Emergency Planner’s Role in Disaster Preparedness


Some emergencies are hard to prevent. Therefore, the only way of dealing with them entails putting in place strategies for responding to their effects to minimize the suffering of the affected people. Although disaster managers have the responsibility of ensuring that emergencies do not translate into immense suffering, other emergency management efforts such as evacuation do not constitute part of their work (Bristow & Brumbelow, 2013). However, this position attracts mixed reactions concerning who should be blamed for any unsuccessful disaster response. Should one blame the enforcement agencies coupled with various volunteer organizations or the emergency managers taking part in the emergency management and planning process? In response to this query, this paper discusses the key role of emergency planners. It explains how the emergency planner takes part in each stage of the preparedness cycle. In the last section, it clearly differentiates between strategic, operational, and tactical planning and the role of the emergency planner in the development of these plans.

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The Key Role of the Emergency Planner

The issue of responsibilities coupled with roles played by each party during an emergency is best resolved during the planning phase. Hence, an emergency is well-addressed when effective plans are made and evaluated before the actual occurrence of a disaster. This planning can only happen if emergency planners understand their role in the disaster preparedness process (FEMA, 2010). The major primary role of emergency planners involves ensuring business continuity in the event of the occurrence of an emergency. Hence, they must play the role of advising and providing consultancy services to businesses to ensure that they (businesses) remain operational following an emergency (Bristow & Brumbelow, 2013). Planners are required to prepare for the possibility of occurrence of major risks such as disease outbreaks, gas leaks, and/or technical failures among other dangers depending on the industry in which the emergency planners work.

Emergencies encompass physical or natural acts, which destroy various socially constructed events. Their planning includes the major elements involved in handling any danger, for instance, deterrence, protection, rejoinder, resurgence, and alleviation. Today, people also cause such events. For example, acts of terrorism may give rise to an emergency. Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard to describe succinctly the complex social and physical aspects that may lead to emergencies because of their unpredictability. In this case, an emergency planner is required to play the role of risk assessments in various fields, including sporting, nuclear factories, and chemical plants among others.

The main objective for planning for emergencies is to ensure that appropriate authorities respond proactively to guarantee minimal human suffering, loss of life, and property damage. This goal makes emergency planners assume the role of implementing safety standards and preparing reports for the same. They help in the preparation and execution of safety exercises. These roles are incomplete without the communication of various emergency plans. This gap calls for emergency planners to get in touch with various emergency service providers and organizations that respond to disasters (Huder, 2012). For example, to guarantee an effective response, law enforcement agencies must be aware of the possibility of an emergency. The agencies can only arrange how to respond if they have been informed and/or certified such a possibility. Here, emergency planners come in handy in helping to determine the number of resources, including finance and labor, to be allocated for an effective response.

How Emergency Planners sets the Stage for Success at Each Phase of the Preparedness Cycle

The process of emergency planning is cyclic in nature as shown in Figure 1. Planning is one of the constituent elements of the preparedness cycle. After plans are made, they undergo the organizing, training, equipping, exercising, and evaluation processes (FEMA, 2010). The assessment process is executed simultaneously with improvement formula for a better plan based on the actual performance of the developed framework. Once this assessment is done, the process starts all over again. There is no specific time in which a superior emergency plan is acquired. Every situation is an emergency that presents challenges that must be overcome using better approaches to emergency management, should the same emergency reoccur. In the first phase, planning, emergency planners guarantee success through the development of plans that are strategic in nature. Hence, the plans are focused and clear-cut when it comes to addressing all possible scenarios that characterize an imminent potential risk.

Emergency Preparedness Cycle.
Figure 1: Emergency Preparedness Cycle. Source: FEMA (2010).

Organization and equipment are critical phases that ensure the allocation and assignment of resources, which are necessary for the execution of the emergency plans. Emergency tools are critical in the response process. Besides, they require human resources to be operated. Human resources entail all people who take part in the implementation of the plan, including response and recovery processes. Therefore, emergency planners ensure that the required human resources are well prepared to address an emergency through training. Hence, while other people are in shock following an emergency, the people responding to it are always ready to plunge into action immediately with zeal.

Monetary and time resources are usually constrained. Hence, its effective organization is critical for the success of any emergency plan. For example, monetary resource allocation should be planned in a manner that finances are effectively utilized for specific purposes, which mainly involve the management of those risks that directly relate to the anticipated emergency. The exercising phase involves the actual implementation of the plans to test how they would work prior to a foreseen potential emergency (Huder, 2012). The phase involves issuing things such as false alarms to test people’s preparedness. Depending on the outcomes of the exercising stage, improvements are made on the plans to help in optimizing the outcome during the next testing until the planner acquires the best response. A plan with the best response becomes the optimal arrangement, which effectively helps in the management of the emergency in question.

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Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Planning and the Role of the Emergency Planner in the Development of these Plans

Emergency planning is comprised of tactical, strategic, and operational arrangements. Strategic planning involves a group of continuous activities and comprehensive processes that emergency planners use to organize and align resources systematically. Actions in strategic emergency planning are aligned with a predetermined mission, goals, objectives, and vision. Such activities transform a static emergency plan into an arrangement that gives strategic performance outcomes to reach the established decisions while enabling strategies to gradually develop as requirements and emergency management frameworks change. For example, strategic planning describes in detail how various jurisdictions would want to achieve their need for emergency management in the long-term (FEMA, 2010). Policymakers, especially high-ranking officials, mainly develop the plans. Such plans are priority-based, although a change may warrant a reconsideration of the priorities.

Operational plans are used to provide various descriptions of responsibilities coupled with roles, actions, and requisite tasks that should be undertaken during emergencies. A planner uses the plans in goal development, responsibility allocation, assignment of roles, and in the integration and coordination of response (FEMA, 2010). Through operational planning, a planner integrates the private parties as important facets of emergency response. Using the plans, a planner assumes the role of ensuring the effective allocation of both time and monetary resources. Compared to tactical plans, operational plans are broad-based, comprehensive, and complex in nature (FEMA, 2010).

Tactical plans mainly focus on response. For example, when Hurricane Katrina occurred, the goal was to rescue the affected people while at the same time putting off possible fires that had spread to buildings to protect property and lives. Orleans Fire Department sought to achieve this goal through its workforce and the intervention of the response equipment (Walton, 2015). This situation indicates that tactical plans are specific since they deal mainly with resources. They establish mechanisms for managing personnel and equipment during the response. During the pre-emergency phase, tactical planning is important in availing an opportunity for conducting exercises. It helps to identify training and equipment in a good time. Tactical plans help in revealing gaps for any help from external agents to be arranged. A contingency leasing may be conducted where necessary.


The inevitability of some emergencies suggests the importance of developing preparedness to address them when they occur. Through good response and recovery plans, human suffering coupled with the loss of both life and property can be minimized. Effective planners require an understanding of the emergency preparedness cycle. They should also have the capacity to develop strategic emergency plans, operational procedures, and tactical frameworks. Besides ensuring long-term plans, emergency planners guarantee that complex and comprehensive broad-based plans translate into explicit and actionable procedures.


Bristow, E., & Brumbelow, K. (2013). Simulation to aid disaster planning and mitigation: Tools and techniques for water distribution managers and emergency planners. Journal of Water Resources Planning & Management, 139(4), 376-386.

FEMA. (2010). Developing and maintaining emergency operations plans: Comprehensive preparedness guide (CPG) 101. Web.

Huder, C. (2012). Disaster operations and decision making. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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Walton, R. (2015). 10 years after: Remembering how Entergy New Orleans survived hurricane Katrina. Powergrid International, 20(9), 12-13.

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