Emergency Response Guidelines

Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 Transforms Field of Emergency Management

October 5, 2018

President Donald J. Trump signed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA) into law as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018.   With the economic disruption and the cost of disasters on the rise nationwide, FEMA worked closely with Congress over the past year as they considered, and ultimately passed, important reforms to federal disaster programs.

These reforms acknowledge the shared responsibility of disaster response and recovery, aim to reduce the complexity of FEMA and build the nation’s capacity for the next catastrophic event.  Highlights from the DRRA include:

  • Greater investment in mitigation, before a disaster: Authorizing the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, funded through the Disaster Relief Fund as a six percent set aside from disaster expenses.
  • Reducing risk from future disasters after fire: Providing hazard mitigation grant funding in areas that received Fire Management Assistance Grants as a result of wildfire.  Adding 14 new mitigation project types associated with wildfires and windstorms.
  • Increasing state capacity to manage disaster recovery: Allowing for higher rates of reimbursement to state, local, tribal and territorial partners for their administrative costs when implementing public assistance and hazard mitigation projects.  Additionally, the legislation provides flexibility for states and tribes to administer their own post-disaster housing missions, while encouraging the development of disaster housing strategies.
  • Providing greater flexibility to survivors with disabilities: Increasing the amount of assistance available to individuals and households affected by disasters, including allowing accessibility repairs for people with disabilities, without counting those repairs against their maximum disaster assistance grant award.
  • Retaining skilled response and recovery personnel: Authorizing FEMA to appoint certain types of temporary employees who have been with the agency for three continuous years to full time positions in the same manner as federal employees with competitive status.  This allows the agency to retain and promote talented, experienced emergency managers.

FEMA Releases Emergency Management Guide for Local Elected and Appointed Officials

September 2022

FEMA released the “Local Elected and Appointed Officials Guide: Roles and Resources in Emergency Management.” FEMA is releasing the “Local Elected and Appointed Officials Guide: Roles and Resources in Emergency Management”. This guide makes it easier for senior officials to understand, prepare for and execute their leadership responsibilities to help mitigate community risks; save lives; protect property; and recover from disasters.

The guide provides an executive-level introduction to emergency management concepts and principles for local senior officials.  Additionally, it identifies local senior officials’ roles and responsibilities for incident emergency management before, during and after disasters, as well as ways to access available resources.

Link to FEMA’s series of 60-minute webinars to provide an overview of the guide, quick reference guide and checklists.  The sessions will include facilitated discussions with stakeholders and provide updates since the National Engagement Period.  Advance registration is required and on a first-come, first-served basis.

To download the quick reference guide and checklists, or to learn more about the webinar sessions, visit FEMA.gov.

FEMA Releases Emergency Operations Center Management Guide

October 2022

FEMA published the updated Emergency Operations Center (EOC) How-to Quick Reference Guide. The guide cover topics such as hazard vulnerability assessments, physical site selection, mitigation, considerations, EOC capabilities and requirements, information management systems and training and exercises.

The guide is a collection of guidance and best practices, which will contribute to development of an EOC that can successfully meet the jurisdiction’s needs.  The updates include considerations for virtual and hybrid working environments.

The guide is part of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Emergency Operations Center Toolkit. NIMS is a key component of incident management efforts and enables organizations from across the country to work together during incidents of all kinds and sizes.  Implementing NIMS across the nation is a fundamental part of building our national preparedness FEMA Releases New Resource to Align Community Plans and Build Resilience.

Revised National Response Framework Released

On October 30, 2019, FEMA released the National Response Framework (NRF), Fourth Edition, including the Emergency Support Function #14 – Cross-Sector Business and Infrastructure Annex.  The documents support the Agency’s Strategic Plan, and incorporate lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane and wildfire season.

The new ESF #14 supports the coordination of cross-sector operations, including stabilization of key supply chains and Community Lifelines among infrastructure owners and operators, businesses, and government partners. A Community Lifelines Toolkit 2.0 was released on November 18 to support the NRF rollout.

The updated framework remains scalable, flexible, and adaptable, using the core capabilities identified in the National Preparedness Goal, which defines what it means for the whole community to be prepared for all types of disasters and emergencies.

For a more in-depth look at the NRF Fourth Edition, listen to the new episode of the FEMA Podcast, Agency Update: The 4th Edition Of The National Response Framework Public Release.

To download the documents, go to the National Preparedness Resource Library.

FEMA Releases Updated Community Lifelines Toolkit

FEMA announced the release of the “Community Lifelines Implementation Toolkit 2.0” and the “Incident Stabilization Guide,” which provide updated information and resources to better understand and implement Community Lifelines throughout the emergency management community.

The initial toolkit was released earlier this year as the first formal guidance on lifelines.  Since then, FEMA conducted significant engagement with state, local, tribal and territorial emergency managers, interagency partners, and private and non-profit stakeholders to provide training, achieve buy-in, and gain critical feedback to help improve the construct.  The simplicity and plain language used for lifelines eases coordination and communication among partners at multiple levels.

Updated to support last month’s release of the revised “National Response Framework, Fourth Edition,” the toolkit incorporates lessons learned from recent disasters and stakeholder feedback.

FEMA is also releasing an operational draft of the “Incident Stabilization Guide.” The guide provides further explanation of how FEMA will use the lifelines during planning and response operations and introduces its potential applicability across the preparedness cycle and other mission areas. Learn more about lifelines and access the toolkit and other resources https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/national-preparedness/frameworks/response

USDA Rural Development Disaster Resiliency and Recovery Resources A Guide for Rural Communities

August 2021

USDA Rural Development (RD) developed this guide as a resource for rural communities seeking disaster resiliency and recovery assistance.

USDA RD offers programs and servicing options that can help rural residents, businesses, and communities impacted by disaster, and support long-term planning and recovery efforts that build for the future.

According to the recent National Climate Assessment (NCA), more frequent and extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities.  Strategic emergency preparedness and response is critical to averting damage to the economy, environment, and human health.

Link to Disaster Resiliency and Recovery Resources A Guide for Rural Communities.

USGS Fact Sheet  – USGS Emergency Response Resources

A USGS Emergency Response Resources Fact Sheet is available.   This is a quick reference guide to USGS response resources including:

  • real-time information for flooding, earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes
  • flood and hurricane databases
  • geospatial data and services supporting emergency response
  • USGS offices supporting emergency response

Link to the fact sheet USGS Emergency Response Resources.




FEMA Releases Shelter-in-Place Guidance

May 25, 2021

FEMA released fema_shelter-in-place_guidance_5-25-2021 for 10 hazards and three building types.  

The pictograms provide clear, visual guidance to the public on shelter-in-place actions, classified by hazard and building type, to ensure the public takes effective protective actions when instructed to shelter-in-place during emergencies.

The guidance provides recommended interior locations for specific hazards, additional actions for protection and the recommended duration for staying sheltered-in-place.

The ten hazards are:

  • Active shooter.
  • Chemical hazard.
  • Earthquake.
  • Flooding/flash flooding.
  • Hurricane.
  • Nuclear/radiological hazards.
  • Pandemic.
  • Thunderstorm.
  • Tornado and winter storm.

The three types of buildings are:

  • Manufactured or mobile home.
  • One- or two-story buildings.
  • Multistory buildings.

The shelter-in-place pictograms can be used by community partners in multiple communication channels, such as posters, websites, just-in-time social media posts and emergency managers for Integrated Public Alert & Warning System messages


FEMA Issues Planning Considerations: Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place Guidance 

July 2019

FEMA has released Planning Considerations: Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place: Guidance for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Partners.  The document draws upon the collective experience of those partners to provide relevant concepts, principals, and guidance as a resource for emergency managers and planners.

Evacuation and shelter-in-place protective actions are prompted by a variety of threats and hazards.  Incident-specific circumstances drive the relevant protective actions based on a community’s demographics, infrastructure, resources, authorities, and decision-making process.  Determining that an evacuation needs to take place is not an all-or-nothing approach.  Lessons learned from recent disasters, to include hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, have highlighted the value of enacting a zone-phased approach to evacuation and shelter-in-place, enabling jurisdictions to move as few people as necessary.  Sheltering-in-place populations that are not directly in harm’s way, rather than having them evacuate, can help jurisdictions reduce costs and resource requirements, and limit the negative impacts of evacuations, while promoting improved response and quicker re-entry and recovery.

To view the document and for additional webinar information, please visit https://www.fema.gov/plan.



Comprehensive Preparedness Guide Released

May 2018

On May 31, FEMA released the updated Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 201 to reflect the changes in methodology for the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) and the Stakeholder Preparedness Review (SPR), formerly the State Preparedness Report. The update includes both the THIRA and SPR because they are interconnected processes that, together, communities use to evaluate their preparedness.  The updated methodology goes into effect this year.

The THIRA now includes standardized language to describe threat/hazard impacts and capability targets, and gives communities a structure to collect more specific, quantitative preparedness information while also providing important context.  Through the updated SPR process, communities collect more detailed and actionable data on their current capabilities and identified gaps.  They indicate their intended approaches for addressing those gaps and assess the impact of funding sources on building and sustaining capabilities,

FEMA is taking a phased approach to implementation of the updated methodology, beginning in 2018.  In 2018, respondents will only need to address the response, recovery, and cross-cutting core capabilities in their THIRA/SPR.  In 2019, respondents will be required to address all five mission areas.  Beginning in 2019, jurisdictions will only need to submit a THIRA to FEMA once every three years.

All types of communities can complete the THIRA/SPR as a way to better understand the risks they face and make important decisions on how to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risks.  While all communities can complete a THIRA/SPR if they choose, the THIRA/SPR is required among some communities.  In addition to states and territories, Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP) recipients will now also be required to complete the SPR. 

The THIRA remains a requirement for states, territories, and UASI and THSGP recipients; however, THSGP recipients will only be required to complete the THIRA and SPR for some of the core capabilities.