FOUR PHASES OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT:  United States. Current.  Comprehensive Emergency Management is often described in terms of four phases, loosely and incorrectly term as four phases of disasters, more correctly as four phases of emergency management.  This phase based model was developed as one of the three core components of Comprehensive Emergency Management, based on an understanding that disasters are events that continue over a period of time and that can be described in terms of a life cycle.  In this context it made sense to describe the management of an emergency management program in phases tied to the disaster lifecycle, especially as the basis for programmatic allocations of resources and funding.


The four phases should be viewed not as linear, but rather circular with the last and first steps being interrelated.  As commonly described they are:


(1)  Mitigation – the application of measures that will either prevent the onset of a disaster or reduce the impacts should one occur.  In the United States classic mitigation measures include zoning and land use controls to prevent occupation of high hazard areas (the most common example is floodplain management), barrier construction to deflect disaster forces (such as levees for flooding or snow sheds on railroads or highways), active preventive measures to control developing situations (one of the best examples is the variety of techniques used to release snow accumulations to prevent avalanches), building codes to improve disaster resistance of structures, tax incentives or disincentives, controls on rebuilding after events, and insurance to reduce the financial impact of disasters.  Mitigation measures may be general or hazard specific, usually based on local vulnerabilities.


(2)  Preparedness – preparedness activities prepare the community to respond when a disaster does occur.  Typical preparedness measures include recruiting personnel for the emergency services and for community volunteer groups, emergency planning, development of mutual aid agreements and memorandums of understanding, training for both response personnel and concerned citizens, threat based public education, budgeting for and acquiring vehicles and equipment, maintaining emergency supplies, construction of an emergency operations center, development of communications systems, and conducting disaster exercises to train personnel and test capabilities. 


(3)  Response – the employment of resources and emergency procedures as guided by plans to preserve life, property, the environment, and the social, economic, and political structure of the community, during the onset, impact, and immediate restoration of critical services in the aftermath of a disaster.  Response actions are typically keyed to the specific threat and may include such activities as activating the emergency operations plan, activating the emergency operations center, evacuation of threatened populations, opening of shelters and provision of mass care, emergency rescue and medical care, fire fighting, urban search and rescue, emergency infrastructure protection and recovery of lifeline services (ranging from sandbagging levees to restoring electric power), and fatality management.


(4)  Recovery – actions taken in the long term after the immediate impact of the disaster has passed to stabilize a community and to restore some semblance of normalcy.  Although common perception in the United States is that the federal government will step in and restore everything to the way it was before the disaster, the reality is that even federal assistance is at best a measure to allow residents and the jurisdiction to establish basic functionality as the basis for life after the disaster.  In developing nations it is not uncommon for recovery to include a component of redevelopment, or even development, activity.  However, in the developed world, the cost of restoring the status pre-disaster as more and more events have multi-billion dollar price tags exceeds even a rich nation’s capability.  Typical recovery actions include disaster debris cleanup, financial assistance to individuals and governments, rebuilding of roads and bridges and key facilities, sustained mass care for displaced human and animal populations, reburial of displaced human remains, full restoration of lifeline services, and mental health and pastoral care.


Each phase should involve actions at the federal, state, and local level guided by an all hazards approach.


Sources: United States, Federal Emergency Management Agency, The Emergency Program Manager, IS-1, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1993.


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