Emergency management is a framework for unifying and integrating community resources at all levels of government in order to reduce vulnerability to hazards and to cope with disasters.
There are four phases of emergency management:
Mitigation focuses on long-term measures for lessening or eliminating risk by preventing and eliminating hazards when possible, preventing hazards from developing into disasters, and reducing the ill effects of disasters when they do happen.
Preparedness is a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training to the plan, equipping for the plan, and exercising the plan, followed by evaluation and revision of the plan to reflect lessons learned.
Response is the actual reaction to emergencies and disasters after the benefits of mitigation and preparedness have result in increased safety for responders and more rapid control of events. It involves mobilizing emergency services and first responders such as firefighters, police, and ambulance crews. These first responders may be supported by secondary emergency services such as specialist rescue teams.
Recovery involves restoring the affected area at least to its status before the event occurred. Recovery blends into mitigation by helping to ensure that future disasters are either avoided entirely or that their potential effects are lessened. Recovery efforts are made after the response phase has addressed immediate needs. Recovery may include rebuilding destroyed property, reemployment, and repair of damaged or destroyed infrastructure.
A working group of emergency management practitioners and academics meeting in March 2007 agreed on the following for developing a doctrine of emergency management:
Emergency management must be:
Comprehensive – emergency managers consider and take into account all hazards, all phases, all stakeholders and all impacts relevant to disasters.
Progressive – emergency managers anticipate future disasters and take preventive and preparatory measures to build disaster-resistant and disaster-resilient communities.
Risk-driven – emergency managers use sound risk management principles (hazard identification, risk analysis, and impact analysis) in assigning priorities and resources.
Integrated – emergency managers ensure unity of effort among all levels of government and all elements of a community.
Collaborative – emergency managers create and sustain broad and sincere relationships among individuals and organizations to encourage trust, advocate a team atmosphere, build consensus, and facilitate communication.
Coordinated – emergency managers synchronize the activities of all relevant stakeholders to achieve a common purpose.
Flexible – emergency managers use creative and innovative approaches in solving disaster challenges.
Professional – emergency managers value a science and knowledge-based approach based on education, training, experience, ethical practice, public stewardship and continuous improvement.
Bothand local units of government have specific emergency planning requirements. These requirements vary from state to state and from community to community.