The following information is designed to provide additional guidance or resources for certain application steps. It is organized by the Tier, then by the application section or application step. Not all sections or steps have additional guidance. There is also a separate FAQ page, and the main program page contains links to generic resources that are not specific to any one Tier.
While you read through the guidance and complete the program steps, remember that EMS Ready Campus, like all NCEMSF self-evaluative programs, is designed to help organizations on a path to improve their operations. As such, perfection in all areas (especially in regards to plan development and exercise design and execution) is not essential. Recognition will still be granted even if areas for improvement exist in the submitted applications, and NCEMSF staff can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org at any time during the process to provide mentorship and guidance.
- Bronze Tier
- Silver Tier
- Gold Tier
Tasks in the Bronze Tier are intended to introduce EMS agencies to emergency management. The requirements for this tier will serve as the foundation for higher tiers. While the program staff may be more lenient on the requirements for the Bronze Tier than they are for higher tiers, feedback designed to improve application components will still be provided and organizations should act on that feedback to improve their operations.
The Bronze Tier requires that all staff take three FEMA courses, all of which are available online as free independent study classes.
- IS-100.c: Introduction to the Incident Command System, ICS 100
- IS-200.c: Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response, ICS 200
- IS-700.b: An Introduction to the National Incident Management System
Those who have taken earlier versions of these classes (with different suffixes) may submit those courses in lieu of the current editions.
The following is intended to provide guidance on drafting a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) plan. Utilize these recommendations to help you create a plan (or revise an existing plan) to best be able to respond to incidents on your campus. Please remember that the steps below are general guidance. Your specific plan should meet the individual needs of your organization, and comply with any requirements, regulations, and/or laws from your institution, local jurisdiction, region, and state. As such, the items below are not a check-list by which your plan will be accepted or rejected when submitting your EMS Ready Campus application, but application evaluators will look for many of these elements and may provide corrective feedback if certain elements are missing.
As with all emergency management planning, drafting an MCI plan should be a collaborative process. Before beginning, you must identify a planning team made up of subject matter experts who can assist with the process. These individuals should not just come from your organization's leadership team but should also include representatives from outside agencies you would work with during an MCI, campus administration, hospitals or medical direction, and any regional or state EMS coordinating bodies. By soliciting outside input, you will ensure your plan does not conflict with other outside plans, procedures, regulations, or laws.
A good MCI plan should have a realistic scope. What is an MCI for your agency? What goals and objectives does your agency have when responding to an MCI. How do the abilities and resources of your agency fit into the larger EMS picture for your area? By setting expectations, you can ensure that your plan does not exceed the available capabilities of your squad or your regional partners.
Your plan should include guidance on when an MCI would be declared versus when normal operations would be used. This guidance is called activation triggers. Some agencies chose to set defined numbers or types of patients that would trigger an MCI, while others may decide to use looser definitions. For collegiate EMS agencies that have reduced response capacities during certain portions of the academic year, variable triggers or looser definitions (for example, based on the number of in-service units) may be more appropriate than an across-the-board trigger based only on number of patients.
Because MCIs are different than normal EMS responses, the on-scene organizational structure also needs to change. Your MCI plan should address the specific roles and responsibilities at an MCI along with who is expected to fill those roles. Be sure your plan can stand the test of time by assigning roles not to specific individuals or even by the rank or role in your organization's day-to-day command structure, but rather by assigning roles based on categories like "first-arriving EMS unit" or "first arriving outside agency supervisor." This gives the plan enough flexibility to be applicable in a variety of scenarios while still providing enough guidance to responders that they can know their expected roles.
Only after addressing the issues described above should you come to what most people think of when they see an MCI plan: triage, treatment, and transport procedures. It is best to follow established algorithms and existing best-practices in these areas. Consulting with regional or state EMS coordinating bodies can ensure your triage methods are consistent with the rest of the responders you will work with. When considering treatment, your medical director should provide input on allowed deviations from normal practice (such as rapid extrication). Your treatment section should also consider situations where there will be extended on-scene treatment needs, and how those needs can be addressed. Transport considerations will depend on available on-campus and mutual aid resources, the capacities and locations of area hospitals, existing regional or state-wide plans for transport from MCIs, and access to other specialty resources (air ambulances, medical ambulance buses, and public transit, school, or shuttle buses).
Emergency management planning does not stop with the incident. A section on demobilization procedures will address what to do after all patients are transported. This should include compliance with documentation requirements, cleaning or replenishment of equipment, and even post-incident mental health concerns for responders.
Finally, there are three administrative items that should be included in your plan: after-action analysis procedures and a timeline training on the plan, and a process for plan revision. After-action analyses should take place once the incident is fully concluded and should be conducted in a "no-fault" manner. Ideally, having a moderator with experience in the AAR process who was not directly involved with the response will ensure that the process proceeds smoothly. Responders should discuss what went well along with areas for improvement. Notes should be taken, and leadership should take identified areas for improvement and create a list of improvement actions (specifically noting steps to be taken, who will take those steps, and when the steps will be completed by). In addition, your members need to know what is in the plan prior to implementing it. The plan should specify when and how training will be conducted. Training should always occur before the plan is used in an exercise, as this gives everyone the best possible chance of successfully implementing the plan and allows your exercise to highlight weaknesses in the plan (as opposed to exercising before training, which will only show you that training is needed). Finally, the plan should include guidance on how often revisions should take place. Plan revisions should incorporate lessons-learned and improvement steps from exercises and real-world activations. The process should also look for any changes inside your organization, at mutual aid partners, with laws or regulations, and to best practices as all of these can affect components of the plan. If the overall situation or environment in which the plan would be used changes, the plan must change too.
For additional information on the emergency planning process, please reference a FEMA document titled Comprehensive Preparedness Guidance 101 (CPG 101) which specifically covers developing emergency plans in general, as well as their guide that is specific to Emergency Operations Plans for Institutions of Higher Education.
There is a federal law called the Community Right-to-Know Act, which requires any organization that stores certain quantities of hazardous materials to file reports on those chemicals annually. These reports are commonly called Right-to-Know reports or Tier 2 reports. They are usually filed with the EPA, a state environmental agency, and/or the local fire department or emergency management agency. Most institutions of higher education have their risk management or safety offices complete the reports. These reports should not be confused with Cleary Act disclosures of campus crime data and safety issues. While access to that information is also important, only the hazardous materials data is required for the EMS Ready Campus application.
In addition to the Right-to-Know/Tier 2 hazmat reports (or in lieu of them if your state does not authorize disclosure of them), you are also asked to document how your responders can access additional information on hazardous materials present on your campus. The Right-to-Know/Tier 2 reports only cover chemicals over a certain quantity that are stored for a certain length of time. Most campus labs use quantities under the reporting thresholds or use their chemical stocks too frequently to be considered to be storing them. As such, you should find out how you can access Safety Data Sheets on chemicals used on campus or other systems (like chemical storeroom lists) that can provide you with data on chemical hazards that may be present. Safety Data Sheet (SDS) access is ideal, because those documents also include the physical properties of the chemical and specific response procedures. However, access to at least an internal system tracking the types, locations, and quantities of chemicals can provide you with enough information to plan for special hazards should they exist.
The Silver Tier builds on the work done at the Bronze Tier. In addition to the added requirements, be aware that evaluation of the EMS Ready Campus applications for the Silver Tier will be stricter, and the program staff may ask for additional revisions prior to granting the recognition.
Remember that anyone who has joined your organization since the Bronze Tier training was conducted must also complete all Bronze training requirements.
One additional free online FEMA class is required for the ICS training at the Silver Tier.
Those who have taken an earlier version of this class (with a different suffix) may submit that course in lieu of the current edition.
In addition, the Silver Tier requires training in Hazardous Materials Awareness. This training should meet the requirements set out by the NFPA 1072 or the HAZWOPER (29 CFR Part 1910.120) regulations. A free online version that meets NFPA requirements is available from the Texas A&M University Extension Service. (Courses that meet NFPA 472 that were completed on or before December 31, 2019 will be accepted for the 2020 Conference application period only.)
Other universities may provide similar online courses, or an in-person class may be available. When providing documentation for this requirement, in addition to the training roster or individual certificates, please provide information showing that the class meets the NFPA or HAZWOPER requirements.
All courses at the Hazardous Materials Awareness level require access to the Emergency Response Guidebook. This should already be available to you as an emergency response agency; copies are normally placed in all emergency vehicles. Hard-copy versions are produced every four years (on the same schedule as US presidential elections). If your organization lacks these books, contact your local fire department or emergency management agency for information on ordering copies in your region. For the purposes of the class, you can also access a PDF version of the current edition at the PHMSA website. Various phone app versions are available as well; PHMSA publishes an official app version (accessed from the PHMSA website), and you can also use the National Library of Medicine's WISER app which contains both the ERG information and various additional tools.
Additional training is required at the Silver Tier for anyone who may assume a command role on an incident scene as well as listed members of your organization's leadership team. Based on the content of the courses and your organization's internal procedures, you may also wish to assign these courses to additional members as you see fit. These are all free online FEMA classes.
- IS-362.a: Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools
- IS-15.b: Special Events Contingency Planning for Public Safety Agencies
- IS-29.a: Public Information Officer Awareness
Those who have taken earlier versions of these classes (with different suffixes) may submit those courses in lieu of the current editions.
There are two options presented at the Silver Tier for emergency operations planning: produce an EMS-specific Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) or ensure that your EMS organization is integrated into a campus-wide EOP. Determining which method to use will be based on discussions held at the level of your EMS organization and at the level of the campus administrator responsible for the campus-wide EOP. Input from outside EMS and emergency management partners may also be of assistance. If you opt to integrate EMS into a campus-wide EOP, we still recommend reading the EMS-specific EOP section below, as the guidance there may help you determine what additions are needed to the campus-wide EOP.
FEMA has a document called Comprehensive Preparedness Guidance 101 (CPG 101) which specifically covers developing emergency plans. While mostly aimed at state and local planning, the underlying information and practices in the document will also apply to specific departments of or organizations at colleges and universities. Reading through CPG 101 and adhering to its recommended practices will ensure that your Emergency Operations Plan is accurate and meets the needs of your organization. FEMA also has a document specific to Emergency Operations Plans for Institutions of Higher Education. In addition, reach out to your campus emergency manager (or other responsible administrator) as well as local government emergency management staff to let them know you are beginning this process, as they can advise if certain procedures need to be followed or if standardized plan templates are available.
Describe what creates an emergency for your organization. This should specifically indicate the difference between the routine response activities of your group and activities during emergencies or disasters. It is normally not necessary to list out specific triggers for specific hazards. Instead, consider what general conditions could lead to an emergency situation. This can also encompass situations where an EMS administrator or campus administrator declares an emergency.
Provide detail on how your organization's operations change during emergencies, including any special procedures, how your organization integrates with the campus organization, and what coordination steps will be taken. Remember the primary priorities for emergency incident response: life safety and incident stabilization.
With changes in operations come changes to roles and responsibilities for members of your organization. This includes updated organizational or command and control structures (for field response, this usually follows the National Incident Management System and ICS, while for EOC operations, alternate organizational charts are sometimes used). Your organization may also have additional duties assigned, or your responsibilities may be curtailed. These should all be described.
Under regular operations, your organization has certain abilities granted by the institution and local, regional, and state governing and EMS coordination bodies. In emergency situations, additional authorizations may be granted, or individuals may have modified authority. As an example, in local government EOPs, there is often a document signed by the mayor or chief elected official granting the Emergency Management Coordinator the authority to act on behalf of the city for certain specific emergency-related purposes. The EMS-specific EOP should include clear guidance on what additional authorities are granted, by whom, under what conditions, and for how long. The documents providing this guidance are called delegations of authority.
Your Emergency Operations Plan should also document (in general, since specifics sometimes change) what resources and facilities are available for emergency use. When those resources or facilities are not normally used by your organization, this is accomplished through written agreements with outside groups. As part of an academic institution, you may also be able to leverage the services of other departments (such as a facilities department) to handle this on your behalf. Discuss options related to this with the appropriate parties.
The plan should also include information on relationships with outside organizations. While your agency may utilize mutual aid on a regular basis, an emergency or disaster may change that relationship. In other situations, certain mutual aid agreements may only become active in a disaster (such as regional ambulance deployments). Be sure that these considerations are included.
As was the case with the MCI plan developed for the Bronze Tier, an EOP should include a timeline training on the plan and a process for plan revision. Your members need to know what is in the plan prior to implementing it. The plan should specify when and how training will be conducted. Training should always occur before the plan is used in an exercise, as this gives everyone the best possible chance of successfully implementing the plan and allows your exercise to highlight weaknesses in the plan (as opposed to exercising before training, which will only show you that training is needed). In addition, the plan should include guidance on how often revisions should take place. Plan revisions should incorporate lessons-learned and improvement steps from exercises and real-world activations. The process should also look for any changes inside your organization, at mutual aid partners, with laws or regulations, and to best practices as all of these can affect components of the plan. If the overall situation or environment in which the plan would be used changes, the plan must change too.
Governmental emergency management plans account for the financial and administrative concerns of disaster response for both the incident and the recovery process. Because disaster financial reimbursement may not apply to all collegiate EMS organizations (and because of the legal and administrative work necessary to prepare for it), this specific section is not required for EMS Ready Campus applications. However, it is advisable to have conversations with your institution about this issue if they wish to pursue the work needed in the future. Should you wish to pursue this component, know that while reimbursement is available for responses to disasters, that reimbursement is contingent on compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. Your institution's risk management, legal, and financial departments should be able to provide guidance, as can outside EMS providers who already are active in disaster response. At a basic level, you should be sure to include provisions for tracking hours worked by individual staff members (whether paid or volunteer), supplies and resources used and the costs of those supplies and resources, and damage to your organization's facilities and vehicles caused by the emergency. You should also ensure that your members are all compliant with NIMS training requirements. And be aware that disaster reimbursement is often based on your organization's normal costs, so expecting financial reimbursement for hours worked by EMTs when their normal activities are done on a volunteer basis is not realistic. That said, hours spent volunteering in response to a disaster can sometimes be used by local governments as credit towards their federal cost-sharing requirements, so tracking the services of volunteers is still important.
After drafting the EOP, it should be reviewed by outside individuals. It is recommended that you start with your institution's emergency manager (or the equivalent administrator). Then provide the plan for review by any other campus departments that are referenced in the plan to ensure that they are aware of what you expect from them. They may provide feedback that the expectations cannot be met, in which case the plan will need to be revised. After working internally at your institution, provide the EOP for review by outside partners referenced in the plan, again incorporating any feedback they provide. Finally, get feedback from governmental emergency management partners and regional or state EMS coordinating groups. This process will ensure your plan does not conflict with other plans while also helping you gather valuable feedback from others who may have broader emergency management experience.
As an alternative to developing an EMS-specific Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), your organization may decide to ensure EMS is incorporated into the campus-wide EOP. If this alternative is selected, certain EMS Ready Campus application requirements will change, but the overall content issues discussed above for a stand-alone EOP will still apply.
First, incorporation of EMS into a campus-wide EOP should involve a series of conversations between EMS and campus administrators responsible for revisions of the campus-wide EOP. In addition to ensuring that the campus-wide EOP has specific roles for EMS that are realistic (neither too broad or too narrow), the conversations should also ensure that EMS operations will fit in appropriately with campus-wide incident command, that EMS is afforded similar input in a unified command setup as other departments (such as law enforcement and campus health), and MORE?
Second, the information about EMS identified in the first step should be integrated into the campus-wide EOP. This can either be done in a section specific to EMS, or in existing areas of the campus-wide EOP as appropriate. In some cases, the existing campus-wide EOP may already be sufficient. For the purposes of the EMS Ready Campus application, you should submit one of the following, depending on which route your institution decided to go:
- if an EMS-specific section was added to (or already existed in) the campus-wide EOP, submit the EMS-specific section;
- if changes were made throughout the existing campus-wide EOP, write a detailed summary of the changes made; or
- if the campus-wide EOP already included EMS, write a detailed summary of the existing information in the EOP that relates to EMS.
Third, your organization needs to formally adopt the campus-wide EOP. You should draft a policy which reflects this, and also ensure that staff are trained on the applicable sections of the campus-wide EOP in the same way they would be if your organization drafted its own EMS-specific EOP. Documentation of the adoption policy and training requirements should be submitted with your EMS Ready Campus Application.
Fourth, your campus emergency manager (or equivalent administrator) should provide a letter certifying that the campus-wide EOP incorporates your EMS organization at an equivalent level to all other campus departments, that they have met with EMS leadership to ensure that expectations are realistic, and that EMS will be included in the incident command structure as appropriate to a given event or incident. This letter should also be submitted with your EMS Ready Campus application.
The Gold Tier is the highest level of recognition in the EMS Ready Campus program. Organizations that receive the Gold Tier should not only be fully active in emergency management but should also be capable of serving as mentors for organizations applying for lower tiers. As such, applications at this tier will be evaluated with the highest level of scrutiny.
Most training requirements for the Gold Tier are specific to your campus. See the application checklist for details. That said, additional training is specified for certain members of your organization as noted below. In addition, remember that anyone who has joined your organization since the Bronze and Silver Tier trainings were conducted must also complete those classes.
Additional training is required at the Gold Tier for anyone who may assume a command role on an incident scene as well as listed members of your organization's leadership team. Based on the content of the courses and your organization's internal procedures, you may also wish to assign these courses to additional members as you see fit.
- ICS 300 is a free three-day in-person course. Contact your local or state emergency management agency for information on upcoming offerings.
- The FEMA Professional Development Series (PDS) is a certificate issued after completion of seven Independent Study courses. The process is free, but issuance of the certificate takes additional time. The actual Professional Development Series certificates must be submitted for the EMS Ready Campus application (not simply the completion certificates for individual courses). Full details are at the FEMA website.
Individuals in your organization involved with exercise design and evaluation should complete two additional free online FEMA independent study courses. Note that one of these overlaps with the requirements for the PDS certificate.
The Gold Tier places additional requirements on the use of exercises to support emergency management and emergency response. FEMA has compiled best-practices on exercises into the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). Full information on the HSEEP process is available via in-person FEMA courses on the program (contact your local or state emergency management agency for details). However, the overall point of the program is to ensure that exercises are conducted using best-practices like utilizing a planning process when designing an exercise, developing SMART exercise objectives, having clear guidelines for exercise outcomes and evaluations, using a stair-step approach to exercises (start with training, then proceed to smaller or task-focused exercises prior to conducting large and more complex exercises), and conducting after-action analyses and generating improvement plans based on exercise results. In addition to the educational content provided during an HSEEP course, FEMA also provides an HSEEP Toolkit that contains templates that can be used for exercise documentation. That toolkit is available for free from the FEMA Preparedness Toolkit site.
If possible, you should also solicit the guidance of a Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) to assit with designing your exercise. FEMA's MEP program is intended for experienced emergency management professionals who wish to gain an in-depth knowledge of exercise development and execution. As this program requires specific experience, includes an application process, and has mandatory in-person training at FEMA's Emergency Management Institute, it is not recommended for current students. However, you should encourage a member of your school's administration who is involved in exercise development to pursue the certification to ensure your institution benefits over the long term.