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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

7.2 Federal Emergency Operations Plan

As required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5, the NRP establishes the structure and process for systematic, coordinated, and effective delivery of Federal assistance to augment State, Tribal, and jurisdictional response capabilities.[6] It describes Federal resources that are available to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from major emergencies and disasters. In addition, the NRP outlines the mechanisms for mobilizing and integrating Federal support. While the NRP is always in effect, its implementation is scalable and flexible to meet the unique operational and information sharing requirements of any major threat, disaster, and emergency, including acts of terrorism.

The types of direct Federal assistance that States, Tribal Nations, and jurisdictions may need, as well as the operations support required to sustain Federal response (e.g., transportation, communications), are organized in the NRP under ESF annexes. Each ESF is coordinated by a Primary Agency designated on the basis of its authorities, resources, and capabilities in a particular functional area. Federal public health and medical assistance is provided under ESF #8, and HHS serves as the Primary Agency to coordinate ESF #8 resources to fulfill the requirements identified by the affected State(s), Tribe(s), and jurisdictional authorities. HHS may also support other ESFs, most notably ESF #6—Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services.

Pursuant to HSPD-5, the Secretary of DHS is responsible for the overall coordination of Federal resources under the NRP. During an event, the Secretary of DHS may designate a PFO to act as his/her representative in the field to oversee, coordinate, and execute Federal incident planning and response activities. The Secretary also relies on a host of multiagency coordinating structures at the Federal headquarters, regional, and field levels. These structures, some of which were recently modified in the May 2006 update of the NRP, include the following:[7]

  • National Operations Center (NOC): The NOC replaces the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) as the central point for Federal incident management, interagency coordination, and information sharing. One of the key functional elements of the NOC is the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), which coordinates the overall Federal response and recovery for Incidents of National Significance and emergency management program implementation.[8]
  • Incident Management Planning Team (IMPT): The IMPT provides contingency and crisis incident management planning in support of DHS national domestic incident mission requirements. It is composed of a core group of full-time senior planners who are assigned to the IMPT from interagency and DHS offices for a period of one year. In addition, there is pre-identified on-call staff to augment the IMPT core staff when required.
  • Domestic Readiness Group (DRG): The White House convenes the DRG on a regular basis to develop and coordinate implementation of preparedness and response policy. The DRG is also convened in anticipation of or during crises such as natural disasters and domestic terrorists attacks to address issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels, and to provide strategic policy direction for the Federal response.
  • Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC): Within each of its regions, the DHS/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may establish an RRCC to coordinate regional response efforts, establish Federal priorities, and implement local Federal program support until a Joint Field Office is established. The RRCC communicates with the affected State Emergency Operations Center (State EOC) and the NRCC, deploys teams to conduct initial damage assessments, and issues initial mission assignments.
  • Joint Field Office (JFO): The JFO is a temporary Federal facility established locally where Federal, State, Tribal, and local executives with responsibility for incident management coordinate, oversee, and direct prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery activities. It is organized according to the principles of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) around a JFO Coordination Group, as well as Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Administration/Finance Sections. The JFO Coordination Group may include a Principal Federal Official (PFO), designated by the DHS Secretary to be his/her representative locally to coordinate overall Federal incident management and assistance activities.
    • In the event of multiple incidents, or one incident with widespread implications (e.g., Hurricane Katrina), multiple JFOs may be established at the discretion of the Secretary of DHS.

The NRP is built upon the NIMS, which provides the core doctrine, terminology, and organizational processes for coordinated multidisciplinary and intergovernmental incident management. This includes uniform personnel qualifications and standards for equipment and communications. These concepts are necessary for interoperability and compatibility. The NIMS management framework is applicable to all hazards regardless of cause, size, or complexity. The Incident Command System (ICS) is put forth by NIMS as the model for organizing and managing emergency personnel and resources during incident response.[9] The NIMS requires that field command and management functions be performed in accordance with standard ICS organizations, doctrine, and procedures. 


  1. The NRP was originally published in December 2004; it was updated in May 2006 based on organizational changes in DHS and lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. At the time of this writing, the NRP is undergoing further revision. Readers are encouraged to visit the DHS Web site periodically for the latest updates to the NRP.
  2. Definitions of these multiagency structures are taken from: Department of Homeland Security, "Notice of Change to the National Response Plan," May 25, 2006. Readers are encouraged to access the NRP on the DHS Web site for more information.
  3. The NRCC is one of five sub-elements of the NOC; the other sub-elements include Interagency Watch, Information and Analysis Component; National Infrastructure Coordination Center; and Operational Planning Element.
  4. Appendix B describes ICS and its application to public health and me dical disciplines. 

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  • This page last reviewed: February 14, 2012