Planner's Triangle©2000

Updated: 15 February 2001

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Planner's Triangle has been Published by DERA as a Monograph.  Hard copies can be obtained by contacting DERA at: P.O. Box 280795 Denver Colorado.  See the DERA website at: 

For Information about the author of "Planner's Triangle" see note 1 at the bottom of page

This feature outlines how  mitigation can be achieved by using the basic knowledge and skills of strategic planning. Planners are required to have a basic knowledge set for successful strategic planning. Because planning can be a highly technical and complex operation, persons engaged in strategic planning need to understand the basic principals, guidelines and underlying philosophies that make up the process.



Emergency Management is basically oriented on strategic activities as compared to first response agencies, which respond tactically to localized emergency events in relatively small geographical areas. Emergency Management is engaged in the "saving of lives and protection of property" in large complex emergencies and catastrophes that affect large numbers of people, with great amounts of economic resources at risk, and they usually cover a large geographical area. Because of the size of a large event, there are many people and resources that must cross numerous administrative, bureaucratic, and political boundaries in avoidance or response to the threats or risks that are generated by the primary and the secondary disaster events. For this reason, emergency managers are required to (1) assess these threats or risks, (2) identify requirements, and (3) satisfy those requirements with resources. These are the three basic tasks in strategic planning.

For Your Information (FYI):

FEMA defines a strategic plan as a document that "outlines key long-range goals…Its primary purpose is to provide a planning framework…The level of detail is normally determined by the complexity of the response/recovery situation…"


Strategic Planning is the key to mitigation against catastrophic and disaster events. To be effective, strategic planning activities must occur before the onset of a disaster event. During disaster response and recovery, tactical planning is employed. The Planner’s Triangle below illustrates the components of effective mitigation. If one or more planning components are missing, the planning process will be incomplete and mitigation will be degraded or ineffective

The Planner’s Triangle

For Your Information (FYI):

Mitigation is defined by FEMA as: "Any action taken to eliminate or reduce the long-term risk to human life and property from natural and man-made hazards."



1. Threat/Risk Assessment: The first step in Strategic Planning is to do risk or threat assessment. Because Emergency Management is primarily a "strategic" activity, it must analyze the threat to economic and population centers; determine the significance of that threat; gauge the potential scope of the threat (size and impact); project threat frequency and provide a course of action (Emergency Plan) for governing bodies. Building a professional library for threat identification and resource information (data bases) is highly recommended. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA)2 should be the first areas strategically planned. See Note 2 and Tool Box below. 

For Your Information (FYI):

FEMA, under a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), has developed a standardized, loss estimation methodology. It is being expanded into a multi-hazard methodology with new models for estimating potential losses from wind (hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, extra tropical cyclones and hail) and flood (riverine and coastal) hazards. This methodology is implemented through PC-based Geographic Information System (GIS) software called HAZUS. HAZUS is an essential element of FEMA's Project Impact initiative, a national movement to create safer and more disaster resistant communities. Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning (HMEP) has a grant program which evolved from a proposal developed by DOT, FEMA, EPA, DOL/OSHA, and DOE. It was presented to Congress during the legislative process to reauthorize the HMTA of 1974. Federal Hazardous Material law (FHML) creates an appropriate role for the Federal government to provide financial, technical assistance, national direction, and guidance to enhance State and local hazardous materials emergency planning and training. The American Red Cross and many Colleges and Universities also have produced information resources for this purpose. Many business and government agencies have sophisticated analysis capabilities which include GIS and computer-based modeling.

2. Requirements: Once threat assessment has been made, requirements to neutralize or reduce threat effects must be identified. The planner’s "rule of thumb" says: "A requirement is a requirement is a requirement." Requirements go away for two primary reasons. (1) The threat changes and/or goes away or (2) it is satisfied with resources. Unidentified requirements are still requirements. If undetected, unidentified requirements will create serious shortfalls to the strategic planning process and could adversely affect response and readiness capabilities. During the requirement identification process, special care needs to be taken not to limit requirement satisfaction to resources owned. Many times strategic planning is compromised by limiting requirement satisfaction only to the resources over which an "entity" has ownership or control. In Emergency Management the size of the disaster can normally be expected to over-whelm the owned or controlled resources. This is why "Partnering" and Mutual Aid Pacts are necessary. Care also needs to be taken not to "scale" to owned or controlled capabilities through assumptions in the planning process. The continuum below illustrates this point. Do not assume away the high end!


The Threat /Risk versus Resources Continuum

Low end (resources owned/controlled ) ◄-----► Mid Level (requires resource sharing) ◄-----► High End (exceeds resources)

3. Resources: All resources in a geographical location should be considered for satisfying requirements regardless of ownership. Resources can come from Academia (Schools, Colleges and Universities), Business and Industry, Government (Federal, State and Local), and Volunteers. Money and fiscal policy need to be applied to the Strategic Planning process in order to man, equip, train, and maintain a "state of readiness"  Motivation to mitigate and reduce or negate disaster impacts will determine the level of readiness of a geographical area.   It takes a certain amount of fiscal resource to perform this strategic function.  Governing bodies are an integral part of Emergency Management process and programs because they are the legal bodies that set policy, enact legislation and have the legal authority over how public and private monies and property are acquired, used and disposed of.  The Strategic Plan normally becomes the legal document for a governing body and it helps to set resource priorities for requirement satisfaction. When compiling a resource list, common nomenclature3 and taxonomies4 should be used. If they are different, then care should be exercised. Nomenclatures need to be converted or translated for interoperability and commonality on the lists before use. The reason is for this is, that different owning or controlling resource entities use dissimilar identifiers. For example: an identifier for a "truck" in one system may be a "pickup" and in another it may be an "eighteen wheeler."

For Your Information (FYI):

Because the size of the disaster or catastrophic event is directly proportional to the population and economic resources in an affected area, demographic and economic information are critical to the planning process. See Tool Box below.


Every planner should keep and maintain a professional library as mentioned earlier. Always be on the look out for new material and sources of information. You are only limited by your lack of imagination, your ability to innovate, and your creativeness. The following references provide a starting point for such a library. It is by no means all-inclusive or complete. Continuing education and self-improvement programs are a must. Disclaimer: Because some of the references listed are commercial in nature, their presence in this section does not imply endorsement or approval.

Planners’s Tool Box


FEMA Online Index: 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB): 

US Census: 

Online Hazard Maps Create custom hazard maps on the Web. Enter a location and select from several hazard types to help determine disaster risks in your community. 


Business Control Atlas (USA), by the American Map Corporation (This manual is published about every five years) It contains US Census data and Maps of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in hardcopy.

FEMA Publication Distribution Center, PO Box 2012, Jessup MD 20794.

Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form and Instructions: FEMA Form 81-93 has been revised (minor changes) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The effective date of this new form is October 1998, with an expiration date of October 31, 2001. This revised form replaces FEMA Form 81-93 of June 1995, which expired April 1998.


HAZUS, National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), 1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 700 Washington, D.C. 20005-4905 (202) 289-7800, Fax (202) 289-1092 Email:  HAZUS relies on third-party software and is available in two versions: the original MapInfo® version and an ArcView® version. HAZUS publications can be ordered online at:  Contact FEMA at
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB): Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) 

Training Manuals

EMI Independent Study Program, 16825 S. Seton Ave., Emmitsburg, MD 21727). Enroll online at: 

Introduction to Mitigation (IS 393). Mitigation can and should be an important component of the planning effort. This course provides an introduction to mitigation those who are new to emergency management and/or mitigation. It is also a prerequisite for a non-resident Applied Practices Series course called Mitigation for Emergency Managers.

The Professional in Emergency Management (IS 513) The hard copy of this course makes a very good reference for professional libraries. It is recommended that the hard copy version be ordered.


HMEP Grant Procedures: (Published as: 49 CFR PART 110-Hazardous Materials Public Sector Training And Planning Grants, August 24, 1992) Use standard application forms approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (SF-424 and SF-424A) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (44 U.S.C. 3502). Applicants are required to submit an original and two copies of the application package to: HMTUSA Grants Manager, Research and Special Programs Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Applications received on or before July 1st of each year will be considered in that cycle of the review and award process.


FEMA Emergency Response Team Information and Planning Section Operations Manual, February 2000 (Draft).

FEMA The Professional in Emergency Management Independent Study Course, IS-513 March 1999

FEMA Introduction to Mitigation Independent Study Course, EMI IS-393

Business Control Atlas, American Map Corporation, 46-35 54th Rd. Maspeth, NY 11378-9864

HAZUS, National Institute of Building Sciences, 1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 700 Washington, D.C. 20005-4905 (202) 289-7800, Fax (202) 289-1092 Email: 

Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1989 Edition, Portland House, Crown Publishers, Inc., 225 Park Avenue South, New York, New York



1 David T. Crews, CEM, works in Information and Planning, Emergency Support Function 5, FEMA Region VII as a Disaster Assistance Employee. He is also Webmaster of Emergency Management Gold! WWW:  His background experience in strategic planning includes staff duty with the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs, CO. While on duty with the USAF, he was trained on the Joint Operations Planning System (JOPS). At NORAD he authored the Logistics Annex to the Air Defense Strategic Plan for the Recovery and Reconstitution of the North American Continent (the U.S. and Canada) and was a Battle Support Staff Director on the Logistics Dais. He served as a local emergency management coordinator for Reno, County, KS. During his tenure with Reno County, he wrote the County Local Emergency Operations Plan. As part of the FEMA Region VII Emergency Response Team he is actively engaged in several forms of disaster planning, including FEMA Strategic Planning in Disaster Field Offices. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and the National Defense University (NDU) and has taken advanced studies in education, public administration and computer applications. He has completed the FEMA Professional Development Series (PDS) and attended ESF-5 and Planning & Analysis training at the FEMA Emergency Management Institute. David Crews is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) through the International Emergency Management Association (IAEM).

For further information on this subject contact: David T. Crews, CEM 146 S. Grain Ave, Suite 100, Clearwater, KS 67026-0294 Tel: (620) 584-2233  Email: 

2 The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in terms of entire counties, except in the six New England States where they are defined in terms of cities and towns. If an area has more than 1 million population and meets certain other requirements specified in the Metropolitan Area Standards published in the Federal Register, it is termed a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA), consisting of two or more major components recognized as Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas (PMSAs). The set of areas known as MSAs, PMSAs, and CMSAs are collectively designated as Metropolitan Areas(MAs). An electronic version of the Revised Statistical Definitions for Metropolitan Areas became effective on June 30, 1999. A total of 261 Metropolitan Statistical Areas are recognized in the United States and Puerto Rico. There are 19 Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas, consisting of 76 Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas. List I on the Software Set from OMB is a comprehensive alphabetical listing of all MSAs, CMSAs, and PMSAs. It presents the definition and central cities for each MSA, and identifies each CMSA and PMSA by title only (referring the user to List II for their definitions). List II provides definitions of each CMSA and its component PMSAs. Both List I and List II present central cities in the order in which they appear in the area title and then in descending order of their 1990 populations. List III identifies the MSAs, CMSAs, and PMSAs by state, with cross references to the list on which to find each area's definition and central cities.


3 Nomenclature is a set or system of names or terms as those used in a particular science or art, by an individual or community.

4 Taxonomy is the science or art of classification.