Home Information Sharing & Analysis Prevention & Protection Preparedness & Response Research Commerce & Trade Travel Security Immigration
About the Department Open for Business Press Room
Current National Threat Level is elevated

The threat level in the airline sector is High or Orange. Read more.

Homeland Security 5 Year Anniversary 2003 - 2008, One Team, One Mission Securing the Homeland

National Preparedness Guidelines


Homeland Security Presidential Directive-8 (HSPD-8) of December 17, 2003 ("National Preparedness") directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal. The National Preparedness Guidelines (Guidelines) finalize development of the national preparedness goal and its related preparedness tools.

The purposes of the Guidelines are to:

  • Organize and synchronize national (including federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial) efforts to strengthen national preparedness;
  • Guide national investments in national preparedness;
  • Incorporate lessons learned from past disasters into national preparedness priorities;
  • Facilitate a capability-based and risk-based investment planning process; and
  • Establish readiness metrics to measure progress and a system for assessing the nation's overall preparedness capability to respond to major events, especially those involving acts of terrorism.

Download the full National Preparedness Guidelines. (PDF, 51 pages - 560 KB)

Critical Elements

The Guidelines defines what it means for the nation to be prepared. There are four critical elements of the Guidelines:

  1. The National Preparedness Vision, which provides a concise statement of the core preparedness goal for the Nation.
  2. The National Planning Scenarios, which depict a diverse set of high-consequence threat scenarios of both potential terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Collectively, the 15 scenarios are designed to focus contingency planning for homeland security preparedness work at all levels of government and with the private sector. The scenarios form the basis for coordinated federal planning, training, exercises, and grant investments needed to prepare for emergencies of all types.
  3. The Universal Task List (UTL), which is a menu of some 1,600 unique tasks that can facilitate efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from the major events that are represented by the National Planning Scenarios. It presents a common vocabulary and identifies key tasks that support development of essential capabilities among organizations at all levels. Of course, no entity will perform every task.
  4. The Target Capabilities List (TCL), which defines 37 specific capabilities that communities, the private sector, and all levels of government should collectively possess in order to respond effectively to disasters.

National Preparedness System

The National Preparedness System provides a way to organize preparedness activities and programs pursuant to the National Preparedness Guidelines. The desired end-state of our National Preparedness System is to achieve and sustain coordinated capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all hazards in a way that balances risk with resources.

The National Preparedness System provides opportunities for all levels of government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and individual citizens to work together to achieve priorities and capabilities outlined in the Guidelines. Many actions will be concurrent. They are described below in order of sequence:

  • Policy and Doctrine involves ongoing management and maintenance of national policy and doctrine for operations and preparedness, such as the National Incident Management System, National Response Plan, National Infrastructure Protection Plan, and the Guidelines.
  • Planning and Resource Allocation involves application of common planning processes and tools by government officials, working with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and individual citizens to identify requirements, allocate resources, and build and maintain coordinated capabilities that are prioritized based upon risk. 
  • Training, Exercises, and Lessons Learned involves delivery of training and exercises and performance evaluation to identify lessons learned and share effective practices. 
  • Assessment and Reporting involves assessments based on established readiness metrics and reporting on progress and effectiveness of efforts to achieve the vision of the Guidelines.

Download Plug-in

Some of the links on this page require a plug-in to view them. Links to the plug-ins are available below.

Click Here to Download Adobe Acrobat Reader Adobe Acrobat (PDF)

This page was last reviewed/modified on September 11, 2008.