Course Goal

The goal of IS-0230.e: Fundamentals of Emergency Management is to introduce you to the fundamental concepts or foundations of emergency management.

This course presents emergency management as an integrated system with resources and capabilities networked together to address all hazards.

This is the first course in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute’s independent study Professional Development Series.

Select this link for more information on the Professional Development Series. 

Course Structure

This course contains eight lessons.

To help you keep track of your place within the course, the current lesson title is displayed in the upper left corner of each screen. In addition, a Lesson List is presented at the beginning and end of each lesson.

The lesson overview states the approximate length of the lesson. The progress bar is displayed in the upper right corner of each content screen to help you gauge your movement through the course.

Course Objectives
At the conclusion of this course, you should be able to:
  • Describe the principles and authorities that are the foundation of emergency management.
  • Explain how different partners contribute to emergency management in your community.
  • Explain how the core capabilities support the mission areas to ensure preparedness.
  • Describe the roles of each partner in emergency management.
  • Explain the steps and resources necessary for developing a comprehensive emergency operations plan.
  • Explain how to plan, manage, and coordinate resources for efficient and effective response, recovery, and mitigation.
  • Explain the functions of emergency management in emergency and day-to-day situations.

Lesson 1 Overview: Emergency Management

This lesson presents an overview of an integrated emergency management system and where you fit within the system. At the completion of this lesson you should be able to:
  • Define emergency management.
  • Describe the emergency management principles.
  • Describe the history of emergency management.
  • Describe evolving national preparedness doctrine.
  • Explain how the whole community can contribute to an integrated management system.
What Is Emergency Management? - Video Transcript

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.

Integrated Management System

Integrated emergency management is a key concept adopted by emergency managers in the early 1980s. It embodies an all-threats/hazards approach to the direction, control, and coordination of disasters regardless of their location, size, or complexity, and it goes hand-in-hand with the concept of whole community preparedness.

Integrated emergency management is more than a methodology; it is a culture to achieve unity of effort—a way of thinking about emergency management as a joint enterprise. It is intended to create an organizational culture that is critical to achieving unity of effort between government, members of the community, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

Emergency management must be integrated into daily decisions, not just during times of 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  observing actual incidents 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.
Why an Integrated Approach?
Integrated emergency management increases emergency management capability by establishing and strengthening:
  • Existing networks, linkages, and partnerships.
  • Communication across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries, enabling all emergency functions to communicate with each other.
  • 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.

In September 2007, the Emergency Management Institute’s Higher Education Program working group identified the following eight principles:
Select this link to access all information presented.
Emergency Management: The Roots - Video Transcript

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, 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.
Review: A Brief History of Emergency Management Authorities

In order to understand an integrated emergency management system, it is important to first understand how the role of the Federal Government in disaster response has evolved over the past 200 years.

Select this link to view descriptions of the authorities in the timeline below.
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:

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

Select this link to access all information presented.
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 ensure individuals with disabilities are addressed in emergency preparedness and disaster relief.
  • 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

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA) made changes to the way disaster assistance is delivered under a variety of programs.

A significant change under the SRIA was an amendment to the Stafford Act authorizing tribal governments to request a declaration of an emergency or major disaster without going through the State.

Select this link for additional information about SRIA.

Select this link to access greater detail about the SRIA.

Emergency Management: Evolving Doctrine - Video Transcript

Now that you understand the historical roots of emergency management, we’ll review the current doctrine.

Presidential Policy Directive 8, or PPD-8, describes the Nation’s approach to national preparedness. The National Preparedness Goal is the cornerstone for that approach. The Goal identifies the Nation’s core capabilities required for executing the five mission areas of Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.

The National Preparedness System is an integrated set of guidance, programs, and processes that enable us to work together to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.

As a Nation, we are most prepared to face threats and hazards when we work together. The National Preparedness System provides the approach, resources, and tools for us to work together toward achieving our goal of a secure and resilient Nation.

Presidential Policy Directive 8

Preparedness requires the commitment of our entire Nation. Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) describes the Nation's approach to preparedness—one that involves the whole community, including individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools, tribal governments, and all levels of government.

PPD-8 links together national preparedness efforts using the following key elements:

  • The National Preparedness Goal states the ends we wish to achieve.
  • The National Preparedness System describes the means to achieve the goal.
  • National Planning System supports an all-threats and all-hazards approach to developing plans, and explains “What we Deliver”.
  • An annual National Preparedness Report documents the progress made toward achieving the goal.
  • An ongoing national effort to build and sustain preparedness helps us maintain momentum.
  • The Whole Community Initiative describes who we engage in National Preparedness.
PPD-8 vision: National Preparedness Goal 'What We Wish To Achieve', National Preparedness System 'How We Get There', National Planning System 'What We Deliver', Annual National Preparedness Report 'How Well We Are Doing, Whole Community Initiative 'Who We Engage'.
National Preparedness Goal

The National Preparedness Goal presents an integrated, layered, and whole community approach to preparedness. The Goal, itself, is a result of contributions from the whole community. It recognizes that everyone can contribute to and benefit from national preparedness efforts.

National Preparedness Goal. A secure and resilient Nation with capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.
View the National Preparedness Goal.
National Preparedness Goal: Capabilities and Mission Areas
The emphasis of the National Preparedness Goal is on building and sustaining core capabilities across the five mission areas. The core capabilities are not individual competencies that emergency management professionals should possess. Rather, they are essential for the execution of each mission area.
National Preparedness Goal: Core Capabilities
Table of the core capabilities that are common to all five mission areas. These are: Planning, Public Information and Warning, and Operational Coordination. Visit this website for full information:
The core capabilities are:
  • Distinct critical elements necessary to meet the National Preparedness Goal.
  • Essential for the execution of each mission area: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.
  • Developed and sustained through the combined efforts of the whole community.
Select this link to access the core capabilities.
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!

 Select this link to access all information presented.

National Preparedness System

The National Preparedness System is an integrated set of guidance, programs, and processes that enables the whole community to meet the National Preparedness Goal. This System is comprised of the six major components shown in the graphic.

Select this link to learn more about the components.

National Planning Frameworks

The National Planning Frameworks explain the role of each mission area in national preparedness and provide the overarching strategy and doctrine for how the whole community builds, sustains, and delivers the core capabilities. As the National Planning Frameworks are implemented in the Nation’s efforts to achieve the highest levels of preparedness, partners across the whole community are encouraged to develop a shared understanding of broad-level strategic implications that can inform critical decisions in building and sustaining capability and capacity. The Frameworks describe how the whole community works together to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.

Select this link for additional information about the national frameworks.
Smaller representation of the Preparedness System Cycle with the third component highlighted and labeled 3 Leveraging the Whole Community
Developing capabilities means finding, connecting to, and strengthening community resources by leveraging the expertise and capacity of:
  • Individuals and households.
  • Private and nonprofit sectors.
  • Community entities including advocacy and faith-based organizations.
  • Other levels of government.
National Preparedness Goal – A secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together seamlessly and manage incidents involving all threats and hazards—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—in order to reduce loss of life, property and harm to the environment.

The purpose of the NIMS is to provide a common approach for managing incidents. The concepts provide for a flexible but standardized set of incident management practices with emphasis on common principles, a consistent approach to operational structures and supporting mechanisms, and an integrated approach to resource management.

Incidents typically begin and end locally, and they are managed daily at the lowest possible geographical, organizational, and jurisdictional level. There are other instances where success depends on the involvement of multiple jurisdictions, levels of government, functional agencies, and/or emergency-responder disciplines. These instances necessitate effective and efficient coordination across this broad spectrum of organizations and activities. By using NIMS, communities are part of a comprehensive national approach that improves the effectiveness of emergency management and response personnel across the full spectrum of potential threats and hazards (including natural hazards, terrorist activities, and other human-caused disasters) regardless of size or complexity.

Select this link to access a copy of the complete NIMS document (3 MB).
NIMS: Major Components
Five major components make up the NIMS system approach:
Select this link to access all information presented.
Emergency Management Programs and Standards
In support of the National Preparedness Goal, two programs for government and private-sector accreditation are available.
  • The Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) is a standard-based voluntary assessment and accreditation process for government programs.
  • The Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program (PS-Prep™) is a voluntary program primarily serving as a resource for private and nonprofit entities.
Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP)

EMAP provides States, territories, and local government emergency management programs with a voluntary accreditation process that is intended to encourage examination of strengths and weaknesses of jurisdictions emergency management programs, pursuit of corrective measures, and communication and planning among different sectors of government and the community.

EMAP builds on standards and assessment work by various organizations, adding requirements for documentation and verification that neither standards nor self -assessment alone can provide.

Select this link to view the agreed-upon national standards.


PS-Prep is a voluntary program primarily serving as a resource for private and nonprofit entities interested in instituting a comprehensive business continuity management system.

PS-Prep is the result of Public Law 110-53, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, and is intended to improve the preparedness of private-sector and nonprofit organizations. PS-Prep adopts the following three preparedness standards:

Select this link to access all information presented.
Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®)

CEM® is a voluntary certification program offered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) for individuals in the emergency management profession.

Certification indicates that the individual has the experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively manage a comprehensive emergency management program and improve emergency management capabilities.

Select this link for more information on CEM® certification.
Putting It All Together
The foundation of an integrated management system consists of the authorities, guidance, policies, principles, and programs presented in this lesson. The key is to engage the whole community to build and sustain capabilities by:
  • Contributing to achievement of the National Preparedness Goal by assessing and preparing for the most relevant and urgent risks.
  • Establishing an emergency management program based on the emergency management principles.
  • Using the guidance provided by the National Preparedness System and NIMS to build capabilities.

This lesson provided information on emergency management principles, systems, and programs. Below are links to get more information.



Emergency Management Programs and Standards

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courses:

Lesson 1 Summary
This lesson introduced foundations of emergency management including:
  • The intent of emergency management.
  • Emergency management principles.
  • History of emergency management.
  • Evolving national preparedness doctrine.
In the next lesson, you will learn about FEMA’s mission and goals, key players, and the integration of emergency management in local government.