Emergency Planning Guidelines

Although there is a comprehensive emergency operations plan for most US cities, the focus of the city plan is to address preparedness, response and disaster recovery actions to major emergencies or disasters that impact the City and County as a whole. Each organization must plan for emergencies that can disrupt your operations, cause physical or environmental damage or cause death or injury to employees or customers. Unplanned events that you can prepare for include: fires, flooding, tornadoes, winter storms, power outages, computer problems (including hardware and software problems), and other events unique to your organization. This guide provides management a tool to help develop exercises and implement internal plans. This outline is to give you information to aid your emergency planning guidelines.

Page Contents

Emergency Planning Guidelines

Why Your Organization Should Develop an Internal Emergency Plan?

Statistics on Situations Causing Companies to Declare a Disaster:

  • Power Outage- 91%
  • Hardware Error-77%
  • Fire- 63%
  • Flooding- 58%
  • Earthquake- 52%
  • Software Error- 44%
  • Bombing- 39%
  • Windstorms- 38%
  • Network Failures- 23%
  • Asbestos Burst pipes-9%
  • Asbestos Hazards- 11%
  • HVAC Failure- 7%
  • Forced Evacuation- 7%
  • Civil Unrest- 3%

How Do You Start Emergency Planning Guidelines?


Emergency Planning Guidelines
Internal Planning Team: The size of this team will depend on the size of your operations, requirements and resources. Having a team will encourage participation and interest in this process as well as providing a broad perspective on those issues relevant to your department.

Establish Authority: Upper management involvement promotes an atmosphere of cooperation by authorizing the planning group to take appropriate steps to develop the plan. Within the group establish clear lines of authority, without being too rigid as to limit a free flow of ideas!

Develop a Mission Statement: The mission statement should define the purpose of the emergency plan and indicate that it will involve the entire organization. Define the structure and authority of the planning group.

Establish a Schedule and Budget: Establish a work schedule and planning deadlines. Timelines can be modified as priorities change. Develop an initial budget for research, printing and other costs associated with developing your emergency planning guidelines and emergency operation plan.


Review Internal Plans and Policies: Documents you should review include any building evacuation and fire plans, as well as risk management plans. Review any documents relating to health safety and security procedures.

Identify Codes and Regulations: Identify applicable federal, state, and local regulations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, fire codes, and environmental regulations.

Identify Critical Products, Services, and Operations: Determine the potential impact of an emergency on your organization as well as possible backup systems. Identify lifeline services ( e.g. , electricity, water, telecommunications, computer networking), and critical personnel and equipment necessary to continue your operations.

Identify Internal Resources and Capabilities: Examples of internal resources and capabilities include identifying first aid supplies, emergency power equipment and first aid stations as well as personnel resources available to assist in evacuation or provide public information.

Identify External Resources: Examples of external resources include 911, utilities and contractors.

List Potential Emergencies: Consider emergencies that have occurred in your organization or the community which could affect you. Start by reviewing the history of emergencies that have taken place. Look at technological failures (e.g., HVAC, power, computer systems, telecommunications, and internal notification systems)that could impact your group. In addition, evaluate emergencies that may occur due to human error or the physical construction of a facility (e.g., lighting, layout of equipment, evacuation routes and exits.). Then identify the probability or likelihood of the emergency occurring and the impact to people, property, and the continuation of operations. Finally, assess the internal and external resources you listed. Look at possible multiple impacts of disasters. A slow rising flood can cause additional problems such as a loss of power, contamination of the water supply, interruption of transportation.


Executive Summary

Your plan should include an executive summary describing the purpose of the plan, the types of emergencies that could occur, and the authority and responsibility of key personnel within your organization.

Emergency Management Elements

Describe your organization’s approach to key elements of your plan: direction and control, communications, life safety, property protection, recovery and restoration, and administration and logistics.

Emergency Response Procedures

The procedures spell out how your department or agency will respond to emergencies. One approach is to develop a series of checklists that can be quickly utilized by personnel at your location. You need to determine what actions should be taken to assess the situation, protect employees, customers and visitors, vital records and other assets, and keep operations going. Specific procedures may be needed for a variety of situations including:

  • Tornadoes
  • Bomb Threats
  • Conducting an Evacuation
  • Fires
  • Protecting Vital Records
  • Warning Customers and Employees
  • Flooding
  • Restoring Operations
  • Communicating with Responders
  • Supporting Documents

Documents that should be cataloged include: Emergency Call Lists-Personnel in your organization who should be involved in responding to emergencies.

Building and Site Maps- Indicate utility shutoffs, electrical cutoffs, gas and water main lines, floor plans, alarms and enunciators, fire suppression systems, exits, stairways, designated escape routes, and restricted areas.


Prior to Implementing the Plan, we recommend that your agency look at holding a tabletop exercise to test the plan prior to formal implementation. The following is an approach you may want to use when preparing your emergency planning guidelines.

  • Select several objectives you wish to exercise. Objectives are outcomes you want to evaluate. You can inform the players at the tabletop exercise of those objectives.
  • Select a relevant scenarios messages. Examples of possible scenarios include: reduced or complete failure of electrical power, file servers or personal computers failures, telecommunication lines disruptions, and corruption of data.
  • The agenda of the tabletop will include: an overview of the objectives, introduction of the participants (and the roles they’re playing), presentation of the scenario, and an evaluation of the plan and strategies as used by the players during the scenario play. Review key issues brought up during the exercise including the corrective actions and responsible parties.
  • Tabletop rules often apply as follows: everyone is free to contribute, this is not a test but an exercise, the scenario can be changed as needed, and the facilitator can table any issue for later resolution.
  • A facilitator’s primary responsibility is to ensure the tabletop exercise proceeds on schedule and covers the objectives outlined prior to the start of the exercise.

If planned properly, tabletop exercises are usually a cost-effective method of testing plans and procedures. The most common feedback is that the exercise either demonstrated the viability of the plan or captured issues which will improve the plan. In addition, attendees appreciate the clarification of roles and responsibilities during exercise play. The tabletop exercise will often show a need to update or modify the plan. You may determine a need to modify duty assignments or procedures, and update call down lists and resource lists. It may even be necessary to modify a persons duties and responsibilities or add backup personnel.


Implementation means more than simply exercising the plan. Act on recommendations made during the vulnerability analysis, train employees, and evaluate the emergency planning guidelines.

Self-Assessment on Disaster Recovery Planning: Questions for Employees

  1. Do you know the critical equipment, forms, or supplies that would need to be replaced in a disaster situation? YES___ NO___
  2. Do you know what other agencies would be affected by an interruption in your organization? YES___ NO___
  3. Do you know what outside services/vendors are relied upon for normal operation? YES___ NO___
  4. Do you know your current backup procedures? YES___ NO___
  5. Do you know if any critical backups are stored offsite? YES___ NO___
  6. Do you know the temporary operating procedures in case of disaster? YES___ NO___
  7. Do you know the high priority tasks and procedures in your department? YES___ NO___
  8. Do you know what staffing, equipment, forms and supplies are needed to perform high priority tasks? YES___ NO___
  9. Do you know who is responsible for maintaining the department’s contingency plan? YES___ NO___
  10. Do you know the lines of succession in your department for individuals to act in authority for the department? YES___ NO___
  11. Do you have a clear understanding of your authority and responsibility in your organization’s emergency operations plan? YES___ NO___


Hazardous Materials: Currently, based on reports filed under Title III of the Superfund Amendment Reauthorization Act (SARA Title III), there are approximately 400 facilities storing reportable quantities of hazardous material on sites throughout the city. In addition to fixed storage sites, hazardous materials are transported along the I-70 and I-25 highway corridors, which pass through densely populated areas of the city. Fire House Magazine has placed the Denver Fire Department Hazmat Response Unit among the top ten busiest units nationwide over the last seven years.

Flooding: Flooding has historically been a hazard to the City and County of Denver. Past flooding along the streams in Denver has been well documented by the Corps of Engineers and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

  • Cherry Creek: From 1942 to present, there have been at least 14 years with major flooding events from Cherry Creek, resulting in flooding of premises and impeding traffic.
  • Clear Creek: In the Denver area, flooding has been infrequent and typically not severe in the lower reaches. The major flooding has occurred upstream from Denver.
  • Harvard Gulch: Prior to 1965, Harvard Gulch experienced regular flooding due to summer thunderstorms. The Harvard Gulch Flood Control Project, completed in 1966, was designed for the 10-year flood and has alleviated this problem. The largest flood event since the completion of the project occurred on June 8, 1969. The flow was confined within the drainage improvements.

Because of the extensive mitigation projects completed and the current Flood Control Master Plan now being accomplished by the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, the threat to life in Denver by flooding has been greatly diminished. There is however, a continued threat to property particularly from flash flooding along Harvard Gulch, Goldsmith, and Westerly Creek. Some potential for property damage exists along Sand Creek, but it is relatively low. There is still some urban street flooding problems, particularly at 38th and Fox Street, I-25 and Evans, and Monaco and Evans. However, recent flood mitigation projects have helped to alleviate some of these problems. While the threat is more to property than life, loss of life and/or injury is always a potential with flooding hazards. The quick developing flash flood and/or failure of one of the major dams in the metro area could still produce serious flooding problems. Loss of either the Cherry Creek or Chatfield Dam could create flooding of historic proportions.

Earthquakes: Denver is generally considered a low risk for earthquakes. While the threat is low and there is no documentation of an earthquake event over 6.0 on the Richter scale, the potential for the loss of life, injury and personal damage is present. A large number of residencies and older commercial buildings in the metro area and particularly in Denver are masonry structures. These brick buildings could be susceptible to earthquake damage.

Tornadoes: Tornadoes are the most widely feared and publicized natural hazards in Colorado. During 1996, a total of 96 tornadoes occurred in Colorado, heightening concerns that these powerful phenomenons may be increasing to cataclysmic frequencies. The metro area, in particular, serves as a site for the development of severe thunderstorms. Due to the “Denver Cyclone” effect, severe spring weather is a major concern for Denver. These storms create cloud to ground lightning strikes, heavy rain with flooding potential, severe hail, and tornadoes. On June 15, 1988, a group of tornadoes passed over the metro area. Two areas of the city suffered heavy damage due to tornado touch downs. On June 2, 1993, an F-1 rated tornado struck Denver. According to the National Weather Service, there have been 11 tornado touch downs in Denver between 1950 and 1989. The Fujita scale rates intensity of tornadoes with F0 for weak storms with wind rotation below 116 kW/hour, and F5 for violent storms with rotation speeds of 419 to 512 kW/hour. Fortunately, the tornadoes in the Denver area are usually rated F0 to F1 (with rotation speeds of 117 to 180 kW/hour). While the tornadoes that occur in Denver are relatively weak compared to those in the Mid-West, the potential for injury, loss of life and property damage remains high. Most injuries that occur in these events are the result of flying debris, especially broken glass. The tornado threat is with us every spring, and is extremely high during the months of May, June and July. The intensity of these events and the potential for damages and injury should not be underestimated.

Hail and Lightning: While tornadoes and flooding have been discussed separately, the storms that produce these threats also include other life threatening and damage producing phenomena. In the Rocky Mountains, thunderstorms occur approximately 70 days per year. These storms produce dramatic displays of lightning and potentially damaging amounts of hail. Hailstorms rarely involve physical injury, but their economic impact can be severe. In 1990, the hailstorm that struck the metro area resulted in approximately $750 million in damages alone. It ranked as the most expensive hail related incident at that time in the country. The damage from hail in Denver can be an annual event. However, new materials for roofing are slowly mitigating the damage from hail. The atmospheric discharge of static electricity in a bolt of lightning has four principle effects:

  1. electrocution of living things
  2. vaporization of materials along the path of the strike
  3. sudden power surges which cause damage to electrical and electronic equipment
  4. building fires (In the United States, building fires caused by lightning, account for over $40 million per year in insurance claims).

It should be noted that more people are killed by lightning each year in Colorado than in any other weather related phenomena.

Winter Storms: The most likely cause of a paralytic event in Denver is a severe winter storm. The city only averages 62.5 inches of snow per season, however there is always the chance of one particular storm producing large snowfall amounts (e.g,. the Christmas Blizzard of ’82 produced nearly 2 feet of snow in a 24 hour period, and the October Blizzard of ’97 produced 20 inches of snow in a 24 hour period). The disruption of the urban system caused by heavy snow can lead to detrimental economic consequences due to the closures of plants, retail trade centers, schools, communication facilities, and the curtailment of transportation. Major snowfall can even occur during those months with milder temperatures. For example, the average snowfall for September is 1.7 inches, yet in 1936 Denver received 21.3 inches. Snow storms like this, and those in early spring, produce heavy wet snows that break tree limbs and down power lines. Along with snowfall, Denver can also experience extremely cold temperatures, dropping 25 degrees below zero or lower with the wind chill factor. The threat of severe winter storms including cold temperatures and heavy snow, is well documented and even expected in Denver.

The City and County of Denver has made great efforts to manage these events and mitigate their paralytic potential. However, it is easy for some people to become complacent to the threats these hazards pose to life, property, health, and the economy. Hopefully, this information will help you to construct your emergency planning guidelines.