The Preparedness Cycle FrameworkTM: A Five-Year Methodology for Building a Culture of Preparedness
Culture Begins with Leadership
Creating a “culture of preparedness” within communities is a smart and worthwhile goal.
But achieving it means emergency management leaders must first create an internal culture that fosters best practices and aligns with strategic planning disciplines.
To help agencies improve departmental and community readiness, BOLDplanning, a division of Agility, created the Preparedness Cycle FrameworkTM, a five-year model of integrated planning, exercising, and technology implementation.
The model brings together major components of the strategic preparedness planning process while outlining a schedule for ongoing training and regular exercises.
Stage One: The Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP)
While it is possible to enter the Preparedness Cycle Framework at any phase, the most logical starting point is the hazard mitigation plan (HMP).
Hazard mitigation is the focused effort around reducing the impact of disasters of various types. The process generally includes identifying prevalent risks to the community, understanding their likelihood of occurring and potential severity, and determining long-term strategies that can be implemented to reduce their negative effects.
The HMP is so important that FEMA will not provide certain non-emergency disaster assistance/funding unless a plan has been developed according to FEMA guidelines. Plans must also be updated every five years.
Stage Two: The Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
Emergency operations plans (EOPs) focus on defining the right actions to take during a critical event. Local EOPs generally focus on measures for protecting the public within the immediate community, while state EOPs are centered on actions taken to ensure all levels of government are able to mobilize in a uniform way to protect state residents. Given continuous organizational change, employee turnover, etc., the EOP should be revised on an annual basis.
Stage Three: The Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)
Continuity of operations (COOP) planning is a preparedness effort to ensure an organization’s mission essential functions (MEFs) and primary mission essential functions (PMEFs) continue to be performed during a critical situation. A COOP answers the following basic questions for an organization facing a disruption:
- Where could/would we go?
- How would we communicate and what would we say?
- What do we do and what functions are most important?
- What equipment is needed to continue our job?
Key components of a COOP plan can be categorized simply as people, places, and things.
Stage Four: Exercise Program
Practice makes perfect. As such, it is crucial to develop a regular exercise program that helps ensure all stakeholders are clear about what to do in a given circumstance.
For exercises to follow accepted best practices, Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)-trained facilitators should be utilized to lead key exercise sessions. Even better, seek facilitators who have earned a Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) certification to lead these efforts.
It is recommended two tabletop exercises, multiple drills, or a functional exercise be conducted annually. Full-scale exercises should be conducted every three years if possible. Additionally, after-action reports (AARs) should be developed and reviewed following each exercise to determine where expectations were and were not met.
Bi-annual exercises may alternate in focus between operational tests found in the EOP and continuity challenges found in the COOP plan.
Stage Five: Training Regimen
In addition to exercises, it is important to conduct regular and frequent training sessions for all plan stakeholders. It is recommended training sessions occur on a monthly basis particularly given the ease of access and wide availability of online training.
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers a wide range of courses online at no charge. Additionally, training centered on technology and software solutions should