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Comprehensive Emergency Management for Local Governments: Demystifying Emergency Planning


COMPREHENSIVE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: DEMYSTIFYING EMERGENCY PLANNING is your “how-to” guide for emergency management and continuity of operation planning (COOP) in small to mid-sized local governments.

It is incumbent upon local authorities to be as prepared as possible for the natural and human-caused emergencies that seem to be occurring with greater frequency throughout North America, whether large or small, urban or rural. Preparing for such an eventuality is not ad hoc or sporadic: it follows a logical process considering a wide range of important aspects well beyond what is traditionally considered emergency preparedness.


Comprehensive Emergency Management (CEM) is a framework intended to guide novice emergency planners through the complete process of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. This work also includes an introductory chapter on the nature of local government emergency planning and a final chapter of tips on “putting it all together.” Between these are detailed chapters on each of the four phases of comprehensive emergency management.

The Mitigation chapter provides a thorough review of the concept of risk, risk assessment, management and communication. The Preparedness chapter constructs the preparedness plan which is an assembly of a general emergency management plan, four common priority plans covering public information, emergency social services, evacuation and telecommunications, and finally, hazard-specific preparedness plans for each hazard facing a community. The Response chapter covers the unique nature of response where the preparedness plan is put into use. Specifically, it addresses the scale of response by discussing mutual aid and supplementary resources. The Recovery chapter touches on the three cornerstones of recovery: staff, facilities and services. It also includes comments on the unique end to emergencies in addressing “Returning to Normal.”

Together they lead the emergency planner through the detailed process of compiling a comprehensive emergency management plan for their community. Beyond simply having the plan prepared, this book conveys the dynamic life of such a plan by stressing “the other 80%,” which is training and exercising. Creating a training matrix for staff and developing a timetable of graduated exercises are those important steps beyond writing the plan that instill its principles and procedures.

The book offers helpful advice on how a local government undertakes comprehensive emergency planning, who is assigned what tasks, and the ongoing obligations of those with such responsibilities. It is a treatment of the entire process of which writing a plan is only one part. There are many aspects to managing a successful, but more importantly effective, local government emergency program that are often overlooked by the novice or part-time emergency planner. This book provides a truly comprehensive view that any local government will benefit from.

2002, 230 pages, ISBN 978-1-931332-17-0.

A Rothstein Publishing Classic Title.


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Excerpt from the Preface

Post-September 11th, 2001:
A New Paradigm for Emergency Planning in North America

Since the first settlement of North America, communities have had to plan for emergencies. Those emergencies have never been trivial and often were catastrophically fatal. As North American society developed and technologies evolved, so too did the nature of the threats faced by communities. Crop failures, floods, fire and extreme weather still face our communities but the consequences are now more psychologically traumatizing than fatal. Unfortunately, it is now the routine use of advanced technology that results in many of the catastrophically fatal emergencies, such as air and rail crashes.

These seem to be accepted parts of modern society which are mitigated through engineering or downplayed with the use of statistics. On September 11th, 2001, however, a sinister new element to local government emergency planning was revealed that was so preposterous it seemingly could only be the idea of a Hollywood screenwriter. Yet it was real – and profoundly, permanently changed the sense of security taken for granted by North American society.

International terrorism had arrived in North America on an unfathomable scale. Previous acts of terrorism in North America, such as the release of a biological agent in a small Oregon town by a religious cult in the 1980s, the World Trade Center bombing of the early 1990s and the Oklahoma City bombing, were either of a limited scale or intent. While still garnering our attention, these seemed localized in terms of impact and effect and the perpetrators were readily addressed by thorough police work that has become the North American standard. People were killed and injured in these events with the latter example exacting a horrendous death toll and widespread psychological trauma. While these are without doubt unacceptable acts, the persons and motivation for such acts have been determined and justice exercised. These have been crimes that fit conveniently into our way of thinking that encapsulates the stages of the act and ends with closure.

September 11th, 2001 was very different in so many ways. While unimaginable amounts of investigative time and skill has revealed some of aspects of this crime, the underlying, fundamental reason for it and the lack of closure, not to mention the deaths and injuries perpetrated upon many families, have left this act incomprehensible for many. It is the reasons for this act, whatever they may exactly be and whether one supports them or not, that may see either an increase of instances of international terrorism in North America, or certainly prudent planning steps to prepare for such.

North America has largely been immune to international political issues disrupting domestic society. As an example, the aircraft hijackings of the 1970s were generally contained to Europe and the Middle East where the issues at stake were germane. The same can be said for the other Middle Eastern conflicts where the perpetrators of such acts affect the citizens directly associated with a government or one side or another.

September 11th, 2001 was symbolic as well as real, and represents a dangerous new turn in potential emergencies that face all sizes of local governments. In addition to natural hazards and technologically based emergencies, deliberate acts of terrorism and sabotage designed to produce casualties and/or massive infrastructure interruption must be added to the emergency planner’s list of hazards. It is no longer sufficient just to plan for the unpredictable natural events or to anticipate the failure of our technological advances; one must now assess concentrations of people and critical infrastructure and services for vulnerability to intentional interference.

Of course, where intentional interference is planned, the perpetrator will be seeking maximum effect. As a result, all local governments must adopt this new paradigm as each has vulnerable water systems, critical transportation systems or concentrations of people (e.g., large office or residential buildings, sporting venues or market places) that may prove to be enticing targets upon which to make a point. Fundamental to such emergency planning is a very careful and deliberate process that will look at all aspects of that local government including its services, functions, facilities, location and citizenry. In general, it is only certain types of vulnerabilities that need to be identified and planned for, after which it simply becomes a matter of scale.

Three general directions could emerge from this event: a point has been made and North America will see no more acts of this nature; the desired effect was achieved and other similar, large-scale attacks will occur; or, perhaps given the heightened security at “large” targets, a sustained series of smaller-scale attacks, such as bombings or chemical/biological releases, may occur. The actual answer is unknown but recent history has shown that the price of being unprepared is far too high.

Excerpt from the Foreword


The increasing number of natural hazard disaster that have occurred recently, coupled with the increased potential for terrorist acts in North America, have increased both the need and urgency for the provision of effective emergency management in both large and small communities. This is at a time when consideration of Comprehensive Emergency Management and the plans supporting emergency management programs continues to grow within the emergency management forums.

At the same time, funding for emergency management is often a problem, particularly in smaller communities. There is often a need to utilize whatever resources are already available without incurring major expenditure. Jim Gordon’s book comes at an opportune time with a “how-to” format plus the availability of many documents within the book that can be used as shown or tailored to meet an agency’s or organization’s specific needs.

Mr. Gordon has also taken the opportunity to incorporate references between the sections of this book and the thirteen elements incorporated in NFPA 1600 – Standard for Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs (National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 1600 is increasingly important in part because it is the basis of The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA, Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR). CAR was developed initially for the State level, and was developed jointly with the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA,

A similar assessment has now been developed for local emergency management agencies (Local CAR). Although developed for emergency management agencies, the principles incorporated in CAR can also be utilized in other sectors including the private sector. At the same time, health care organizations are already developing capability assessments for readiness within their organizations.

Another important consideration is that NFPA 1600 is not intended to be a “how-to” standard. As with other NFPA Standards, 1600 is a performance-based standard, i.e., it details what needs to be achieved. How the organization or agency goes about complying with what is needed is up to each organization or agency.

From an overall standpoint, whether NFPA 1600 becomes mandatory depends on its adoption at the Federal, State or Local level, or by its adoption by regulatory agencies in the public and private sectors. There is also a “back-door” way that compliance with NFPA 1600 may become mandated: the new NFPA Building Code, Building Construction and Safety CodeT (NFPA 5000) includes reference to NFPA 1600. Therefore, adoption of NFPA 5000 by any agency, organization or company could necessitate compliance with NFPA 1600.

Irrespective of these different adoption considerations, it is recommended that all Emergency Managers consider the elements detailed in NFPA 1600. This is where the “how-to” format of this book will be of major assistance to emergency managers, particularly those from small or medium sized agencies. In addition, members of larger agencies may also find it valuable as a reference source and a “memory tickler.” They may also find useful outlines and forms that they can adapt as they review their plans.

Mr. Gordon has done an excellent job in covering the many facets of a Comprehensive Emergency Management Program. He provides many plan outlines, action lists, forms and other sample documentation which will be useful to emergency managers as they develop or review their plans.





Basic Concepts and Critical Elements
Legislative Requirement
Senior Level Endorsement
Who Does the Planning?
Concept of Operation
the Planning Process
Comprehensive Emergency Management
Interagency Cooperation and Integrated Planning
Public Information
State of Local Emergency
Large-scale Declared Emergencies
Key Points

Lessening the Impact
the Concept of Risk
Risk Assessment
Risk Management
Risk Communication
Key Points

Preparedness Plans at the Federal and Provincial/state Level
The Emergency Spectrum
Structure of the Preparedness Plan
Emergency Management Plan
Emergency Public Information Plan
Emergency Social Services Plan
Evacuation Plan
Emergency Telecommunications Plan
Hazard-specific Preparedness Plans
Mutual Aid Agreements
Community Resource Inventory
Personal and Family Preparedness and Safety
Exercise of Plans
Maintenance and Update of Plans
Computer-assisted Emergency Management
Key Points

The Nature of Response
Mutual Aid
Specialized Equipment
Emergency Public Information
Emergency Social Services
Response Summary

Service Continuation Planning
Equipment and Supplies
Emergency Operations Center
Returning to Normal: When Does the Recovery Period End?

Exercising the Plan
Continuing Responsibility
The Plan in Final Form
Final Word: Dynamic Emergencies Require Dynamic Plans

Emergency Management Education
Emergency Management Certification
Retaining a Professional Emergency Manager


About the Author

JAMES A. GORDON holds a B.Sc. in Urban Geography and graduate degrees in Urban and Regional Planning and Public Administration. He is a Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. He has been awarded the titles of Professional Manager by the Canadian Institute of Management and Professional Administrator by the ICSA. He is also a Certified Municipal Clerk and is
certified in municipal administration by the Government of British Columbia.

Mr. Gordon has held senior management positions in two British Columbia local governments over the past six years. In addition to a wide range of corporate responsibilities, he has been active in local government emergency management as Program Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator. Prior to his local government career, Mr. Gordon was the Provincial Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the British Columbia Ministry of Health.

Committed to life long learning, Mr. Gordon actively pursues professional development. This includes extensive training in risk and emergency management through courses at the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College and the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and with the Major Industrial Accident Council of Canada, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and the American Public Works Association. He has written on numerous subjects with risk and emergency management topics ranging from service continuation planning to wildland/urban interface fire protection.

In his spare time, Mr. Gordon is a licensed Amateur Radio operator and an Ironman triathlete. He has traveled widely in Asia, the South Pacific and North America, and enjoys reading adventure travel and geopolitics. He is married to a writer and lives in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.

Additional information

Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 11 × 9 × 1 in