The Four Phases of Emergency Management

It’s important to understand that there are distinct stages, or phases, to surviving through an emergency.  These are called The Four Phases of Emergency Management and they are:


Mitigation is preventing disasters or taking steps to lessen the impact of unavoidable disasters.  Ideally, mitigation should occur before an emergency happens.  However, mitigation and preparedness sometimes do not occur until after a disaster happens and repairs are being made; this is quite common in the corporate world.  This is also often seen in government agencies where there is a tendency not to notice a potential disaster until it strikes.  All too often, it is after the confusion dies down and things start to return to normal when governments make plans for the next disaster.

Key points of Mitigation:

  • Takes place BEFORE the emergency occurs.
  • Prevents emergencies from happening or minimizes their effects.
  • Includes anything you can do to minimize the damaging effects
  • Strapping down water heaters, anchoring bookshelves to walls and buying insurance are examples of mitigation.


Emergency Management is a cycle of acton and learning.

Preparedness is making plans and having the needed equipment and supplies to save lives during and after a disaster event.  It’s also knowing what the warning signs are for a pending emergency or disaster.  Preparedness includes all actions that are taken before the crisis occurs.  It includes making plans, stocking supplies, conducting drills (fire and earthquake drills, for example), installing smoke detectors, posting emergency numbers by the telephone and so on.  Preparedness is the most time consuming, as it is comprised of many tasks.

Key points of Preparedness:

  • Takes place BEFORE the emergency occurs.
  • Provides gear and supplies that will help you get through the event.
  • Includes planning what to do during an event so as to save lives or help rescue operations.
  • Stocking up on food, water and other supplies, making fire escape and evacuation plans are examples of preparations.
  • Ensuring that you have working smoke detectors or fire alarms is a preparedness step.


Response is taking immediate action upon the occurrence of a disaster or emergency.  By taking this action you are attempting to protect yourself and others from harm or further harm.  How you respond depends on the onset of the event.  The onset of a disaster is the amount of warning time you have before it strikes.  A hurricane has a long onset because the National Weather Service can track these storms with the use of satellites and post watches and warnings before they make landfall.  An earthquake has virtually no onset because it happens so quickly without any warning.  The duration of a disaster is the time from when it starts to when it ends.  Blizzards, droughts, and hurricanes have durations that can last days, weeks or longer. Conversely, earthquakes, tornadoes and avalanches last only minutes or even seconds.

Key points of Response:

  • Takes place DURING of the emergency.
  • Immediate action steps to save lives and prevent further damage.
  • Puts your preparedness plan into action.
  • Seeking shelter from a tornado or turning off gas valves in an earthquake are examples of responses.


Recovery includes all actions you take to keep yourself safe and return your life to normal.  Some actions will be immediate, like those taken to stop life-threatening bleeding, or to protect yourself from further injury.  Other actions will take longer.  If your home has been damaged, it will need to be repaired or replaced and you’ll need to start submitting claims on those items covered by insurance.  How difficult your recovery is depends on how much preparedness you have done.  A person who has prepared well and has enough food, water and other supplies, including things like having the proper amount of insurance, will fare much better than someone who has prepared little or not at all.

Key points of Recovery:

  • Takes place AFTER the emergency is over.
  • Goal is to get life back to normal as possible.
  • After the event is over and it’s safe to do so.
  • Making repairs and filing insurance are examples of recovery.
  • Recovery also includes assessing your mitigation, preparedness and response actions and refining them for next time.

You can use this when you’re creating your preparedness plan, as it allows you to identify the different areas of your plan.  In other words, you need to make sure that you have plans for what to do BEORE, DURING and AFTER the emergency.

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2 Responses to The Four Phases of Emergency Management

  1. Pingback: Episode 115 – Survival Hierarchy of Needs | The Preparedness Podcast

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