The Toolkit of Emergency Management Standards - From the IAEM Bulletin

With many "thanks" to the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) in whose IAEM Bulletin (Vol 27 No. 6 June 2010) this article first appeared, I wanted to share the following article from the Division's Senior Adviser, David Holm, on the Colorado experience with Emergency Management Accreditation Program, or EMAP, and his thoughts on how applicable standards can help strengthen emergency management efforts.  For any questions, feel free to contact David directly at

"The Toolkit of Emergency Management Standards

One dictionary definition of “standard” is “an average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc.” Standards are benchmarks against which professional organizations are measured, both for external evaluation, and internal improvement. In mature disciplines, there usually exists a set of accepted industry standards.

While unique local emergency management standards have been developed, such as in Michigan (, it has only been within the last decade that development and implementation of universal standards has been accomplished. In emergency management, those standards flow from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1600, “Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs” ( ).


The Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) is a non-profit organization supported by the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Association of Counties and the International City Managers Association. EMAP, working under a grant from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), extracted from the NFPA 1600 the government standards, and with explanatory criteria, published a set of emergency management standards for public sector organizations.

EMAP has evaluated and accredited or conditionally accredited over half of the U.S. states, as well as four local governments. More evaluations are underway. While there are fees and expenses involved in becoming EMAP EMAPaccredited, the standards have been released for general availability and use at no charge.

Those free standards are a fundamental toolkit that provides emergency managers a resource in carrying out their responsibilities to the public. The standards were designed to be scalable, and applicable to local, state and tribal governments. Investigation is underway on application to educational institutions, federal agencies, intergovernmental organizations and private sector entities. With the same set of standards available universally, adjacent jurisdictions – even across state lines – can be operating under the same guidance.

While the costs involved in obtaining EMAP accreditation may exceed available resources of many local governments, the standards themselves are available free and provide the basis to evaluate, update, maintain and validate EM programs in an accepted peer reviewed and monitored set of national standards. The set of 63 standards is available online at

Utility of EMAP Standards in Local Emergency Management

Although the NFPA 1600 standards tend to utilize more technical language, EMAP Standards are written in more general terms that can be presented to government officials, who may have limited detailed knowledge of emergency management. The standards can be used as benchmarks for evaluation of programmatic elements, including laws and authorities, training, exercising, planning, crisis communications, public education and information, telecommunications and warning, hazard identification and risk assessment, mitigation, finance and administration, logistics and resource management, incident management, mutual aid, operations and procedures, facilities, and prevention and security. The standards are updated on a regular basis by the EMAP Commission, so this toolkit can serve for regular local maintenance of the program.

When locally implemented, the standards also can serve as goals and objectives for the organization, language within employee and volunteer staff’s job descriptions, and as bases for performance evaluation and strategic planning. They can be used to demonstrate functionality and performance, both in applying for budget and grant funding and in validating the benefits of such funding, while providing the public and media with a definitive snapshot of the condition of local emergency management preparedness.

Colorado Local Accreditation

At the suggestion of local emergency managers and the Colorado Emergency Management Association, the Colorado emergency services community is in the process of developing a voluntary emergency management assessment program, utilizing these standards as a toolkit, with a volunteer cadre of assessors available on request to provide neighbors an independent look at how the local program functions and what areas there might be for improvement. This also can serve as a baseline for those jurisdictions that decide to seek EMAP accreditation.

Available Training

While the EMAP Standards are very easily understood and applied, the FEMA National Emergency Training Center recently implemented an EMAP Accreditation Manager Course that will significantly assist in implementing the standards (


In an era where it seems everything worthwhile requires a heavy investment, especially resources developed by highly qualified organizations and individuals, the availability at no cost, of a tried, tested and widely accepted set of standards, developed by some of the best minds in emergency management, can be a literal lifesaver to budget-strapped emergency managers."