabilities and actions.

Select this link to access the latest copies of the ESF Annexes. (http://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness-resource-library)

ESF Member Roles and Responsibilities

Within each ESF, an ESF coordinator, primary agency, and support agencies are designated. Overall leadership is provided by the Emergency Support Function Leaders Group. Select each role to access a description.

Select this link to access all information presented.

Federal ESF Activation

Departments and agencies supporting Federal ESFs may be selectively activated to support response activities for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents. Not all incidents requiring Federal support result in the activation of ESFs.

When departments and agencies supporting Federal ESFs are activated, they may assign staff at Headquarters, regional, and incident levels.

Activation of the Federal Primary/Lead agencies that perform the emergency support functions are done through a work order called a Mission Assignment. More information on Mission Assignments can be accessed through the FEMA Emergency management Institute’s Independent Study Course IS-293: Mission Assignment Overview (https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-293).

Non-Stafford Act Coordinating Structures

Although the Federal ESFs may be used for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents, the ESFs may not always be the most appropriate coordinating structures for non-Stafford Act incidents.

When there is no Stafford Act declaration, the department or agency with primary legal authority may activate the coordinating structures appropriate to that authority. These structures are generally organized consistently with National Incident Management System (NIMS) concepts and principles.

Departments or agencies responding under their own legal authorities may also request the activation of relevant ESFs.

National Response Framework Support Annexes

The National Response Framework Support Annexes describe other mechanisms by which support is organized among private-sector, NGO, and Federal partners.

Federal departments and agencies designated as coordinating and cooperating agencies in the National Response Framework support annexes conduct a variety of activities, to include managing specific functions and missions and providing Federal support within their functional areas.

The Support Annexes include:

  • Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources
  • Financial Management
  • International Coordination
  • Private-Sector Coordination
  • Public Affairs
  • Tribal Relations
  • Volunteer and Donations Management
  • Worker Safety and Health
Federal Coordinating Structures Best Practice

Primary factors for disability integration in national policy include:

  • The Rehabilitation Act, which requires physical access, effective communication, and programmatic access to all goods, services, and information (in accessible formats) for all citizens
  • The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA), which requires people with disabilities to be included in all aspects of emergency preparedness, response, and recovery

DHS, through FEMA, is assigned disaster preparedness as a matter of national policy. All preparedness is to be disability-inclusive, according to PKEMRA.

The ESFs are outlined in the National Response Framework and contribute to a method of alignment at all levels of emergency management. Disability Core Advisory Groups fit neatly into all Federal coordinating structures and help ensure that the requirements of both the Rehabilitation Act and PKEMRA are met.

The CAG is an ICS-and National Response Framework-compliant methodology of including people with disabilities in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Developing state and local CAGs and working with FEMA Regional Disability Specialists (RDISs) in regions continue to be the key principles.

Operations Coordination

Now that we have reviewed the coordinating structures used for delivering the core response capabilities, let’s take a closer look at how response operations are coordinated.

Response operations involve multiple partners and stakeholders. Coordination is required at all government levels to:

  • Enable decision makers to determine appropriate courses of action
  • Provide oversight for complex homeland security operations
  • Achieve unity of effort and effective outcomes
Operations Coordination: Overview

The National Response Framework integrates coordinating structures that have been developed, tested, and refined over time. In this presentation, we’ll review the major response structures used for coordination at all levels, beginning with local response organizations.

A basic premise of the Framework is that incidents generally begin and end locally, and most incidents are managed entirely at the local level.

Local responders and other levels of government use the Incident Command System, or ICS, to manage response operations. ICS is a management system designed to enable effective incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.

The Incident Commander communicates with the local emergency operations center, or EOC, to report on the incident status and request resources. During an incident, the local emergency manager ensures the EOC is staffed to support the incident command and arranges needed resources. The chief elected or appointed official provides policy direction and supports the Incident Commander and emergency manager, as needed.

When an incident grows beyond the capability of a local or tribal jurisdiction, and responders cannot meet the needs with mutual aid and assistance resources, the emergency manager may contact the State. State EOCs are activated as necessary to ensure that responders have the resources they need. The Governor may provide the needed resources or request assistance from other States through mutual aid and assistance agreements such as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

When it is clear that State/tribal capabilities will be exceeded, the Governor or tribal Chief Executive may request Federal assistance. Federal assistance can be provided to State, tribal, and local jurisdictions, and to other Federal agencies, through various mechanisms and authorities.

For our purposes, let’s assume the Governor is requesting assistance under the Stafford Act. Federal incident-level operations are managed through Unified Coordination under the leadership of the Unified Coordination Group at the Joint Field Office, or JFO. The JFO provides a central location for the coordination of Federal, State, tribal, and local governments and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations with primary responsibility for response and recovery. Although the JFO uses an ICS structure, it does not manage on-scene operations. Rather, the JFO provides support to on-scene efforts.

Coordinating structures can be assembled and organized at the regional level to address incidents that cross State borders or have broad geographic or system-wide implications or to manage competing requirements for response assets among multiple incidents.

Regional Response Coordination Centers, or RRCCs, coordinate Federal regional response efforts until the JFO is established. These regional offices mobilize Federal assets and evaluation teams to work with State, tribal, and local agencies.

To address incidents that cross regional borders or have broad geographic or system-wide implications, and to ensure integration of Federal response efforts, coordinating structures are assembled and organized at the headquarters level.

The National Operations Center, called the NOC, serves as the primary national hub for situational awareness and operations coordination. The NOC provides the Secretary of Homeland Security and other principals with information necessary to make critical national-level incident management decisions.

One key component of the NOC is the National Response Coordination Center, which is referred to as the NRCC. The NRCC is FEMA’s focal point for national response coordination. The NRCC provides overall emergency management coordination, conducts operational planning, deploys national-level teams, and builds and maintains a common operating picture.

This presentation introduced the major coordinating structures for response at the local, regional, and national levels. By promoting the use of these flexible, scalable, and adaptable structures, the National Response Framework ensures that we are prepared to respond together as a Nation.

Local Response Operations: ICS

The Incident Command System (ICS) command and coordinating structures are widely used by local jurisdictions as well as by other levels of government, private-sector organizations, and NGOs.

ICS provides a structure for organizing field-level operations for a broad spectrum of incidents. Typically, the incident response is structured to facilitate activities in five areas: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration.

Local Emergency Operations Center

If the local Incident Commander determines that additional resources or capabilities are needed, requirements are relayed to the local emergency operations center (EOC)—the physical location where multiagency coordination typically occurs and where a variety of local coordinating structures come together to solve problems. The EOC:

  • Helps form shared situational awareness of the incident
  • Relieves on-scene command of the burden of external coordination
  • Secures additional resources to help meet response requirements
Participation at the Local EOC

The EOC can encourage participation by many elements of the community, including:

  • The private sector
  • NGOs
  • Academia
  • Associations
  • Racial and ethnic organizations
  • Access and functional needs experts

These community elements, in turn, often maintain their own structures, such as nongovernmental or private sector EOCs.

Multiagency Coordination Groups

Incident management may also involve Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups).

  • A MAC Group is composed of senior officials, such as agency administrators, executives, or their designees, who are authorized to represent or commit agency resources and funds in support of incident activities.
  • A MAC Group acts as an executive or policy-level body during incidents, supporting resource prioritization and allocation, and enabling decision making among elected and appointed officials and those responsible for managing the incident.
  • In some communities and jurisdictions, MAC Groups are located at or near EOCs in order to authorize additional resources, approve emergency authorities, and provide guidance on emerging issues.
State Emergency Operations Center

The state EOC is the central location from which off-scene activities supported by the state or tribal government are coordinated. State EOCs:

  • Are activated as necessary to support local EOCs and to ensure that responders have the resources they need to conduct response activities
  • Are typically organized by a combination of ESFs or other coordinating structures aligned to disciplines or capabilities

Some states involve their tribal counterparts within the state EOC to ensure that tribal coordinating structures are integrated into the delivery of capabilities.

Federal-Level Operations Structures

When an incident occurs that exceeds, or is anticipated to exceed, local or state resources—or when an incident is managed by Federal departments or agencies acting under their own authorities—the Federal Government may use the management structures described within the National Response Framework.

Additionally, the Federal Government may use supplementary or complementary plans to involve all necessary department and agency resources to organize the Federal response and ensure coordination among all response partners.

Many of the arrangements by which departments and agencies participate are defined in the ESF Annexes, coordinated through prescripted mission assignments in a Stafford Act response, formalized in interagency agreements, or described in the National Response Framework supplementary plans.

The following sections describe Federal support operations at the incident, regional, and Headquarters levels.

Federal Level Operations Structures
Click on each operations structure to hear about its function.
Click on this link to view the Unified Coordination graphic.
Federal Operations Support: Incident Level

Unified Coordination is the term used to describe the primary State and Federal incident management activities conducted at the incident level.

Although Unified Coordination is based on the ICS structure, it does not manage on-scene operations. Instead, it focuses on providing support to on-scene efforts and conducting broader support operations that may extend beyond the incident site.

Unified Coordination may be used for Stafford Act or non-Stafford Act incidents.

Unified Coordination Group

The Unified Coordination Group provides leadership within the Joint Field Office.

This group is comprised of senior leaders representing State and Federal interests, and in certain circumstances Tribal governments, Local jurisdictions, the private sector, or nongovernmental organizations.

This group also applies Unified Command principles to coordinating assistance being provided to support the Local, Tribal, and State Response.

Joint Field Office

Unified Coordination is typically directed from a Joint Field Office, or JFO.

A JFO is a temporary Federal facility that provides a central location for coordination of response efforts by the private sector, NGOs, and all levels of government.

Although the JFO uses an ICS structure, it does not manage on-scene operations. Rather, the JFO provides support to on-scene efforts.

The JFO provides a central location for the coordination of Federal, state, tribal, and local governments and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations with primary responsibility for Response and Recovery.

Federal Operations Support for Non-Stafford Act Incidents

For non-Stafford Act incidents, the department or agency with primary legal jurisdiction activates the response structures, which are generally organized based on NIMS concepts and principles.

Federal agencies that have responsibility for on-scene, tactical-level operations may establish incident command and area command structures, or they may coordinate with State and local agencies to form Unified Incident Command and Unified Area Command structures.

Federal Operations Support: Regional

Coordinating structures can also be assembled and organized at the regional level to address:

  • Incidents that cross state borders
  • Incidents that have broad geographic or system-wide implications
  • Multiple incidents that create competing requirements for response assets
Federal Regional Facilities

Most Federal departments and agencies have regional or field offices that may participate with state and local governments in planning for incidents and provide response assets when an incident occurs in their jurisdiction.

For example, regional or field offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Transportation may join state and local governments in planning for incidents that affect infrastructure such as highways and bridges.

Some Federal departments and agencies share the same standard Federal regional structure as FEMA.

In larger-scale incidents, these regional and field offices may provide the initial response assets with additional support being provided from other department and agency offices across the Nation.

Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC)

Each of FEMA’s 10 regional offices maintains a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC). An RRCC is a coordination center that expands to become an interagency facility in anticipation of a serious incident or immediately following an incident.

When activated, RRCCs are multiagency coordination centers primarily staffed with FEMA Regional staff and supported by activated ESFs.

Operating under the direction of the FEMA Regional Administrator, the staff within the RRCCs coordinates Federal Regional Response efforts and maintains connectivity with FEMA Headquarters and with state EOCs, state and major urban-area fusion centers, Federal Executive Boards, tribal governments and other Federal, tribal, and state operations and coordination centers that could contribute to the development of situational awareness.

Federal Operations Support: Headquarters Level

At the Headquarters level, coordinating structures are assembled and organized to address incidents that cross regional borders or have broad geographic or system-wide implications. The structures that are activated depend on the levels of government involved and the legal authorities under which the response is being conducted.

Most Cabinet-level departments and agencies have at least one headquarters-level operations center. Examples include:

  • National Operations Center
  • National Response Coordination Center
  • National Military Command Center
  • Strategic Information and Operations Center

Let’s take a closer look at each type of operations center.

National Operations Center

Most Cabinet-level departments and agencies have at least one Headquarters-level operations center.

A wide range of such centers maintain situational awareness within their functional areas and provide relevant information to the DHS National Operations Center (NOC).

Select this link for more information about the NOC.

National Response Coordination Center

One key component of the National Operations Center is the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). The NRCC:

  • Is FEMA’s focal point for national resource coordination
  • Provides overall emergency management coordination
  • Conducts operational planning
  • Deploys national-level teams
  • Builds and maintains a common operating picture

Select this link for additional information about the NRCC.

National Military Command Center (NMCC)

The Department of Defense NMCC is the nation’s focal point for continuous monitoring and coordination of worldwide military operations. It directly supports combatant commanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President in the command of U.S. Armed Forces in peacetime contingencies and war.

The NMCC participates in a wide variety of activities, ranging from missile warning and attack assessment to management of peacetime operations such as Defense Support of Civil Authorities during national emergencies.

Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC)

The SIOC acts as the FBI’s worldwide Emergency Operations Center. The SIOC:

  • Maintains situational awareness of criminal or terrorist threats, critical incidents, and crises, both foreign and domestic, regardless of cause or origin
  • Provides FBI Headquarters executives, domestic field offices, and overseas legal attachés with timely notification and dissemination of strategic information
  • Shares information and intelligence with other EOCs at all levels of government
  • Provides a secure venue to support crisis management, special event monitoring, and significant operations
  • Provides command, control, communications connectivity, and a common operating picture for managing FBI operational responses and assets anywhere in the world

In the event of a crisis, the SIOC establishes the Headquarters Command Post and develops connectivity to Field Command Posts and Joint Operations Centers.

Joint Operations Center (JOC)

In response to significant threats or incidents involving Federal crimes under the criminal jurisdiction of the United States, the FBI may establish a JOC, a regional multijurisdictional interagency investigative, intelligence, and operations center to lead and coordinate the law enforcement response, investigative operations, and related intelligence activities.

The JOC is led by an FBI On-Scene Commander and is supported by a Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal command group and a consequence management group, as appropriate.

The JOC is the place from which the FBI leads and coordinates the law enforcement operational response, on-scene law enforcement, and related investigative and intelligence activities.

Select this link for additional information about the JOC.

Coordinating Structures in Support of Emergency Response Best Practice

Regional Disability Integration Specialists (RDISs) provide technical training and assistance in non-Stafford Act events like papal visits, Super Bowl games, etc. Disability Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) advise about physical access in paths of travel, accessible egress for rapid evacuation, appropriate signage to alert people with disabilities to announcements, captioning, and American Sign Language interpreters to help make sure all citizens have equal access and equal participation.

Operations support and coordination help make sure that people controlling the event or incident have all the tools they need. RDISs will know about resources in their regions, in other regions, and throughout the nation, through tribal, local, regional, and statewide Core Advisory Group (CAG) networks and national disability partner organizations.

FEMA has the latitude to access any resources within the Federal Government under certain conditions and specific circumstances. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) activities would be one example. Even in cases in which FEMA may not have authority to access resources directly, they may have awareness and be able to refer people in an operational coordination role to an entity that does have needed resources. An example could be air support for a state or Federal police operation.

Integration Among Mission Areas

The Response mission area does not exist in a vacuum. For emergency management to be effective, all five mission areas must work together in an integrated fashion to achieve the goal of a safe, resilient Nation.

Now that you are familiar with the key coordination and operations support structures for response, let’s look at how the Response mission area integrates with the other mission areas.

Effective emergency response requires that the coordinating structures for response be able to link to and share information with those in the other mission areas.

Establishing close working relationships, lines of communication, and coordination protocols between Protection, Prevention, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery organizations facilitates this process.

Integration Among Mission Areas (continued)

Examples of Response mission-area coordinating structures cooperating with other mission-area assets include:

  • Coordinating with Prevention and Protection mission-area structures to share information
  • Coordinating with Protection mission-area structures in the wake of an incident to ensure that communities and emergency responders have the protection needed to perform their jobs
  • Coordinating anticipatory Response mission-area activities with the Mitigation and Recovery mission activities

Although they are generally considered to be Prevention- or Protection-focused organizations, the various state and major urban-area fusion centers are examples of coordinating structures whose utility spans mission areas. The collection, analysis, and dissemination of information by the fusion centers can inform response activities through information sharing and operational coordination efforts.

Integration Among Mission Areas (continued)

Because of the natural relationship between response and recovery efforts and the fact that response and recovery activities often occur simultaneously, the responsibilities of some ESFs correspond with or transition to the responsibilities of Recovery Support Functions (RSF), the Recovery mission-area coordinating structures defined in the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

The RSFs frequently build on the ESF capabilities and short-term recovery efforts applied by the ESFs to meet basic human needs, in order to integrate short-term recovery efforts with intermediate and long-term recovery needs.

The relationships and integration among the ESFs and the coordinating structures of other mission areas are detailed in the Federal Interagency Operational Plans (FIOPs).

Science and Technology

Science and Technology (S&T) capabilities and investments are essential for enabling the delivery and continuous improvement of national preparedness.

The whole community should design, conduct, and improve operations based on the best, most rigorous scientific data, methods, and science-based understandings available.

Commitments and investments that ensure U.S. global leadership in science and technology will yield leading-edge technology and scientific understanding to guide national preparedness actions.

Select this link for additional information about the Science and Technology.

How Response Relates to Other Mission Areas

All five mission areas relate to each other through interdependencies, shared assets, and overlapping objectives. These are identified through comprehensive planning with the whole community to ensure that they are addressed during response to an incident.

For example, Response and Protection operational structures share threat information, including issuing watches, warnings, and other emergency bulletins.

Select a mission area to access examples of its relationship to Response.

Select this link to access all information presented.

Operational Planning

Planning across the full range of homeland security operations is an inherent responsibility of every level of government.

This National Response Framework fosters unity of effort for emergency operations planning by providing common doctrine and purpose.

A plan is a continuous, evolving instrument of anticipated actions that maximizes opportunities and guides response operations. Since planning is an ongoing process, a plan is a product based on the information and understanding available at the moment and is subject to revision.

Operational Planning (continued)

Operational planning is conducted across the whole community, including:

  • The private sector
  • NGOs
  • All levels of government

Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 provides further information on the various types of plans and guidance on the fundamentals of planning.

From the Federal perspective, integrated planning helps explain how Federal departments and agencies and other national-level whole-community partners provide the right resources at the right time to support local, state, tribal, territorial, and insular-area government response operations.

Integrated planning provides answers to questions about which traditional and non-traditional partners can provide the necessary resources.

Operational Planning Example

Operational Planning takes the operation from where it is with situational assessments, to where it needs to go, according to the senior area official and/or the FCO. FEMA planners are a wealth of knowledge about local-area, national, and even international resources.

FIOPs deal with Federal interagency planning, which enables FEMA to help jurisdictions identify supporting resources over which FEMA may not have control, but which, through FEMA, jurisdictions may be able to access from other Federal agencies.

In a recent disaster at a remote location, the area of impact was a small island that had limited resources. Using a concentric-circles approach, resources were identified on islands in successively broadening circles in the general direction of the U.S. mainland. This process enabled the needs to be met “locally,” resulting in significant savings to the Federal, territorial, and local governments.

Coordinating Structures for Response

The National Response Framework is based on an understanding that most incidents start at the local level, and as needs exceed resources and capabilities, additional local, state, and Federal assets are applied.

This section describes coordinating structures for response on several levels, including:

  • Local
  • State, tribal, and territorial
  • Private sector
  • Federal
Federal Planning

Federal Interagency Operational Plans (FIOPs), discussed in Lesson 1, describe how the Federal Government aligns resources and delivers core capabilities to reach our shared National Preparedness Goal.

These plans (one for each mission area) describe the concept of operations to integrate and synchronize existing national-level Federal capabilities to support local, state, tribal, territorial, insular-area, and Federal plans.

Federal departments, agencies, coordinating structures, and interagency partnerships should use the FIOPs as a guide for operational planning.

Use this link to find out more about the Response FIOP.

Planning Assumptions

The detailed planning factors for the Response FIOP focus on the impacts associated with a large-scale emergency or disaster that could occur anywhere within the United States, its territories, or insular areas, and that could result in a substantial number of fatalities and injuries, widespread property loss, and disruption of essential services across a large geographic area.

While the Response FIOP contains assumptions for each of the Response Core Capabilities, some of the overarching assumptions include the following:

  • Multiple catastrophic incidents or attacks will occur with little or no warning.
  • Incidents are typically managed at the lowest possible geographic, organizational, and jurisdictional levels.
  • Incident management activities will be initiated and conducted using the principles contained in NIMS.
  • The combined expertise and capabilities of government at all levels, the private sector, and NGOs will be required to respond to a catastrophic incident.
Supporting Resources

To assist NRF users, FEMA will maintain an online repository that contains:

  • Electronic versions of the current NRF documents, including base document, ESF Annexes, Support Annexes, and Incident Annexes.
  • Training materials.
  • Other supporting materials, such as an overview of the main Stafford Act provisions, a guide to authorities and references, and an abbreviations list.

Resource Center materials will be regularly evaluated, updated, and augmented as necessary. Additional content may be added or modified at the request of Response mission area partners and other users.

Select this link to access National Preparedness Resource Library. (http://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness-resource-library)


The environment in which the nation operates grows ever more complex and unpredictable. In implementing the NRF to build national preparedness, partners are encouraged to develop a shared understanding of broad-level strategic implications as they make critical decisions in building future capacity and capability.

The whole community should be engaged in examining and implementing the strategy and doctrine contained in the NRF, considering both current and future requirements in the process.

The National Response Framework is a living document, and it will be regularly reviewed to evaluate consistency with existing and new policies, evolving conditions, and the experience gained from its use.

Course Summary

In this course, you’ve learned that the National Response Framework is a guide that details how the nation conducts all-hazards response and that it:

  • Identifies capabilities that are essential for response
  • Indicates the actions required to build and deliver the required capabilities
  • Describes key roles and responsibilities for integrating capabilities across the whole community
  • Outlines how the Response Mission relates to other mission areas
  • Can be implemented as needed on a flexible, scalable basis
  • Is always in effect
  • Is aligned with NIMS
Course Completion

You have now completed all of the lessons. Prior to taking the examination, we recommend that you:

  1. Access and print a summary of the course contents.
  2. Review the National Response Framework base document (https://www.fema.gov/national-planning-frameworks).