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FEMA IS-235.C: Emergency Planning Course Summary

IS-0235.c – Emergency Planning

Lesson 1: Introduction to Planning

Course Overview

This course will introduce you to emergency planning principles and processes. At the completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Identify doctrine and guidance for emergency planning.
  • Indicate the relationship between preparedness and planning.
  • Identify the purpose and components of an emergency operations plan.
  • Identify the steps in the planning process.
  • Determine the status of your jurisdiction’s emergency planning.



Our Nation faces a variety of threats and hazards. From events caused by nature to technological incidents involving system or structural failures, as well as acts of violence or terrorism. While jurisdictions differ in the specific threats and hazards, each jurisdiction must prepare for the situations for which they are at greatest risk.

Preparedness is the responsibility of the entire community, and a key part of preparedness is planning.Planning is a collaborative process that begins with government officials, elected leaders, and other community members working to build capabilities. This course focuses on emergency operations plans, or EOPs, the foundation for response planning.

Upon completing this course, you’ll be ready to implement a six-step process for developing and maintaining an emergency operations plan.


Lesson Overview

You should now be ready to start the first lesson, which describes the foundations for preparedness and planning. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify key doctrine and guidance for preparedness.
  • Indicate how planning relates to preparedness.
  • Indicate the purpose of an emergency operations plan.
  • Identify principles of emergency planning.
  • Identify the steps in the planning process as defined in the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101.
  • Determine what plans have been developed by your jurisdiction.


Planning and Preparedness

Understanding planning begins with an understanding of preparedness and the doctrine that underlies our national preparedness approach, including:

  • Presidential Policy Directive 8, National Preparedness.
  • National Preparedness Goal.
  • National Preparedness System.
  • Whole Community Approach.

Let’s begin with a brief overview of important concepts and doctrine. You can download key documents during this lesson to learn more.


Presidential Policy Directive 8

Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) describes the Nation’s approach to national preparedness and links together national preparedness efforts using the following key elements:

Graphic showing National Preparedness Goal—what we wish to achieve; National Preparedness System—how we get there; Whole Community Approach—whom we engage; Annual National Preparedness Report—how well we are doing.


Defining Preparedness

The National Preparedness Goal provides a definition for preparedness:

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.

In other words, preparedness derives from building and sustaining the capabilities that are necessary to deal with great risks.


Capabilities and Mission Areas

The National Preparedness Goal establishes core capabilities across five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.

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


What Are Core Capabilities?

Core capabilities are distinct elements that are:

  • Essential for the execution of each mission area.
  • Essential for meeting the National Preparedness Goal.

Achieving these capabilities requires the combined efforts of the whole community and requires planning.


Core Capabilities by Mission Area

Prevention Protection Mitigation Response Recovery
Public Information and Warning
Operational Coordination
Forensics and Attribution

Intelligence and Information Sharing

Interdiction and Disruption

Screening, Search, and Detection

Access Control and Identity Verification


Intelligence and Information Sharing

Interdiction and Disruption

Physical Protective Measures

Risk Management for Protection Programs and Activities

Screening, Search, and Detection

Supply Chain Integrity and Security

Community Resilience

Long-Term Vulnerability Reduction

Risk and Disaster Resilience Assessment

Threats and Hazard Identification

Critical Transportation

Environmental Response/Health and Safety

Fatality Management Services

Infrastructure Systems

Mass Care Services

Mass Search and Rescue Operations

On-Scene Security and Protection

Operational Communications

Public and Private Services and Resources

Public Health and Medical Services

Situational Assessment

Economic Recovery

Health and Social


Infrastructure Systems

Natural and Cultural Resources


Planning: A Core Capability

Planning is the capability to 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.

Graphic showing planning spanning the five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. A caption reads Planning is required in all five mission areas.


Whole Community Preparedness

Preparedness depends on efforts at all levels, including individuals and households, the private and nonprofit sectors, and all levels of government.

The ultimate goal of community-based preparedness is resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.

Resilience derives from our ability to make the community disaster resistant and to prepare for managing emergencies that do occur. Our Nation’s security depends on the resilience of all communities.


National Preparedness System

If the National Preparedness Goal is the what, the National Preparedness System is the how—the means of achieving the goal.

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


Identifying and Assessing Risk

Developing and maintaining an understanding of the variety of risks faced by communities and the Nation, and how this information can be used to build and sustain preparedness, are essential components of the National Preparedness System. A risk assessment collects information regarding the threats and hazards, including the projected consequences or impacts.


Estimating Capability Requirements

To fully understand capability requirements, each community, organization, and level of government must consider single threats or hazards as well as the full range of risks they may face. Using the results from a risk assessment in the context of the desired outcome(s) for each mission area, the required types and levels of capability can be estimated.


Building and Sustaining Capabilities

After completing the estimation process, existing and needed capabilities can be analyzed and gaps identified. These gaps can be prioritized based on a combination of the desired outcomes, risk assessments, and the potential effects of not addressing the gaps.

Working together, planners, government officials, and elected leaders can develop strategies to allocate resources effectively, as well as leverage available assistance to reduce risk. These strategies consider how to both sustain current levels of capability and address gaps in order to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.


Planning to Deliver Capabilities

The whole community contributes to reducing the Nation’s risks. Planning for low-probability, high-consequence risks—such as a terrorist attack with nuclear or biological weapons or a catastrophic earthquake affecting multiple jurisdictions—will be a complex undertaking and involve many partners. Federal efforts, therefore, must complement planning at other levels of government, which is often focused on more likely risks. These shared planning efforts form a National Planning System by which the whole community can think through potential crises, determine capability requirements, and address the collective risk identified during the risk assessment process.


Validating Capabilities

Measuring progress toward achieving the National Preparedness Goal will provide the means to decide how and where to allocate scarce resources and prioritize preparedness. This validation process can be done through exercises, remedial action management programs, and assessments.


Reviewing and Updating

The Nation’s security and resilience will be strengthened as it employs the components of the National Preparedness System. Changes in a community’s exposure and sensitivity can and do occur, however, whether from evolving threats and hazards, aging infrastructure, shifts in population, or changes in the natural environment. On a recurring basis, capabilities, resources, and plans should be reviewed to determine if they remain relevant or need to be updated.

Preparedness System Cycle with the following six major components: (1) Identifying and Assessing Risk, (2) Estimating Capability Requirements, (3) Building and Sustaining Capabilities, (4) Planning to Deliver Capabilities, (5) Validating Capabilities, and (6) Reviewing and Updating


National Planning System

The National Planning System provides a unified approach and common terminology to plan for all-threats and hazards, and across all mission areas of Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. In addition, a shared understanding of the types and levels of planning will enable the whole community to think through potential crises, determine capability requirements, and address the collective risk identified during the risk assessment process.

  • Strategic-level planning sets the context and expectations for operational planning
  • Operational-level planning provides the tasks and resources needed to execute the strategy>
  • Tactical-level planning shows how to apply resources in order to complete the operational tasks within a given timeframe.

Building blocks of the National Planning System with the following labels starting at the bottom: (1) Individual/Household/Business Plans; (2) Jurisdictional Plans (Mitigation, Emergency Operations, Recovery, COOP); (3) Regional/State/Tribal/Territorial Plans; (4) Federal Interagency Operational Plans; and (5) National Planning Frameworks for Mission Areas


National Planning Frameworks

The National Protection Frameworks—one for each mission area— outline how the whole community can take steps to collectively achieve the National Preparedness Goal. They provide an array of information about each mission area, including:

  • Guiding principles.
  • Roles and responsibilities.
  • Core capabilities and critical tasks.
  • Coordinating structures and integration.
  • Relationship to other mission areas.
  • Operational planning guidance.
  • Supporting resources.


Planning Basics

Now that you have the broader view of national doctrine for planning, let’s take a closer look at some basic concepts to keep in mind as you prepare for planning in your jurisdiction. This section will discuss:

  • How planning promotes preparedness.
  • Types of plans.
  • Plan integration.
  • Planning principles and pitfalls.
  • Resources for planning.
  • Emergency planning process overview.


Preparedness and Planning

Planning is a key component of the preparedness cycle, a process for managing risk.

Plans are continuously evaluated and improved through a cycle of planning, organizing and equipping, training, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to improve performance and reduce or eliminate identified risks.

Graphic depicting the Preparedness Cycle which includes the following actions: (1) Plan, (2) Organize/Equip, (3) Train, (4) Exercise, and (5) Evaluate/Improve


Planning and Risk Management

Planning helps manage risk by clarifying elements of the situation:

What and Why Plans communicate to personnel what should happen, why it is done, and what to expect from it.
Who Plans delineate roles and responsibilities. There should be no ambiguity regarding who is responsible for major tasks.
Where Plans make clear where to obtain resources and how those outside the jurisdiction can lend support.
How Plans clarify how functions and activities are to be coordinated and how they complement one another. This enables personnel to operate as a team and reduces duplication of effort.


Tiers of Planning

Response planning efforts cannot succeed without integration. For example, an operational plan translates the broader vision into standard practices, while a tactical plan further refines those practices for a specific incident. All three tiers of planning occur at all levels of government.

  • Strategic planning – describes how a jurisdiction wants to meet its emergency management or homeland security responsibilities over the long term. These plans are driven by policy from senior officials and establish planning priorities.
  • Operational planning – describes roles and responsibilities, tasks, integration, and actions required of a jurisdiction or its departments and agencies during emergencies. These plans tend to focus more on the broader physical, spatial, and time-related dimensions of an operation; thus, they tend to be more complex and comprehensive, yet less defined, than tactical plans.
  • Tactical planning – based on existing operational plans, focus on managing personnel, equipment, and resources that play a direct role in an incident response.


Types of Plans

Building and sustaining safe and resilient communities requires planning in all mission areas, as well as continuity of operations and other aspects of preparedness. Your jurisdiction may have a variety of plans in place to ensure that you remain fully prepared.

This course focuses on developing or updating one type of response plan—the emergency operations plan (EOP)—that helps prepare the jurisdiction for carrying out the response mission.

However, the same planning principles and processes apply to all types of plans.


Graphic depicting planning surrounded by types of plans, including: prevention plans, protection plans, mitigation plans, response plans (including emergency operations plans), recovery plans, and continuity plans.


Emergency Operations Plans

An emergency operations plan, or EOP, is a document that describes how people and property will be protected during an emergency. The EOP:

  • Details who is responsible for carrying out specific actions.
  • Sets forth lines of authority and organizational relationships and outlines how actions will be coordinated.
  • Identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources available within the jurisdiction or by agreement with other jurisdictions.
  • Reconciles requirements with other jurisdictions.

You will learn more about the structure and format of an EOP and the process for creating or updating these and other plans in later lessons.


Plan Integration: Vertical

Because emergency planning occurs at all levels of government and involves the whole community, plans must be integrated vertically and horizontally to enable the various entities to work together effectively during an emergency.

Vertical integration is the meshing of planning both up and down the levels of community and government, which helps ensure that all response levels have a common operational focus.

As the planning team identifies a support requirement from a “higher level” during the planning process, the two levels work together to resolve the situation.

Graphic depicting vertical plan integration by the following planners, FROM THE BOTTOM UP: (1) Individual/Household/Business, (2) Jurisdictional (3) Regional/State/Tribal/Territorial, (4) Federal-National


Plan Integration: Horizontal

Horizontal plan integration coordinates operations across a jurisdiction or among partner jurisdictions. Horizontal integration fosters cooperation and teamwork, allowing each entity to produce plans that meet their internal needs or regulatory requirements and still integrate into the EOP. At the same time, the jurisdiction’s plan addresses mission assignments that it executes in conjunction with neighbors or partners.

Graphic depicting horizontal integration of the jurisdiction’s plan with those of (1) other jurisdictions and (2) nongovernmental and private partners


Common Planning Pitfalls

Why do plans sometimes sit on a shelf gathering dust instead of serving their intended purpose? Below are a few common planning pitfalls.

  • Excess length and detail
  • Lack of inclusiveness
  • Lack of a solid information base
  • Untested assumptions
  • Focus on activities, not results

Excess length and detail. The most common planning pitfall is the development of lengthy, overly detailed plans. A plan that tries to cover every conceivable condition and address every detail will only frustrate, constrain, and confuse those charged with its implementation. Successful plans are simple and flexible.

Lack of inclusiveness. Communities are diverse. They include people with varying needs, concerns, capabilities, and desire to help. Failing to base planning on the demographics and requirements of the particular community may lead to ineffective courses of action and underuse of community members as a resource.

Lack of a solid information base. Plans often fail because they are based on incomplete information or because they are not regularly updated to reflect the current situation. Effective planning requires thorough research and regular plan maintenance.

Untested assumptions. Thinking that the Titanic was unsinkable is a tragic example of an untested assumption. Plans often fail because assumptions change but the plan remains the same. Identifying, testing, and challenging assumptions is critical for establishing an effective plan. Planners should ensure that they have adequately validated assumptions and properly coordinated with those agencies/entities that they include in their plan.

Focus on activities, not results. Plans sometimes specify activities such as “Improve coordination between x and y,” or “Launch a training program for field workers.” Not specifying the desired results can lead to the failure of a plan.


Effective Planning

Applying the following principles to the planning process is key to developing effective plans for protecting lives, property, and the environment.

Planning Principles

  • Engage the whole community
  • Involve senior officials
  • Use a logical and analytical problem-solving process
  • Consider all threats and hazards
  • Focus on needed capabilities
  • Ensure plans are flexible
  • Establish measurable goals
  • Identify tasks, resources, and accountability
  • Anticipate the emergency environment
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel


Planning Principles

Principle Description
Engage the whole community Effective planning ensures that the whole community is represented and involved in the planning process. Understanding the composition of the population—such as accounting for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, for the needs of children, and for individuals with limited English proficiency—must occur from the outset of the planning effort.

The most realistic and complete plans are prepared by a diverse planning team, including representatives from the jurisdiction’s departments and agencies, civic leaders, businesses, and organizations (e.g., civic, social, faith-based, humanitarian, educational, advocacy, professional) who are able to contribute critical perspectives and/or have a role in executing the plan.

Involve senior officials Planning should include senior officials throughout the process to ensure both understanding and approval. Senior official buy-in helps the planning process meet requirements of time, planning horizons, simplicity, and level of detail.
Use a logical and analytical problem-solving process Planning should use a logical and analytical problem-solving process to help address the complexity and uncertainty inherent in potential threats and hazards. By following a set of logical steps that includes gathering and analyzing information, determining operational objectives, and developing alternative ways to achieve the objectives, planning allows a jurisdiction to work through complex situations.
Consider all threats and hazards While the causes of emergencies can vary greatly, many of the effects do not. Planners can address common operational functions and required capabilities in the basic plan instead of having unique plans for every type of threat or hazard. Planning for all threats and hazards ensures that, when addressing emergency functions, planners determine needed capabilities and identify common tasks and those responsible for accomplishing the tasks.
Focus on needed capabilities Capabilities-based planning focuses on a jurisdiction’s capacity to take a course of action. Capabilities-based planning answers the question, “Do I have the right mix of training, organizations, plans, people, leadership and management, equipment, and facilities to perform a required emergency function?”
Ensure plans are flexible Plans should be flexible enough to address both traditional and catastrophic incidents. Scalable planning solutions are the most likely to be understood and executed properly by the operational personnel who have practice in applying them.
Establish measurable goals Plans should 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.
Identify tasks, resources, and accountability Plans should 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.
Anticipate the emergency environment 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.
Don’t reinvent the wheel Planners should take advantage of the experience of other planners, as well as plans generated by other jurisdictions and the State. Available resources include State standards and guidance, FEMA-provided guidance and training, and plans produced by key infrastructure owners.


Comprehensive Planning Guide (CPG) 101

CPG 101 provides a practical application of the planning principles and offers important guidance for emergency planners. The planning process presented in this course is derived from CPG 101.

CPG 101 methods:

  • Can be used for tactical, operational, and strategic planning.
  • Are suitable for all levels of government.
  • Are adaptable to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private entities.
  • Can be used to develop a new plan or to update an existing plan.


Emergency Planning Process

The CPG 101 planning process includes the six steps shown below.

Six steps taken in the Emergency Planning Process.                
1. Form a collaborative planning team
2. Understand the situation
3. Determine goals & objectives
4. Plan development
5. Plan preparation, review, and approval
6. Plan implementation and maintenance
You will learn more about using this process in the lessons that follow.


Additional Resources

The following online resources, introduced earlier in this lesson, will help you gain a better understanding of the policy and guidance for planning:


Lesson Summary

This lesson described the foundations for effective preparedness and planning, including:

  • National doctrine and guidance for preparedness and planning.
  • Whole-community and capabilities-based planning.
  • Types of plans.
  • Purpose of an emergency operations plan.
  • Planning principles.
  • Overview of the planning process.

Lesson 2: Forming Collaborative Planning Teams

Lesson Overview

As part of the first step in the emergency planning process, this lesson presents key considerations in building and organizing the planning team. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the benefits and challenges of collaboration in emergency planning.
  • Identify the building blocks of collaborative relationships.
  • Select entities that should be involved in the planning process.
  • Indicate lessons learned from your jurisdiction’s planning experiences.



Collaboration is an essential ingredient of effective emergency management. One of the most important lessons learned from past incidents is that response is more effective when well-established and strong relationships exist among response organizations and the whole community.

Building these relationships nurtures trust, encourages a team atmosphere, facilitates communication, and empowers the community to work together.

This lesson will discuss benefits, challenges, and elements of collaborative planning and who should participate in the process.


Emergency Planning Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team

Graphic depiction of Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team Forming a collaborative planning team is the first step in the emergency planning process.

Before discussing the how, let’s think about the why—why do you need a collaborative planning team? Why not just create the plan yourself?



Why Form a Collaborative Team?

On any effective team, people working together can accomplish more than individuals working separately. Or as the author Ken Blanchard put it, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Significant results can be achieved through collaboration—the process of shared creation that occurs when people produce something by:

  • Combining efforts.
  • Sharing ownership of the outcome.
  • Making joint decisions.
  • Exchanging expertise, information, and resources.

There is nothing routine about this process. When collaboration occurs, something is there that wasn’t there before.


Effective Teams

Collaboration can happen when team members work effectively together. Highly effective teams have several characteristics in common:

  • Participative leadership
  • Shared responsibility
  • Commitment to a common purpose and performance goals
  • Use of resources and talents
  • Open communication
  • Capacity for self-evaluation

Participative Leadership: Team members have opportunities to participate in decision-making. They participate in:

  • Setting goals.
  • Developing strategies for achieving these goals.
  • Identifying tasks.
  • Deciding how to approach and evaluate them.

Shared Responsibility: Team members feel equally responsible for the performance of the team and its outcomes. Individuals may have primary roles for completing team tasks, but they remain flexible and do what is necessary to accomplish the team’s goals and tasks.

Commitment to a Common Purpose and Performance Goals: Team members have a sense of common purpose about why the team exists and the functions it serves. They demonstrate their commitment to achieving the purpose by:

  • Keeping the purpose in the forefront of their decisionmaking and evaluations of team practices.
  • Helping one another maintain their focus on results.

Use of Resources and Talents: Effective teams make good use of their creative talents, openly share skills and knowledge, and learn from one another.

Open Communication: The team creates and maintains a climate of trust and open, honest communication. Team members talk openly with one another, are open to giving and receiving feedback, and work through misunderstandings and conflicts.

Capacity for Self-Evaluation: Effective teams stop and assess how well they are doing and what, if anything, may be hindering their performance and communications.


Collaboration Challenges

Collaboration isn’t always easy. Among the greatest challenges to collaboration are turf concerns and mistrust.

Turf Concerns: 1.	Differences in statutory responsibilities; 2. Conflicting goals and measures; 3.	Need for power; 4. Competition for resources. Mistrust: 1. Different rules, organizational cultures, and values; 2. Unfamiliarity or lack of prior relationships among key players; 3. Withholding information


Turf Concerns

For collaboration to work, the parties need to be assured that they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Turf concerns may include:

  • Differences in statutory responsibilities. A ground rule for collaboration has to be that all parties operate within the legal boundaries. When those collaborating include governmental entities, it is critical to educate all of the partners about any applicable statutory responsibilities and limits. Often conflict arises because the parties are unaware of each other’s legal responsibilities.
  • Conflicting goals and measures. Parties often disagree about what should be accomplished and how to measure success. Collaboration is most effective when the parties spend time defining goals and success measures.
  • Need for power. People with the need for power are likely to feel threatened by collaboration. An individual’s need for power may be derived from; (1) a perceived need to control in order to achieve high standards for the organization or oneself; (2) personal satisfaction from having control over others; or (3) desire for recognition and status from others. People who are traditional power-brokers often will collaborate if they can answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”
  • Competition for resources. Collaboration works best when the parties are not competing for the same resources. In addition, each party should be seen as contributing something of value (resources, enthusiasm, influence, expertise, etc.) to the collaborative process.



Mistrust of fellow team members can get in the way of collaboration. Mistrust can have a variety of causes, such as:

  • Different rules, organizational cultures, and values. Organizational culture includes assumptions, philosophy, and values that hold the organization together. Often, people are unaware of the influence of organizational culture on the way they act. Therefore, when parties try to collaborate across organizations, they may violate these unspoken rules, leading to a loss of trust.
  • Unfamiliarity or lack of prior relationships among key players. People who do not know each other, professionally or personally, are less likely to collaborate comfortably with one another. Collaboration works best when the parties are aware of each other’s background and expertise. It is important for newly formed collaborative groups to spend time learning about one another.
  • Withholding information. Trust breaks down when others perceive that one party is withholding information. There may be times during a collaborative effort where one party is not allowed to share sensitive information. It is important to explain any limitations on information sharing when the team is first established.


Building Trust Based on Participation

Building trust among community leaders on the planning team is a way to build trust within the broader community, as they are the links to individual community members.

As trust is built, community leaders can provide insight into the needs and capabilities of a community and help to ramp up interest about emergency management programs that support resiliency.


Building Blocks of Collaboration

Below are four important building blocks of collaboration. The remainder of this lesson will focus on using these building blocks in establishing the planning team.

Four building blocks labeled Identify the right people, Establish a shared purpose, Agree on processes, and Implement and sustain


Identifying the Right People: The Core Team

Planning should involve the whole community to ensure that all perspectives, needs, and capabilities are represented.

The initial team should be small, consisting of planners from the organizations that usually participate in emergency or homeland security operations. Each mission area should be represented on the team—for example, a prevention and protection advisor, a hazard mitigation expert, and so on.

This group forms the core team for all planning efforts.


Identifying the Right People: Engaging the Community

As planning progresses, the core team expands to represent the many facets of the community, including:

  • Government agencies and programs.
  • Nongovernmental organizations and other community groups.
  • Advocacy organizations for persons with access and functional needs.
  • Private businesses and industry.
  • Infrastructure owners and operators.
  • Civic leaders and informal opinion leaders.


Potential Members of a Community Planning Team

Individuals/Organizations Areas of Expertise
Senior Official (elected or appointed) or Designee
  • Support for the homeland security planning process.
  • Government intent by identifying planning goals and essential tasks.
  • Policy guidance and decisionmaking capability.
  • Authority to commit the jurisdiction’s resources.
Emergency Manager or Designee
  • Planning techniques.
  • Interaction of the tactical, operational, and strategic response levels.
  • Prevention, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation strategies for the jurisdiction.
  • Existing mitigation, emergency, continuity, and recovery plans.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director or Designee
  • Emergency medical treatment requirements for a variety of situations.
  • Treatment facility capabilities.
  • How EMS interacts with the Emergency Operations Center and Incident Command.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources.
Fire Services Chief or Designee
  • Fire department procedures, on-scene safety requirements, hazardous materials response requirements, and search and rescue techniques.
  • The jurisdiction’s fire-related risks.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources.
Law Enforcement Chief or Designee
  • Police department procedures, on-scene safety requirements, local laws and ordinances, explosive ordnance disposal methods, and specialized response requirements, such as perimeter control and evacuation procedures.
  • Prevention and protection strategies for the jurisdiction.
  • Fusion centers and intelligence and security strategies for the jurisdiction.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources.
911 Call Center Director
  • Dispatch policies and procedures.
  • Staffing and surge capability.
Public Works Director or Designee
  • Jurisdiction’s road and utility infrastructure.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources.
Legal Counsel
  • Local, tribal, and State legal authorities.
  • Contract law, case law, etc.
Public Health Officer or Designee
  • Records of morbidity and mortality.
  • The jurisdiction’s surge capacity.
  • Historic infectious disease and disease surveillance.
  • Infectious disease sampling procedures.
Acute Care/Hospital Representatives
  • Injury and illness care.
  • Understanding of the special medical needs of the community.
Hazardous Materials Coordinator
  • Hazardous materials that are produced, stored, or transported in or through the community.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for producing, storing, and transporting hazardous materials and responding to hazardous materials incidents.
Hazard Mitigation Specialist
  • Planning techniques.
  • Current and proposed mitigation strategies.
  • Available mitigation funding.
  • Existing mitigation plans.
Transportation Director or Designee
  • Road infrastructure.
  • Area transportation resources.
  • Key local transportation providers.
  • Specialized personnel resources.
Agriculture Extension Service
  • Agricultural sector and associated risks (e.g., fertilizer storage, hay and grain storage, fertilizer and/or excrement runoff).
School Superintendent or Designee
  • School facilities.
  • Threats/hazards that directly affect schools.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources (e.g., buses).
Social Services Agency Representatives
  • Populations with disabilities and other access and functional needs.
Local, Federal Asset Representatives
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources that could be used in an emergency.
  • Potential threats to or hazards at Federal facilities (e.g., research laboratories, military installations).
  • Facility security and response plans (to be integrated with the jurisdiction’s emergency operations plan).
NGOs and Advocacy Groups
  • Resources available through National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and other private, nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations.
  • Specialized resources that can be brought to bear in an emergency.
  • Populations with disabilities and other access and functional needs, children, immigrant populations, animal owners, and others.
  • Lists of shelters, feeding centers, and distribution centers.
Local Business and Industry Representatives
  • Hazardous materials that are produced, stored, and/or transported in or through the community.
  • Specialized facilities, personnel, equipment, and supply resources that could be used in an emergency.
  • Facility response plans (to be integrated with the jurisdiction’s emergency operations plan).
ARES/Races Coordinator
  • Amateur Radio Emergency Services/Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (ARES/RACES) resources that can be used in an emergency.
Critical Infrastructure Owners and Operators (including utilities)
  • Critical infrastructures.
  • Specialized personnel and equipment resources that could be used in an emergency.
  • Ability to commit recovery resources for restoring critical infrastructure.
Veterinarians/Animal Shelter/Animal Control Representatives
  • Special response needs for animals, including livestock.
  • Sheltering capacity.
National Guard
  • National Guard resources available to the Governor, including personnel and equipment.


Benefits of Inclusiveness

Expanding the team in this way is one of the most important aspects of the planning process, for several reasons:

  • Broad participation improves the planning effort because the full resources of the community are tapped.
  • Diversity of the planning group results in more comprehensive and creative planning.
  • Team participation fosters trust and strong working relationships.
  • These relationships will extend into operations when the same people work together during emergencies.


Collaborative Planning in Action

Collaborative planning teams can play a much broader role than simply developing or updating an emergency plan.

For example, Medina County, OH, put together a broad-based planning team to resolve a complex set of issues encompassing urban development, flood protection, environmental protection, water resources, zoning, and emergency response.

In Medina County, OH, where expansion into rural areas placed new demands on water supplies, a public-private partnership successfully negotiated difficult community political and economic dynamics. Some homebuilders initially wanted to develop large plots that would require filling in existing wetlands and natural floodplains and would have required firefighting services to truck in large amounts of water in the event of an incident.

A broad-based coalition that included the local government, county floodplain manager, planning commission, homebuilders association, and emergency manager came together to spearhead a process to promote development in the county while protecting water supplies and preserving wetlands and ponds.

The partnership achieved a building standard that allowed builders to develop their desired housing design but also required them to build ponds and wetlands within each housing subdivision in an effort to sustain water supplies and allow for improved fire protection and floodplain management.

The zoning and land use mitigation efforts promoted and protected the health, safety, and welfare of the residents by making the community less susceptible to flood and fire damage. Working as a public-private partnership enabled the participants to reach an agreement and institutionalize it through cooperative legal processes. Mutual interests and priorities brought this otherwise disparate group together to form a productive partnership.

Source: A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action (FEMA, 2011)


Establishing a Shared Purpose

Establishing a shared purpose that everyone understands and buys into has a big impact on getting people to the table and keeping them motivated. To achieve this end:

  • Seek to understand each participant’s perspective. Learn what they want, what they can contribute, and how they define success.
  • Work with stakeholders to develop a unifying goal that is relevant to all groups.
  • Check alignment of stakeholders’ interests with the goal.
  • Find common ground on which to build consensus for action.


Agreeing on Processes

Emergency planning can be a lengthy process requiring significant time commitments from all participants. Well-organized meetings will help make that process rewarding and productive.

Among the first things the group should agree on are the processes that will be used to achieve the team’s goals and the ground rules for interaction.


Examples of Ground Rules

Ground Rule Group Members Agree To . . .
Confidentiality Not repeat what other group members have said outside of the meeting without their permission, even to other collaborative group members.
Play or Pass Help maintain forward progress by making decisions in meetings (announced reasonably in advance of meetings to all collaborative group members) with the group members present. Also, group members in attendance at a meeting have the right to pass in a discussion or decision, as long as they still do their part to make the group function.
Openness Remain open to other points of view, to all group members, and to the group process and its outcomes.
Listening Focus on each speaker rather than prepare their response, as well as allowing for no interruptions.
Fairness Be committed to equal access and participation in the group.
Respect and Conflict Disagree (when needed) without being disagreeable. Whenever there is conflict that interferes with the group’s forward progress or performance, group members will cooperate to address the conflict.
Commitment to the Group Prepare for and attend meetings. They agree that they will begin and end meetings on time. If a group member cannot attend, he or she will send a representative and/or get briefed on what was missed.
Resources and Competition Make resource contributions to the group’s success, including individually (e.g., their skills and talents), organizationally (e.g., providing meeting space for free), and collectively (e.g., working together to obtain resources for the group’s work).
Commitment to Results Maintain a commitment to achieving results by working together and working hard.
Assume Good Intent Assume good intent when interacting in the group and to clarify meaning before jumping to conclusions.


Implementing and Sustaining the Team

Once the team is up and running, the challenge is to sustain it. Below are some recommended strategies for implementing and sustaining the team:

  • Be a collaborative leader.
  • Establish information-sharing strategies.
  • Use a problem-solving process to work through issues.
  • Measure results and hold stakeholders accountable.
  • Celebrate success.

Be a Collaborative Leader

A collaborative leader should:

  • Practice shared decision-making.
  • Resolve conflicts constructively.
  • Communicate clearly, openly, and honestly.
  • Facilitate group interaction.
  • Promote inclusiveness and diversity.

Establish Information-Sharing Strategies

Everyone needs information in order to collaborate in an informed manner. The team should establish a strategy that accounts for:

  • What information should be shared among stakeholders.
  • The frequency of communications.
  • Communication methods.

Use a Problem-Solving Process To Work Through Issues

When issues arise, apply a trusted problem-solving process such as the following:

  1. Define the problem: Make sure everyone is clear on the problem and the focus of discussion before moving to the next step.
  2. Analyze the problem: Identify possible causes and who is involved in both the problem and possible solutions.
  3. Consider possible solutions: Brainstorm alternatives. The best solution may be a combination of several suggestions, but only if the group is open to listen.
  4. Identify the best solution: Evaluate all the possibilities and ask: Are all the solutions doable? What is the impact of each? What resources are required?
  5. Implement the solution: Involve the team and be clear on responsibilities and timeframe.
  6. Monitor/evaluate the solution: How will you track and evaluate the results?
  7. Follow up: Communicate the results. If the solution wasn’t effective, revisit the problem.

Measure Results and Hold Stakeholders Accountable

Collaborative initiatives such as planning are sustained when the stakeholders see results. It is important to set small, achievable benchmarks and to measure accomplishments. All partners must be held accountable for delivering on the commitments they make. Collaboration works only through individual accountability.

Celebrate Success

It is important to celebrate the small successes that lead to accomplishing the larger goals. Taking the time to recognize the small successes can help reinforce stakeholders for dealing with the challenges of working in a coalition. Celebrating successes helps to reenergize and renew commitment.


Additional Resources

You can use the following resources to learn more about collaborative planning:


Lesson Summary

This lesson presented key factors in building and organizing the planning team, including:

  • Benefits and challenges of collaboration in emergency planning.
  • Characteristics of effective teams.
  • Building blocks of collaborative relationships.
  • Who should be involved in the planning process.
  • Strategies for implementing and sustaining a collaborative planning team.

Lesson 3: Understand the Situation, and Determine Goals and Objectives

Lesson Overview

This lesson covers the second and third steps of the emergency planning process. It explores the potential sources of information and the types of information needed for emergency planning. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Indicate the types of information that are needed for emergency planning.
  • Identify potential sources of information about threats and hazards that affect your community.
  • Indicate the purpose of the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) as defined in CPG 201 and the information it provides.
  • Obtain and review existing threat/hazard analyses for your jurisdiction.



Our goal is to prepare our communities to be safe, secure, and resilient. Achieving this goal is only possible if our plans are based on information that is current, relevant, and accurate.

After forming the planning committee, the next step is to gather information about the characteristics of the jurisdiction, its potential threats and hazards, and the likely consequences. This information allows the team to analyze risks and assess current response capabilities and resources.

In this lesson you will learn about collecting and analyzing information for planning.


Getting Ready To Create or Update a Plan

In order to create or update an emergency plan, the planning team needs to develop an understanding of the situation by analyzing the jurisdiction and its risks.

Gaining an understanding of the situation then allows the team to determine the goals and objectives that guide the planning process.

The next part of this lesson covers these two steps.

Graphic depiction of Step 2, Understand the Situation, and Step 3, Determine Goals and Objectives


Emergency Planning Step 2: Understand the Situation

Graphic depiction of Step 2, Understand the Situation Developing an understanding of the situation is accomplished by:

  • Identifying threats and hazards.
  • Compiling information about the jurisdiction.
  • Assessing risk.
  • Prioritizing threats and hazards.

Collecting and analyzing this information provides a basis for determining priorities, developing or comparing courses of action, and making decisions.


Identifying Threats and Hazards

Understanding the situation begins by identifying threats and hazards based on past experience, forecasting, expert judgment, and available resources. All types of threats and hazards should be considered, including:

  • Natural
  • Technological
  • Human-Caused


Types of Threats and Hazards

Jurisdictions face a variety of threats and hazards that can be the result of natural, technological, or human-caused incidents. Examples of each type of threat/hazard are shown in the following table.

Natural Technological Human-Caused
Result from acts of nature Involve accidents or the failures of systems and structures Caused by the intentional actions of an adversary
  • Avalanche
  • Disease outbreak
  • Drought
  • Earthquake
  • Epidemic
  • Flood
  • Hurricane
  • Landslide
  • Tornado
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Wildfire
  • Winter storm
  • Airplane crash
  • Dam/levee failure
  • Hazardous materials release
  • Power failure
  • Radiological release
  • Train derailment
  • Urban conflagration
  • Civil disturbance
  • Cyber incident
  • Sabotage
  • School violence
  • Terrorist act


Compiling Jurisdiction Information

Next, collect information about the jurisdiction that could affect emergency operations. This information is used to develop or update the jurisdiction profile. Examples of useful information include:

  • Population demographics.
  • Pet and service animal population.
  • Geographic characteristics.
  • Property types and locations.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Resource base.
  • Current capability levels.
  • Impact of threats/hazards on jurisdiction capabilities.


Build on Existing Assessments

Threat and hazard identification and analysis typically does not need to start from scratch.

Often the planning team can build upon existing risk assessments, such as Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments (THIRAs) or Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments prepared by the States, major urban areas, and other government entities.


Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)

THIRA is a process that can be used in collecting and analyzing threat and hazard information for all types of plans. It can be used alone or in conjunction with other types of assessments. THIRA focuses on:

  • Identifying the threats and hazards of greatest concern to the jurisdiction.
  • Determining what levels of capability are needed to manage those risks as well as any lesser risks that have been identified.


Benefits of THIRA

Information gained from THIRA contributes to a community’s ability to:

  • Estimate capability requirements, including identifying:
    • Existing capabilities/capacities and potential shortfalls.
    • Resources needed to meet capability targets.
    • Sources for addressing requirements.
  • Conduct strategic planning to manage risk (for example, in response to changes in the environment, emerging threats, and changes in community composition).
  • Justify investments.
  • Develop policy and doctrine.


Other Sources of Information

Many resources are available to support the research process. The planning team should consult a wide range of sources, including:

  • Federal and State sources.
  • Local agencies and institutions.
  • Nonprofit and other community organizations.
  • Private sector sources.

Examples of Federal and State Sources:

  • Census
  • Federal and State analyses that include data about historical incidents
  • Fusion centers
  • Facility regulators
  • State hazard assessments
  • Bureau of motor vehicles

Examples of Local Agencies and Institutions:    

  • Local records of past incidents (recent and historical) that have occurred in the jurisdiction and the region
  • Public works (or civil engineering) departments and utilities
  • Law enforcement
  • Public health, hospitals, and other medical care services
  • Building inspection offices
  • Local planning and zoning commission or department
  • Household pet licensing databases, and rabies vaccination records
  • Threat assessments prepared for or by agencies
  • Schools and universities
  • Homeless shelters

Examples of Nonprofit and Other Community Organizations:

  • Volunteer and service organizations
  • Academic, industrial, and public interest groups
  • Professional associations
  • Agencies and organizations that serve specific constituencies, such as people with disabilities and other access and functional needs
  • Places of worship

Examples of Private Sector Sources:

  • Infrastructure owners and operators
  • Chamber of commerce
  • Local businesses that have developed emergency plans and continuity of operations plans


Organizing the Information

Information is most useful when it is organized in a way that will facilitate analysis. One effective method is to organize hazard information in a matrix that compares incident characteristics, such as:

  • Likelihood of occurring.
  • History of prior occurrences.
  • Potential consequences, based on:
    • Magnitude/intensity.
    • Speed of onset and available warning time.
    • Location and potential size of the affected area.
    • Duration (how long the threat/hazard will be active).


Assessing Risk

The next task is to compare and prioritize risks to determine which threats/hazards merit special attention. Considering the likelihood and the potential impact on capabilities allows the planning team to make comparisons and set priorities.

Many methodologies exist to understand, qualify, and quantify risk. For example, hazard attributes may be compared by:

  • Assigning mathematical values.
  • Assigning qualitative ratings (high/medium/low).
  • Placing attribute data on a scale based on defined thresholds.


Emergency Planning Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives

Graphic depiction of Step 3, Determine Goals and Objectives The next step in the planning process is to use information from the threat/hazard identification and risk analysis to:

  • Determine operational priorities.
  • Set goals and objectives based on the priorities.

This section of the lesson explains how a planning team develops goals and objectives.


Determining Operational Priorities

Operational priorities clarify what the responding organizations are to accomplish to achieve a desired end-state. A common approach is to create scenarios for the worst-case and most likely incidents.

During the scenario-building process the team:

  • Projects how the identified threats/hazards would evolve.
  • Determines what defines a successful outcome for responders, disaster survivors, and the community.
  • Identifies capability requirements—what the jurisdiction needs to be able to do to manage the situation.

These requirements then become the operational priorities.

Setting Goals and Objectives

Next, the operational priorities are used to establish goals and objectives.

  • Goals are broad, general statements that indicate the intended solution to identified problems. They help identify when major elements of the response are complete and when the operation is successful.
  • Objectives are more specific and identifiable actions carried out during the operation. They lead to achieving the response goals.


Example: Operational Priority, Goal, and Objective

Operational Priority Protect the public from hurricane weather and storm surge.
Goal Complete evacuation before arrival of tropical storm winds.

Desired result: All self- and assisted evacuees are safely outside the expected impact area prior to impact.

Objective Complete tourist evacuation 72 hours before arrival of tropical storm winds.

Desired result: Tourist segment of public protected prior to hazard onset, allowing resources to be redirected to accomplishing other objectives in support of this goal or other goals.


Additional Resources

You can use the following resources to learn more about collecting and analyzing information for planning:


Lesson Summary

This lesson presented information on Collecting and Analyzing Information for planning, including:

  • Identifying threats and hazards.
  • Collecting information about the jurisdiction.
  • Assessing risk.
  • Prioritizing threats and hazards.
  • Developing goals and objectives.

Lesson 4: Plan Development and Plan Preparation, Review & Approval

Lesson Overview

After understanding the situation and determining goals and objectives, the next two steps of the emergency planning process involve the development, preparation, and approval of the plan.

This lesson introduces the key elements and structure of an emergency operations plan (EOP) and the process for developing (or updating) and reviewing an EOP. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify common sections and elements of an EOP and the purpose of each.
  • Indicate the process for creating or updating an EOP.
  • Determine the structure, organization, and components of your jurisdiction’s current EOP.



After collecting and analyzing information, the planning team is ready to determine how it will achieve the identified goals and objectives. Next, the team works together to generate, compare, and select possible courses of action.

Part of this process is to identify resources needed to make the operation work and to estimate the jurisdiction’s current capabilities and shortfalls. Finally, the team develops or updates the plan, obtains approval, disseminates the plan to stakeholders, and gets ready for plan implementation.

This lesson presents these key elements of the plan creation process.


Basic Plan

The basic plan provides broad, overarching information relevant to the EOP as a whole, including:

  • Descriptions of expected threats/hazards.
  • Basic agency roles and responsibilities.
  • Explanation of how the plan will be kept current.

Some information included in the basic plan is required by law. Other information will be identified during the threat/hazard identification and risk analysis.


EOP Basic Plan Elements

  • Purpose, Scope, Situation Overview, Planning Assumptions
  • Concept of Operations (CONOPS)
  • Organization, Assignment of Responsibilities
  • Direction, Control, Coordination
  • Information Collection, Analysis, Dissemination
  • Communications
  • Administration, Finance, Logistics
  • Plan Development, Maintenance
  • Authorities, References


Supporting Annexes

Supporting annexes focus on functions that are critical to successful emergency response and that may require specific actions during emergency response operations. Supporting annexes:

  • May include functional, support, emergency phase, or agency-focused annexes.
  • Add specific information and direction.
  • Indicate specific responsibilities, tasks, and operational actions related to a particular function.


Examples of Core Functions

While no single list of functions applies to all jurisdictions, core functions warrant special attention. The following list is not comprehensive. Each jurisdiction must assess its own needs, and additional or different annexes should be prepared at the planning team’s discretion.

  • Direction, Control, and Coordination
  • Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
  • Communications
  • Transportation
  • External Affairs/Emergency Public Information
  • Population Protection
  • Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services
  • Public Health and Medical Services
  • Resource Management
  • Continuity of Government/Operations
  • Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) Restoration
  • Damage Assessment


  • Firefighting
  • Logistics Management and Resource Support
  • Search and Rescue
  • Oil and Hazardous Materials Response
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Energy
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Long-Term Community Recovery
  • Financial Management
  • Mutual Aid/Multi-Jurisdictional Coordination
  • Private Sector Coordination
  • Volunteer and Donations Management
  • Worker Safety and Health
  • Prevention and Protection



Threat/Hazard/Incident-Specific Annexes

These annexes focus on special planning needs generated by a specific type of threat, hazard, or incident. They:

  • Address unique or specific:
    • Response details.
    • Risk areas and evacuation routes.
    • Provisions for emergency public information.
    • Protective equipment for responders.
  • Often include tabbed maps, charts, inventories, and other work aids.
  • Follow the same basic organization as the basic plan.


Implementing Instructions

Each annex, as well as the basic plan, may use implementing instructions to clarify the contents of the plan or annex and provide additional detail. These items may be provided as attachments or references. Examples include:

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • Maps.
  • Charts and tables.
  • Forms.
  • Checklists.


Emergency Planning Step 4: Develop the Plan

Graphic representing Step 4: Plan Development After the necessary information has been collected and analyzed, the next step is to develop the plan. However, before the team prepares the written document, the members engage in a plan development process that includes:

  • Generating, comparing, and selecting possible courses of action (solutions for achieving the goals and objectives identified in Step 3).
  • Identifying resources needed to make the operation work.
  • Estimating capabilities and identifying shortfalls.


Planning Approaches

Planners use a number of approaches, either singly or in combination, to develop plans:

  • Scenario-based planning. This approach starts with building a scenario for a hazard or threat. Then, planners analyze the impact of the scenario to determine appropriate courses of action. Planners typically use this planning concept to develop planning assumptions, primarily for hazard- or threat-specific annexes to a basic plan.
  • Function-based planning (functional planning). This approach identifies the common functions that a jurisdiction must perform during emergencies. Function-based planning defines the function to be performed and some combination of government agencies and departments responsible for its performance as a course of action.
  • Capabilities-based planning. This approach focuses on a jurisdiction’s capacity to take a course of action. Capabilities-based planning answers the question, “Do I have the right mix of training, organizations, plans, people, leadership and management, equipment, and facilities to perform a required emergency function?” Some planners view this approach as a combination of scenario- and function-based planning because of its “scenario-to-task-to-capability” focus.


Validation and Review

Courses of action address the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the plan. When developing a course of action, planning team members depict how an operation unfolds by building a portrait of the incident’s actions, decision points, and participant activities. The planning team should consider where it supports the priorities, goals, and objectives; and determine whether it is feasible and whether the stakeholders find it acceptable. The steps for developing a course of action are:

  • Establish the timeline
  • Depict the scenario
  • Identify and depict decision points
  • Identify and depict operational tasks
  • Select courses of action
  • When developing courses of action


Establish the timeline.

Planners should cover all mission areas in the timeline and typically use the speed of incident onset to establish the timeline. The timeline may also change by phases. For example, a hurricane’s speed of onset is typically days, while a major HAZMAT incident’s speed of onset is minutes. The timeline for a hurricane might be in hours and days, particularly during the pre- and post-impact phases. The timeline for the HAZMAT incident would most likely be in minutes and hours. For a multi-jurisdictional or layered plan, the timeline for a particular scenario is the same at all participating levels of government. Placement of decision points and response actions on the timeline depicts how soon the different entities enter the plan.


Depict the scenario.

Planners use the scenario information developed in Step 3 and place the incident information on the timeline.


Identify and depict decision points.

Decision points indicate the place in time, as incidents unfold, when leaders anticipate making decisions about a course of action. They indicate where and when decisions are required to provide the best chance of achieving an intermediate objective or response goal (the desired end-state). They also help planners determine how much time is available or needed to complete a sequence of actions.


Identify and depict operational tasks.

For each operational task depicted, some basic information is needed. Developing this information helps planners incorporate the task into the plan when they are writing it. Planners correctly identify an operational task when they can answer the following questions about it:

  • What is the action?
  • Who is responsible for the action?
  • When should the action take place?
  • How long should the action take and how much time is actually available?
  • What has to happen before?
  • What happens after?
  • What resources does the person/entity need to perform the action?


Select courses of action.

Once the above analysis is complete, planners must compare the costs and benefits of each proposed course of action against the mission, goals, and objectives. Based on this comparison, planners then select the preferred courses of action to move forward in the planning process. While not necessary for every course of action identified, planners should use their best judgment and identify when the selection of a course or courses of action will need to be elevated to the senior elected or appointed official for approval. Where practical, the appropriate official should approve these actions prior to the review and completion of the plan.


When developing courses of action, the process should be periodically “frozen” so the planning team can:

  • Identify progress made toward the end-state, including goals and objectives met and new needs or demands
  • Identify “single point failures” (i.e., tasks that, if not completed, would cause the operation to fall apart)
  • Check for omissions or gaps
  • Check for inconsistencies in organizational relationships
  • Check for mismatches between the jurisdiction’s plan and plans from other jurisdictions with which they are interacting.


Analyzing a Course of Action

For plans dealing with adaptive threats (e.g., terrorism), examining plans “through the eyes of the adversary” can lead to significant improvements and a higher probability of success. This process is known as “red-teaming.”

  • Essential elements of a red-team review
  • Characteristics of a Successful Red Team


Essential elements of a red-team review include:

  • Engaging the law enforcement community and fusion centers to act as the adversary
  • Understanding the operational environment (e.g., geography, demography, economy, culture)
  • Establishing a potential adversary’s identity, resources, tactics, and possible courses of action
  • Evaluating the plan under multiple scenarios and a wide range of circumstances using tabletop exercises, facilitated seminars, and computer models and simulations to aid in analysis.


Characteristics of a Successful Red Team:

  • Red teams should foster a culture of critical thinking, intellectualism, and self-criticism. Members should be creative, objective, intellectually curious, and able to manage their egos.
  • Red teams must act with ingenuity and enthusiasm to develop and apply customized approaches to every problem. Red teams need to cultivate expertise, recognize the limitations of their own knowledge, constantly seek and evaluate new insights, and have access to the opinions and understanding of truly informed experts.
  • Red teams need to avoid being confrontational. Red team members need to work closely and solicit information from the staff; however, it is best if they conduct their work in the background to avoid interference from staff members who may have a vested interested in a particular course of action.
  • Red-teaming is most successful when senior officials endorse and support it. Participants must be able to make their comments in an atmosphere of confidentiality and non-attribution.


Identify Resources

After selecting the courses of action for an EOP, the planning team identifies resources needed to make the operation work. They match available resources to all identified requirements. Whenever possible, planners should match resources with other geographical/regional needs so that multiple demands for the same or similar resources can be identified and conflicts resolved.

This step provides planners an opportunity to identify resource shortfalls to pass to higher levels of government and to prepare pre-scripted resource requests, as appropriate. The EOP should account for unsolvable resource shortfalls so they are not just “assumed away.”


Capability Estimate

The capability estimate represents the capabilities and resource types needed to complete a set of courses of action. It enables the EOP to account for unsolvable resource shortfalls so they are not just “assumed away.”

The capability estimate process assesses a jurisdiction’s ability to take a course of action and determines if pursuing a particular course of action is realistic and supportable. The resulting capability estimate will feed into the resource section of the plan or annex.


Capability Estimate Format

  • Capability estimates may be written documents, tables or matrices, or oral presentations.
  • Suggested formats:
    • Hazard or threat characteristics: states how the hazard’s or threat’s disaster dimension affect the functional area
    • Current status: lists the current status (e.g., training, serviceability, quantity) of resources that affect the functional area
    • Assumptions: lists any assumptions that affect the functional area
    • Courses of action: lists the courses of action considered during the planning process and the criteria used to evaluate them
    • Analysis: provides the analysis of each course of action using the criteria identified in Step 4 of the planning process
    • Comparison: compares and ranks the order of each course of action considered
    • Recommendation: recommends the most supportable course of action from the functional area
  • At a minimum, planners should prepare separate capability estimates for personnel, administration and finance, operational organizations (e.g., fire, law enforcement, EMS), logistics, communications, equipment, and facilities.
  • Each capability estimate compares the courses of action being considered for a particular operation.
  • They make recommendations as to which course of action best supports the operation.
  • Capability estimates should also identify the criteria used to evaluate each area; facts and assumptions that affect those areas; and the issues, differences, and risks associated with a course of action.


The Emergency Operations Plan

As you learned in an earlier lesson, the emergency operations plan, or EOP, describes how people and property will be protected. The EOP outlines:

  • Who is responsible for carrying out specific actions.
  • Lines of authority and organizational relationships.
  • Resources available within the jurisdiction or by agreement with other jurisdictions.
  • How actions will be coordinated.


EOP Structure

Various formats can be used for the EOP. Three are described below. None of them is mandatory unless specified in State requirements. You can learn more about these formats in CPG 101. Select the links below for examples of each plan format.

Format Description
Traditional Format
  • Most commonly used EOP format.
  • Three major sections: the basic plan, supporting annexes, and threat/hazard/incident-specific annexes.
Emergency Support Function (ESF) Format
  • Used in the National Response Framework and in many State-level EOPs.
  • Begins with a basic plan, includes unique annexes that support the whole plan, addresses individual ESF annexes, and attaches separate support or incident annexes.
  • To access an example, visit a state’s emergency management website.
Agency- or Department-Focused Format
  • Often used by very small communities.
  • Addresses each department’s or agency’s tasks in a separate section.
  • Includes the basic plan, lead and support agency sections, and threat/hazard/incident-specific procedures for the individual agencies.


Common EOP Sections

Sections that are common to each of the formats just described include:

Graphic depicting three sections of an EOP, including: Basic plan: Broad information relevant to the whole plan; Supporting Annexes: Methods, procedures, and actions of critical operational functions; and Threat/hazard/incident-specific annexes: Response strategies for specific situations


Emergency Planning Step 5: Plan Preparation, Review, and Approval

Graphic representing Step 5: Plan Preparation, Review, and Approval After the plan has been developed, the team prepares the document and gets it ready for implementation. This step includes:

  • Writing and validating the plan.
  • Getting approval.
  • Disseminating the plan.



Writing the Plan

The plan development process provides the team with an outline and notes. As the planning team works through successive drafts, the members add necessary detail, including tables, charts, and other visual aids.

When drafting a plan, aim for creating a document that is easy to use.


Characteristics of an Easy-to-Use Plan

  • Simple, clear language.
  • Important information summarized with visual aids.
  • Minimal jargon and acronyms.
  • Short sentences and active voice.
  • Detail without speculation.
  • Easy-to-use format (logical layout, table of contents, tabs, key bullet points, cross-referencing, etc.).


Validation and Review

An important part of Step 5 is reviewing the plan to ensure its accuracy and adequacy. Plans cannot be implemented without proper review and buy-in from all involved personnel. The following considerations should be part of the validation and review process:

  • Adequacy
  • Feasibility
  • Acceptability
  • Completeness
  • Compliance
  • Whole community engagement


Key Validation and Review Points

AdequacyA plan is adequate if:

  • The scope and concept of operations identify and address critical tasks effectively.
  • The plan can accomplish the assigned mission while complying with guidance.
  • The plan’s assumptions are valid and reasonable.

FeasibilityA plan is feasible if:

  • The organization can accomplish the mission and critical tasks by using available (internal and external) resources within the time contemplated by the plan.
  • The plan includes capability estimates that support the courses of action.

Acceptability: A plan is acceptable if it:       

  • Meets the requirements driven by a threat/hazard or incident.
  • Meets decision maker and public cost and time limitations.
  • Is consistent with the law.

Completeness: A plan is complete if it:

  • Includes all tasks to be accomplished and all required capabilities.
  • Integrates the needs of the whole community, including children, individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs, immigrants, persons with limited English proficiency, and diverse racial and ethnic populations.
  • Indicates what should happen, when, and at whose direction.
  • Identifies success criteria and a desired end-state.

Compliance: The plan should comply with any State requirements and should be consistent with guidance and doctrine (e.g., CPG 101, CPG 201, and State and Federal requirements) to the maximum extent possible.

Whole Community Engagement: Plan development should involve the whole community, including but not limited to:

  • Nongovernmental organizations beyond those traditionally engaged.
  • Groups representing those with access and functional needs.
  • Youth and children.
  • The private sector.


Plan Approval and Dissemination

Next, the team presents the validated plan to the appropriate elected officials and obtains approval. Official promulgation is vital to gaining the widest acceptance possible for the plan.

Once approved, the plan is distributed to stakeholders. “Sunshine” laws may require that a copy of the plan be posted on the jurisdiction’s website or be placed in some other public accessible location. It is important to make the plan available in alternate formats to ensure access by the whole community.


Additional Resources

Select the links below to access examples of emergency operations plan elements:

  • Basic Plan
  • Supporting Annexes:
    • Communications
    • Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services
    • Hazardous Materials
  • Threat/Hazard/Incident-Specific Annexes
    • Earthquake Annex (City)
    • Public Health Emergency and Bioterrorism Annex (County)
    • Terrorism Incident Annex (State)
    • Multiple Specific Hazards Annex (Town)


Lesson Summary

This lesson presented information about creating a plan, including:

  • Common sections and elements of an EOP and the purpose of each, including:
    • Basic plan.
    • Supporting annexes.
    • Threat/hazard/incident-specific annexes.
    • Implementing instructions.
  • The process for creating an EOP, including development, preparation, review, and approval.

Lesson 5: Plan Implementation & Maintenance

Lesson Overview

This lesson explains how an emergency plan is implemented and maintained, which is the final step of the planning process. After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the benefits of training and exercising an EOP.
  • Indicate why a plan should be continually reviewed and updated.
  • Identify events that should trigger a review of the EOP.
  • Outline a schedule for reviewing/updating your EOP.

Emergency Planning Step 6: Implement and Maintain the Plan

Graphic representation of Step 6: Plan Implementation and Maintenance The final step in the planning process is to implement and maintain the plan. This step involves an ongoing process of:

  • Training personnel to perform tasks identified in the plan.
  • Exercising and evaluating plan effectiveness.
  • Revising and maintaining the plan.



After the plan is finalized and disseminated, training should be provided to ensure that stakeholders—including organizations, personnel, senior officials, and response partners in other jurisdictions:

  • Have the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the tasks identified in the plan.
  • Are familiar with the organization-specific procedures necessary to support those tasks.
  • Are prepared to communicate and coordinate with others involved in implementing the plan.

Training Options

Training Type Appropriate for Providing . . .
  • 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.
  • Opportunities for small numbers 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.
  • Opportunities for small numbers 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 Aids
  • Quick references that are intended to be used on the job. Common job aids include checklists, worksheets, standard operating procedures, reference guides, etc.



Another key part of implementation is exercising. Exercises are a means of learning what works and what does not work as planned. They build on training by providing opportunities to practice and test:

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


Benefits of Conducting Exercises

In addition to providing practice and test opportunities, exercises serve a variety of other purposes. For example, they allow the jurisdiction and its response partners to:

  • Clarify responders’ responsibilities.
  • Practice assigned duties.
  • Identify resource gaps.
  • Improve interagency coordination and communication.
  • Validate that what works on paper works in practice.
  • Identify planning weaknesses.
  • Gain public recognition.


Exercise Types

There are two categories of exercises: discussion-based and operations-based.

Discussion-Based Operations-Based
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Tabletop exercises
  • Games
  • Drills
  • Functional exercises
  • Full-Scale exercises


Types of Exercises

Discussion-Based Exercises

Discussion-based exercises include seminars, workshops, tabletop exercises, and games. These types of exercises can be used to familiarize participants with, or develop new, plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. Discussion-based exercises focus on strategic, policy-oriented issues. Facilitators and/or presenters usually lead the discussion, keeping participants on track toward meeting exercise objectives.

Type Description
Seminars Seminars generally orient participants to, or provide an overview of, authorities, strategies, plans, policies, procedures, protocols, resources, concepts, and ideas. They can be valuable for entities that are developing or making major changes to existing plans or procedures. Seminars can be similarly helpful when attempting to assess or gain awareness of the capabilities of interagency or interjurisdictional operations.
Workshops Although similar to seminars, workshops differ in two important aspects: participant interaction is increased, and the focus is placed on achieving or building a product. Effective workshops entail the broadest attendance by relevant stakeholders. Products produced from a workshop can include new standard operating procedures, emergency operations plans, continuity of operations plans, or mutual aid agreements. To be effective, workshops should have clearly defined objectives, products, or goals, and should focus on a specific issue.
Tabletop Exercises A tabletop exercise is intended to generate discussion of various issues regarding a hypothetical, simulated emergency. Tabletops can be used to enhance general awareness, validate plans and procedures, rehearse concepts, and/or assess the types of systems needed to guide the prevention of, protection from, mitigation of, response to, and recovery from a defined incident. Generally, tabletops are aimed at facilitating conceptual understanding, identifying strengths and areas for improvement, and/or achieving changes in perceptions. During a tabletop, players are encouraged to discuss issues in depth, collaboratively examining areas of concern and solving problems. The effectiveness of a tabletop exercise is derived from the energetic involvement of participants and their assessment of recommended revisions to current policies, procedures, and plans.
Games 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 hypothetical situation. Games explore the consequences of player decisions and actions. They are useful tools for validating plans and procedures or evaluating resource requirements. During game play, decisionmaking may be either slow and deliberate or rapid and more stressful, depending on the exercise design and objectives. The open, decision-based format of a game can incorporate “what if” questions that expand exercise benefits. Depending on the game’s design, the consequences of player actions can be either pre-scripted or decided dynamically. Identifying critical decisionmaking points is a major factor in the success of evaluating a game.


Operations-Based Exercises

Operations-based exercises include drills, functional exercises, and full-scale exercises. These exercises can be used to validate plans, policies, agreements, and procedures; clarify roles and responsibilities; and identify resource gaps. Operations-based exercises are characterized by actual reaction to an exercise scenario, such as initiating communications or mobilizing personnel and resources.

Type Description
Drills A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to validate a specific function or capability in a single agency or organization. Drills are commonly used to provide training on new equipment, validate procedures, or practice and maintain current skills. For example, drills may be appropriate for practicing evacuation procedures. Drills can also be used to determine if plans can be executed as designed, to assess whether more training is required, or to reinforce best practices. A drill is useful as a stand-alone tool, but a series of drills can be used to prepare several organizations to collaborate in a full-scale exercise.
Functional Exercises Functional exercises are designed to validate and evaluate capabilities, multiple functions and/or sub-functions, or interdependent groups of functions. Functional exercises are typically focused on exercising plans, policies, procedures, and staff members involved in management, direction, command, and control functions. In functional exercises, events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity typically at the management level. A functional exercise is conducted in a realistic, real-time environment; however, movement of personnel and equipment is usually simulated.
Full-Scale Exercises Full-scale exercises are typically the most complex and resource-intensive type of exercise. They involve multiple agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions and validate many facets of preparedness. Full-scale exercises often include many players operating under cooperative systems such as the Incident Command System (ICS) or Unified Command. In full-scale exercises, events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity at the operational level. Full-scale exercises are usually conducted in a real-time, stressful environment that is intended to mirror a real incident. Personnel and resources may be mobilized and deployed to the scene, where actions are performed as if a real incident had occurred. The full-scale exercise simulates reality by presenting complex and realistic problems that require critical thinking, rapid problem solving, and effective responses by trained personnel. The level of support needed to conduct a full-scale exercise is greater than that needed for other types of exercises. The exercise site is usually large, and site logistics require close monitoring. Safety issues, particularly regarding the use of props and special effects, must be monitored. Throughout the duration of the exercise, many activities occur simultaneously.


Case Example: The Benefits of Exercising Plans

When two improvised explosive devices detonated near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the scale of the incident required local, State, and Federal partners to carry out a coordinated multi-agency response.

Because these partners had worked together closely to develop, update, and exercise their emergency response plans, they were prepared to respond effectively and save lives in this extraordinary response effort.


The Benefits of Exercising Plans

The Incident

On April 15, 2013, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, approximately 3 hours after the winners completed the course. The explosions occurred 13 seconds and 200 yards apart.

At the time of the explosions, approximately 17,000 runners had completed the race while almost 9,000 were still advancing toward the finish line. The explosions occurred near the finish line where large numbers of spectators were gathered, resulting in 3 deaths and 264 people injured. The scale of the incident required local, State, and Federal partners to carry out a coordinated multi-agency response.

Prior Planning

Local, State, and Federal agencies, private-sector partners, and nongovernmental organizations in Boston had developed plans to define roles and responsibilities during the Boston Marathon. As part of this planning effort, these agencies had:

  • Developed enhanced plans to strengthen response capabilities following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Routinely updated plans and procedures to reflect changed circumstances.
  • Developed a Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan, with annual updates.
  • Developed an IED Annex to regional response plans, based on multiple simultaneous-IED attacks scenarios.
  • Conducted exercises to test their plans during large-scale events.

The Role of Exercises

Public safety agencies and private-sector participants in Massachusetts regularly conduct exercises to facilitate communication, situational awareness, and functional area coordination. The following exercises contributed to Boston’s level of preparedness on the day of the Marathon:

  • Regional Hospitals Exercise: In 2011, regional hospitals in the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region exercised and evaluated mass casualty incident response plans to test whether the hospitals could coordinate to provide care for a large number of victims.
  • Counterterrorism Workshop: In March 2011, the greater Boston area and the State conducted a Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series to plan, train, and exercise for IED-related threats and hazards. The workshop resulted in private-sector participants and Federal partners developing relationships that enhanced information exchange.
  • Full-Scale Exercise: In November 2012, Urban-Shield Boston—a 24-hour full-scale exercise involving over 600 emergency responders from 50 agencies—was conducted. Subsequent improvements to communications interoperability made a significant difference in their ability to respond to the Marathon incident.
  • Tabletop Exercise: Prior to the Marathon, the annual Pre-Boston Marathon Tabletop Exercise was conducted using multiple scenarios—one of them an IED incident during the Marathon. The exercise tested plans and procedures for a mass casualty incident.


According to national, State, and local officials, these and other related preparations made possible a high level of coordination during the response to the bombing incident, creating a unity of focus and unity of purpose at the command level and through the ranks. According to the FEMA Deputy Administrator, “The fact that the response was so well executed wasn’t an accident—it was a result of years of planning and coordination.”

Source: FEMA Lesson Learned: Boston Marathon Bombings: The Positive Effect of Planning and Preparation on Response


Evaluation and Improvement Planning

Evaluating the effectiveness of the plan 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.

A remedial action process can help correct any identified problems. Remedial actions may involve:

  • Revising planning assumptions and operational concepts.
  • Changing organizational tasks.
  • Modifying organizational implementing instructions (e.g., the SOPs).
  • Providing refresher training for personnel.


Guidance for Training and Exercising

You can learn more about training, exercising, evaluation, and improvement planning from the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). HSEEP provides:

  • Guiding principles and a common approach for exercise programs.
  • Training, technology systems, tools, and technical assistance to support exercise program development and management.

Select the following link to access the HSEEP website.

Circular graphic with two rings surrounding the words Exercise Cycle. The inner ring is composed of four arrows labeled Design and Development, Conduct, Evaluation, and Improvement Planning. The outer ring is labeled Program Management.


Plan Maintenance

This step closes the loop in the planning process. It focuses on adding the information gained through plan implementation to the research done in Step 2 and starting the planning cycle over again.

Plans should be reviewed on a regular review cycle (at least every 1 or 2 years). They should also be reviewed after key events, such as:

  • Each plan activation.
  • Major incident or exercise.
  • Changes in operational resources, elected or appointed officials, demographics, or threat/hazard profile.
  • New or amended laws, ordinances, or codes.
  • Formal update of planning guidance or standards.


A Living Plan

Remember, planning is a continuous process that does not stop when the plan is published.

Your jurisdiction’s priorities may change over time as the makeup of the included communities changes, as resources expand or contract, and as capabilities evolve.

Plans should evolve as lessons are learned, new information and insights are obtained, and priorities are updated.


Graphic depicting the Preparedness cycle, which includes the following actions: (1) Plan, (2) Organize/Equip, (3) Train, (4) Exercise, and (5) Evaluate/Improve


Additional Resources

Below are links to resources where you can learn more about planning and exercising:

  • Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) provides a set of guiding principles for exercise programs, as well as a common approach to planning and conducting individual exercises.
  • FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers a wide variety of courses that will help you learn more about planning and exercising, including:
    • E/L 103: Planning: Emergency Operations
    • E/L 104: Exercise Design
    • IS-11: Animals in Disasters: Community Planning
    • IS-15: Special Events Contingency Planning for Public Safety Agencies
    • IS-36: Multihazard Planning for Childcare
    • IS-56: Hazardous Materials Contingency Planning
    • IS-120: An Introduction to Exercises
    • IS-130: Exercise Evaluation and Improvement Planning
    • IS-139: Exercise Design
    • IS-318: Mitigation Planning for Local and Tribal Communities
    • IS-362: Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools
    • IS-453: Introduction to Homeland Security Planning
    • IS-520: Introduction to Continuity of Operations Planning for Pandemic Influenzas
    • IS-554: Emergency Planning for Public Works


Lesson Summary

This lesson explained how an emergency plan is implemented and maintained through:

  • Training and exercising.
  • Evaluation and improvement planning.
  • Plan review and updating.