Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Emergency management pandemic planning: An analysis of state emergency plans

Amanda Savitt, PhD, Logan Gerber-Chavez, MS, Samantha Montano, PhD, Tanya Corbin, PhD


Conventional wisdom holds that pre-event planning is a key factor in effective disaster response. In assessing the response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is necessary to evaluate the extent to which emergency management agencies were prepared to respond to a pandemic, particularly given the unusual nature of this event, ie, scope, scale, and length of response. While emergency management agencies at every level of government have been involved in the COVID-19 response, state-level governments have taken on a prominent and atypical leadership role. This study assesses the extent and role that emergency management agencies planned for a pandemic scenario. Understanding the extent to which state-level emergency management agencies planned for an event like the COVID-19 pandemic and what they anticipated their roles to provide insight for future revisions in pandemic planning. This study addresses two related research questions: RQ 1: To what extent did state-level emergency management agencies account for a pandemic in emergency management response plans prior to COVID-19? RQ 2: What was the planned role of state-level emergency management agencies in the response to a pandemic? An analysis of state-level emergency management plans found that, although all states with available emergency management response plans included pandemics, there was significant variation in the extent of the inclusion, and the role prescribed for emergency management. Public health and emergency management response plans were congruent with respect to the planned role of emergency management.


emergency management, preparedness, public health, pandemic, planning, COVID-19, response

Full Text:



FEMA: COVID-19 disaster declarations. Available at Published 2020. Accessed December 3, 2020.

Buck RA: A better approach to managing COVID-19 and its effects. JEM. 2020; 18(7): 151-156.

McCaskill ND, Ollstein AM: Trump administration tells states to step up as governors plead for aid. Politico. April 5, 2020. Available at Accessed December 3, 2020.

Smith G: Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: A Review of the United States Disaster Assistance Framework. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2011.

Lister SA, Stockdale H: Pandemic Influenza: An Analysis of State Preparedness and Response Plans. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2007.

Herron SM: A legal guide to homeland security and emergency management for state and local governments. J Homel Secur Emerg Manag. 2006; 3(2): 94-99.

Department of Homeland Security: The strategic national risk assessment in support of PPD 8: A comprehensive risk-based approach toward a secure and resilient nation. Available at Accessed December 1-7, 2011.

FEMA: National threat and hazard identification and risk assessment (THIRA). 2019. Available at Accessed December 3, 2020.

Public Health Emergency: Pandemic and all hazards preparedness act. 2019. Available at Accessed January 17, 2021.

Toosi N, Lippman D, Diamond D: Before Trump’s inauguration, a warning: “The worst influenza pandemic since 1918 Politico.” 2020. Available at Accessed December 3, 2020.

FEMA: National Response Framework. 4th ed. Washington, DC: FEMA, 2019.

FEMA: Emergency Support Function #8—Public Health and Medical Services Annex. Washington, DC: FEMA, 2008.

Webster EM, Lee EA, Painter WL: Stafford Act Declarations for COVID-19 FAQ. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2020.

Quarantelli EL: Disaster Planning, Emergency Management and Civil Protection: The Historical Development of Organized Efforts to Plan for and to Respond to Disasters. Newark, DE: Disaster Research Center, 2000.

Perry RW, Lindell MK, Tierney KJ (eds.): Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2001.

Perry RW, Lindell MK: Preparedness for emergency response: Guidelines for the emergency planning process. Disasters. 2003; 27(4): 336-350.

Burby RJ: Making plans that matter: Citizen involvement and government action. J Am Plan Assoc. 2003; 69(1): 33-49. DOI: 10.1080/01944360308976292.

Sutton J, Tierney K: Disaster preparedness: Concepts, guidance, and research. In Assessing Disaster Preparedness Conference, Sebastopol, CA, 2006. Available at

McEntire DA, Myers A: Preparing communities for disasters: Issues and processes for government readiness. Disaster Prev Manag. 2004; 13(2): 140-152.

Alexander D: Towards the development of a standard in emergency planning. Disaster Prev Manag. 2005; 14(2): 158-175.

Alexander E: Dilemmas in evaluating planning, or back to basics: What is planning for? Plan Theory Pract. 2009; 10(2): 233-244.

Brooks M: Planning Theory for Practitioners. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association, 2002.

McConnell A, Drennan L: Mission impossible? Planning and preparing for crisis. J Conting Crisis Man. 2006; 14(2): 59-70.

Alexander DE: Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand, 2002. DOI: 10.2202/1547-7355.1599.

Waugh WL: Terrorism and the all-hazards model. J Emerg Manag. 2005; 3(2): 8-10.

Rose DA, Murthy S, Brooks J, et al.: The evolution of public health emergency management as a field of practice. Am J Public Health. 2017; 107(S2): S126-S133.

Klaiman TA, Ibrahim J, Hausman A: Do state written pandemic plans include federal recommendations? A national study. J Homel Secur Emerg Manag. 2009; 6(1).

Holmberg SD, Layton CM, Ghneim GS, et al.: State plans for containment of pandemic influenza. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006; 12(9): 1414-1417.

Nicholson WC: Emergency planning and potential liabilities for state and local governments. State Local Gov Rev. 2007; 39(1): 44-56.

Berke P, Smith G, Lyles W: Planning for resiliency: Evaluation of state hazard mitigation plans under the disaster mitigation act. Nat Hazards Rev. 2012; 13(2): 139-149.

Dalton LC, Burby RJ: Mandates, plans, and planners: Building local commitment to development management. J Am Plan Assoc. 1994; 60(4): 444-461.

Berke P: Enhancing plan quality: Evaluating the role of state planning mandates for natural hazard mitigation. J Environ Plan Manag. 1996; 39(1): 79-96.

Bernard EN: Developing Tsunami-Resilient Communities: The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. Berlin: Springer, 2005.

Kapucu N, Augustin ME, Garayev V: Interstate partnerships in emergency management: Emergency management assistance compact in response to catastrophic disasters. Public Adm Rev. 2009; 69(2): 297-313.

McCreight R: Constitutional authority in crisis: Examining a state governor’s emergency powers. J Homel Secur Emerg Manag. 2015; 12(1): 23-42. DOI: 10.1515/jhsem-2014-0095.

Xu HD, Basu R: How the United States flunked the COVID-19 test: Some observations and several lessons. Am Rev Public Adm. 2020; 50(6-7): 568-576. DOI: 10.1177/0275074020941701.

Strauss D: The US states uniting to combat coronavirus amid leadership vacuum. The Guardian. April 27, 2020. Available at Accessed April 7, 2021.

Bowling CJ, Fisk JM, Morris JC: Seeking patterns in chaos: Transactional federalism in the trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Am Rev Public Adm. 2020; 50(6-7): 512-518.

Kapucu N, Moynihan D: Trump’s (mis)management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Policy Stud. 2021; 42: 592-610. DOI: 10.1080/01442872.2021.1931671.

Kettl DF: States divided: The implications of American federalism for COVID-19. Public Admin Rev. 2020; 80(4): 595-602. DOI: 10.1111/puar.13243.

Adolph C, Amano K, Bang-Jensen B, et al.: Pandemic politics: Timing state-level social distancing responses to COVID-19. J Health Polit Policy Law. 2021; 46(2): 211-233. DOI: 10.1215/03616878-8802162.

Rocco P, Béland D, Waddan A: Stuck in neutral? Federalism, policy instruments, and counter-cyclical responses to COVID- 19 in the United States. Policy Soc. 2020; 39(3): 458-477. DOI: 10.1080/14494035.2020.1783793.

Curley C, Federman PS: State executive orders: Nuance in restrictions, revealing suspensions, and decisions to enforce. Public Admin Rev. 2020; 80(4): 623-628. DOI: 10.1111/puar.13250.

FEMA: Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning. Washington, DC: FEMA, 1996.

Charmaz K: Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2006.

Quarantelli EL, Boin A, Lagadec P: Studying future disasters and crises: A heuristic approach. In Handbook of Disaster Research. Cham: Springer, 2018: 61-83.

Kendra J, Wachtendorf T: Improvisation, creativity, and the art of emergency management. Underst Respond Terror. 2007; 19: 324-335.

Kapucu N: Emergency management: Whole community approach. Encycl Public Adm Public Policy. 2015; 3: 1-6.

Liu BF: Online disaster preparation: Evaluation of state emergency management web sites. Nat Hazards Rev. 2008; 9(1): 43-48. DOI: 10.1061/(asce)1527-6988(2008)9:1(43).



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2023 Journal of Emergency Management