Emergency Management is the continuous process by which all individuals, groups and communities manage hazards in an effort to avoid their devastation. This process is often seen as occurring in 4 phases: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
The purpose of the Mitigation Phase is to reduce the harmful effects of an incident & lessen the need for a response when a crisis does occur. This is accomplished through the use of such strategies as removing the hazard, reducing its size, segregating the hazard from population centers, reducing the likelihood of the hazard occurring, and establishing hazard warning procedures. Specific examples of mitigation include retrofitting buildings and other structures for earthquakes, elevating levies around flood-prone homes and businesses, locating development outside of flood zones, and creating wildfire clearance buffers around developments in vulnerable areas.
During the Preparedness Phase, emergency managers develop plans of action for when disasters strike. Strategies to be considered are assessing and inventorying resources, planning, training, exercises, and developing procedures. Another step in the Preparedness Phase is the establishment of an Emergency Operations Center, or EOC. An EOC is a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management, or disaster management functions at a strategic level in an emergency situation, and ensuring the continuity of operation of the region. An efficient EOC is essential in Response Phase below.
In the Response Phase, actions are taken immediately before, during or directly after an emergency occurs, to save lives, minimize damage, and to enhance the recovery activities. These include notification and activation of emergency personnel and services, providing for the continuity of government and establishing communications between agencies responding to the incident. Emergency Operations Centers will also be activated to help coordinate the response. Also vital are efforts to protect the safety and well-being of the public, including providing medical care, evacuation shelters, and food and water in the aftermath of a disaster.
The goal of the Recovery Phase is to return the community's systems and activities to normal. Tasks in this phase include restoring utilities, removing debris, maintaining essential records and assessing damages. Long-term recovery includes restoring economic activity and rebuilding community facilities and housing. Officials will also coordinate with state and federal agencies to receive aid to help in the rebuilding process for both local government entities as well as private citizens who have suffered losses. Ideally, the recovery phase will overlap with mitigation efforts, and any rebuilding will be done with future disasters in mind.