Part 1: Introduction Part 2: Emergency Preparedness Part 3: Preparedness Planning Activities Part 4: The Role of Training and Exercises Part 5: Summary

Part 1: Introduction

In the previous module, we reviewed the function of mitigation, or the measures taken to prevent or minimize the effects of a hazard on our communities. Because it is not possible to mitigate all hazards, we must prepare our local resources and citizens for potential disasters. Preparedness includes all of the planning activities and readiness measures taken in advance of an event to help reduce the loss of lives and property. Preparedness also includes steps taken to improve response and recovery before they occur.

Part 2: Emergency Preparedness

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines preparedness as

. . . the range of deliberate, critical tasks and activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the operational capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents. Preparedness is a continuous process involving the efforts at all levels of government and between government and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations to identify threats, determine vulnerabilities, and identify required resources (FEMA, 2007, p. 3.4).

Preparedness and mitigation functions must work hand-in-hand to minimize the effects of disaster. The emergency manager uses the hazard analysis conducted as part of mitigation to determine the response and recovery capabilities needed in the event of a disaster, and initiates measures to enhance those capabilities. In order to succeed in its role, the emergency management organization must consider both mitigation and preparedness as essential activities.

The Preparedness Cycle

Preparedness is a continuous process that takes place at all levels of government to identify hazards, assess vulnerability and risk, and determine the resources needed for response and recovery. As such, it has its own cycle apart from the emergency management cycle; figure 3.2 shows us the major phases.

Looking at the figure, you can see that the outer ring depicts the four primary processes of preparedness: assessment, planning, preparation, and evaluation. The inner ring shows the steps that an organization must take during each of these processes.

The Preparedness Cycle

Figure 3.2 The Preparedness Cycle

Based on image from Haddow & Bullock, 2006, p. 159


The preparedness cycle begins with assessment. This process requires the development of a hazard analysis, as discussed in module 2. The hazard analysis identifies hazards, assesses the risks/threats associated with each, and evaluates the vulnerability of the community to those risks/threats. This part of the preparedness cycle overlaps with mitigation.


Once we understand the hazards that may confront our community and its citizens, our next step is planning. In this phase, we identify the resources, facilities, and capabilities that we will need in order to respond to the hazardous events identified in the hazard analysis, and then analyze our existing resources, facilities, and capabilities. Resources include the people, equipment, and supplies needed to perform the response function. Capabilities include services (search and rescue, fire suppression, transportation, etc.). Many communities define resource and capability requirements using the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) model from the National Response Plan (NRP). We will discuss ESFs in greater detail in module 4.

The planning process typically reveals shortfalls in existing resources and capabilities. As a function of planning, we must develop measures to strengthen our local capabilities to address these shortfalls, or identify the availability of external resources and capabilities that we can request. This latter step may lead to the establishment of mutual aid agreements with surrounding jurisdictions to facilitate the sharing of resources and capabilities. It may also stimulate the creation of open-ended contracts with private enterprises, who can deliver equipment and supplies in the event of a disaster or emergency.


After identifying potential hazards and shortfalls in resources and capabilities, we must prepare local resources (response organizations and citizens) for possible hazardous events. The preparation phase requires the implementation of training and exercise programs to increase local capabilities to manage an incident. Preparation also involves raising community awareness, as it is every citizen’s responsibility to be educated about the hazards that threaten his or her community, and to prepare him or herself for the possibility of a disaster or emergency. Citizens must recognize that assistance from local, state, and federal response agencies may be delayed in the event of a local emergency, and that a community’s first line of defense is neighbors helping neighbors.


The final step in the preparedness cycle is evaluation. In this step, we reassess our local capabilities either during an exercise program or after a response to an actual incident. Exercises provide an excellent opportunity for us to assess our capabilities without exposing our citizens and responders to an actual hazard. They enable us to reevaluate our preparedness measures and to continue the cycle as needed to improve our response capabilities. We will discuss the requirements for an exercise program later in this module.

Personal Preparedness

Although every citizen maintains the expectation that the government will assist him or her in the event of a disaster, citizens must also accept some responsibility for personal preparedness. When a disaster occurs, local resources may quickly become overwhelmed, and citizens should have the items they need for sustenance until resources arrive. The importance of personal preparedness became apparent during Hurricane Katrina, when thousands found themselves stranded by floodwaters, lacking water, food, and shelter for themselves and their families.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA have initiated public awareness programs to help citizens prepare themselves for a hazardous event in their community. These agencies encourage families to prepare a disaster kit and emergency plan. Federal Web sites such as explain and promote personal preparedness.

Every family should develop an emergency plan that addresses the following preparedness measures (DHS, DHS Web site):

1. Get a kit. Each household should have an emergency kit consisting of the following items, at minimum:

a. water (at least a three-day supply of one gallon per person)

b. food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)

c. flashlight and extra batteries

d. portable radio (battery operated or hand-cranked)

e. first aid kit

f. local maps, for preparing an evacuation route

g. whistle or other alerting device, in case you’re trapped in your shelter

h. personal sanitation supplies (towelettes, garbage bags, etc.)

i. shelter-in-place supplies (dust mask, plastic sheeting, duct tape)

j. small tool box, for utility control if needed

2. Make a plan. You and your family might become separated in the event of a disaster or emergency. A plan will help you lay down procedures to reunite and to contact one another if separated. Here are some guidelines:

a. Establish an out-of-town contact that all family members can try to reach in the event of an emergency.

b. Make sure that all family members know the number of the out-of-town contact and have the means to make an emergency call.

c. Establish an out-of-town meeting place that you can reach if you are forced to evacuate your home.

d. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together to take care of one another in the event of an emergency.

3. Be informed. Take the following steps:

a. Learn about emergency situations that may impact your community.

b. Learn about emergency response planning for your community, and about your community’s resources and capabilities.

c. Find out where shelters may be established in your community in the event of a disaster.

d. Make yourself aware of the emergency communication systems (radio and TV, sirens, telephone call-down lists) your community will use to notify you in the event of a pending or current emergency.

Questions to Consider

Review each of the measures listed above, using the Web site, to assess your own level of personal preparedness.

1. Do you or your family have an emergency kit?

2. Do you or your family have an emergency plan?

3. What hazards are likely to affect you or your family, and what measures have you taken to stay informed?

Part 3: Preparedness Planning Activities

Planning is the process by which an emergency management organization identifies the resources and capabilities needed to respond to an incident, the processes required to safely and efficiently manage the resources, and the roles and responsibilities of each participant. Planning is a vital building block in the preparedness function. To use a quote from Alan Lakein, a leading expert on time management, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” (Lakein, brainyquote Web site). Many of the activities involved in the response to an incident are time-sensitive; therefore, the time to plan is not when the incident occurs, but before, following a careful analysis of the resources required and the processes to be implemented.

As an emergency manager, you will probably develop different types of plans. These may include the following:

· Administrative Plan (AP) This plan defines the basic policies and procedures for running the emergency management organization. It serves as a guide for financial management, personnel management, records management, and labor relations activities.

· Mitigation Plan (MP) This plan is developed as part of the mitigation function. It defines the strategy for identifying and mitigating hazards. As noted in module 2, state, local, and tribal governments must develop these plans to receive federal funds in support of their mitigation programs.

· Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) This plan is the cornerstone of the emergency management organization, defining the activities and resources required to respond to an incident. See the EOP section below for more information.

· Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) SOPs provide detailed “how-to” instructions to help an organization perform specific functions in the response phase of emergency management. SOPs may be separately documented or may serve as an appendix to the EOP.

· Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) Government and businesses create this plan to ensure the smooth running of essential services during the response and recovery phases. See the COOP section below for more information.

· Recovery Plan (RP) The EOP focuses on the short-term actions to take in response to an incident. A separate plan, the RP, identifies the measures required for the long-term recovery of community and government facilities.

The EOP is a vital element of the preparedness function. In the next sections of this module, we will describe the requirements of the EOP in greater detail. We will also address the need for a COOP to ensure the continuance of critical government and business functions after a hazardous event.

It is important to note that no two disasters will be the same, and that plans are at best a good faith effort to anticipate likely events. In the execution of plans, you will always encounter deviations and unanticipated consequences that will require spur-of-the-moment decisions. In situations such as these, you will make recommendations to the senior elected official within your jurisdiction, as that person is ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of the community.

Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)

The Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a critical component of the planning process. It establishes the authority, roles, and functions of each organization participating in an emergency event. The emergency management organization uses the EOP as a guide during the response and recovery phases of a disaster. The organization must have administrative processes in place to assess the effect of an emergency incident and to determine whether or not it meets the established threshold for the activation of the EOP.

Along the same lines, the EOP should define the trigger events that would drive response and recovery to beyond local or state capabilities, and detail the processes that the emergency management organization should initiate to acquire federal support. The activation of the EOP does not necessarily imply that all provisions of the plan will be implemented; not all parts will apply to all incidents or events. Consider the EOP a “toolbox” from which you will pull out only those items that apply to the problem at hand.

FEMA’s State and Local Guide (SLG) 101: Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning (September 1996) helps local and state jurisdictions develop a standardized format for EOPs.

The SLG 101 recommends that you include the following items in the EOP:

· Basic plan This provides an overview of your local organization and policies. It defines the legal authority that permits your organization to conduct emergency operations, describes the hazards addressed in the EOP, elucidates the concept of operations for your local organization, and lists the individuals and agencies responsible for emergency planning and operations.

· Functional annexes These are additions to the basic plan, organized according to function (evacuation, emergency communications, etc.). Develop a separate annex for each specific function.

· Hazard-specific annexes These are also additions to the basic plan, organized according to hazard type (hurricanes, tornados, terrorism, hazardous materials incidents, etc.). Develop an annex for each type of hazard. Resist any movement toward developing separate plans for each hazard type, instead maintaining a single EOP with hazard-specific annexes. The results of your hazard analysis will reveal the hazards you should cover.

· Implementing instructions These include specific directions for activating the EOP, and checklists to follow after activation. They may include SOPs developed by response agencies and referenced in the EOP.

Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

In addition to affecting citizens and their property, disasters take a heavy toll on government and business operations. Through effective planning, government and businesses can minimize these effects by identifying critical assets and developing approaches to maintaining continuity during the response and recovery phases of a disaster. Each government and business entity should consider creating a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to establish this planning baseline.

Events such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) and the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik I satellite (1957), as well as the development of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them (1940s), conspired to change the fundamental culture of the United States. By the 1950s, we no longer felt safe in our “island fortress,” bounded on each side by oceans. This new feeling of vulnerability spurred the U.S. government to conduct continuity of government planning. These efforts have evolved with new developments in technology, both at home and among our adversaries.

COOP planning not only includes facilities planning, but incorporates provisions for leadership continuity. For example, federal regulations define the line of succession for the presidency (from the vice president to the Speaker of the House to the president pro tempore of the Senate and on through the cabinet secretaries) in the event of the death of the preceding political leader(s) (Wikipedia, 2007).

Similarly, many businesses consider the need for continuity planning. FEMA’s Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry (FEMA 141) (October 1993) assists organizations in this type of planning. The DHS also devotes a section of its Web site to emergency planning for businesses.

Integration of Local EOPs with Federal Planning

As we mentioned in module 1, the DHS established the National Response Plan (NRP) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to define the federal role in emergency response and recovery operations. These documents support and supplement local EOPs by providing the means for local and state governments to acquire federal resources and capabilities when their own resources become overwhelmed.

You also had the opportunity in module 1 to review and analyze Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8). HSPD-8 aims to

. . . establish policies to strengthen the preparedness of the United States to prevent and respond to threatened or actual domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies by requiring a national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal [bold added], establishing mechanisms for improved delivery of Federal preparedness assistance to State and local governments, and outlining actions to strengthen preparedness capabilities of Federal, State, and local entities (White House, 2003, White House Web site).

As a critical part of the National Preparedness Goal (NPG), each local and state entity must conduct emergency operations planning and establish training and exercise programs to receive federal money for preparedness programs. During the response and recovery phases of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government realized that the link between federal planning initiatives and local/state emergency operations plans was not as strong as it should have been. The government therefore passed legislation as part of the 2007 budget requiring FEMA to conduct a state-by-state assessment of EOPs and their integration with the NRP.

Part 4: The Role of Training and Exercises

The third critical process of the preparedness function, preparation, includes the initiation of training and exercises to enhance the readiness of the organization to respond to emergencies and to enact recovery measures. After its hazard analysis, an organization will identify shortfalls in resources and capabilities. These shortfalls will ultimately translate into training needs. In the planning process, the emergency organization will address those needs and implement the programs necessary to prepare its staff for disaster.

Among the assets that FEMA and the DHS have made available to local and state jurisdictions is a plethora of training programs that address common shortfalls in local capabilities. Through the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy (NFA), FEMA has developed a wide variety of resident, non-resident, and independent study programs to allow jurisdictions to meet their training needs. Through its Office of Grants and Training (OGT), the DHS has identified federal, state, and local programs to assist in training related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents. Below are some links to these sites:

Catalog of References

Emergency Management Institute (EMI)

National Fire Academy (NFA)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Grants

Exercises for preparedness enable emergency officials to assess whether or not training needs have been met, and whether or not operational plans will succeed. Exercises evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, facilities, and personnel provide the emergency management organization with a valuable tool for assessment.

FEMA defines an exercise as “a controlled, scenario-driven, simulated experience designed to demonstrate and evaluate an organization’s capability to execute one or more assigned or implicit operational tasks or procedures as outlined in its contingency plan” (Haddow & Bullock, 2006, p. 171).

Exercises typically fall into one of four categories:

1. full-scale exercises

2. partial-scale exercises

3. functional exercises

4. table-top exercises

Full-Scale Exercises

Emergency personnel use full-scale exercises to evaluate the total operational capacity of their organization. A full-scale exercise is usually conducted in conditions as similar to those of an actual event as possible. The organization evaluates most or all of its capabilities during a full-scale exercise.

For example, a jurisdiction could elect to conduct a full-scale exercise to simulate a major transportation accident involving a school bus and several vehicles. Players in this exercise would include emergency services (fire, EMS, law enforcement), hospital systems, and the local school system. Other players would provide supporting roles as needed. The jurisdiction would establish a mock accident scene with mock “victims,” providing as realistic a setting as practical.

Partial-Scale Exercises

Emergency personnel conduct partial-scale exercises to evaluate a portion of the organization’s capabilities. Partial-scale exercises define and assess a limited number of objectives or operations. Some portions of the exercise may be conducted in “real-life” conditions, whereas others may consist of simulated or table-top demonstrations.

For example, the jurisdiction from above could set up the same scenario, but omit the transfer of the “victims” to the hospital. This exercise would still enable emergency personnel to evaluate local response capabilities, but without a full assessment of the integration of emergency services and the public health care system.

Functional Exercises

Emergency personnel use functional exercises to evaluate a specific procedure or phase of an operation. These exercises are limited in scope and participation.

Continuing with our example, the jurisdiction could set up a functional exercise involving only emergency medical services (EMS) teams, giving them the opportunity to establish triage, treatment, and transport as they would in a full-scale event.

Table-Top Exercises

Emergency personnel conduct table-top exercises in a much less formal setting than they do the other procedures. These exercises enable key members of the senior staff to evaluate the decision-making processes employed during disaster events. Emergency personnel establish a scenario with timed events (injects) in a controlled environment, allowing staff to observe and assess their actions.

For example, our school bus accident scenario could be played out through simulation in a large conference room, with representatives from each responding agency present. The exercise controller would verbally announce events (injects) that could occur during an actual incident. The responsible agency would then describe the actions it would take and the additional support, if any, it would need.

This is the simplest type of exercise, and it grants each agency the opportunity to evaluate operational plans without committing or deploying resources. The jurisdiction will typically ramp up involvement in the next exercise, using one of the more involved exercise models described above.

Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)

To assist local and state governments in implementing a standardized exercise program, the DHS has developed the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). HSEEP is a capability-based exercise program that gives jurisdictions the tools to design, develop, conduct, and evaluate exercises.

HSEEP states that an exercise must be capability- or performance-based; the jurisdiction must define the capability it wants to evaluate and the end result it expects from that capability as part of the exercise evaluation criteria. HSEEP also requires that each exercise evaluation result in the development of an Improvement Plan (IP) that lists the elements of the tested capability that require additional training, equipment, or resources. The HSEEP Web site linked above provides access to the three volumes of the HSEEP Policy and Guidance document. These volumes lay out the basic strictures jurisdictions must follow in developing exercise programs.

Part 5: Summary

In this module, you had the opportunity to review the four critical components of the preparedness function of emergency management: assessment (conducted as a part of mitigation), planning, preparation, and evaluation. It is critical for us to understand that preparedness is a task for everyone: government (federal, state, and local), the entire private sector, and the public. The failure of any one of these participants to perform its role will increase the risk of damage to lives and property if an emergency occurs. A community’s understanding of the requirements of preparedness will help improve its ability to respond and recover from the effects of a natural or man-made disaster.


Continuity of operations plan. (2007). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 2007 from

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ready. Retrieved June 2007 from

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2007, January). Emergency Management Institute, Course manual for IS-230: Principles of emergency management. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Haddow, George D., & Jane A. Bullock. (2006). Introduction to emergency management. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, Inc.

Lakein, Alan. [quote]. Retrieved June 2007 from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). HSPD-8 overview. Retrieved March 2007 from odp/assessments/hspd8.htm

White House. (2003, December 17). Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-8. Retrieved March 2007 from

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