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Emergency Management Program

This page of the College Safety and Security Toolkit concerns Emergency Management Programs.

Before starting this section, it might be helpful to differentiate the terms "emergency management program" and "emergency operations plan."  They are related, but they are not identical.

The term "emergency management program" refers to sum of emergency management activities — the policies, procedures and systems — related to campus safety and security. 

An emergency operations plan is one component of the overall program. It details how a college will respond to, and initially recover from, an event. 

Four Pillars of Emergency Management

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The prevention phase decreases the likelihood that an event or crisis will occur. Mitigation eliminates or reduces the impact. 

Example activities: vulnerability/needs assessmentscrime deterrence through environmental design, health and wellness programs that protect students' wellbeing, Behavioral Intervention Teams, social media monitoring.

Tip from Safety and Security Emergency Management Council

Colleges should make sure their Safety and Security Management Director is at the table from start to finish when capital projects (buildings, parking, open spaces) are planned. 

The preparedness phase prepares your college for potential emergencies. It includes strategies, processes and protocols. 

Example activities: Emergency Operations Plans, Continuity of Operations Plans, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), pre-negotiated contracts to provide the campus with resources (food, transportation, medial services, volunteers) needed during an emergency.

This response phase involves taking action to contain and resolve an emergency.

Example activities: Activate plans and emergency notification procedures, stand up an emergency operations center that follows the Incident Command System, document decisions, events and lessons learned. 

The recovery phase returns the college and its community to functioning after an emergency. 

Example activities: Activate Continuity of Operations Plan, create a Damage Assessment Team, recoup funds in the event of a declared emergency, provide short- and long-term mental health services and referral services.

Key Components of a Successful Emergency Management Program

Your president and other high-level cabinet positions play a vital role in providing financial and political support for your emergency management program, and encouraging the entire campus community to participate.

Leadership commitment can take a variety of forms:

  • Providing resources.
  • Serving on emergency management executive committees.
  • Participating in training and exercises.
  • Communicating the importance of emergency management to all levels of the college.

Tips the Safety and Security Emergency Management Council

  • The Security and Emergency Management Manager at your college should have direct interaction with the college president. Meet with your president and vice presidents regularly to build rapport.
  • Have a candid discussion with your president and cabinet members about:
    What your campus safety office does and does not do in an emergency.
    Policies and procedures for alerting the campus of emergencies (who has the authority?)
    What to do after first-responders leave campus.
    Ask your president and cabinet members to participate in training and drills.

Emergencies run roughshod over department and functional lines. That's why all departments have a shared responsibility for developing, testing and implementing the emergency management program and communicating its importance.

Tips from the Safety and Security Emergency Management Council

  • Create a cross-department emergency preparedness team that meets once a month. This breaks down silos and builds rapport.
  • Recognize that instilling awareness on campus among students, faculty and staff is an ongoing cycle.
  • The repetitive steps you take before an incident occurs — drills, exercises, redundant messaging to students, faculty and staff — create "muscle memory" in an institution. People are more likely to know what to do.

Emergency Management Programs should provide for the access and functional needs of the whole college community. This includes students, staff and visitors with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, those from religiously, racially and ethically diverse backgrounds, and people with limited English proficiency.


Make Emergency Management Programs accessible to people with disabilities

Address the needs of racially and ethnically diverse communities.

Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery

ISpeak cards from the Washington State Coalition for Language Access help people with limited English proficiency to identify the language(s) they speak and, therefore, the appropriate interpreter (in-house or through a telephone service) an entity should try to secure.  

Tip from the Safety and Security Emergency Management Council

Remember: the surrounding community also wants to hear what you're doing. Consider hosting open panel forums where representatives from departments and the community can pose questions.

Emergency Management Programs must be collaborative and integrated -- not only on-campus, but with community partners as well. This includes public, nonprofit and private sectors. Developing and implementing an emergency management program requires partnerships with community groups such as:

  • Law enforcement
  • Fire safety
  • Homeland security
  • Medical services
  • Health and mental health organizations
  • Volunteer groups
  • Civic and cultural organization
  • Nonprofit aid organizations
  • Media

Partners also play specific roles in emergencies.

  • FEMA has identified  how the federal government will help in emergencies. Although aimed and federal actions, FEMA's list of emergency support functions (organized in what are known as "annexes" to emergency operations plans) provide a sense for the array of services you might need in an emergency.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has created a chart that shows examples of various local, state and federal partners and their responsibilities in an emergency.

Tip from the Safety Security Emergency Management Council

Establish personal relationships with local emergency responders and community organizations; this may be more helpful than any written plans or agreements.

Before you can plan for emergencies, you need to identify the risks and hazards your college is most likely to face and then prioritize them. This allows your team to decide which threats or hazards to address in the emergency management program and your emergency operations plan.

Every campus must employ an emergency manager or director of emergency preparedness and empower that person to coordinate all aspects of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. He or she should work collaboratively with college and external partners to make sure all planning tasks are performed with a collaborative and integrated approach.

Emergency Management Programs should:

  • Identify critical functions that must be maintained during and after an emergency. (Those functions will vary depending on the nature of the emergency.)
  • Identify the essential employees needed to carry out those functions. 
  • Provide essential employees the appropriate level of training.


  • University of Central Florida defines critical and essential personnel and requires training for each level.
  • Columbia University provides a general definition of essential personnel in administrative policy, but requires each department to determine critical functions and the personnel required to carry them out.
  • Emergency Management Magazine examines the question: Who is considered essential and who decides who is essential on college campuses?

Essential Personnel are generally defined as the faculty and staff who are required to report to their designated work location, to ensure the operation of essential functions or departments during an emergency or when the University has suspended operations. — Columbia University


It's important to provide the right level of standardized training for people involved in emergency management. 

The Department of Education REMS Technical Assistance Center (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools) created a chart showing recommended training for categories of personnel involved in emergencies.

Below is a progression of those courses — from basic to advanced to comprehensive.

Basic/foundational training

IS-0230.d: Understanding the Fundamentals of Emergency Management

ICS 100HE: Introduction to the Incident Command System for Higher Education

ICS 200c Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response

IS-700.A: National Incident Management System (NIMS) An Introduction

Additional/advanced training

For Incident Management Team

IS-800.B: National Response Framework, an Introduction

ICS300: Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents (classroom only)

ICS400: Advanced ICS for Command and General Staff (classroom only)

For Emergency Operation Center training

G775: Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Management and Operations (classroom only)

G191: Incident Command System/Emergency Operations Center Interface (classroom only)

Comprehensive training

Critical Infrastructure Protection

What are NIMS and ICS?

The National Incident Management System (NIMS)  and the Incident Command System (a subset of NIMS) are playbooks for managing incidents at all jurisdictional levels: local, tribal, state and federal; and across functional disciplines (fire, health, law enforcement and transportation). They are intended make sure you and emergency responders from other organizations are on the same page when responding to all types of emergencies. 

The Incident Command System is used when responding to an emergency in the field and in emergency operation centers. It sets up standard organization and protocols so responders from outside a local jurisdiction or state to volunteer or be sent to another incident scene can still understand the terminology and operations being used.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration offers plain-language explanations.

Tip from the Safety Security Emergency Management Council

Sign up for FEMA Emergency Management Institute e-Forums

The Structural Engineers Association of Washington offers training on how to evaluate buildings after earthquakes, windstorms and floods.

Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plans

A jurisdiction's emergency operations plan (EOP) is a document that:

  1. Assigns responsibility to organizations and individuals for carrying out specific actions at projected times and places in an emergency that exceeds the capability or routine responsibility of any one agency, e.g., the fire department.
  2. Sets forth lines of authority and organizational relationships, and shows how all actions will be coordinated.
  3. Describes how people and property will be protected in emergencies and disasters.
    Identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources available — within the jurisdiction or by agreement with other jurisdictions —for use during response and recovery operations.
  4. Identifies steps to address mitigation concerns during response and recovery activities.
  5. As a public document, an EOP also cites its legal basis, states its objectives, and acknowledges assumptions.

Emergency Operations Plans consist of:

  • A basic plan that applies to all types of hazards.
  • "Annexes" that add more detail for specific types of functions (communications and notification, for example) and specific types of hazards (natural disasters, human-caused emergencies etc.)

Functional annexes

Functional annexes should emphasize responsibilities, tasks, and operational actions that pertain to the function being covered.  For example: Evacuation Annex; Deny Entry or Closing (Lockdown) Annex; Shelter-in-Place/Secure-in-Place Annex; Accounting for All Persons Annex; Communications and Notification Annex; Continuity of Operations (COOP) Annex; Recovery Annex; Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health Annex; Security Annex, Rapid Assessment Annex.

Hazard-specific annexes — based on threat assessment

Threat and hazard-specific annexes describe the courses of action unique to particular threats and hazards. Courses of action already outlined in a functional annex need not be repeated in a threat- or hazard-specific annex.  These annexes are developed based on your Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) as described in the Department of Homeland Security's "Comprehensive Preparedness Guide". 


According to the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) there are seven types of exercises, each of which is either discussion-based or operations-based. (i.e., first responders or emergency officials responding to an incident in real time).

Discussion-based exercises familiarize participants with current plans, policies, agreements and procedures, or may be used to develop new plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. Types of discussion-based exercises include:

  • Seminar: A seminar is an informal discussion, designed to orient participants to new or updated plans, policies, or procedures (e.g., a seminar to review a new Evacuation Standard Operating Procedure).
  • Workshop: A workshop resembles a seminar, but is employed to build specific products, such as a draft plan or policy (e.g., a Training and Exercise Plan Workshop is used to develop a Multi-year Training and Exercise Plan).
  • Tabletop Exercise (TTX): A tabletop exercise involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting. TTXs can be used to assess plans, policies, and procedures.
  • Games: A game is a simulation of operations that often involves two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedure designed to depict an actual or assumed real-life situation.

Operations-based Exercises validate plans, policies, agreements and procedures, clarify roles and responsibilities, and identify resource gaps in an operational environment. Types of operations-based Exercises include:

  • Drill: A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single, specific operation or function within a single entity (e.g., a fire department conducts a decontamination drill).
  • Functional Exercise (FE): A functional exercise examines and/or validates the coordination, command, and control between various multi-agency coordination centers (e.g., emergency operation center, joint field office, etc.). A functional exercise does not involve any “boots on the ground” (i.e., first responders or emergency officials responding to an incident in real time).
  • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE): A full-scale exercise is a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional, multi-discipline exercise involving functional (e.g., joint field office, emergency operation centers, etc.) and “boots on the ground” response (e.g., firefighters decontaminating mock victims).

How to get started

Tips from Safety and Security Emergency Management Council

Firefighters, police, ambulances, emergency operations centers, incident commanders -- all can use a variety of communications devices that might not "talk" to each other.  In trainings, make sure to practice communicating with state and local emergency management services on various devices. The Department of Homeland Security has launched a program called SAFECOM to help solve the issue. 

Also, include emergency-management expectations into collective bargaining agreements so faculty know of, agree to, understand, and participate in procedures, exercises and drills. Sample language from Edmonds College:

"Faculty has a responsibility to know and understand College safety procedures in each classroom where they teach and each office where they work. They also have a responsibility to enact those procedures in a drill or real event to the best of their ability without endangering their own lives. 

Faculty will participate in drills and exercises during regular teaching hours. 

Faculty will ensure that accurate and up to date contact information is provided to the College for emergency alert purposes. Faculty are encouraged to opt into the Triton Alert communication system. 

Pursuant to current rules and regulations applicable to the College, the administration will make available the requisite training and support regarding emergency preparedness. Inquiries into current rules and regulations may be directed to the office of Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness."


Every institution [should] think of emergency preparedness exercises not as tests, but rather as training for faculty and staff who, after all, receive training in other aspects of their jobs. Tabletop or field exercises will increase their comfort level — and help build interjurisdictional relationships — when the next crisis occurs. — National Association of College and University Business Officers Magazine


Write the plan, test the plan, evaluate the plan, edit the plan...and repeat. An emergency operations plan is a living document that must be continually evaluated.

 Recovery Functions

Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans help maintain essential functions during a wide range of emergencies, including localized weather – related events (tornadoes, floods, blizzards, etc), long – term power outages, law enforcement activities, acts of terrorism, etc. In most cases, college divisions are expected to develop their own continuity of operations plans, which are then rolled into a larger plan. 


Continuity of Operations Awareness Course. This course introduces students to the concept of continuity planning.

Introduction to Continuity of Operations. This interactive web-based course describes the Continuity of Management Cycle and how it should be used to develop sound continuity of operations plans.

Recovery planning is the primary responsibility of the policy cabinet. It involves:

  • Thoughtful repurposing of assets to ensure effective return to normal operations
  • Effective partnerships to continue operations even when campus unavailable:
    Other Colleges
    High Schools
    Shopping malls
    Comparable facilities
    Events centers
    Sport facilities

Crime Websites

Campus Safety and Security Data by College from the US Department of Education

SpotCrime crime aggregator  from police departments, news reports and user-generated content.

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Last Modified: 1/30/24, 2:59 PM

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