Higher ed Emergency Management Planning Higher Ed Emergency Management Planning

Related Resources
EOP Interactive

The REMS TA Center offers a suite of emergency management planning tools to education agencies and their community partners to support them in a variety of planning activities. These EOP Interactive Tools were intended to be used by K-12 and higher ed practitioners, with any level of experience in emergency management, to develop emergency operations plans (EOPs), revise EOPs, enhance their capacity, and engage in learning opportunities.

Access EOP Interactive Tools

Step 5: Prepare, Review, and Approve the Plan

In Step 5, the planning team develops a draft of the higher ed EOP using the courses of action developed in Step 4. In addition, the team reviews the plan, obtains official approval, and shares the plan with community partners (e.g., first responders, local emergency managers, public and mental health officials), staff, and stakeholders.

Format the Plan

An effective higher ed EOP is presented in a way that makes it easy for users to find the information they need and that is compatible with local and state plans. This may include using plain language and providing pictures or visual cues for key action steps. One traditional format that can be tailored to meet individual IHE needs includes three major sections: the Basic Plan, Functional Annexes, and Threat- and Hazard-Specific Annexes.

The Basic Plan section of the higher ed EOP provides an overview of the IHE’s approach to emergency operations. Although the Basic Plan section guides the development of the more operationally oriented annexes, its primary audiences consist of the IHE, local emergency officials, and the community (as appropriate).

The Functional Annexes section details the goals, objectives, and courses of action of functions (e.g., evacuation, communications, recovery) that apply across multiple threats or hazards. Functional annexes set forth how the IHE manages a function before, during, and after an emergency.

The Threat- and Hazard-Specific Annexes section specifies the goals, objectives, and courses of action that an IHE will follow to address a particular type of threat or hazard (e.g., hurricane, active shooter). Threat- and hazard-specific annexes, like functional annexes, discuss how the IHE manages a function before, during, and after an emergency.

The following functional format can be used for the Functional Annexes section as well as for the Threat- and Hazard-Specific Annexes section. Using the format below and the work the planning team did in Step 4, each function, threat, and hazard will have at least three goals, with one or more objectives for each goal, and a course of action for each of the objectives.

  • Title (the function, threat, or hazard)

  • Goal(s)

  • Objective(s)

  • Courses of Action

    (Describe the courses of action you developed in Step 4 in the sequence in which they will occur).

The different components of each of these three sections. Details on the contents of these three sections can be found under Plan Content.

Higher Ed EOP Format

Basic Plan
1.Introductory Material 2.3Planning Assumptions
1.1.Cover Page 3.Concept of Operations
1.2.Promulgation Document and Signatures Page 4.Organization and assignment of responsibilities
1.3.Approval and Implementation 5.Direction, Control, and Coordination
1.4.Record of Changes 6.Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
1.5.Record of Distribution 7.Training and Exercises
1.6.Table of Contents 8.Administration, Finance, and Logistics
2.Purpose, Scope, Situation Overview, and Assumptions 9.Plan Development and Maintenance
2.1.Purpose 10.Authorities and References
2.2.Situation Overview  
Functional Annexes
NOTE: This is not a complete list, but it is recommended that all EOPs include at least the following annexes:
1.Evacuation 6.Continuity of Operations (COOP)
2.Deny Entry or Closing (lockdown) 7.Recovery
3.Shelter-in-Place or Secure-in-Place 8.Public Health, Medical and Mental Health
4.Accounting for All Persons 9.Security
5.Communications and Notifications 10.Rapid Assessment
Threat- or Hazard-Specific Annexes
NOTE: This is not a complete list. Each IHE's annexes will vary based on its threats and hazard analysis
1.Hurricane or severe storm 5.Mass Casualty Incident
2.Earthquake 6.Active Shooter
3.Tornado 7.Pandemic or Disease Outbreak
4.Hazardous Materials Incident 8.Bomb Threat or Explosion

Write the Plan

As the planning team works through the draft, the members add necessary tables, charts, and other supporting graphics. The planning team circulates a draft to obtain the comments of stakeholders that have responsibilities for implementing the plan. Successful plans are written according to the following simple rules:

  1. Summarize important information with checklists and visual aids, such as maps and flowcharts.
  2. Avoid using jargon, minimize the use of abbreviations, and use short sentences and the active voice.
  3. Write clearly, using plain language. Use a logical, consistent structure that makes it easy for readers to grasp the rationale for the sequence of the information and to scan for the information they need.
  4. Provide enough detail to convey an easily understood plan that is actionable. For example, faculty may have a one-page document that covers what they will need to know and do during an emergency, or create signs giving simple directions. Organize the contents in a way that helps users quickly identify solutions and options. Plans should provide guidance for carrying out common courses of action through the functional and threat- and hazard-specific annexes.
  5. Develop accessible tools and documents. Use appropriate auxiliary aids and services necessary for effective communication, such as accessible websites, digital text that can be converted to audio or Braille, text equivalents for images, and captioning of any audio and audio description of any video content.

Review the Plan

Planners should check the written plan for compliance with applicable laws and for its usefulness in practice. Commonly used criteria can help determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the plan. The following measures can help determine if a plan is of high quality:


A plan is adequate if it identifies and addresses critical courses of action effectively, it can accomplish the assigned function, and its assumptions are valid and reasonable.


A plan is feasible if the IHE can accomplish the assigned function and critical tasks by using available resources within the time contemplated by the plan.


A plan is acceptable if it meets the requirements driven by a threat or hazard, meets cost and time limitations, and is consistent with the law.


A plan is complete if it

  • Incorporates all courses of action to be accomplished for all selected threats and hazards and identified functions;
  • Integrates the needs of the whole IHE community;
  • Provides a complete picture of what should happen, when, and at whose direction;
  • Estimates time for achieving objectives, with safety remaining as the utmost priority;
  • Identifies success criteria and a desired end state; and
  • Conforms with the Planning Principles outlined in this guide.

The plan must comply with applicable states and local requirements because these provide a baseline that facilitates both planning and execution.

Approve and Share the Plan

After finalizing the plan, the planning team should present it to the appropriate leadership and obtain official approval of the plan. The team should then share the plan with all community partners (e.g., first responders, local emergency managers, public and mental health officials) and all other entities that have a role in the plan, including relevant local, regional, and/or state agencies with which the plan will be coordinated. The plan should also be shared with other organizations that may use the campus and its building(s).

Institutions should be careful to protect the plan from those who are not authorized to have it, and should consider how they will secure documents shared electronically. Law enforcement agencies and first responders have a secured, web-accessible site available to house copies of plans, building schematics, phone contact sheets, and other important details that round out planning. IHEs must comply with state and local open records laws in storing and protecting the plan.

The team should maintain a record of the people and organizations that receive a copy of the plan.

Step 5 Outcome

After completing Step 5, the planning team will have a final higher ed EOP.

Previous  Next