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Back to Archives | Back to March 2008 Contents 

National Response Framework Replaces the National Response Plan

The National Response Framework (NRF) will go into effect March 22, 2008. The NRF base document, the Emergency Support Function Annexes, and Support Annexes are available online at the NRF Resource Center ( The annexes are a total of 23 individual documents designed to provide concepts of operations, procedures, and structures for achieving response directives for all partners in fulfilling their roles under the NRF.

he U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released the National Response Framework (NRF), successor to the National Response Plan. The NRF, which focuses on response and short-term recovery, articulates the doctrine, principles, and architecture by which the United States prepares for and responds to all-hazard disasters across all levels of government and all sectors of communities. The DHS states that this new plan has been created in response to repeated federal, state, local, and private-sector requests for a streamlined document that is less bureaucratic and more user-friendly. The NRF also focuses on preparedness and encourages a higher level of readiness across all jurisdictions.

The purpose of the new NRF is to ensure that government executives, leaders in the private sector, nongovernmental organization leaders, and emergency management practitioners across the United States understand domestic-incident response roles, responsibilities, and relationships in order to respond more effectively to any type of incident.

The NRF is a guide that details response from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe. The framework identifies the key response principles as well as the roles and structures that organize national response. It describes how communities, states, the federal government, and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply these principles for a coordinated, effective national response. In addition, it describes special circumstances where the federal government exercises a larger role, including incidents where federal interests are involved and catastrophic incidents where a state would require significant support. It lays the groundwork for first responders, decision makers, and supporting entities to provide a unified national response.

The NRF retains the same core principles of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), in which first responders from different jurisdictions and disciplines can work together more closely to respond effectively to natural disasters and emergencies, including acts of terrorism.

The NRF is intended for senior elected and appointed leaders, such as federal department and agency heads, state governors, mayors, tribal leaders, city managers, and the private sector. Simultaneously, it informs emergency management practitioners by explaining the operating structures and tools routinely used by first responders and emergency managers at all levels of government.

The NRF is broader in scope than previous plans and provides structures for implementing national-level policy and operational coordination for domestic-incident response. In this document, incidents include actual or potential emergencies or all-hazard events that range from accidents and natural disasters to actual or potential terrorist attacks. Such incidents range from modest events wholly contained within a single community to others that are catastrophic in nature and national in their scope of consequences.

The NRF contains a section that focuses on the critical importance of planning. The intent is to lay the groundwork to link planning, preparedness, resource and asset management processes, and data in a virtual environment; to prioritize plans and planning efforts to best support homeland security strategies and allow seamless transition to execution; and to provide parallel and concurrent planning at all levels of government.

In addition to releasing the NRF base document, the Emergency Support Function Annexes and Support Annexes will be released and posted online at the NRF Resource Center ( The annexes are a total of 23 individual documents designed to provide concepts of operations, procedures, and structures for achieving response directives for all partners in fulfilling their roles under the NRF.

Partner guides are available for local, state, federal, and private-sector partners to assist in applying the NRF principles for a coordinated, effective response. Each guide provides a more detailed description of roles and responsibilities; response structures; key actions before, during, and after an incident; and ways to request and/or provide assistance. These guides are intended to provide an overview of how these various organizations organize and operate and how they interact with each other to provide a unified, national response.

Upon finalization and publication of the NRF base document and the annexes, the DHS will initiate an intensive nationwide training and exercise program to embed the NRF into the U.S. preparedness and response cycle. Implementation of the NRF training and exercise strategy will include awareness training, position-specific training, exercises (tabletop and functional), and sustainment training.

To make the NRF a “living system” that can be revised and updated in a more nimble, transparent fashion, the NRF Resource Center ( was developed—an online repository of the entire component parts of the NRF. The Resource Center will allow for ongoing revisions as necessary to reflect real-world events and lessons learned.

The NRF and the annexes will go into effect March 22, 2008. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 75, no. 3, March 2008. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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