emergency response organizations through a mutually agreed emergency classification system and standardized forms for continuing emergency assessments. In addition, coordination between onsite and offsite organizations is facilitated by mutual adoption of organizational structures such as the Incident Command System (DHS, 2008).
People sometimes erroneously assume that major disasters are just larger versions of routine emergencies, and so available personnel can improvise a satisfactory response using available resources. In fact, major disasters involve both quantitatively larger and qualitatively different demands that arise from tasks that are not performed, and resources that are not available, during routine operations. Thus, emergency planners need to follow a systematic process that develops accurate assessments of incident demands and community capabilities, identifies the gaps between demands and capabilities, and develops a strategic plan for reducing this gap (Lindell and Perry, 2007). Specifically, they must use hazard/vulnerability analysis to identify, in advance, what are the abnormal incident demands that should be expected and what are the novel emergency response functions that will need to be performed in response to these demands. In addition, they need to identify the organizations that will perform these emergency response functions and the resources those organizations will need in order to perform their emergency response functions.
Emergency operations plans and procedures can be developed by following guidance from the federal government (NRT, 1987, 1988; FEMA, 2010) and chemical industry (CMA, 1985), national standards (NFPA, 2010), and accreditation programs (EMAP, 2010). These documents are sometimes misinterpreted to suggest that the development of paper plans and procedures is a sufficient condition for adequate emergency preparedness. Instead, development of written plans and procedures should be considered to be a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition. At minimum, plans and procedures need to be supplemented by periodic audits to ensure that they are current (e.g., telephone numbers are up to date) and that equipment is properly maintained (e.g., portable instruments are charged and calibrated).
In addition to developing emergency operations plans and procedures, emergency planners need to conduct training needs assessments to identify any tasks that are critical, infrequent, and difficult (Goldstein and Ford, 2002). Critical tasks are those that are essential to protecting the health and safety of facility personnel, offsite responders, and the offsite population. In addition, although some emergency response tasks are the same as ones performed during normal operations, it is important to identify which of them are performed infrequently and therefore provide few opportunities for emergency responders to practice and develop skilled performance. Finally, some tasks might be difficult to perform because of their cognitive, psychomotor, or physical demands. Effective emergency preparedness requires identifying these infrequent, critical, and difficult tasks, selecting the appropriate personnel for each position in the emergency