IS-0001.a - Emergency Manager: An Orientation to the Position


Lesson 1: Emergency Management History and Principles

Course Goal

The goal of this course is to acquaint you with the position of emergency manager, including history and underlying principles of emergency management, key areas of emphasis, the emergency manager’s roles and responsibilities, and tips for getting started.

The information you will receive is only the beginning; there is much more to learn. At the end of each lesson you will find suggested steps you can take to find out how emergency management functions in your jurisdiction and links to other guidance and training where you can learn more.


Course Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Identify the principles and authorities that are the foundation of emergency management.
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of an emergency manager.
  • Identify strategies for developing a preparedness program.
  • Indicate the significance of planning, training, and exercising in emergency management.
  • Describe how prevention, protection, and mitigation contribute to a safe and resilient community.
  • Describe the emergency manager’s role in relation to emergency response.
  • Indicate how an emergency manager helps lead disaster recovery efforts.
  • Identify key considerations in managing an emergency management program.


Lesson Overview

The remainder of this lesson presents an overview of today’s integrated emergency management system and how it evolved. At the completion of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the purpose of emergency management.
  • Describe integrated emergency management.
  • Identify components of preparedness.
  • Identify the principles of emergency management.
  • Indicate key events in the history of emergency management.
  • Describe evolving national preparedness doctrine.


What Is Emergency Management?

Throughout our Nation’s history, communities have always bonded together when disaster strikes. Emergency management simply creates a framework to help communities reduce vulnerabilities to threats and hazards and cope with disasters.

Emergency management is an essential role of government. The Constitution tasks the States with responsibility for public health and safety―hence, they are responsible for public risks, while the Federal Government’s ultimate obligation is to help when State, local, or individual entities are overwhelmed.

The overall goals of emergency management at all levels are:

  • First, to reduce the loss of life;
  • Then, to minimize property loss and damage to the environment;
  • And finally, to protect the jurisdiction from all threats and hazards.

We tend to think of emergency management as a relatively new concept. However, the idea of assessing risks and organizing to deal with those risks has been around, in one fashion or another, since humans began forming civilizations.

Our current vision of emergency management has not always been the same as it is today. Rather, it has evolved to reflect our national values and the threats we face.

Today we seek to create a secure and resilient Nation. We have learned that doing so requires that we work together to build and sustain capabilities across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.


What Is Emergency Management?

There are numerous definitions of emergency management. The definition below is based on the one developed by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).

Emergency Management: The managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to threats/hazards and cope with disasters.


Why Emergency Management?

The reasons for the emergency management function are timeless and enduring, and include the following:

  • Threats and hazards exist—always have and always will.
  • Experience and empirical observation indicate that disaster events have a significant impact on humans and the environment.
  • Success in dealing with disasters depends primarily on how well prepared, organized, and coordinated we are.
  • Experience has shown that emergency management principles and practices actually work to achieve successful outcomes.


Integrated Emergency Management

Emergency management must be integrated into daily decisions, not just during times of disasters. Integrated emergency management:

  • Is a way of thinking about emergency management as a joint enterprise among the whole community among government, key community partners, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.
  • Embodies an all-threats/hazards approach to the direction, control, and coordination of disasters regardless of their location, size, or complexity.
  • Increases emergency management capability through:
    • Prior networks, linkages, and partnerships.
    • Communication across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries.
    • Creative thinking about resource shortfalls.
    • Coordinated testing, training, and exercising.
    • Improved ability to see the “big picture” for simultaneous responses.


Emergency Management Principles

Emergency management principles help us identify and apply agreed-upon practices. Before March 2007, there was no agreed-upon definition of principles that could form a basis for emergency management.

The Emergency Management Institute’s Higher Education Project working group identified the following eight principles:

  1. Comprehensive – Emergency managers consider and take into account all hazards, all phases, all stakeholders, and all impacts relevant to disasters.
  2. Progressive – Emergency managers anticipate future disasters and take protective, preventive, and preparatory measures to build disaster-resistant and disaster-resilient communities.
  3. Risk-Driven – Emergency managers use sound risk management principles (threat/hazard identification, risk analysis, and impact analysis) in assigning priorities and resources.
  4. Integrated – Emergency managers ensure unity of effort among all levels of government and all elements of a community.
  5. Collaborative – Emergency managers create and sustain broad and sincere relationships among individuals and organizations to encourage trust, advocate a team atmosphere, build consensus, and facilitate communication.
  6. Coordinated – Emergency managers synchronize the activities of all relevant stakeholders to achieve a common purpose.
  7. Flexible – Emergency managers use creative and innovative approaches in solving disaster challenges.
  8. Professional – Emergency managers value a science- and knowledge-based approach based on education, training, experience, ethical practice, public stewardship, and continuous improvement.


Emergency Management: The Roots

Now that you understand the overall intent of the emergency management function, let’s take a moment to look at how the system evolved.

Prior to the 1800s, disasters were managed solely with local resources. In December 1802, fire engulfed the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, destroying large areas. This disaster exceeded local capabilities and had a severe impact on commerce for the entire Nation. In response, Congress acted swiftly to pass the Congressional Relief Act of 1803, enabling the Federal Government to be involved in a local disaster.

The next notable era in the evolution of emergency management began with World War II in the 1940s and continued with the Cold War era beginning in the 1950s. During World War II, the Federal Government established civil defense programs, such as air raid warning and emergency shelter systems, to protect the civilian population. The Disaster Relief Act of 1950 gave the President authority to issue disaster declarations that allowed Federal agencies to provide direct assistance to State and local governments.

The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 created a nationwide system of civil defense agencies, and defense drills became routine in schools, government agencies, and other organizations. During this era, emergency management was thought of as an extension of the civil defense movement.

In 1952, President Truman issued Executive Order 10427, which emphasized that Federal disaster assistance was intended to supplement, not supplant, the resources of State, local, tribal, and private-sector organizations. Today’s emergency management system supports the premise that disasters are best managed at the lowest possible governmental level, and that Federal assistance supports and does not direct these efforts.

During the 1960s and 1970s, as the Cold War was ending, the Nation experienced numerous devastating natural disasters. These disasters drew the Nation’s attention away from the civil defense mission to the need for well-coordinated Federal response and recovery operations during natural disasters.

As a result, Congress passed the Disaster Relief Act of 1969. This act created a Federal Coordinating Officer to represent the President in the relief effort. The law was extended as the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, which established the process of Presidential disaster declarations.

To ensure coordination of Federal disaster response and recovery, President Carter’s 1979 Executive order merged many of the separate disaster-related responsibilities into a new Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

In November 1988, Congress amended the Disaster Relief Act and renamed it the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, often referred to simply as the Stafford Act. The Stafford Act created the system in place today by which a Presidential disaster declaration triggers financial and physical assistance through FEMA.

At the beginning of this century, the Nation was confronted with the terrorist attacks of September 11th and major natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. These events prompted dramatic changes in emergency management, including the need to safeguard the Nation from all threats and hazards.


The Stafford Act

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707) created the system in place today by which a Presidential disaster declaration triggers financial and physical assistance through FEMA. The Stafford Act:

  • Covers all hazards, including natural disasters and terrorist events.
  • Provides primary authority for the Federal Government to respond to disasters and emergencies.
  • Gives FEMA responsibility for coordinating Government response efforts. The President’s authority is delegated to FEMA through separate mechanisms.
  • Describes the programs and processes by which the Federal Government provides disaster and emergency assistance to State and local governments, tribal nations, eligible private nonprofit organizations, and individuals affected by a declared major disaster or emergency.


Stafford Act: Definitions of Emergency and Major Disaster

Under the Stafford Act, the President can designate an incident as:

  • Emergency: Any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States. A variety of incidents may qualify as emergencies. The Federal assistance available for emergencies is more limited than that which is available for a major disaster.

  • Major Disaster: Any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this chapter to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.

    Major disasters may be caused by such natural events as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Disasters may include fires, floods, or explosions that the President feels are of sufficient magnitude to warrant Federal assistance. Although the types of incidents that may qualify as a major disaster are limited, the Federal assistance available for major disasters is broader than that available for emergencies.

In certain circumstances, the President may declare an “emergency” unilaterally, but may only declare a “major disaster” at the request of a Governor who certifies the State and affected local governments are overwhelmed.


Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act

Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 was the most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history. Gaps that became apparent in the response to that disaster led to the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA). PKEMRA significantly reorganized FEMA, provided it substantial new authority to remedy gaps in response, and included a more robust preparedness mission for FEMA. This act:

  • Establishes a Disability Coordinator and develops guidelines to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
  • Establishes the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System to reunify separated family members.
  • Coordinates and supports precautionary evacuations and recovery efforts.
  • Provides transportation assistance for relocating and returning individuals displaced from their residences in a major disaster.
  • Provides case management assistance to identify and address unmet needs of survivors of major disasters.


Sandy Recovery Improvement Act

On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-2) (SRIA). The law authorizes several significant changes to the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may deliver disaster assistance under a variety of programs. In general, these provisions amend the Stafford Act with a stated goal of improving the efficiency and quality of disaster assistance provided by FEMA. Briefly, the amendments to the Stafford Act include:

  • Establishing a new set of alternative procedures for administering the Public Assistance Program, which provides assistance for debris removal and the repair and restoration of eligible facilities.
  • Authorizing FEMA to enter into agreements with private owners of multi-family rental properties to expand post-disaster housing resources.
  • Revising the administration of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, to include a possible advancement of 25% of grant funds.
  • Directing the establishment of alternative dispute resolution procedures (including binding arbitration), building on FEMA’s current appeals process, to resolve federal and state disagreements on costs and eligibility questions.
  • Directing the creation of a joint process for environmental and historical review for disaster recovery projects with the goal of increasing the speed of the process.

Amendments to the Stafford Act also include:

  • Directing FEMA to study, and report to Congress, whether it is appropriate to increase the dollar size of “small projects” eligible for simplified procedures.
  • Including child care as an eligible expense under the “other needs assistance” provided in certain disasters.
  • Specifically authorizing the reimbursement of the base wages of government employees providing emergency work under certain circumstances.
  • Directing FEMA to update the factors considered when assessing the need for Individual Assistance in the declaration process.
  • Authorizing the chief executive of a tribal government to directly request disaster or emergency declarations from the President, much as a governor can for a state.
  • Directing FEMA to create a comprehensive national strategy for reducing the cost of future disasters.

For additional information regarding the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, click on the links below.



As the emergency management system evolves, the focus is increasingly on preparedness. Preparedness refers to actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to:

  • Prevent,
  • Protect against,
  • Mitigate the effects of,
  • Respond to, and
  • Recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk.


Presidential Policy Directive 8

Preparedness requires the commitment of our entire Nation. Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) describes our Nation’s approach to national preparedness—one in which the whole community, including individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools, tribes, and all levels of government, works together in preparing for emergencies.


National Preparedness Goal

The National Preparedness Goal presents an integrated, layered, and all-of-Nation approach to preparedness with an emphasis on building and sustaining core capabilities across five mission areas.

Graphic showing the Preparedness Goal at the top, with a down arrow to Capabilities; below are the five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery

Mission Areas

Mission areas differ from phases of emergency management. Each area is comprised of the capabilities required for executing the mission or function at any time (before, during, or after an incident) and across all threats and hazards. It is important to shift your thinking to capabilities!

Prevention: The capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism. As defined by PPD-8, the term “prevention” refers to preventing imminent threats.

Protection: The capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters.

Mitigation: The capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Response: The capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred.

Recovery: The capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively.


What Are Core Capabilities?

The core capabilities are distinct critical elements necessary to meet the National Preparedness Goal. Core capabilities are essential for the execution of each mission area.

There are three core capabilities that cut across all five mission areas:

  • Planning
  • Public Information and Warning
  • Operational Coordination


Core Capabilities

Prevention Mission Area Core Capabilities

Planning Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community as appropriate in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.
Public Information and Warning Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard, as well as the actions being taken and the assistance being made available, as appropriate.
Operational Coordination Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.
Forensics and Attribution Conduct forensic analysis and attribute terrorist acts (including the means and methods of terrorism) to their source, to include forensic analysis as well as attribution for an attack and for the preparation for an attack in an effort to prevent initial or follow-on acts and/or swiftly develop counter-options.
Intelligence and Information Sharing Provide timely, accurate, and actionable information resulting from the planning, direction, collection, exploitation, processing, analysis, production, dissemination, evaluation, and feedback of available information concerning threats to the United States, its people, property, or interests; the development, proliferation, or use of WMDs; or any other matter bearing on U.S. national or homeland security by Federal, State, local, and other stakeholders. Information sharing is the ability to exchange intelligence, information, data, or knowledge among Federal, State, local, or private sector entities, as appropriate.
Interdiction and Disruption Delay, divert, intercept, halt, apprehend, or secure threats and/or hazards.
Screening, Search, and Detection Identify, discover, or locate threats and/or hazards through active and passive surveillance and search procedures. This may include the use of systematic examinations and assessments, sensor technologies, or physical investigation and intelligence.

Protection Mission Area Core Capabilities

Planning Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community, as appropriate, in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.
Public Information and Warning Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard and, as appropriate, the actions being taken and the assistance being made available.
Operational Coordination Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.
Access Control and Identity Verification Apply a broad range of physical, technological, and cyber measures to control admittance to critical locations and systems, limiting access to authorized individuals to carry out legitimate activities.
Cybersecurity Protect against damage to, the unauthorized use of, and/or the exploitation of (and, if needed, the restoration of) electronic communications systems and services (and the information contained therein).
Intelligence and Information Sharing Provide timely, accurate, and actionable information resulting from the planning, direction, collection, exploitation, processing, analysis, production, dissemination, evaluation, and feedback of available information concerning threats to the United States, its people, property, or interests; the development, proliferation, or use of WMDs; or any other matter bearing on U.S. national or homeland security by Federal, State, local, and other stakeholders. Information sharing is the ability to exchange intelligence, information, data, or knowledge among Federal, State, local, or private sector entities as appropriate.
Interdiction and Disruption Delay, divert, intercept, halt, apprehend, or secure threats and/or hazards.
Physical Protective Measures Reduce or mitigate risks, including actions targeted at threats, vulnerabilities, and/or consequences, by controlling movement and protecting borders, critical infrastructure, and the homeland.
Risk Management for Protection Programs and Activities Identify, assess, and prioritize risks to inform Protection activities and investments.
Screening, Search, and Detection Identify, discover, or locate threats and/or hazards through active and passive surveillance and search procedures. This may include the use of systematic examinations and assessments, sensor technologies, or physical investigation and intelligence.
Supply Chain Integrity and Security Strengthen the security and resilience of the supply chain.

Mitigation Mission Area Core Capabilities

Planning Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community as appropriate in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.
Public Information and Warning Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard and, as appropriate, the actions being taken and the assistance being made available.
Operational Coordination Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.
Community Resilience Lead the integrated effort to recognize, understand, communicate, plan, and address risks so that the community can develop a set of actions to accomplish Mitigation and improve resilience.
Long-Term Vulnerability Reduction Build and sustain resilient systems, communities, and critical infrastructure and key resources lifelines so as to reduce their vulnerability to natural, technological, and human-caused incidents by lessening the likelihood, severity, and duration of the adverse consequences related to these incidents.
Risk and Disaster Resilience Assessment Assess risk and disaster resilience so that decision makers, responders, and community members can take informed action to reduce their entity’s risk and increase their resilience.
Threats and Hazard Identification Identify the threats and hazards that occur in the geographic area; determine the frequency and magnitude; and incorporate this into analysis and planning processes so as to clearly understand the needs of a community or entity.

Response Mission Area Core Capabilities

Planning Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community as appropriate in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.
Public Information and Warning Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard and, as appropriate, the actions being taken and the assistance being made available.
Operational Coordination Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.
Critical Transportation Provide transportation (including infrastructure access and accessible transportation services) for response priority objectives, including the evacuation of people and animals, and the delivery of vital response personnel, equipment, and services into the affected areas.
Environmental Response/Health and Safety Ensure the availability of guidance and resources to address all hazards including hazardous materials, acts of terrorism, and natural disasters in support of the responder operations and the affected communities.
Fatality Management Services Provide fatality management services, including body recovery and victim identification, working with State and local authorities to provide temporary mortuary solutions, sharing information with mass care services for the purpose of reunifying family members and caregivers with missing persons/remains, and providing counseling to the bereaved.
Infrastructure Systems Stabilize critical infrastructure functions, minimize health and safety threats, and efficiently restore and revitalize systems and services to support a viable, resilient community.
Mass Care Services Provide life-sustaining services to the affected population with a focus on hydration, feeding, and sheltering to those who have the most need, as well as support for reunifying families.
Mass Search and Rescue Operations Deliver traditional and atypical search and rescue capabilities, including personnel, services, animals, and assets to survivors in need, with the goal of saving the greatest number of endangered lives in the shortest time possible.
On-Scene Security and Protection Ensure a safe and secure environment through law enforcement and related security and protection operations for people and communities located within affected areas and also for all traditional and atypical response personnel engaged in lifesaving and life-sustaining operations.
Operational Communications Ensure the capacity for timely communications in support of security, situational awareness, and operations by any and all means available, among and between affected communities in the impact area and all response forces.
Public and Private Services and Resources Provide essential public and private services and resources to the affected population and surrounding communities, to include emergency power to critical facilities, fuel support for emergency responders, and access to community staples (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks) and fire and other first response services.
Public Health and Medical Services Provide lifesaving medical treatment via emergency medical services and related operations and avoid additional disease and injury by providing targeted public health and medical support and products to all people in need within the affected area.
Situational Assessment Provide all decision makers with decision-relevant information regarding the nature and extent of the hazard, any cascading effects, and the status of the response.

Recovery Mission Area Core Capabilities

Planning Conduct a systematic process engaging the whole community as appropriate in the development of executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.
Public Information and Warning Deliver coordinated, prompt, reliable, and actionable information to the whole community through the use of clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods to effectively relay information regarding any threat or hazard and, as appropriate, the actions being taken and the assistance being made available.
Operational Coordination Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure and process that appropriately integrates all critical stakeholders and supports the execution of core capabilities.
Economic Recovery Return economic and business activities (including food and agriculture) to a healthy state and develop new business and employment opportunities that result in a sustainable and economically viable community.
Health and Social Services Restore and improve health and social services networks to promote the resilience, independence, health (including behavioral health), and well-being of the whole community.
Housing Implement housing solutions that effectively support the needs of the whole community and contribute to its sustainability and resilience.
Infrastructure Systems Stabilize critical infrastructure functions, minimize health and safety threats, and efficiently restore and revitalize systems and services to support a viable, resilient community.
Natural and Cultural Resources Protect natural and cultural resources and historic properties through appropriate planning, mitigation, response, and recovery actions to preserve, conserve, rehabilitate, and restore them consistent with post-disaster community priorities and best practices and in compliance with appropriate environmental and historical preservation laws and executive orders.


National Preparedness System

The National Preparedness System is an integrated set of guidance, programs, and processes that enables the whole community to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.

  1. Identifying and Assessing Risk
  2. Estimating Capability Requirements
  3. Building and Sustaining Capabilities
  4. Planning to Deliver Capabilities
  5. Validating Capabilities
  6. Reviewing and Updating


National Incident Management System (NIMS)

NIMS represents a core set of doctrines, concepts, principles, terminology, and organizational processes that enable effective, efficient, and collaborative incident management. NIMS integrates best practices into a comprehensive, standardized system that focuses on five key areas:

  • Preparedness
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Resource Management
  • Command and Management
  • Ongoing Management and Maintenance

This system is flexible enough to be used across the full spectrum of potential incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity. Using NIMS allows us to work together to prepare for, prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from incidents.


Continue Your Learning

Below are additional resources you can use to learn more about emergency management history, principles, key areas of emphasis, and roles and responsibilities.

Doctrine and Guidance:

  • Presidential Policy Directive 8
  • National Preparedness Goal
  • National Preparedness System

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson introduced emergency management concepts, history, and principles, including:

  • The purpose of emergency management.
  • Integrated emergency management.
  • Components of preparedness.
  • The principles of emergency management.
  • Emergency management history.
  • Evolving national preparedness doctrine.


Lesson 2: Understanding Your Role

Lesson Overview

This lesson presents an overview of the emergency manager’s roles and responsibilities. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the roles and responsibilities of an emergency manager.
  • Indicate ways in which the emergency manager’s role relates to the roles of emergency management partners, including:
    • State and Federal government.
    • Local government departments and agencies.
    • Private-sector and nongovernmental organizations.
    • Local response organizations.
    • Individuals, families, and households.


What Does It Mean To Be an Emergency Manager?

There is no single model for emergency management, either in organization or in size. Nationwide, there is great variety.

For example, emergency management may function as a separate organization. In an ideal situation, the emergency manager answers directly to the jurisdiction’s chief executive, giving the executive direct access to unfiltered information from the emergency manager.

In many communities emergency management is a function within the fire/rescue, public safety, or law enforcement department. Often it is part of a volunteer department.

Staff size may run the gamut from a single part-time or shared position, to a full-time employee, to a full-time director with a large staff, each with assigned areas of responsibility.


Legal Duties of an Emergency Manager

The legal duties of emergency managers are based in:

  • Local emergency management ordinances.
  • State or tribal emergency management laws.
  • Standards such as NIMS and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600.
  • Laws of general application (Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), civil rights, contract law, personnel law, government ethics law, etc.).

Local, tribal, and State emergency management statutes and ordinances typically include a list of position responsibilities for various key players, including the emergency manager.

It is important to know your jurisdiction’s legal requirements for emergency managers.


Many Hats

Regardless of organization type and size, or legal responsibilities, an emergency manager wears many hats - including leader, alliance builder, communicator, planner, administrator, coordinator, educator, problem solver, and protector.


A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

Let’s take a look at a typical workday of Sally Green, emergency manager of USA county.

The day begins with a meeting of the county’s planning committee to discuss updating the emergency operations plan, or EOP. The whole community participates in the planning process, including response agencies, nonprofits, business leaders, and others. Including the entire community is the key to successful planning.

The EOP was recently put into effect when a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed. Sally activated the Emergency Operations Center and coordinated communications and resources from there. Response was quick, shelter-in-place protocols were followed, and there were no casualties, despite a problem with the warning systems.

After the incident, Sally met with the response partners to assess the response, and today they will discuss needed improvements to the EOP, focusing especially on public notification.

This afternoon, Sally will work on the budget. Next week’s meeting with the mayor will address the overall emergency management budget and a draft of the new mitigation grant application. This will also be a good time to encourage the mayor to take part in an upcoming tabletop exercise focusing on terrorism scenarios. Involving elected officials helps them understand emergency management issues and builds public confidence.

Later in the day, Sally will prepare for tomorrow’s town hall meeting on recovery planning. Following a destructive tornado earlier this year, the public has been invited to weigh in on alternatives for rebuilding. Involving all stakeholders in the community will help ensure a successful recovery. She will also use this opportunity to distribute information kits on family preparedness.

Meanwhile, Sally is monitoring advisories about a severe storm system that could move into the area. If it materializes, she may have to postpone other items on her schedule to focus on response preparations.


Review of Roles

Our glimpse at Sally Green’s day illustrates the variety of roles an emergency manager may play on any given day.

An emergency manager is many things to many different people, depending on the situation. Next we’ll look potential expectations of various stakeholders in the community.

Summary of Roles

Roles Examples of Activities
  • Inviting input from the public on recovery plans
  • Generating interest in an exercise
Alliance builder
  • Involving response partners in EOP revision
  • Engaging the public in recovery planning
  • Encouraging participation of elected officials in an exercise
  • EOP revision planning
  • Mitigation planning
  • Recovery planning
  • Creating a budget
  • Developing a grant application
  • Activating the EOC
  • Coordinating response communications and resources
  • Distributing information on family preparedness
Problem solver
  • Improvement planning for public notification
  • Coordinating support for successful response operations
  • Monitoring weather advisories


What the Community Expects

In any community—no matter what the size—people look to emergency management for certain things. For example, they expect:

  • A safe and resilient community. In most jurisdictions this entails communitywide preparedness; up-to-date emergency plans, and a training and exercise program to support those plans; and strategies for preventing, protecting against, and mitigating the effects of disasters.
  • Effective response and recovery when incidents do occur.
  • Information about the risks the population faces and the actions they should take.
  • Ethical conduct.

In later lessons you will learn more about developing a preparedness program; planning, training and exercising; prevention, protection, and mitigation; and response and recovery.


What Your Partners Expect

The emergency manager works with many partners, including local response organizations, government departments and agencies, nonprofit groups, business leaders, infrastructure owners and operators, and others.

Professionals in the emergency management community look to the emergency manager for leadership. For example, they expect:

  • Leadership in preparedness activities such as planning, training, and exercising.
  • Collaboration with response partners before, during, and after an incident.
  • Effective coordination of emergency operations.
  • Effective communication, enabling all partners to share a common picture of the current and evolving situation.


What Elected and Appointed Officials Expect

For elected and appointed officials, emergency management is only one facet of a much broader set of responsibilities, and the emergency manager can help them do it better. For example, these officials expect the emergency manager to:

  • Keep them informed about emergency management issues and impending events.
  • Advise them during emergencies.
  • Contribute to a positive public image through effective emergency management.
  • Be a good steward of public funds through cost-effective programs, securing of grants, and ethical practices.


Emergency vs. Routine Functions

Because the emergency manager takes on a higher profile during emergencies, a common perception is that all emergency management responsibilities are related to responding to emergencies.

In reality, emergency management is not just about the core functions involved in response. It includes a broad array of program functions, and much of the work is of a nonemergency nature.


Core Functions

Core functions are those that are critical to a successful emergency response. Emergency managers are responsible for the following core functions:

  • Direction, control, and coordination
  • Communications
  • Warning
  • External affairs/Emergency public information
  • Population protection
  • Mass care, emergency assistance, housing, and human services
  • Public health and medical services
  • Logistics management and resource support


Program Functions

In addition to the emergency core functions, the emergency manager directs the day-to-day emergency management program that enables the jurisdiction to build and sustain needed capabilities and maintain a state of preparedness. Examples of nonemergency program activities include:

  • Ongoing monitoring of threat/hazard information.
  • Developing and updating plans.
  • Recruiting and training staff.
  • Planning and coordinating exercises.
  • Budgeting, accounting, and grant writing.
  • Building relationships across the community.
  • Educating the public.
  • Organizing for hazard mitigation.
  • Soliciting public input on recovery planning.
  • Documenting, reporting, and managing information.


Providing Information

A key role that runs through core functions and emergency functions alike is that of coordinating information—keeping the community, stakeholders, and officials informed.

Information empowers community members to make informed choices that affect their health and well-being. And when incidents occur, information enables stakeholders to manage the situation effectively.


Keeping the Public Informed

Regardless of who delivers information to the public—the emergency manager, a public information officer, or other spokesperson—you are responsible for ensuring that a system is in place to keep the public informed and warned. The system must be able to reach all segments of the population, and the information they receive must be:

  • Accurate.
  • Timely.
  • Consistent.
  • Simple and clear.
  • Focused on the immediate needs.
  • Helpful for building confidence in the response.


Ethical Conduct

Underlying all the other qualities, functions, and activities of an emergency manager is an expectation of ethical conduct.

As an emergency management professional, you represent your organization and your profession. Your actions must instill trust and confidence in those with whom you work and in those who depend on you for assistance.

In an emergency, the community and your partners must be able to count on you to carry out your responsibilities in a professional and fair manner.


The SELF Test

Ask yourself . . .

Do my decisions withstand . . .

  • Whole community
  • Media

Do my decisions . . .

Ensure compliance?
  • Laws
  • Policies

Do my decisions show . . .

  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Consistency

Are my decisions . . .

  • Those we serve
  • Staff and stakeholders
  • Myself


Typical Emergency Manager Responsibilities

Now that you have a general picture of the broad roles of the emergency manager, let’s take a closer look at what these roles mean in terms of specific responsibilities. Typical emergency manager tasks can be arranged by incident phase:

Pre-Incident Responsibilities:

  • Determine overall capabilities.
  • Plan for emergencies that may arise and keep the emergency operations plan (EOP) up to date.
  • Provide support and advice to elected officials in establishing and carrying out policy.
  • Educate the public.
  • Plan, develop, conduct, and evaluate training and exercises.
  • Identify resource needs and sources of resources.

Incident Response Responsibilities:

  • Establish and maintain a common understanding of the situation.
  • Coordinate with other agencies, jurisdictions, and levels of government on resource allocation, communications and information management, and public information.
  • Advise elected and appointed officials on policy.
  • Provide off-site support to the Incident Command (typically a small part of the emergency manager’s role).

Post-Incident and Recovery Responsibilities:

  • Initiate damage assessments.
  • Coordinate with agencies providing food and shelter.
  • Coordinate with agencies to restore essential services (power, roads, etc.).
  • Conduct the after-action evaluation and develop an improvement plan.
  • Determine how emergency management and response can be better integrated.
  • Fully document incident activities and related costs.
  • Ensure that all bills are paid.
  • Replenish supplies.
  • Initiate long-term recovery plans.
  • Implement mitigation plans.
  • Oversee long-term recovery efforts.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Take the following actions to learn more about how emergency management functions in your jurisdiction:

  • Learn about the organizational structure for your jurisdiction.
    • Where does the emergency management function fall in the organizational structure?
    • To whom do you answer?
  • Learn about local/State/tribal emergency management ordinances and laws that impact your jurisdiction.
    • What are the legal duties and responsibilities of an emergency manager in your jurisdiction?
    • Who has emergency management responsibilities at other government levels, and how do your roles intersect?
  • Learn about the public information function in your jurisdiction.
    • Does your jurisdiction have a PIO? If so, get to know him or her.
    • How do your responsibilities and those of the PIO mesh?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are additional resources you can use to learn more about your role in emergency management.

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed your role as an emergency manager, including:

  • Roles and responsibilities of an emergency manager.
  • Ways in which your role relates to the roles of emergency management partners, including:
  • State and Federal government.
  • Local government departments and agencies.
  • Private-sector and nongovernmental organizations.
  • Local response organizations.
  • Individuals, families, and households.


Lesson 3: Developing a Preparedness Program

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses your role in developing a preparedness program. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define preparedness.
  • Identify emergency preparedness partners and their roles.
  • Identify strategies for engaging partners in emergency preparedness.



As you learned earlier, preparedness refers to actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk.

Preparedness is implemented through a continual cycle of:

  • Planning.
  • Organizing and equipping.
  • Training.
  • Exercising.
  • Evaluation and improvement.


Partners in Preparedness

National preparedness is built upon the preparedness of every community, and everyone in the community has an important role to play in building and sustaining the capabilities needed to ensure preparedness.

Partners in preparedness include:

  • All levels of government (Federal, territorial, State, tribal, local).
  • Organizational and community leaders, including the nonprofit and private sectors.
  • Individuals and households.


Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management

When looking at how communities get prepared and stay prepared for emergencies, it is important to consider the Whole Community concept.

“Whole community is a means by which residents, emergency management practitioners, organization and community leaders, and government officials can collectively understand and assess the needs of their respective communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capacities, and interests.”

– A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action


Developing Partnerships

One of the most important functions of an emergency manager is developing partnerships with those in the community who can contribute to the preparedness process.

Critical steps in building these partnerships are to:

  • Find the overlapping and shared interests around which groups and organizations are brought together.
  • Sustain their motivations to collaborate over time.

Partnership building also involves:

  • Developing collaborative relationships.
  • Creating a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensuring that you have the means to communicate effectively during emergency situations.
  • Working together to develop coordinated plans, policies, and procedures that represent the needs of the entire community.

Partnerships need to be established well in advance of an incident. During an emergency is no time to be getting to know your partners!

Next, we’ll take a brief look at what each partner brings to community preparedness.


Role of Government

Each level of government participates in and contributes to emergency management.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a Nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA leads and supports the Nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness that includes prevention, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation.

FEMA’s role is to coordinate Federal resources that support State and local efforts when a Federal emergency or disaster is declared. One of FEMA’s most important supporting roles is to provide disaster assistance to individuals and communities.

Federal Government

The Federal Government has legal authorities, fiscal resources, research capabilities, technical information and services, and specialized personnel to assist local and State agencies in responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters.

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 uses the National Response Framework to involve all necessary department and agency capabilities, organize the Federal response, and ensure coordination with response partners.

State Government

Each State government has legal authority for emergency response and recovery and serves as the point of contact between local and Federal governments. At the State level, the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), State Director of Emergency Management, and State Coordinating Officer can share information with State agencies (e.g., Department of Agriculture) and FEMA regional representatives to bring the necessary response and recovery resources to bear on the incident.

Tribal Government

The United States has a trust relationship with Indian tribes and recognizes their right to self-government. As such, tribal governments are responsible for coordinating resources to address actual or incidents. When local resources are not adequate, tribal leaders seek assistance from States or the Federal Government.

For certain types of Federal assistance, tribal governments can opt to work with the State; however, as sovereign entities, the Chief Executive of a federally recognized Native American tribe can elect to deal directly with the Federal Government. A federally recognized tribe can decide to obtain Federal assistance via the Stafford Act; a State Governor or they may request a Presidential declaration.

Local Government

Local government has direct responsibility for the safety of its people, knowledge of the situation and accompanying resource requirements, and proximity to both events and resources. Within local government are emergency services departments that are capable of responding to emergencies 24 hours a day. They include law enforcement, fire/emergency medical services, and public works. They may also be referred to as emergency response personnel or first responders.


Working With Elected or Appointed Officials

Part of the emergency manager’s role as chief disaster advisor to elected or appointed officials is to make clear the importance of their supporting the preparedness process. The surest way to get officials on board is to ensure that they:

  • Understand the connection between whole community preparedness and successful disaster response and recovery.
  • See the value of lending their support to that process.

In addition, emergency managers can help officials prepare for their emergency roles by educating them about differences in responsibilities, regulations, authorities, and public expectations during an emergency.


Role of the Nonprofit and Private Sectors

The government does not, and cannot, work alone in protecting the lives and property of citizens and promoting their well-being. In many facets of an incident, the government works with the private and nonprofit sectors as partners in emergency management.

Role of the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofit organizations bolster and support government efforts. They collaborate with governments at all levels, response agencies, and other agencies and organizations to:

  • Provide shelter, emergency food supplies, counseling services, and other vital services to support response and promote the recovery of disaster survivors.
  • Offer specialized services that help individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs.
  • Train and manage volunteer resources, and organize donations. 

Role of the Private Sector

Private-sector organizations play a key role before, during, and after an incident and are important in building resilient communities. Businesses must consider what they need to survive an emergency or disaster, as well as the needs of their customers and employees. Businesses contribute to emergency management by:

  • Preparing themselves, their employees, and their facilities.
  • Submitting required information to emergency management personnel before an emergency.
  • Providing critical response and/or recovery resources (donated or compensated).
  • Submitting suspicious activity reports to law enforcement.
  • Developing protective programs and resilience strategies for the businesses, infrastructure, information, and operations under their control.
  • Purchasing adequate all-hazards insurance policies.
  • Conducting research, development, and investment in long-term vulnerability reduction efforts.
  • Ensuring the continued delivery of goods and services in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Protecting information and maintaining the continuity of business operations.

Emergency managers must work seamlessly with businesses that provide water, power, communications networks, transportation, medical care, security, and numerous other services upon which both response and recovery are particularly dependent.

Examples of nonprofit-sector organizations and how they contribute to community preparedness

Organization Description

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

An NGO is any nonprofit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national, or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to governments, advocate and monitor policies, and encourage political participation through provision of information. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment, or health. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms, and help monitor and implement international agreements. Their relationship with offices and agencies of the United Nations system differs depending on their goals, their venue, and the mandate of a particular institution.

NGOs usually:

  • Have emergency responsibilities similar to their nonemergency responsibilities.
  • Are excellent sources of information and resources for addressing response and recovery needs.

One type of NGO is the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). For information about VOAD, go to

Citizen Corps

Citizen Corps provides opportunities for people to participate in a range of measures to make their families, their homes, and their communities safer from the threats of crime, terrorism, and disasters of all kinds. The Citizen Corps mission is accomplished through a national network of State, local, and tribal Citizen Corps Councils. These councils build on community strengths to implement the Citizen Corps preparedness programs and carry out a local strategy to involve government, community leaders, and citizens in all-hazards preparedness and resilience.

When a State, tribe, or local government participates in Citizen Corps, they are agreeing to:

  • Work with everyone in their community to get preparedness on the “radar screen.” Citizens will develop household preparedness plans and disaster supply kits. They will form Neighborhood Watch groups. They will know what to do in times of emergency.
  • Provide emergency preparedness training opportunities to the citizens of their community. This could be in the form of first aid training, CPR, Community Emergency Response Team training, or other forms of emergency response education and training.
  • Create opportunities in the community where citizens can engage in volunteer activities that support first responders, disaster relief groups, and community safety organizations.

The Citizen Corps Web site can be found at

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

The CERT program helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. When emergencies happen, CERT members can:

  • Provide critical support to first responders.
  • Provide immediate assistance to victims.

CERT members can also help with nonemergency projects that improve safety in the community.

More information is available at

Fire Corps

Fire Corps promotes the use of citizen advocates (volunteers) to support and augment the capacity of resource-constrained fire and emergency services departments at all levels, including:

  • Volunteer.
  • Career.
  • Combination.

Fire Corps is implemented through a partnership between the National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, with direction from the National Advisory Committee, a group of 15 national organizations representing fire and emergency services.

More information is available at


USAonWatch is the face of the National Neighborhood Watch Program. The program is managed nationally by the National Sheriffs’ Association in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, and U.S. Department of Justice.

Time-tested practices such as “eyes-and-ears” training and target-hardening techniques continue to be at the core of the program.

As groups continue to grow, the roles of citizens have become more multifaceted and tailored to local needs. USAonWatch empowers citizens to become active in homeland security efforts through community participation. USAonWatch provides information, training, technical support, and resources to local law enforcement agencies and citizens.

More information is available at

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)

The MRC program coordinates the skills of:

  • Practicing and retired physicians, nurses, and other health professionals.
  • Other citizens interested in health issues who are eager to volunteer to address their community’s ongoing public health needs and to help their community during large-scale emergency situations.

Local community leaders will develop their own Medical Reserve Corps units and identify the duties of the MRC volunteers according to specific community needs.

More information is available at

Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS)

The VIPS program provides support and resources for agencies interested in developing or enhancing a volunteer program and for citizens who wish to donate their time and skills with a law enforcement agency. The program’s ultimate goal is to enhance the capacity of State and local law enforcement to utilize volunteers.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) manages the VIPS program in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

More information is available at


Partnering With the Nonprofit and Private Sectors

The nonprofit and private sectors are encouraged to develop contingency plans and to work with State and local planners to ensure their plans are consistent with pertinent plans, national planning frameworks, and the National Incident Management System.

It is also important to include them on the emergency planning team for the community. In addition to providing much-needed services during and after an incident, they are an excellent source of information about their constituencies, needs, and resources—information that is indispensable for ensuring that emergency operations plans address the needs of the entire community.


Role of Individuals and Households

Community members serve a critical role in emergency management, as part of the emergency management team and as force multipliers. Only through individual and household preparedness can the community be truly resilient.

Community members can contribute to preparedness by:

  • Reducing hazards in and around their homes.
  • Preparing an emergency supply kit and household emergency plan.
  • Monitoring emergency communications carefully.
  • Volunteering with an established organization.
  • Enrolling in emergency response training courses.


Partnering With Individuals and Households

As an emergency manager, you can maximize the contributions of individuals and households by:

  • Identifying target populations and their interests.
  • Identifying channels through which target populations can be reached.
  • Reaching out and educating them about their roles and responsibilities.
  • Identifying opportunities for volunteerism and training.


Developing a Preparedness Program

You can learn more about developing a community-based preparedness program by taking the IS-909 course, Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone.

This course presents a model program for community preparedness and provides resource materials to help organizations conduct simple preparedness activities for everyone.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

As a first step in developing a preparedness program in your jurisdiction, identify who the key players are in your community’s emergency management structure, including government departments and agencies, first response organizations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, community leaders, elected officials, and others.


  • What roles have they played in community preparedness?
  • What efforts have been made to engage them?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are resources you can use to learn more about developing a preparedness program.


FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed key concepts related to developing a preparedness program, including:

  • The meaning of preparedness.
  • Emergency preparedness partners and their roles.
  • Strategies for engaging partners in emergency preparedness.


Lesson 4: Building Your Capabilities

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses how planning, training, and exercising contribute to a community’s ability to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from threats and hazards. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Indicate how planning relates to community preparedness.
  • Identify the purpose of an emergency operations plan (EOP).
  • Identify the main elements of an EOP.
  • Indicate the purpose and benefits of training and exercises.


Building Essential Capabilities

Building the capabilities needed for a safe and resilient community requires planning, training, and exercising.

All aspects of emergency preparedness need to be carefully planned, including prevention, protection, mitigation, response, recovery, and continuity of operations.

When an incident occurs, our ability to respond efficiently and effectively depends on having a well-conceived emergency operations plan, or EOP, in place that describes how people and property will be protected in any type of emergency. An EOP spells out overall authorities, roles, and functions performed during incident response and identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources.

Effective response also depends on having trained personnel to perform their response roles and responsibilities and carry out the plan.

Finally, effective response depends on having tested the plan to determine whether the goals, objectives, decisions, actions, and timing outlined in the plan lead to a successful response. Planned exercises and real-world incidents provide opportunities to evaluate the plan and allow response partners to practice working as a team to protect lives, property, and the environment.



Building the capabilities needed for a safe and resilient community requires planning. Planning is a systematic process engaging the whole community in developing executable strategic, operational, and/or community-based approaches to meet defined objectives.

Planning is a key component of the preparedness cycle.


Types of Plans

A wide spectrum of planning goes into creating safe and resilient communities. Planning is conducted in all five mission areas, and the products of the planning process include, among others, plans for:

  • Prevention.
  • Protection.
  • Mitigation.
  • Response (emergency operations plan).
  • Recovery.
  • Continuity of operations (COOP).

This lesson focuses on emergency operations plans.


What Is an EOP and What Does It Do?

An emergency operations plan (EOP) is a key component of an emergency management program. It establishes the overall authority, roles, and functions performed during incident response. An EOP:

  • Describes how people and property are protected.
  • Is flexible enough for use in all emergencies.
  • Assigns responsibility to organizations and individuals.
  • Sets forth lines of authority and organizational relationships and shows how all actions will be coordinated.
  • Identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources.
  • Helps personnel and providers operate as a team in an emergency.
  • Identifies steps to address mitigation concerns during response and recovery operations.


Local and State EOPs

Local and State governments have EOPs that address preparedness for the public’s emergency needs.

  • The local government EOP focuses on measures that are essential for protecting the public, because the local government is responsible for attending to the public’s emergency needs.
  • The State government EOP establishes the framework within which local EOPs are created and through which the Federal Government becomes involved in response, recovery, and mitigation.


EOP Contents

An EOP can be organized in various ways. Regardless of the organization used, most EOPs share the following common elements:

  • The basic plan provides an overview of the community’s preparedness and response strategies. It describes expected threats/hazards, outlines roles and responsibilities, and explains how the plan is kept current. The contents of the basic plan include:
    • Introductory Material
    • Purpose, Scope, Situation Overview, and Assumptions
    • Concept of Operations
    • Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities
    • Direction, Control, and Coordination
    • Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
    • Communications
    • Administration, Finance, and Logistics
    • Plan Development and Maintenance
    • Authorities and References
  • Supporting annexes add specific information and direction to the EOP. They:
    • Focus on critical operational functions.
    • May include functional, support, emergency phase, or agency-focused annexes.
    • Indicate specific responsibilities, tasks, and operational actions related to a particular function.
  • Threat-, hazard-, or incident-specific annexes focus on special planning needs generated by individual threats/hazards. They usually:
    • Contain unique and regulatory response details that apply to a single threat/hazard or type of incident.
    • Identify threat/hazard/incident-specific risk areas and evacuation routes.
    • Indicate provisions and protocols for warning the public and disseminating emergency public information.
    • Specify the types of protective equipment and detection devices for responders.


Planning Principles

The process for developing an EOP is based on the principles that planning:

  • Is capabilities based.
  • Is community based.
  • Is fundamentally a process to manage risk.
  • Is both an art and a science.
  • Uses a logical and analytical problem-solving process.
  • Considers all threats and hazards.
  • Should be flexible.
  • Does not need to start from scratch.


Effective Plans

Effective plans establish:

Measurable Goals and Desired Results

Effective plans establish measurable goals and clearly identify the desired results. Measurable goals enable unity of effort and consistency of purpose among all who must execute the plan and make it possible to gauge progress in closing capability gaps.

Anticipated Environment

Effective plans depict the anticipated environment for action. Anticipating the environment for action promotes early understanding and agreement on planning assumptions and risks, as well as the context for interaction. In situations where a specific threat/hazard has not been experienced, planning provides the opportunity to anticipate conditions and systematically identify potential problems and workable solutions.

Operational Context

Effective plans establish the operational context for response. They tell those with operational responsibilities what to do and why to do it, and they instruct those outside the jurisdiction in how to provide support and what to expect. Plans must clearly communicate to operational personnel and support providers what their roles and responsibilities are and how those complement the activities of others. There should be no ambiguity regarding who is responsible for major tasks. This enables personnel to operate as a productive team more effectively, reducing duplication of effort and enhancing the benefits of collaboration.

Tasks, Resources, and Accountability

Effective plans identify tasks, allocate resources to accomplish those tasks, and establish accountability. Decisionmakers must ensure that they provide planners with clearly established priorities and adequate resources. Planners and plan participants should be held accountable for effective planning and execution.


Guidance for Planning

Comprehensive Planning Guide (CPG) 101, Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans, provides extensive guidance for developing or updating an EOP. This guidance:

  • Provides a practical application of the planning principles.
  • Applies to tactical, operational, and strategic planning.
  • Is adaptable to:
    • All government levels.
    • Private entities and nongovernmental organizations.


Training and Exercising

After an EOP is developed, personnel must be trained to carry out the plan, and the plan must be implemented and evaluated.

Evaluating the effectiveness of plans involves a combination of training events, exercises, and real-world incidents to determine whether the goals, objectives, decisions, actions, and timing outlined in the plan led to a successful response.


Training is critical for building response capabilities. It informs response personnel about:

  • What they are supposed to do.
  • When they are to do it.
  • How they are to do it, including procedures for:
    • Accomplishing their task or mission.
    • Coordinating efforts with personnel within and outside of the agency.
    • Communicating needs and status.

Training can include a wide range of activities, from classroom training to on-the-job training to the use of checklists, worksheets, and job aids. The type and duration of the training selected depends on the frequency and complexity of the task to be trained.


Exercises build on training by allowing the jurisdiction to practice and test:

  • Policies and plans.
  • Procedures and the use of equipment.
  • Communication among organizations.
  • Coordination of decisionmaking.

Exercises are critical to a plan’s success and a successful response because they show whether what appears to work on paper actually does work in practice. Exercise types vary by level of realism, complexity, and stress levels.

Reasons to Exercise

Exercising will help to:

  • Test and evaluate plans, policies, and procedures and identify planning weaknesses and resource gaps.
  • Improve interagency coordination and communication.
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of all participants.
  • Improve individual performance through practice.
  • Gain the public’s recognition that the local government has taken steps to protect their safety.
  • Get buy-in from public officials who will support the response effort during an emergency.


Types of Training and Exercises

There are two broad categories of training and exercises: discussion based and operations based. Within these categories, there are seven types.

Discussion Based Operations Based
  • Seminar
  • Workshop
  • Tabletop Exercise
  • Game
  • Drill
  • Functional Exercise
  • Full-Scale Exercise



Evaluation and Improvement Planning

Exercises provide opportunities not only to practice carrying out elements of the plan, but to evaluate the plan and identify needed improvements. Observations collected during the exercise can help identify:

  • Whether the exercise has achieved its objectives.
  • Needed improvements in the EOP, procedures, and/or guidelines.
  • Training deficiencies.
  • Equipment and materials needed for incident response.

Evaluation and a debriefing should be conducted after every exercise.


Improvement Planning

Conducting evaluations and debriefings enables planners to capture information about events while they are still fresh. Feedback and notes from the exercise are used to generate an after-action report (AAR) and improvement plan that:

  • Captures events as they occurred during the exercise.
  • Provides analysis of events relative to objectives.
  • Evaluates achievement of objectives being evaluated.
  • Includes strategies for enhancing planning and response.


Multiyear Training and Exercise Plan

Exercises should be planned in a cycle that increases in complexity. Each successive exercise should build on the scale and experience of the previous one.

Multiyear planning chart showing the exercise progression increasing in complexity and capability-building, in the following order: Discussion-Based (Seminars, Workshops, Tabletops, and Games) to Operations-Based (Drills, Functional Exercises, and Full-Scale Exercises)


The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is a capabilities- and performance-based exercise program that provides a standardized means of assessing and improving preparedness across the Nation. HSEEP:

  • Helps organizations objectively exercise and evaluate their capabilities.
  • Presents a common exercise policy and program guidance.
  • Uses consistent, understandable terminology.
  • Provides tools to plan, conduct, and evaluate exercises to improve overall preparedness.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Below are some steps you can take to begin learning about your jurisdiction’s experience with planning, training, and exercising.

  • Read your jurisdiction’s EOP and learn about its history.
    • What are your roles in planning, training, and exercising?
    • Who participated on the planning team to develop the EOP?
    • How often does the plan undergo a review and update, and when was the plan last updated?
    • How frequently are exercises conducted, and when was the last exercise?
  • Review AARs from past exercises.
    • Were improvements recommended?
    • Have improvement plans been implemented?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are resources you can use to learn more about planning, training, and exercising.


FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed how planning, training, and exercising contribute to a community’s ability to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from threats and hazards. Key topics included:

  • The relationship between planning and community preparedness.
  • The purpose of an emergency operations plan (EOP) and its main elements.
  • The purpose and benefits of training and exercises.


Lesson 5: Building Safe and Resilient Communities

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses how prevention, protection, and mitigation help build safe and resilient communities. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Distinguish between prevention and protection.
  • Define mitigation.
  • Describe the roles of the partners in mitigation.
  • Identify types of Federal assistance available to communities for mitigation.
  • Identify strategies for building support for mitigation.
  • Indicate the emergency manager’s role in relation to prevention, protection, and mitigation.


Building Safe and Resilient Communities

A resilient community is one that has the ability to adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies. A community improves its resilience as it increases its level of preparedness.

Three key dimensions of preparedness are prevention, protection, and mitigation. As an emergency manager, you have a responsibility to lead your community in planning for, building, and sustaining capabilities in all three areas.

Prevention capabilities are those that enable us to avoid, prevent, or stop an actual or threatened imminent act of terrorism. Activities such as surveillance, search, and intelligence sharing improve our ability to prevent terrorist acts.

Protection capabilities safeguard the jurisdiction against all kinds of threats and hazards, whether natural, technological, or human caused. For example, a community may increase cybersecurity on critical systems to withstand intentional intrusions and set up health surveillance systems to protect against pandemic disease outbreaks.

Mitigation capabilities are those necessary to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to persons or property, or to lessen the actual or potential effects of an incident. Communities might, for example, adopt building codes to ensure resilient construction and encourage residents to purchase natural hazards and catastrophic insurance.

This lesson will introduce you to guiding principles, planning considerations, and key concepts related to prevention, protection, and mitigation.


What Is a Safe and Resilient Community?

Resilience is the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies. Resilience is an outgrowth of preparedness.

A community that has prepared itself for the threats and hazards it faces will be better able to adapt to the conditions that accompany emergencies, to withstand the hardships of disaster, and to recover quickly.

Preparedness is achieved by building and sustaining capabilities in all five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In this lesson we will focus on three of those areas:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Mitigation


Prevention vs. Protection

Prevention and protection are closely related.

Protection and prevention share a number of common elements and rely on many of the same core capabilities. In fact, many protection and prevention processes are designed to operate simultaneously and to complement each other.

The key difference is that prevention is focused exclusively on terrorist threats, whereas protection applies to all threats and hazards.


Guiding Principles for Prevention

The very nature of terrorist attacks underscores the importance of preventing such attacks from occurring. First, they typically occur with little or no warning. Second, they often involve multiple geographic areas. And finally, if multiple near-simultaneous terrorist attacks occur, they can be expected to exceed the capabilities of any one entity.

Three principles should guide a community’s prevention efforts:

The whole community has a key role to play in terrorism prevention through engaged partnerships. The responsibility for prevention of terrorism is shared among all government levels, the nonprofit and private sectors, and individuals. Each level of government must play a prominent role in building capabilities, developing plans, and conducting exercises in preparation for preventing an imminent terrorist attack. In addition, individuals, nonprofit and private-sector entities, and international partners can all provide critical assistance.

Prevention capabilities must be scalable, flexible, and adaptable and executed as needed to address the full range of threats as they evolve. Depending on the nature, scope, or location of the threat, some or all of the available capabilities and coordinating structures can be implemented, and tailored as needed, to defeat the threat.

Preventing a terrorist attack requires a unified effort in a time-constrained environment. Therefore, to be prepared to prevent terrorism, the whole community must preemptively build and maintain the needed capabilities prior to a threat, and be ready to put them in action in a coordinated fashion once a threat is identified.


Prevention Capabilities

Preventing acts of terrorism draws upon capabilities in:

  • Intelligence and information sharing.
  • Screening, search, and detection.
  • Interdiction and disruption.
  • Forensics and attribution.
  • Planning.
  • Public information and warning.
  • Operational coordination.


Prevention Planning

Emergency managers play a key role in prevention planning, through which the community identifies ways to build and sustain needed capabilities. Prevention planning:

  • Allows the jurisdiction to influence the course of events by determining in advance the actions, policies, and processes that will be followed during a threat.
  • Contributes to unity of effort by providing a common blueprint for activity in the event of a crisis.
  • Guides preparedness activities and resourcing.



Protection involves safeguarding the jurisdiction against all types of threats and hazards, including acts of terrorism as well as manmade or natural disasters.

Threat Type Examples
  • Animal disease outbreak
  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Human pandemic outbreak
  • Hurricane
  • Space weather
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Wildfire
  • Biological food contamination
  • Chemical substance spill or release
  • Dam failure
  • Radiological substance release
  • Aircraft as a weapon
  • Armed assault
  • Biological terrorism attack (non-food)
  • Chemical/biological food contamination terrorism attack
  • Chemical terrorism attack (non-food) cyber attack against data
  • Cyber attack against physical infrastructure
  • Explosives terrorism attack
  • Nuclear terrorism attack
  • Radiological terrorism attack


Guiding Principles for Protection

Three main principles should guide a community’s protection efforts:

Resilience, Scalability, and Sustainability. Effective protection programs minimize the risks from all threats and hazards. They do so by:

  • Increasing resilience by reducing the impact and/or duration of disruptive events on organizations and communities.
  • Executing scalable and sustainable activities to meet unforeseen needs of varying scope and complexity without compromising the ability to address continuing and future needs.

Risk-Informed Culture. Protection capabilities depend on a risk-informed culture that is built upon:

  • Situational awareness acquired through vigilance and a comprehensive understanding of current and evolving threats and hazards and the relative risk they pose.
  • Information sharing, ongoing analysis of risks, and assessment of effective practices to support decisionmaking.

Shared Responsibility. Protection is most effective as a shared responsibility within:

  • Engaged partnerships that allow for the exchange of ideas, approaches, and effective practices; collaborative security planning and resource allocation; effective coordinating structures among partners; and public awareness.
  • Integrated processes across all levels of government and with private-sector partners based on a shared vision of a safe and secure Nation.


Protection Activities

Protection activities are a major area of emphasis for emergency managers. Examples of protection activities include:

  • Community and infrastructure protection.
  • Defense of agriculture and food.
  • Critical infrastructure protection.
  • Defense against WMD threats.
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Health security.
  • Transportation security.
  • Transborder security (border, immigration, and maritime).
  • Protection of key leadership and events.


Protection Planning

Protection planning is most successful when the jurisdiction:

  • Considers resources available from the whole community—especially innovative and nongovernmental solutions.
  • Coordinates with planning partners—for example, by sharing resources through mutual aid agreements.
  • Pays attention to past resource depletion rates as a way of predicting and averting future resource gaps.


Mitigation: Voices of Experience

In this segment you will hear several people describe their experiences with mitigation and tell how they and their communities benefited. As you watch, think about the range of hazards these communities faced, the mitigation strategies they used, and the benefits they reaped.

Speaker from Kemah, Texas: Basically what we had here was winds over 100 miles an hour—somewhere around 110, 112 miles an hour—a 12-foot storm surge above the mean sea level, and then on top of that, we also had wave action above 12 feet. If I had not made the improvements to the house, the house would be gone, as many of my neighbors’ houses are that were on the ground. The fact that improvements were made saved my house. . . . And so I would urge anybody that has the wherewithal to make the improvements now, get their house elevated if they’re in this kind of a situation, and save themselves a whole lot of grief further down the road.

Speakers from the Florida Panhandle: Ivan was a storm unlike any other storm that we had in Pensacola. It did major damage to the area.

It was, almost everywhere you looked, it was blue tarps for roofs and people standing looking like they didn’t know what they wanted to do next ‘cause they had no place to go.

Immediately we started talking about what are ways we can prevent this kind of destruction in the future, and overwhelmingly we were recommended to looking at a residential mitigation program.

It was a blessing that we have this program in the area and more people should take advantage of it.

They not only learned a lesson, they saw an opportunity to make things stronger for the next time, they took advantage of it. They’re going to be much more ready the next time around.

Speaker from Ottowa, Illinois: We feel that our strongest point was in the long-term buyout effort in an area that we call The Flats. For the past 9 years we've purchased more than 60 properties, almost 70 properties, that were at one time repetitive loss properties. Now they’re gone and we have a beautiful park.

We upgraded our floodplain ordinance to include things like compensatory storage, so that if they're in the floodplain and they want to build in the floodplain, for every shovelful of dirt they put in they have to take one and a half out from the same property.

Those people that have flood insurance policies in the floodplain are entitled to a 25 percent discount, and if we get to a Class 2, they are going to be entitled to a 40 percent discount. That makes the taxpayer happy. It’s a tangible, real deal.

Speaker from San Simeon, California: About 6 months after, coincidentally, after we finished our seismic retrofit for earthquake preparedness, there was a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. And it tested the integrity of our building, more so than I’d ever dreamed it would be tested. I knew the building was going to hold up, I felt good about it. About 20 feet away from our building across the alley, our neighboring property owner’s building came to the ground and two people lost their lives.

There is no question in my mind, subsequent the earthquake, that our seismic retrofit absolutely saved lives and I was very glad that I did it. It definitely paid off.



Mitigation capabilities are those necessary to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to persons or property, or to lessen the actual or potential effects of an incident.

Mitigation activities take place prior to, during, and after an incident.

Individuals, the private sector, communities, critical infrastructure, and the Nation as a whole are made more resilient when the impacts, the duration, and the financial and human costs to respond to and recover from adverse incidents are all reduced.


Dimensions of Mitigation

Mitigation includes strategies for all community systems, including:

Economic: Strategies to support a prosperous, more competitive, and resilient economy and to restore economic vitality following an incident.

Health and Social Services: Strategies for providing health and social services to promote the health, independence, and well-being of the whole community.

Housing: Strategies for building more resilient housing and incorporating mitigation as part of new construction or rebuilding.

Infrastructure: Strategies to provide and strengthen essential infrastructure and services, including transportation, to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.

Natural and Cultural Resources: Strategies to conserve, protect, and restore natural and cultural assets of the community.


What Mitigation Involves

Effective mitigation requires:

  • Identifying threats/hazards faced by the community.
  • Understanding the risks associated with the threats/hazards.
  • Avoiding or reducing risks to reduce long-term vulnerability.

Avoiding and reducing risks are ways to reduce the long-term vulnerability of a community and build individual and community resiliency. Below are some examples of actions a community may take to avoid or reduce risk.


Examples of Mitigation Actions

High Winds (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes)

  • Installing hurricane shutters.
  • Building safe rooms, as part of initial construction or as a retrofit.
  • Installing roof reinforcements.
  • Boarding up windows before a major storm arrives.


  • Using flood-resistant materials or floodproofing to keep water out.
  • Moving structures out of the floodplain, or acquiring and demolishing vulnerable properties.
  • Elevating buildings and, in coastal areas, installing break-away walls.
  • Elevating outdoor utilities such as air conditioning units above the base flood elevation.
  • Elevating indoor appliances and utilities such as hot water tanks.
  • Strapping fuel tanks in place.
  • Raising feeding areas of farm animals to ensure their food supply after flooding.
  • Revising zoning ordinances and building codes.
  • Installing stormwater controls, retrofitting bridges, building flood walls, and other local flood-reduction efforts.


  • Earthquake-resistant construction practices.
  • Retrofitting a foundation with earthquake straps and bolts to prevent movement in the event of an earthquake.
  • Anchoring household furnishings to prevent their falling during an earthquake.


  • Using fire-resistant construction techniques and materials.
  • Controlling vegetation that can act as fuel for wildfires. One community found that goats provided a simple and cost-effective way to keep vegetation down.
  • Installing automatic sprinkler systems to reduce dry vegetation around residences.

Technological and Adversarial Hazards

  • Ensuring the resilience of infrastructure.
  • Reducing vulnerability of critical facilities and data through access control and security systems and other types of deterrence measures.


Mitigation Roles

As with other facets of emergency management, the whole community has a significant role in mitigation, including:

  • Individuals, families, and households can:
    • Obtain insurance.
    • Ensure that a tornado safe room or shelter is quickly and easily accessible.
    • Take measures to harden their properties against hazard damage.
    • When necessary after a disaster, rebuild in safe areas.
  • The private sector can:
    • Support and comply with zoning and land use regulations.
    • Use disaster-resistant building practices.
    • Take other necessary measures to reduce or eliminate damage from known hazards.
    • Provide expertise.
    • Take precautions to safeguard property and products, such as:
      • Moving paperwork, machinery, and products that can be damaged by floodwaters to higher floors.
      • Storing backup computer files away from the main location of the business.
    • Support mitigation efforts through:
      • Investment in mitigation projects.
      • Donations of materials, funding, and services.
      • Assistance to homeowners.
    • Help protect critical infrastructure.
  • Nonprofit organizations can:
    • Undertake mitigation measures in their own facilities.
    • Enter into partnerships.
    • Do outreach with their constituents in support of mitigation goals.
  • Local governments must do everything possible to protect their citizens from hazard risks, including enacting and enforcing building codes and zoning ordinances, making the public aware of hazards and risk reduction measures, and complying with regulations designed to reduce losses. The means used to achieve risk reduction include:
    • Floodplain management ordinances that guide development in the floodplain.
    • Mitigation projects that reduce risk to existing structures.
    • Disaster-resistant building practices that make new structures resistant to events that pose the greatest risks to the community.
    • Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

    After a disaster, there are other opportunities to mitigate hazard risks, particularly if the community has a FEMA-approved or approvable mitigation plan and is ready to implement some or all of the actions in the mitigation strategy.

    The community’s mitigation plan may identify post-disaster resources to fund certain mitigation activities. It is important for communities to be aware of the roles of Federal, State, and local governments in disaster recovery, and the resources available for local mitigation after a Presidential disaster declaration.

  • State and tribal governments are responsible for the public safety, security, health, and welfare of the people who live in their jurisdictions. These levels of government serve an integral role as a conduit for vertical coordination between Federal agencies and local governments.

    The State is required to:

    • Uphold Federal regulations intended to reduce hazard losses and provide resources to achieve these goals.
    • Emphasize to its constituents the importance of substantial risk reduction.
    • Conduct an evaluation of existing natural hazards statewide, and the risks that they pose. States use the mitigation planning process to set short- and long-range mitigation goals and objectives.

    After a disaster, the State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) manages the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and serves as FEMA’s mitigation liaison. The Tribal Hazard Mitigation Officer (THMO) is responsible for identifying projects and developing a mitigation plan, and may work with the SHMO.

  • Federal Government: FEMA partners with State, tribal, and local governments to:
    • Assess hazards and identify risk reduction opportunities.
    • Develop and implement mitigation strategies.
    • Educate the public.
    • Promote mitigation planning.

    FEMA supports and encourages local mitigation efforts by:

    • Assisting communities in administering the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
    • Providing grants to fund pre-disaster and post-disaster mitigation projects.
    • Assessing the performance of ongoing mitigation activities.


Emergency Manager’s Role in Mitigation

The emergency manager plays a unique role in helping to mitigate the community’s threats and hazards. Key responsibilities include:

  • Participating in the mitigation planning team.
  • Identifying community threats/hazards and risks.
  • Identifying existing mitigation measures and proposing additional measures.
  • Coordinating mitigation goals with other community goals.
  • Identifying incentives and resources.
  • Creating and maintaining a mitigation plan.
  • Increasing awareness about the public’s role in mitigation.


Mitigation Planning

Mitigation planning leads to safer and more resilient communities based on:

  • Partnerships among community organizations and businesses as well as with surrounding communities and jurisdictions.
  • Prevention of losses from future hazardous situations.
  • Protection of residents and their property.

Mitigation planning is the first step in the mitigation process and is required to receive project funding from the Federal Government.


Federal Programs: NFIP

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners to purchase affordable flood insurance. Flood insurance provides an alternative to disaster assistance.

NFIP participation is based on an agreement between local communities and the Federal Government that:

  • A community will adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance.
  • The Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community.


Mitigation: FEMA Programs

FEMA's Unified Hazard Mitigation Assistance (UHMA) grant programs provide funding for eligible mitigation activities that reduce disaster losses and protect life and property from future disaster damages. FEMA administers the following UHMA grant programs:

  • The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) assists in implementing long-term mitigation measures following Presidential disaster declarations.
  • Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) provides funds for mitigation planning and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster.
  • Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) provides funds so that measures can be taken to reduce or eliminate risk of flood damage to buildings insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • Repetitive Flood Claims (RFC) provides funds to reduce the risk of flood damage to individual properties insured under the NFIP that have had one or more claim payments for flood damages.
  • Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) provides funds to reduce the risk of flood damage to residential structures insured under the NFIP that are qualified as severe repetitive loss structures.


Mitigation Planning

Mitigation planning identifies potential projects relative to hazard risk and is a requirement to receive project funding. Mitigation planning is most successful when it:

  • Increases public and political support for mitigation programs.
  • Results in actions that also support other important community goals and objectives.
  • Influences the community’s or State’s decisionmaking to include hazard reduction considerations.


Building Support for Mitigation

Below are suggested strategies for building support for mitigation in the community:

  • Tap into issues people already care about.
  • Find out how other communities have built support.
  • Emphasize the costs of disaster and the savings provided by mitigation.
  • Underscore incentives such as lower insurance rates and access to grant funding.
  • Find a champion such as a well-respected business leader to serve as an advocate.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Below are some steps you can take to begin learning about your jurisdiction’s experience with prevention, protection, and mitigation.

  • Find out what prevention and protection policies, plans, and procedures your jurisdiction has in place.
    • Does your jurisdiction have a prevention plan and a protection plan?
    • What are your prevention and protection roles and responsibilities?
    • What activities have been undertaken for the protection of critical infrastructure, cybersecurity, health security, and other aspects of community life?
  • Review your jurisdiction’s mitigation plan.
    • What types of threats and hazards have been identified?
    • When was your plan last updated?
  • Find out about your jurisdiction’s hazard mitigation grants history.
    • Has the jurisdiction received any grants for mitigation projects?
    • If so, what is the status of those projects?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are additional resources you can use to learn more about prevention, protection, and mitigation.


FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed how prevention, protection, and mitigation help build safe and resilient communities, including:

  • The meanings of prevention, protection, and mitigation.
  • Guiding principles for prevention, protection, and mitigation.
  • Roles of the partners in mitigation.
  • Types of Federal assistance available to communities for mitigation.
  • Strategies for building support for mitigation.
  • Emergency manager’s role in relation to prevention, protection, and mitigation.



Lesson 6: Responding to Emergencies

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses the emergency manager’s role in responding to an emergency. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify key roles and responsibilities of an emergency manager in emergency response.
  • Describe the functions of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
  • Indicate alternative ways an EOC can be organized.
  • Indicate the significance of coordinating information during incident response.
  • Identify the role of the EOC in resource management during incident response.


A Community Responds

In an earlier lesson you met an emergency manager, Sally Green, whose team was updating the emergency operations plan based on a hazardous materials incident that had occurred. Let’s return to that time and see how the incident unfolded.

It was shortly after 3 a.m. when a railroad official notified the emergency manager that a train carrying anhydrous ammonia had derailed near the city limits. The notification was in accordance with the local emergency operations plan.

The mayor declared a state of emergency, employees and volunteers with responsibilities under the plan were swiftly notified, and the emergency manager activated the Emergency Operations Center. Following procedures in the plan, representatives from local fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and public works, health, and communications departments all deployed to the EOC.

The designated on-scene Incident Commander was the fire chief. Throughout the incident, the emergency manager coordinated information between the incident site and the various agencies involved.

When the fire department determined that protective gear would be needed for any response personnel at the scene, the emergency manager coordinated getting the protective gear and other resources to the site, and no one was allowed near the toxic gas cloud until gear was obtained.

Based on the EOP Warning Annex procedures, warning sirens were activated and shelter-in-place broadcasts told people to close all windows, vents, and other systems that draw air into their homes. The warning sirens malfunctioned in some areas, but people closest to the incident site received sufficient warning.

Public works employees set up a perimeter a safe distance from the scene that was staffed by police and sheriff’s officers to limit access to the release area. Cleanup of the site was the responsibility of the railroad company, in coordination with the local fire department.

After the immediate danger passed, the shelter-in-place advisory was lifted and hospitals mobilized extra staff to treat people suffering from exposure to the chemical.

The emergency manager deactivated the EOC and met with response partners to assess the response.

This scenario demonstrates the emergency manager’s response role, including overall coordination, information coordination, resource coordination, and transition and continuous improvement.


Emergency Response

Response is the business of saving lives, protecting property and the environment, stabilizing communities, and meeting basic human needs after an incident has occurred.

It also includes the execution of emergency plans and actions to support short-term recovery.


National Response Framework

Guidance for response operations at all levels is provided by:

  • The National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • The National Response Framework (NRF).

The NRF is an essential component of the National Preparedness System. It serves as a guide to how the Nation responds to all types of disasters and emergencies—from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe.


Incident Command System

An important function of emergency operations planning is ensuring a coordinated response to various events from a number of different governmental, private-sector, and volunteer organizations using the Incident Command System (ICS).

ICS is a standardized, on-scene incident management system that applies to all threats and hazards. It allows users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.


Emergency Manager’s Response Role

When an incident occurs, the emergency manager carries out the legally mandated responsibilities of the local or tribal government and oversees implementation of the emergency operations plan. Main areas of responsibility include:

Overall Coordination:

  • Activating and staffing the Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
  • Providing overall coordination and support to the on-scene command
  • Advising policymakers and elected officials
  • Coordinating issuance of a proclamation of emergency

Information Coordination:

  • Gathering and analyzing information to maintain situational awareness
  • Coordinating the flow of information among the response team
  • Coordinating dissemination of warnings and emergency public information

Resource Coordination:

  • Coordinating critical resources
  • Obtaining needed external assistance
  • Coordinating emergency relief and assistance to individuals

Transition and Continuous Improvement

  • Initiating disaster recovery planning
  • Deactivating the EOC
  • Documenting administrative and financial information
  • Conducting an after-action review following the response to identify needed improvements


Emergency Operations Center

The emergency manager is instrumental in overall coordination of the emergency response. This work often takes place in an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

An EOC is a central location where the leaders of the agencies and organizations involved in the response can coordinate their actions and decisions.


Coordination vs. Command

The EOC should not be confused with Incident Command:

  • Incident Command is responsible for managing the incident scene, including setting incident priorities, incident planning, making tactical decisions, ensuring incident safety, and other tactical matters.
  • The EOC is responsible for the strategic overview, or “big picture,” of the disaster and for providing support to the command structure.


EOC Functions

The EOC is a critical link in the response organization. It facilitates communication between local and State EOCs, between the EOC and Incident Command, and among leadership at the EOC.

Other functions of the EOC include:

  • Information collection and evaluation.
  • Coordination of strategic planning and decisionmaking.
  • Priority setting.
  • Resource coordination.
  • Continuity of operations.


EOC Organization

There are many ways to organize an EOC. For example, a jurisdiction may use one of the following structures or a hybrid structure:

  • Emergency Support Function (ESF) structure: Organizing by function (e.g., transportation, communications, public works and engineering, or resource support).
  • Major management activities structure: Organizing by the functional groups of policy, resources, operations, and coordination.
  • Incident Command System (ICS) structure: Organizing by the functional groups of EOC Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration.


Activating the EOC

The emergency manager activates the EOC according to predetermined phases, levels, or triggers. The degree of activation reflects the severity or complexity of the incident, determined on a case-by-case basis.

The purpose of pre-identifying phases or levels is to assist others in knowing the amount of staffing committed to the incident and which communications plan to use in coordinating with the EOC.


Staffing the EOC

The composition of the EOC staff varies with the situation. Typically, key response agencies and organizations are represented, according to the level of activation, the organizing structure, and the anticipated needs of the incident.

For example, if evacuation is a possibility, law enforcement and bus companies might be required, whereas extensive property damage might call for a search and rescue presence.

The EOC staff usually expands and contracts along with incident severity and complexity.


Managing EOC Operations

The emergency manager plays a pivotal role in managing EOC operations. After activation and organization, initial EOC activities may include:

  • Conducting an initial damage assessment.
  • Requesting a declaration of emergency based on local ordinances/authorities.
  • Mobilizing resources based on requests from the Incident Command.
  • Determining additional resource needs and sources.
  • Conducting initial briefings with key leaders.


Coordinating Information

One of the most important functions of an EOC is coordinating and providing information on the incident to the public, media, and other agencies.

Coordinating the flow of information to response partners is crucial for maintaining a common operating picture. A common operating picture ensures that all personnel at all locations—such as those at the EOC and the Incident Command Post—have the same critical information about the incident, including:

  • Current status and evolving situation.
  • Availability and location of resources.
  • Needed resources.


Coordinating Resources

During an incident, getting the right resources to the right place at the right time can be a matter of life and death.

Organizational resources such as personnel and equipment provide the basic tools for building and sustaining capabilities.

A standardized resource management process helps jurisdictions to prepare and manage the resources they need to deliver the core capabilities.


Resource Management

During an incident, getting the right resources to the right place at the right time can be a matter of life and death. Resources include personnel, equipment, supplies, and facilities.

Prior to an incident, resources are inventoried and categorized by kind and type, including their size, capacity, capability, skills, and other characteristics.

Mutual aid partners exchange information about resource assets and needs. Resource readiness and credentialing are maintained through periodic training and exercises.

When an incident occurs, standardized procedures are used to:

  • Identify resource requirements,
  • Order and acquire resources, and
  • Mobilize resources.

The purpose of tracking and reporting is accountability. Resource accountability helps ensure responder safety and effective use of incident resources. As incident objectives are reached, resources may no longer be necessary. At this point, the recovery and demobilization process begins.

Recovery may involve the rehabilitation, replenishment, disposal, or retrograding of resources, while demobilization is the orderly, safe, and efficient return of an incident resource to its original location and status. And finally, any agreed-upon reimbursement is made.

When disaster strikes, we must be able to take full advantage of all available and qualified resources.


Resource Management: A Standardized Process

Resource management can be separated into two parts: resource management as an element of preparedness and resource management during an incident.

Preparedness activities are conducted on a continual basis to help ensure that resources are ready to be mobilized when called to an incident. Resource management during an incident is a finite process, with a distinct beginning and ending specific to the needs of the particular incident.


Resource Coordination Activities

The EOC’s role in coordinating resources may include:

  • Receiving resource requests.
  • Prioritizing resource requests.
  • Acquiring resources.
  • Planning mobilization and demobilization of resources.
  • Tracking resources.
  • Documenting and accounting for costs.


Acquiring Resources

When resource needs exceed local resources, the emergency manager is instrumental in acquiring outside resources through activation of mutual aid agreements and, if needed, by requesting State assistance.

When needs exceed local, tribal, and State resources, the Governor may request Federal assistance under the Stafford Act.

While the Stafford Act may be the most familiar mechanism for Federal support, it is not the only one. Often, Federal assistance does not require coordination by the Department of Homeland Security and can be provided without a Presidential emergency or major disaster declaration.

In these instances, Federal departments and agencies provide assistance to States, as well as directly to tribes and local jurisdictions, consistent with their own authorities.


Continuous Improvement

One of the tenets of professionalism in emergency management is the pursuit of continuous improvement.

After the incident response winds down, resources are demobilized, and the EOC is deactivated, the emergency manager’s job is not finished.

To complete the cycle of continuous improvement, it is important to conduct an after-action review to evaluate how well the policies and procedures outlined in the EOP worked, and how well prepared the jurisdiction was to conduct an effective response.

This process should produce an after-action report and improvement plan with a timetable for carrying out any needed changes.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Below are some steps you can take to begin learning how your jurisdiction manages response operations.

  • Learn about your jurisdiction’s EOC.
    • Where is it located?
    • How is it organized?
    • What systems have been established for joint sharing of information?
    • What kinds of incident management systems are used? (For example, is there an electronic incident management system that provides for easy sharing of information?)
  • Learn about your jurisdiction’s response history.
    • What emergencies have been declared?
    • How often has the EOC been activated, and at what levels?
    • Review after-action reports and improvement plans. Were improvements recommended? Have improvement plans been implemented?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are additional resources you can use to learn more about responding to emergencies.


FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed the emergency manager’s role in responding to an emergency, including:

  • Key roles and responsibilities of an emergency manager in emergency response.
  • Functions of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
  • Alternative ways an EOC can be organized.
  • Significance of coordinating information during incident response.
  • Role of the EOC in resource management during incident response.



Lesson 7: Recovering From Emergencies

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses the emergency manager’s role in recovering from an emergency. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify key roles and responsibilities of the emergency manager in disaster recovery.
  • Identify core principles for recovery.
  • Describe the purpose of a predisaster recovery plan.
  • Identify typical disaster recovery operations.
  • Indicate the purpose of the Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs.


Recovering From Emergencies

The capabilities required to recover from emergencies focus on restoration, strengthening, and revitalization of infrastructure; housing; sustainable economy; and the health, social, cultural, historic, and environmental fabric of the community.

Recovery operations may range from damage assessment and building inspection to restoration of services, facilities, and infrastructure. Recovery may include activities as diverse as care for survivors, community redevelopment, and support for business recovery. And recovery always requires documentation of disaster operations and costs.

Recovery is a whole community endeavor, beginning with the individual and building to the larger community and local government. Community planning efforts are supported by voluntary, faith-based, and community organizations; local, State, tribal, and Federal governments; and the private sector.

Each partner contributes resources and capabilities and represents different stakeholders within the community. All of these resources and efforts have to be managed and coordinated in order to accomplish an effective short- and long-term recovery.

As an emergency manager, your role in the recovery process involves planning, managing, and coordinating the recovery effort. This lesson will introduce you to your recovery responsibilities and some of the resources available to you.



The term recovery refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident in recovering effectively. It is focused on a timely restoration, strengthening, and revitalization of:

  • Infrastructure.
  • Housing.
  • Sustainable economy.
  • Health, social, cultural, historic, and environmental fabric of communities affected by a catastrophic incident.


Recovery Continuum

Recovery is a sequence of interdependent and often concurrent activities that advance a community toward a successful recovery.

Graphic depicting the recovery continuum, with the following phases: Preparedness, which begins before the disaster and is ongoing; Short-Term, which last days; Intermediate, which lasts weeks or months; and Long-Term, which lasts months or years. The size and scope of disaster and recovery efforts is depicted in relation to the timeline.


Recovery Principles

Disaster recovery is based on the following core principles:

Individual and Family Empowerment Individuals and households are encouraged to engage in their own recovery.
Leadership and Local Primacy It is important to remember that all disasters are local; therefore, local governments must be partners in all recovery actions taken on their behalf.
Predisaster Recovery Planning Individuals, households, and local governments can enhance their recovery from disaster by taking preparedness measures such as developing a predisaster recovery plan, using disaster-resistant building practices, and participating in or conducting training and exercise programs.
Partnerships and Inclusiveness Successful recovery involves the support and involvement of all stakeholders within the community and with outside entities that are assisting in recovery operations.
Public Information The public must be kept informed of the status of recovery operations if they are to support and participate in recovery activities.
Unity of Effort The combined efforts of all stakeholders will help achieve an effective recovery.
Timeliness and Flexibility There is no established timeframe for recovery to be accomplished. It depends on the makeup of the community, the nature and complexity of the incident, and the combined efforts of all stakeholders.
Resilience and Sustainability Successful recovery incorporates mitigation actions and best practices to help ensure the future viability of the community. It also involves the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.
Psychological and Emotional Recovery Disaster recovery isn’t just about restoring places and things. It also involves actions to help individuals and households cope with stress, illness, and uncertainty resulting from the disaster.


Factors in a Successful Recovery

Experience shows that the following factors in a community can help ensure a successful recovery:

  • Effective decisionmaking and coordination
  • Integration of community recovery planning processes
  • Well-managed recovery
  • Proactive community engagement, public participation, and public awareness
  • Well-administered financial acquisition
  • Organizational flexibility
  • Resilient rebuilding


Recovery Roles

Recovery—like other facets of emergency management—is a whole community endeavor, beginning with the individual and building to the larger community and local government.

Community planning efforts are supported by voluntary, faith-based, and community organizations; local, State, tribal, and Federal governments; and the private sector.

Each partner contributes resources and capabilities and represents different stakeholders within the community. These resources and efforts have to be managed and coordinated in order to accomplish a speedy, efficient, and effective recovery.


Emergency Manager’s Recovery Role

The local government has the primary role of planning and managing all aspects of the community’s recovery. Individuals, families, and businesses look to local governments to articulate their recovery needs.

Although community leaders are ultimately responsible for the recovery of their community, they rely on the emergency management team in general—and the emergency manager specifically—to manage and coordinate the disaster recovery effort.


Recovery Task Force

Some jurisdictions establish a local Recovery Task Force—often led by the emergency manager—to guide the community through recovery. If a Recovery Task Force has not been created by a community, the responsibility for managing and coordinating recovery resources and activities is still often accomplished by the emergency manager.

In this capacity, you will not be directing or controlling the resources of other members of the emergency management team; rather, you will be coordinating those resources to help ensure their efficient use.

Potential Members of a Recovery Task Force

  • Elected/Appointed officials
  • Public information officer
  • Attorney
  • Emergency management
  • Public safety department
  • Public works department
  • Building department
  • Finance department
  • Planning/community development department
  • Community services
  • Health care (hospitals and public health)
  • Chamber of commerce
  • Business community
  • Voluntary agencies
  • School districts
  • Neighborhood/Citizens groups


Recovery Planning

Both predisaster and postdisaster recovery planning are critical for communities to develop resilience and for successful and timely recovery.

  • Predisaster recovery planning identifies activities, priorities, and roles and responsibilities required for the community to recover from disaster. Predisaster recovery plans should include a continuity of government (COG) and continuity of operations (COOP) plan.
  • Postdisaster planning is a discrete process for the disaster at hand that results in integrated recovery and reconstruction programs, actions, and recovery. Postdisaster plans are based on the strategy laid out in the predisaster plan and will guide funding for public-sector and nongovernmental investments.


Disaster Recovery Operations

Disaster recovery operations will vary with the type, scope, and duration of the disaster. However, disaster recovery typically consists of the following activities:

Recovery management and coordination: Each partner contributes resources and capabilities and represents different stakeholders within the community. These resources and efforts have to be managed and coordinated in order to accomplish a speedy, efficient, and effective recovery.

Damage assessment: Various types of damage assessments are conducted during response and recovery. They are used to gauge the impact of the disaster and to determine whether a request for a Presidential disaster declaration will be made and to help determine the funding levels of assistance programs and the eligibility for that funding.

Care for survivors: Disaster survivors may require a variety of care options including medical assistance and supplies, evacuation from damaged facilities, and other functional needs. Community partners may be able to provide some of these services. You should be aware of the status of disaster survivors and how their needs are being addressed.

Restoration of services, facilities, and infrastructure: Damaged or interrupted services, facilities, and infrastructure may need to be restored during recovery, including electrical power, natural gas, telecommunications, water/sewer, solid waste collection and disposal, drainage and flood control systems, transportation systems, and community services.

Building inspection: Building inspections are conducted during recovery to provide estimates of repairs based upon previous experience, actual estimates from contractors, or other sources. Potential issues related to such inspections include inspection practices, reentry and access, building permits, contractor licensing, code adequacy, and demolition.

Community redevelopment: Repair and replacement of damaged structures provide tangible evidence that recovery is taking place. The planning and community development departments can compare development plans with hazard mapping to identify hazard reduction opportunities and requirements. They can also work closely with the business sector to facilitate economic recovery. These actions contribute to the resilience and sustainability of the community.

Support for business recovery: The main opportunity for the business sector during recovery is its ability to form business alliances and professional organizations that can pool resources and solicit help for recovery both locally and nationally. In recent disasters, the business sector has become increasingly active in recovery operations by:

  • Providing resources to assist in recovery for other sectors of the community.
  • Forming business alliances and partnerships to assist those parts of the business community affected by the disaster.
  • Reaching out to regional and national business organizations to either request help or provide resources to others in need.

Documentation of disaster operations and costs: The documentation of activities and costs is both a legal and financial concern for communities during disaster recovery. Disaster recovery activities should be documented to help protect the community from liability for damages or actions associated with disaster operations. Disaster recovery costs should be tracked in order to support requests for reimbursement in the event of State or Federal disaster declarations. The local emergency management office is an ideal coordination point for documentation and is often chosen for this task.


Recovery Assistance Programs

Although recovery is primarily a responsibility of local government, if the emergency or disaster receives a Presidential declaration, a number of assistance programs may be available under the Stafford Act.

  • Public Assistance is for repair of infrastructure, public facilities, and debris removal, and may include repair or replacement of non-Federal roads, public buildings, and bridges as well as implementation of mitigation measures.
  • Individual Assistance is for damage to residences and businesses or for personal property losses, and may include grants to individuals and families for temporary housing, repairs, replacement of possessions, and medical and funeral expenses; Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to individuals and businesses; crisis counseling for survivors and responders; legal services; and disaster unemployment benefits.


Emergency Manager’s Role in Recovery Assistance

An emergency manager is not expected to become expert in the Federal recovery assistance programs and policies. However, there are things you can do to help the processes run smoothly:

  • Become aware of the Public Assistance program and how it may involve local/tribal organizations.
  • Assist your partners in providing Individual Assistance by:
    • Pre-identifying where you might establish Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs).
    • Once the disaster is declared, encouraging your citizens to register and visit a DRC.
    • Getting emergency management personnel actively involved to assist State and FEMA teams in the delivery of Individual Assistance programs.


Long-Term Recovery

Recovery from disaster is unique to each community depending on the amount and kind of damage caused by the disaster and the resources that the community has ready or can get.

Long-term recovery can take months or years because it is a complex process of revitalizing homes, businesses, public infrastructure, and the community’s economy and restoring quality of life.

Long-term recovery considerations include:

  • Keeping people informed and preventing unrealistic expectations.
  • Conducting donations management.
  • Developing partnerships with business and industry for resources.
  • Considering competing interests of groups involved in the planning process.
  • Identifying environmental issues and public health measures.
  • Identifying the unmet needs of survivors.
  • Implementing mitigation measures while rebuilding infrastructure to ensure against future disaster damage.


Emotional Recovery

When we think about disaster recovery, we tend to think of rebuilding homes and businesses, repairing infrastructure, enforcing building codes, paying for new construction, and rebuilding the tax base.

But communities are made up of people, and a community’s recovery process is not just material rebuilding and economic recovery. Recovery involves rebuilding emotional resilience and the individual and collective spirit of the community.

Emergency managers can take steps before, during, and after a disaster that help facilitate the emotional healing process for survivors, response personnel, volunteers—for anyone in the community whose life or loved ones are touched by the event.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Below are some steps you can take to begin learning how your jurisdiction manages disaster recovery.

  • Find out what recovery policies, plans, and procedures your jurisdiction has in place.
    • What predisaster recovery plans have been developed (e.g., debris management plan, continuity of government plan, continuity of operations plan, other recovery plans)?
    • Is the emergency manager’s role specified in those plans?
    • When were the plans last updated?
    • What provisions have been made for setting up Disaster Recovery Centers when needed?
  • Learn about your jurisdiction’s recovery history.
    • Has your jurisdiction experienced disasters for which recovery plans were implemented?
    • What strategies were used to facilitate physical, economic, and emotional recovery of the community?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are links to resources you can use to learn more about recovering from emergencies.


FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed your role in recovering from an emergency, including:

  • Key roles and responsibilities of the emergency manager in disaster recovery.
  • Core principles for recovery.
  • Purpose of a predisaster recovery plan.
  • Typical disaster recovery operations.
  • The Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs.


Lesson 8: Administering Your Program

Lesson Overview

This lesson discusses the emergency manager’s role in administering the emergency management program. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify typical administrative responsibilities of an emergency manager.
  • Describe staffing options for routine and emergency operations.
  • Identify items typically included in an emergency management budget.
  • Describe the importance of documentation in emergency management.
  • Indicate the characteristics of an effective records management system.
  • Explain the impact of privacy laws on recordkeeping.
  • Identify strategies to ensure information security.


The Emergency Manager As Administrator

The administrative functions of daily operations affect the community’s ability to respond effectively during emergencies. Four important administrative functions are carried out on a daily basis and during emergencies:

  • Staffing
  • Budgeting and Accounting
  • Records Management
  • Information Security


Emergency Management Programs: No Single Model

Staffing requirements and resources vary from one community to the next. A large city or county may have a full-time emergency manager with a paid supporting staff. There also may be a full-time fire and police department.

A small community may have only a volunteer fire department with two or three pieces of apparatus. The emergency manager may also be a volunteer or perhaps a part-time employee.

You may be in one of these two categories or somewhere in between. Perhaps you are a shared employee, spending part of your time as the emergency manager and another part as a member of some other public office, such as fire, public safety, planning, or public works.


What Are Your Staffing Requirements?

Often, local emergency managers have few, if any, staff resources. However, they integrate and coordinate the activities of a lot of other people and organizations in the community.

When considering the staffing function, the starting point is to ask several questions:

  • What are the program goals of my organization?
  • What are the short- and long-term goals and priorities of the organization?
  • How can I help achieve these goals and priorities?

Answers to these questions will help you formulate the ideal staffing pattern, identify staffing gaps, and develop options for achieving the desired staffing level.


Types of Staff

Emergency management program staff may include:

  • The emergency manager (who may be known by other titles, such as emergency coordinator).
  • Administrative staff.
  • Program staff.
  • Emergency staff for the EOC, field operations, and other essential functions.


Administrative Staff

If you are a full-time or part-time emergency manager, or the head of another type of emergency management organization, it is important to have some type of administrative staff support on a regular basis. The administrative staff can help with daily communications, reports, and routine office operations.   

With training and oversight provided, they may also be able to help with emergency operations such as documentation and assistance with meeting setup.


Program Staff

Your staff may include positions that are dedicated to specific programs funded by State or Federal grants, such as:

  • Hazardous materials programs.
  • Environmental protection programs.
  • Disaster Assistance programs (e.g., Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation).
  • Other State-funded or federally funded programs.

Although these program positions are dedicated to specific program duties, they are an important part of your workforce and help achieve specific goals and priorities of your organization.


Emergency Staff

Regardless of the size or composition of the staff, your organization will need supplemental staff for emergency situations. Emergency staffing needs typically encompass:

  • Shifts and backups: Typically, most of the assigned positions in the EOC are filled by full- or part-time personnel from various departments within the jurisdiction or by volunteers.

    At least two shifts of personnel may be needed to staff the EOC, and backups will be needed in case of unavailability of regular staff. Since emergency personnel will work their assigned EOC functions infrequently, training and exercising will help maintain their skills and abilities.
  • Field operations: Staff may be needed for other essential functions such as damage assessment, debris removal, and building inspection. These personnel may be full-time, part-time, or volunteer positions. They also will need training and exercising to stay current with position skills and abilities.

    Mutual aid agreements between local governments may provide another source of staffing for field operations or other emergency assignments.
  • Volunteers: Volunteers may be needed to supplement the paid positions or to fill positions for which no other option is available. Sources of volunteers in your jurisdiction may include civic groups, faith-based organizations, and private citizens.


Supporting Your Staff

All staff, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteer, should be supported in the execution of their assignments. This support can be provided through:

  • Plans: Emergency plans include information about roles and responsibilities. Ensure that all staff members are familiar with these plans so they can apply them during training, exercises, and actual emergencies.
  • Policies: Policies and guidelines for administration are found in the administrative plan (usually a part of the EOP), other plans, and in general organizational or office guidelines.
  • Recruitment and Personnel Actions: Staff recruitment and retention is an ongoing need for any organization, especially one that deals in emergencies. Give careful attention to personnel selection, training, exercising, and other actions that help personnel fulfill their operational duties.
  • Recognition: Recognizing staff contributions to the organization is a way to motivate staff—especially volunteers. Annual recognition ceremonies, banquets, or other activities provide opportunities for recognition.
  • Training: Training is an essential part of all job assignments and, along with exercising, is an important way to motivate staff and hone their skills. Training programs may be provided by local, tribal, State, or Federal emergency management agencies or by the private sector.
  • Credentialing: In some cases, credentialing programs are required for specific types of jobs and assignments. Training, special assignments, and mentoring may help staff achieve competency in their assigned duties.


Budgeting and Accounting for Resources

Financial activities are an important part of the daily and emergency administration of an emergency management program, especially at the local level. Administrative duties in this area include:

  • Budgeting.
  • Accounting for resource expenditures.
  • Documentation and reporting of activities and costs during emergency situations.



A budget is an itemized summary of planned revenues and expenditures for a fiscal period of time, usually 1 year, used by the organization’s jurisdiction.

Someone in the emergency management organization prepares and submits budget requests in accordance with policies and guidelines of the jurisdiction. In smaller organizations, the budgeting duty may be performed by the emergency manager or by a full- or part-time associate.


Budget Contents

Typically, a budget will contain itemized costs for:

  • Office maintenance: This budget item includes salaries and benefits, utilities, communications, and other office operations. Some expenditures, such as photocopying or utilities, may be shared with other departments or prorated.
  • Operational costs: This budget item includes equipment and supplies that support department operations such as the EOC or communications. In some cases, the operational costs may be shared or prorated with other departments.
  • Anticipated emergency operations: This budget item consists of estimates for emergencies that may occur during the budget cycle. Historical data may be needed to support these estimates.


Accounting for Resources

Accounting is a financial management activity designed to track actual expenditures on a recurring basis, usually monthly.

The jurisdiction’s administrative offices usually establish accounting and recordkeeping policies and procedures for all departments to follow.


Accounting for Federal Funding

Emergency management funding is distributed by the Federal Government directly to the State as grantee. The State distributes funding to local emergency management organizations, or subgrantees, along with policies and procedures for tracking and reporting activities and expenditures of the funds.

Federally recognized Native American Indian tribes may elect to be grantees or subgrantees for their tribal area.

You can learn more about FEMA grants and cooperative agreements on the FEMA Web site.



Documentation is a legal and administrative requirement for an emergency management organization. As an emergency manager, you will document incident records, mutual aid activities, situation reports, emergency staffing records, and many other activities.

Documentation helps protect the jurisdiction from liability by providing an accurate record of emergency activities, including what, where, when, how, and for whom activities were done.


Records Management

Records management is the process of maintaining the records of an organization from the time they are obtained or created until they are transferred or disposed of. Records may have various formats, including:

  • Paper-based records.
  • Electronic records.
  • Multimedia records (e.g., audio, visual, photographic, cartographic, microfilm).


Effective Records Management

An effective records management program:

  • Documents agency business.
  • Ensures records are available when needed, where needed, and in a usable format.
  • Complies with records requirements, standards, and policies.
  • Protects records in a safe, secure environment and controls proper disposition.
  • Supports continuity of operations.


Records Life Cycle

The “life cycle” of records may include the following stages or steps:

  • Inventory: Conducting an inventory of documents and deciding future actions that are to be taken with them.
  • Storage: Safeguarding or securing records that need to be readily accessed for current use. Some of the records may require safeguarding because of the sensitive nature of the information they contain.
  • Transfer: Transferring records that no longer are required for office operations but need to be used elsewhere or archived.
  • Disposal: Disposal of records that have reached the end of their life cycle and are no longer needed.


Records Requirements

Your organization’s record management procedures may fall under Federal, State, tribal, and/or local requirements. It is important to ascertain what policies and requirements apply in your situation.

  • Federal records management policies apply to any projects involving Federal grants or assistance.
  • Each State also has its own requirements, as do many local jurisdictions and tribal governments.

Be sure you know what policies and requirements apply to your situation!



Emergency management organizations need to follow common privacy law principles based on Federal laws, including:

Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act of 1974 establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information (PII) about individuals that is maintained in records systems of Federal agencies. The act:

  • Restricts disclosure of personally identifiable records maintained by agencies.
  • Grants individuals greater access to their own records.
  • Provides for individuals to get their own records changed when they are inaccurate, irrelevant, out of date, or incomplete.
  • Establishes fair information practices for collection, maintenance, and dissemination of records.

E-Government Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-347, 44 U.S.C. § 101)

This law, among other things, is intended to promote the use of the Internet and electronic government services, to make the Federal Government more transparent and accountable, and to provide enhanced access to Government information consistent with protection of personal privacy, national security, records retention, access for persons with disabilities, and other relevant laws.

The law requires that all Federal agencies conduct a privacy impact assessment for all new or substantially changed technology that collects, maintains, or disseminates PII, and for new collections of such information.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides privacy protections for individually identifiable health information held by a covered entity or by its business associate. At the same time, it permits the disclosure of such information when needed for patient care and other important purposes.

An example of the application of HIPAA to emergency management would be when coordinating patient care with others (such as emergency relief workers or others that can help in finding patients appropriate health services).

The Act also specifies various administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to be used to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information.


Personally Identifiable Information

When disaster survivors and other individuals entrust their personally identifiable information (PII) to your organization, you have an obligation to keep it safe. Safeguarding PII is important to:

  • Earn and keep public trust.
  • Prevent identity theft.
  • Prevent privacy incidents.
  • Avoid penalties.

What Is Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, “PII is any information that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to an individual. Some PII is not sensitive, such as that found on a business card. Other PII is Sensitive PII, which if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to an individual. Sensitive PII requires stricter handling guidelines.”

Examples of information that may be considered PII include:

  • Name, such as full name, maiden name, mother‘s maiden name, or alias.
  • Personal identification number, such as Social Security number (SSN), passport number, driver‘s license number, taxpayer identification number, patient identification number, and financial account or credit card number.
  • Address information, such as street address or email address.
  • Asset information, such as Internet Protocol (IP) or Media Access Control (MAC) address or other host-specific persistent static identifier that consistently links to a particular person or small, well-defined group of people.
  • Telephone numbers, including mobile, business, and personal numbers.
  • Personal characteristics, including photographic image (especially of face or other distinguishing characteristic), x-rays, fingerprints, or other biometric image or template data (e.g., retina scan, voice signature, facial geometry).
  • Information identifying personally owned property, such as vehicle registration number or title number and related information.
  • Information about an individual that is linked or linkable to one of the above (e.g., date of birth, place of birth, race, religion, weight, activities, geographical indicators, employment information, medical information, education information, financial information).

More information on safeguarding PII is available at:


Information Security

Information security involves safeguarding the organization’s information through:

  • Physical security—securing the premises.
  • Cybersecurity—securing the information systems.
  • Data security—ensuring that personnel handle data properly.


Continue Your Learning: Next Steps

Below are some steps you can take to begin learning emergency management program administration in your jurisdiction.

Learn about the staffing policies and procedures for your emergency management program.

  • Who handles administrative responsibilities?
  • Do staff members have specific responsibilities for programmatic areas?
  • What approaches are used for emergency staffing?

Learn about budgeting and accounting responsibilities in your emergency management program.

  • Do you have responsibility for budgeting and accounting?
  • Where can you find out about budgeting and accounting requirements that apply to your program?

Learn about records and information management in your emergency management program.

  • Where can you find out what Federal, State, and local records requirements apply to your program?
  • What systems and procedures do you have in place to safeguard sensitive information?


Continue Your Learning: Additional Resources

Below are links to resources you can use to learn more about administering your program.

Laws and Guidance:


Lesson Summary

This lesson discussed the emergency manager’s role in administering the emergency management program, including:

  • Typical administrative responsibilities of an emergency manager.
  • Staffing options for routine and emergency operations.
  • Items typically included in an emergency management budget.
  • Importance of documentation in emergency management.
  • Characteristics of an effective records management system.
  • Impact of privacy laws on emergency management recordkeeping.
  • Strategies to ensure information security.