Lesson 2: Preparedness and Emergency Management Functions

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, you will learn more about preparedness in relation to key emergency management functions, including:

  • Planning.
  • Resource management.
  • Training and exercising.
  • Evaluation and improvement.


Lesson 2 Objectives

After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe key emergency management functions, including planning, resource management, training and exercising, and evaluation and improvement.
  • Explain how each emergency management function relates to community preparedness.
  • Identify resources for learning more about improving community preparedness.



The first step in the preparedness cycle is a process of risk-informed planning and decisionmaking by community stakeholders. This process involves analyzing diverse risk scenarios and identifying the capabilities necessary for effective prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

The planning process results in the development of emergency operations plans (EOPs) and many other types of plans.

Cycle of arrows surrounding the words Preparedness Cycle. The arrows are labeled Plan, Organize/Equip, Train, Exercise, and Evaluate/Improve. The Plan arrow is highlighted.


Why We Plan

Emergency planning serves several purposes.

  • Planning helps to reduce or eliminate future risk by identifying the specific risks your community faces and creating solutions to those problems.
  • Planning describes what your community will do to address identified risks with the unique resources you have or can obtain. It provides a roadmap for how to operate when an emergency occurs, telling those with operational responsibilities what to do, why to do it, and how to get support when needed.
  • Planning lays the groundwork for stakeholders to coordinate their efforts and work collaboratively for the welfare of the community.


Importance of Planning

Planning for disasters is the cornerstone of emergency management. Successful operations occur when organizations and individuals:

  • Know their roles.
  • Understand how they fit into the overall plan.
  • Are able to execute the plan.


Benefits of Planning

Done properly, planning:

  • Provides a methodical way to engage the whole community in thinking through the life cycle of a potential crisis, determining required capabilities, and establishing a framework for roles and responsibilities.
  • Shapes how a community envisions and shares a desired outcome, selects effective ways to achieve it, and communicates expected results.
  • Can make a significant difference in mitigating against the effects of a disaster, including saving lives, protecting property, and helping a community recover more quickly from a disaster.


Planning Guidance

Comprehensive Planning Guide (CPG) 101, Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans, provides a practical guide to emergency planning. The CPG 101 planning process is:

  • A cyclical, ongoing process.
  • Applicable to tactical, operational, and strategic planning.
  • Adaptable to all levels of government and to nongovernmental organizations.


Planning Process

The planning process described in CPG 101 includes the following steps:



Step 1: Form a collaborative planning team

  • Identify a core planning team made up of departments or offices likely to be involved in most, if not all, responses.
  • Engage the whole community in planning, including community representatives, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and government.

Step 2: Understand the situation

  • Identify threats and hazards through research and information collection.
  • Assess risk using factors such as frequency and consequences to prioritize threats.

Step 3: Determine goals and objectives

  • Determine operational priorities that specify what response organizations are to accomplish to achieve a desired end-state for the operation.
  • Set goals and objectives that support accomplishing the plan mission and operational priorities.

Step 4: Develop the plan

  • Develop and analyze courses of action—possible solutions for achieving the goals and objectives.
  • Identify resources needed to accomplish tasks and match available resources to requirements.
  • Identify needed information and intelligence, including deadline(s) for receiving it to drive decisions and trigger critical actions.

Step 5: Prepare, review, and approve the plan

  • Write the plan.
  • Review the plan for conformity to applicable regulatory requirements and standards and for its usefulness in practice. Consider adequacy, feasibility, acceptability, and completeness.
  • Approve the plan according to the local promulgating process and disseminate the plan.

Step 6: Implement and maintain the plan

  • Ensure that personnel receive required training to implement the plan.
  • Exercise the plan and determine whether the goals, objectives, decisions, actions, and timing outlined in the plan led to a successful response.
  • Review, revise, and maintain the plan by incorporating lessons learned into plan updates.


Understanding Your Situation

Step 2 of the planning process involves analyzing the risks your jurisdiction faces. A good approach for analyzing risk is to identify potential threats your jurisdiction may face and then assess the likelihood, magnitude, scope, and impact of each threat. Ask yourself:

  • What might happen?
  • How likely is it to happen?
  • How bad is it likely to be?
  • How many people might be injured or killed?
  • How much damage is there likely to be?

The results of this analysis will provide the basis for the emergency plan and for identifying needed resources.


Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)

An effective approach for analyzing your community’s risk is to use the THIRA process, as described in CPG 201.

THIRA helps communities identify capability targets and resource requirements necessary to address anticipated and unanticipated risks. Specifically, conducting a THIRA can help your community determine:

  • What the community needs to prepare for.
  • What resources are required in order to be prepared.
  • What actions could be employed to lessen or eliminate the threat or hazard.
  • What impacts need to be incorporated into the community’s recovery preparedness planning.

The THIRA Process

The THIRA process consists of the following four basic steps:

THIRA process steps including: (1) Identify the threats and hazards of concern, (2) Give the threats and hazards context, (3) Establish capability targets, and (4) Apply the results

Step 1: The first step is to develop a list of community-specific threats and hazards based on past experience, forecasting, expert judgment, and available resources.

Step 2: The second step is to add context descriptions to each identified threat and hazard that:

  • Outline the conditions under which a threat or hazard might occur.
  • Clarify how the timing and location of an incident affect the community’s ability to manage it.

Step 3: The third step is to establish capability targets for each core capability. Capability targets define success and describe what the community wants to achieve for each core capability. This step looks at:

  • Impacts—How a threat or hazard might affect a core capability.
  • Desired outcomes—The timeframe or level of effort needed to successfully deliver core capabilities

Step 4: The last step in the THIRA process is to apply the results by estimating the resources required to meet capability targets.

To learn more about completing a THIRA, you may wish to take the FEMA course IS-2001, Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA).


Tips for Effective Planning

To ensure that the planning process effectively prepares your community for future emergencies:

  • Adopt a community-based perspective. Be sure the plan represents the whole population and its needs.
  • Involve all partners (government agencies, private and nonprofit sectors, and community members) in the planning process, and include senior officials throughout the process.
  • Don’t start from scratch. Always build on prior plans and lessons learned.
  • Use a logical, analytical, problem-solving process.
  • Address all hazards and threats, and be sure your plan is flexible enough to address small and catastrophic incidents.
  • Be specific. Be sure your plan identifies tasks, allocates resources, and establishes accountability.


Best Practice: Community Planning

Arlington County, Virginia, has developed the “Safer Arlington Partnership,” a program that engages nonprofit, private-sector, and public-sector organizations in pre-planning, exercising/training, and resource/information sharing to enhance the level of preparedness in the County. The program’s mission is achieved through four task forces:

  • Training and Exercises
  • Information and Tools
  • Resource Inventory and Management
  • Education and Outreach


Where Do You Stand?

Do you have systems and procedures for:

  • Identifying potential members of a collaborative planning team?
  • Identifying sources of information about threats and hazards faced by your jurisdiction?
  • Assessing levels of risk posed by identified hazards in order to prioritize preparedness efforts?
  • Determining operational priorities and identifying preparedness goals and objectives?
  • Developing and analyzing potential courses of action and related resource needs?
  • Getting an emergency plan written, reviewed, and approved?
  • Providing training to ensure that personnel have the capabilities required to implement the plan?
  • Conducting exercises to test the effectiveness of completed plans?
  • Keeping plans updated on a regular basis?
  • Tracking whether lessons learned through experience and exercising are translated into plan improvements?
  • Keeping the public informed of community planning efforts?


Additional Resources for Planning

Below are resources you can use to learn more about planning:


Resource Management

The next step in the preparedness cycle involves organizing resources to ensure they will be available when needed and equipping personnel with what they need to perform their duties—in other words, resource management.

Resource management provides a consistent way to identify the resources needed to meet incident objectives, acquire needed resources according to priority, and track resource availability and status.

Cycle of arrows surrounding the words Preparedness Cycle. The arrows are labeled Plan, Organize/Equip, Train, Exercise, and Evaluate/Improve. The Organize/Equip arrow is highlighted.


Resources Are Crucial

When disaster strikes, we must be ready to take full advantage of all available and qualified resources. Resources include:

  • Personnel.
  • Supplies.
  • Equipment.
  • Facilities.

Getting the right resources to the right place at the right time can be a matter of life and death.


Standardized Resource Management

Resource management is most effective when a standardized approach is used. It is important to remember that resource management activities must occur on a continual basis to ensure that resources are ready for mobilization.

NIMS promotes a seven-step cycle for managing resources.

Resource management cycle that begins with an incident and includes seven steps: identify requirements, order and acquire, mobilize, track and report, recover/demobilize, reimburse, and inventory

Resource Management Concepts

NIMS establishes a standardized approach for managing resources before, during, and after an incident. This approach is based on the following underlying concepts:

  • Consistency: Resource management provides a consistent method for identifying, acquiring, allocating, and tracking resources.
  • Standardization: Resource management includes standardized systems for classifying resources to improve the effectiveness of mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements.
  • Coordination: Resource management includes coordination to facilitate the integration of resources for optimal benefit.
  • Use: Resource management planning efforts incorporate use of all available resources from all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector, where appropriate.
  • Information Management: Resource management integrates communications and information management elements into its organizations, processes, technologies, and decision support.
  • Credentialing and Certification: Resource management includes the use of credentialing criteria that ensure consistent training, licensure, and certification standards.


Planning for Resource Management

Successful resource management doesn’t happen without careful planning. Resource management depends on preparedness—knowing:

  • What and how much you need.
  • Where to find it and how to get it.
  • How you will mobilize, track, and demobilize each resource.
  • How you will organize and maintain the available resources.


Resource Management Planning Process

Resource planning should include identifying resource needs based on the threats to and vulnerabilities of the jurisdiction and developing alternative strategies to obtain the needed resources. Resource management planning includes the following steps.

Step 1. Identify associated risks and consequences

Consider the related risks, including threats and consequences that the jurisdiction may face. Be sure to consider the cascading events or related emergencies that may follow an incident.

Step 2. Project resource needs

Determine what resources are needed to manage incidents. Some resources will be specific to only one risk or consequence; others may be useful for multiple risks or consequences. Common resources include personnel, facilities, equipment, vehicles, teams, aircraft, and supplies.

Step 3. Identify potential sources

Resources come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Within the agency or jurisdiction.
  • Mutual aid and assistance.
  • Other levels of government.
  • Volunteer organizations.
  • Private-sector sources.
  • Donations.

Step 4. Review procedures

Procedures and protocols should detail the specific actions to implement a plan or system. Develop procedures and protocols that translate into specific, action-oriented checklists for use during incident response operations. For example, you may want to make sure that your procedures address the following resource management questions:

  • How do you get that resource in the middle of the night on a weekend when the owner/supervisor is out of town?
  • Do you have access to the necessary phone numbers and addresses?
  • Will you have to pay for this resource? If so, what is the rate? Are there additional costs associated with emergency use or after-hours activation?
  • Is purchasing authority delegated to the appropriate personnel in sufficient amounts to meet emergency needs?
  • What emergency declarations or legal frameworks must be activated or invoked?
  • How will the resource gain access to the incident scene?

Step 5. Maintain resource inventory

After determining what is needed, where to find it, and how to procure it, the information needs to be organized, made accessible to those who need it, and maintained. Most organizations develop their own versions of “the Yellow Pages,” including the type of resource and its owner, location, and procurement procedures.


Resource Typing

Resource typing is an important part of preparedness. Resource typing is the categorization and description of response resources that are commonly exchanged in disasters through mutual aid agreements. Standardized resource definitions provide emergency responders the information they need to request and receive the appropriate resources during an emergency or disaster.  Resource typing definitions exists for many categories including emergency medical services, incident management, fire and hazardous materials response, law enforcement, etc.

Remember, typing allows you to locate and mobilize resources more quickly and share and manage resources more efficiently.

Additional information about typing is available in the NIMS Resource Center.


Best Practice – Mutual Aid Agreements

Setting up mutual aid and assistance agreements between agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions is an important part of preparing for resource management. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is a preincident agreement between States.

Mutual aid agreements provide a mechanism to quickly obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials, and other associated services. Listen to State and local emergency managers discussing the role of such agreements in their jurisdictions’ preparedness.

Local Emergency Manager
We have negotiated mutual aid agreements with adjacent law enforcement, fire, public works, and EMS agencies. This expands our resource pool and also provides agreed-upon procedures for dispatch, resource management, and reimbursement. We are a pretty large jurisdiction for this State, but even so, we would not be able to manage a major disaster without help.

State Emergency Manager
Once our own State and local resources have been expended, our next best source of resources is through our EMAC agreements with the States adjacent to us. These resources are familiar, and able to respond in a relatively short time. The States also have clear procedures for dispatching them, managing them at the incident, and reimbursement. This ensures that no time is lost if we need assistance or to send resources to a neighboring jurisdiction.


Personnel Qualifications and Certification

Another important part of preparedness is the use of standards for the qualification, licensure, and certification of emergency management and response personnel.

Standards help ensure that personnel have the minimum knowledge, skills, and experience needed to carry out emergency management and response activities safely and effectively.

Personnel certification standards may include training, experience, credentialing, validation, and physical and medical fitness.


Tips for Resource Management

  • Use your jurisdiction’s threat and hazard analysis as the basis for resource planning.
  • Identify potential sources of disaster resources that are available to you within the jurisdiction and from other levels of government, private-sector entities, volunteer organizations, and donations.
  • Find out what mutual aid agreements have been set up with neighboring jurisdictions and other potential response partners.
  • Ensure that resource management procedures and protocols are in place and that they translate into specific, action-oriented checklists for use during incident response operations.
  • Learn about FEMA resource typing requirements, and keep your jurisdiction’s resource inventory up to date.
  • When acquiring resources, consider interoperability of communications systems and of any equipment that includes connections, hardware, and fittings. Coordinating with response partners can facilitate future sharing of resources.
  • Develop strategies for managing donations and volunteer assistance. Consulting with organizations that are used to managing these types of resources can be very helpful.


Where Do You Stand?

Do you have systems and procedures for:

  • Projecting resource needs based on your jurisdiction’s hazard and threat analysis?
  • Identifying sources, including the following?
    • Within the agency or jurisdiction
    • Mutual aid and assistance
    • Other levels of government
    • Volunteer organizations and private-sector sources
    • Donations
  • Ordering and acquiring needed resources?
  • Mobilizing resources?
  • Tracking and reporting resources?
  • Recovering and demobilizing resources?
  • Reimbursing for use of resources?
  • Developing and maintaining an inventory of available resources, including resource typing and personnel credentialing?
  • Determining interoperability of equipment resources?
  • Managing donations?
  • Managing volunteer assistance?

Additional Resources for Resource Management

Below are resources you can use to learn more about resource management:

  • IS-703a: NIMS Resource Management Course. This course introduces resource management as described in the National Incident Management System and shows how systems for managing resources can be used to improve incident response. The course includes examples of best practices, lessons learned, and job aids to assist you in planning for resource management.
  • NIMS Frequently Asked Questions. This site provides answers to questions related to resource typing, mutual aid agreements, and other aspects of resource management and preparedness.


Training and Exercising

The next steps in the preparedness cycle are training and exercising. Training and exercising are programs and events that allow response partners to:

  • Learn roles and responsibilities.
  • Practice using systems and equipment.
  • Safely apply policies, plans, and procedures.
Cycle of arrows surrounding the words Preparedness Cycle. The arrows are labeled Plan, Organize/Equip, Train, Exercise, and Evaluate/Improve. The Train and Exercise arrows are highlighted.


Why Train and Exercise?

Training and exercising give communities, tribal nations, regions, and States a set of essential tools to:

  • Assess,
  • Practice, and
  • Improve performance

in prevention, protection, response, and recovery capabilities in a risk-free environment.


Benefits of Conducting Exercises

Exercises validate the effectiveness of part or all of your preparedness plans. Planners can test whether critical plan elements work by exercising them using scenarios of varying types, magnitudes, and levels of reality. Exercises improve readiness by allowing you to:

  • Evaluate operations and plans.
  • Reinforce teamwork.
  • Demonstrate the community’s resolve to prepare for disasters.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • Improve interagency coordination.
  • Pinpoint resource gaps.
  • Develop individual performance.
  • Identify opportunities for improvement.


Types of Training

Training can be delivered in a variety of ways. Training options include:

Training Type

Appropriate for Providing . . .

Classroom Training

  • A knowledge base on new or revised processes and/or procedures.
  • The skills needed to perform tasks that would be done manually (e.g., analyzing information from documents provided) or with equipment contained in the classroom (e.g., computers, telephones) or on the job.

Independent Study

  • Knowledge acquisition at a pace that is comfortable for the student.
  • An opportunity to learn and apply knowledge and skills (e.g., through a tutorial) in a self-paced environment.

On-the-Job Training

  • An opportunity to learn and perform tasks in a real-life environment with the supervision of an expert performer. (A related form of training is the practicum, which is designed to give the learner supervised practical application of a previously or concurrently studied theory. Another option, shadowing, allows the learner to observe an expert performer on the job.)


  • New information, usually at a high level, presented to all persons who have a need to know or use the information. Briefings are often provided to large groups and include a question-and-answer session.


  • An opportunity for small number of job performers to discuss specific topics, usually with the advice of an expert performer. Seminars usually involve new policies, procedures, or solutions to problems being presented to the group.


  • An opportunity for small number of job performers to discuss issues and apply knowledge and skills to solving problems or producing a product. Workshops are generally highly structured, and their outputs are usually a product that meets specified criteria (e.g., a list of assumptions that will be used as a basis for developing the emergency operations plan).

Job Aid

  • A quick reference that is intended to be used on the job. Common job aids include checklists, worksheets, standard operating procedures, reference guides, etc.



Exercises build on training by practicing and testing:

  • Policies, plans, and procedures.
  • Use of equipment.
  • Communication among organizations.
  • Coordination of decisionmaking.


Types of Exercises

Exercises fall within two broad categories:

Discussion-Based Exercises

Discussion-based exercises center on participant discussion. They familiarize participants with current plans, policies, agreements, and procedures, or may be used to develop new plans, policies, agreements, and procedures.




A seminar is an informal discussion, designed to orient participants to new or updated plans, policies, or procedures (e.g., a seminar to review a new evacuation standard operating procedure).


A workshop resembles a seminar, but is employed to build specific products, such as a draft plan or policy (e.g., a training and exercise plan workshop is used to develop a multiyear training and exercise plan).

Tabletop Exercise

A tabletop exercise involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting. Tabletops can be used to assess plans, policies, and procedures.


A game is a simulation of operations that often involves two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedures designed to depict an actual or assumed real-life situation.


Operations-Based Exercises

Operations-based exercises focus on action-oriented activities such as deployment of resources and personnel and are more complex than discussion-based types. They are used to validate plans, policies, agreements, and procedures; clarify roles and responsibilities; and identify resource gaps in an operational environment.




A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single, specific operation or function within a single entity (e.g., a fire department conducts a decontamination drill).

Functional Exercise

A functional exercise examines and/or validates the coordination, command, and control between various multiagency coordination centers (e.g., EOC or Joint Field Office). A functional exercise does not involve any “boots on the ground” (e.g., first responders or emergency officials responding to an incident in real time).

Full-Scale Exercise

A full-scale exercise is a multiagency, multijurisdiction, multidiscipline exercise involving functional (e.g., Joint Field Office and EOC) and “boots on the ground” response (e.g., firefighters decontaminating mock victims).


Exercise Methodology

The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) provides a standardized methodology for planning and conducting individual exercises. The process includes four phases:

  • Exercise design and development
  • Exercise conduct
  • Exercise evaluation
  • Improvement planning


Exercise cycle which includes an outer ring with four task areas: design and development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning. The two planning areas are labeled as program management.

HSEEP Exercise Methodology

Design and Development

Design and development involves:

  • Identifying the planning team.
  • Scheduling planning meetings.
  • Determining exercise objectives.
  • Creating the scenario.
  • Developing exercise documentation.
  • Planning exercise conduct and evaluation.
  • Coordinating logistics.

Exercise Conduct

Activities involved in conducting an exercise include:

  • Site setup.
  • Guided presentation and facilitated/moderated discussion (for discussion-based exercises) or exercise briefings and exercise play (for operations-based exercises).
  • Exercise play.
  • Wrap-up activities (debriefings and hotwash).

Exercise Evaluation

Exercise evaluation assesses how well the exercise objectives were achieved. It also identifies opportunities for improvement.

Improvement Planning

The improvement planning process is the means for converting recommendations from the After-Action Report (AAR) into an Improvement Plan that identifies measurable steps that, when implemented, lead to improved response capabilities. Improvement plans are then tracked to completion.


Building Block Approach

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.

Building Block Approach graphic illustrates the concept whereby agencies prepare for a particular emergency scenario through a series of increasingly realistic exercises. Beginning with discussion-based exercises like seminars, they progress in a series of manageable steps toward a full-scale exercise.


Where Do You Stand?

Do you have systems and procedures for:

  • Determining long-term training and exercise goals and objectives for your jurisdiction?
  • Creating a multiyear training and exercise plan?
  • Identifying members of a planning team?
  • Designing and developing training and exercises to achieve your identified goals and objectives?
  • Conducting the training and exercises developed by your planning team?
  • Evaluating your training and exercises, including development of After Action Reports?
  • Translating lessons learned into measurable steps for improving your jurisdiction’s response capabilities?
  • Assigning responsibility and setting timelines for implementing improvements, and tracking their completion?
  • Sharing with others the lessons learned from training and exercising?


Additional Resources for Training and Exercising

Below are resources you can use to learn more about training and exercising:

  • IS-120.a: An Introduction to Exercises. This course introduces the basics of emergency management exercises. It also builds a foundation for subsequent exercise courses, which provide the specifics of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and the National Standard Exercise Curriculum (NSEC).
  • Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). HSEEP provides standardized terminology, methodology, guidance, and tools for developing a training and exercise program.


Evaluation and Improvement

The last step in the preparedness cycle is evaluation and improvement.

  • Evaluation involves looking at performance to determine how it differs from expectations, and documenting strengths and opportunities for improvement.
  • Improvement involves planning and implementing needed changes to align performance with your goals and objectives.

Evaluation and improvement should occur as part of the training and exercise process. They should also be ongoing elements of your community’s overall preparedness effort.

Cycle of arrows surrounding the words Preparedness Cycle. The arrows are labeled Plan, Organize/Equip, Train, Exercise, and Evaluate/Improve. The Evaluate/Improve arrow is highlighted.


Why Evaluate?

Evaluation tells you whether your plans work. A plan may look good on paper, but until it is put into practice you won’t really know whether your procedures are effective and feasible and personnel have been equipped with the capabilities they need to do the job.

Objective evaluation lets you identify strengths and weakness of policies, plans, and procedures and identify potential problem areas that may have been overlooked.


Evaluation, Improvement, and Preparedness

Evaluation and improvement planning—during exercises or actual emergency operations—play an important role in the preparedness process. They allow you to:

  • Determine whether operational goals and objectives have been met.
  • Identify how and why outcomes differ from expectations.
  • Target your improvement resources more effectively.
  • Modify programs to ensure that the required capabilities are developed.


Best Practice: Improving Communications Through Evaluation

In April 2007, the City of Oakland, California, conducted a community-wide emergency response exercise based on a simulated magnitude 6.7 earthquake.

Evaluation of the exercise produced recommendations for improving emergency communications capabilities among citizen groups, amateur radio operators, and the city’s Emergency Operations Center.

Improving Communications Through Exercise Evaluation

The goal of the exercise conducted in Oakland was to test emergency communications capabilities and strengthen communication and coordination between neighborhood Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies (CORE) groups, the Oakland Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), and the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Lessons learned from the first annual exercise the previous year were incorporated into the planned exercise. Exercise monitors were recruited from the Emergency Management Board and other local groups to evaluate the exercise. After the exercise, a debriefing meeting was conducted to obtain feedback from exercise monitors and group leaders. An After-Action Report was produced that detailed lessons learned and action steps to be taken. Below are some examples of improvement recommendations that resulted from the exercise.

  • Schedule and implement monthly two-way radio practices to increase level of competence and confidence with radio use and radio protocols.
  • Orient response teams to their specific role/function prior to sending them out to conduct damage assessment or search and rescue.
  • Create a physical barrier between the Neighborhood Incident Commander and neighbors coming to assist.
  • Review and revise the RACES/CORE Communication Plan as it pertains to amateur radio operators embedded in CORE groups.
  • Develop a feasible communication strategy to receive critical information from CORE groups and transmit information back to the CORE groups.
  • Develop secondary or alternative methods for CORE groups to communicate urgent messages to the EOC when ham radios are not located at a local fire station.

Action steps (including person responsible and timeline) were identified, and steps were taken to incorporate the lessons learned into the planning, execution, and evaluation of the next annual exercise.


Evaluation and Improvement Process

The HSEEP evaluation and improvement process can be divided into eight steps. The first four steps constitute the evaluation part of the process:

Step 1. Plan and organize the evaluation

The first step is to organize the evaluation team and develop a plan for conducting the evaluation. This includes:

  • Selecting a lead evaluator.
  • Defining evaluation requirements based on exercise objectives.
  • Recruiting, training, and assigning evaluators.
  • Developing and finalizing evaluation documentation.
  • Conducting a pre-exercise briefing.

Step 2. Observe the exercise and collect data

During exercises, evaluators observe the discussion or action and record their observations, such as:

  • Who performed the action or made the decision?
  • What occurred?
  • Where did the action or decision take place?
  • When was the action completed?
  • Why did the action take place or why was the decision made?
  • How was the action performed and how was the decision made?

Step 3. Analyze data

During data analysis, the evaluation team consolidates the data collected during the exercise and transforms it into narratives that address the course of exercise play, demonstrated strengths, and areas for improvement.

When completing the analysis, evaluators consider such questions as:

  • Were the capability targets met? If the targets were not met, what factors contributed to this result?
  • Did discussion or activities suggest the critical tasks were executed to meet capability targets? If not, what was the impact or consequences?
  • Do current plans, policies, and procedures support critical tasks and capability targets? Were participants familiar with these documents?

Step 4. Develop the draft After-Action Report

An After-Action Report (AAR) summarizes key information related to evaluation. The main focus of the AAR is the analysis of core capabilities. AARs also include basic exercise information, such as:

  • Exercise name.
  • Type of exercise.
  • Dates and location.
  • Participating organizations.
  • Mission area(s).
  • Specific threat or hazard.
  • A brief scenario description.
  • Name of the exercise sponsor and point of contact.

Step 5. Identify corrective actions

Next, corrective actions are identified to address the observed areas for improvement. Corrective actions answer the following types of questions:

  • What changes need to be made to plans and procedures to improve performance?
  • What changes need to be made to organizational structures to improve performance?
  • What changes need to be made to management processes to improve performance?
  • What changes to equipment or resources are needed to improve performance?
  • What training is needed to improve performance?
  • What are the lessons learned for approaching similar problems in the future?

Step 6. Conduct an After-Action Meeting

The After-Action Meeting (also called a “hot wash”) is a forum for exercise participants to review the revised AAR and the draft Improvement Plan (IP). The meeting should address:

  • Reaching consensus on strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Specific corrective actions that agencies can take.
  • Developing concrete deadlines for implementation of corrective actions.

Step 7. Finalize the After-Action Report and Improvement Plan

In this step, corrections, clarifications, and other feedback are consolidated in the final IP. The IP communicates how observed areas for improvement will be remedied by concrete, measurable steps. The IP details:

  • Actions necessary to address areas for improvement and the associated recommendations presented in the draft AAR.
  • Individuals or groups responsible for taking corrective action.
  • Timelines for each corrective action’s completion.

Step 8. Track implementation

Finally, improvements must be implemented and tracked. In implementing improvements, it is a good practice to:

  • Prioritize according to benefits rather than costs.
  • Assign points of contact responsible for tracking and reporting on their progress.
  • Use local resources as much as possible.
  • Have a solid method for monitoring improvements.
  • Regularly review improvement progress.

Exercises are one component of the preparedness cycle, which also includes planning, training, equipment purchases, and personnel. The implementation of corrective actions is the mechanism by which exercises can inform and improve other preparedness cycle components.


Tips for Continuous Improvement

Improvement planning should not occur only at the end of exercises. Whenever emergency plans are implemented, performance and outcomes should be evaluated to determine if improvements are needed. Make it a standard practice at the end of emergency operations to:

  • Conduct a “hot wash” or debriefing with those involved in the incident response.
  • Frankly discuss strengths of the operation and needed improvements.
  • Keep the discussion objective and goal-oriented.
  • Avoid assigning blame.
  • Be sure to include “behind the scenes” functions such as communications, decisionmaking, and information sharing in the discussion. These functions are often overlooked.
  • Come up with ways to improve future performance.
  • Build lessons learned, corrective actions, and best practices into future exercises so they can be evaluated and validated.


Building on Lessons Learned

Evaluation and improvement planning provide opportunities to identify lessons learned and best practices that can be shared with other jurisdictions and organizations to help build the Nation’s overall preparedness.

Evaluation Tip: Within your community, try to determine the best way to share lessons learned from exercises and actual incidents. This could entail maintaining a library of After Action Reports, a list in the Emergency Operations Center, or your community's own secure Web site.


Where Do You Stand?

Do you have systems and procedures for:

  • Organizing and training personnel to serve as evaluators?
  • Planning strategies to evaluate whether goals and objectives are being achieved?
  • Documenting observations during exercises or actual operations?
  • Analyzing evaluation data to identify strengths and needed improvements?
  • Implementing corrective actions identified through evaluation?
  • Monitoring improvement progress to ensure that required capabilities are developed?
  • Sharing lessons learned and best practices with other jurisdictions?


Additional Resources for Evaluation and Improvement

Below are resources you can use to learn more about evaluation and improvement:


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you learned that:

  • As an emergency manager, you are responsible for ensuring your community’s preparedness.
  • The preparedness cycle is closely tied to key emergency management functions, including:
    • Planning.
    • Resource management.
    • Training and exercising.
    • Evaluation and improvement.
  • There are a variety of resources for learning more about improving community preparedness.

The next lesson will discuss ways to reach out to the community, educate them about their role in preparedness, and involve them in whole-community preparedness activities.