Managing Chaos

Our secret fears are true: We write emergency plans that nobody reads. But it’s worse than that.

Done wrong (and most of us do it sort of wrong), disaster planning creates complicated documents full of specific actions that make us feel prepared but really just perpetuate a fantasy world. Poor planning makes disaster response worse – bureaucratic, slow, with a false sense of security and stubborn leaders that won’t innovate when we need them most.

But good emergency planning is desperately important. This handbook and its accompanying tools, checklists and templates will walk you through a planning process that compiles the best evidence-based planning techniques into one readable guide.

Please check it out! We don’t claim it’s perfect – but as preparedness folk, we’d like to help the field as much as we can. We’re always looking for feedback, too, so send your thoughts in to

Remember, these files are presented for instructional purposes only and are not necessarily the exact tools we use at NYC Health.

Managing Chaos: A Disaster Planner’s Handbook - Guide and Tools

Get to know the Evidence-Based Planning Criteria used in the Handbook (PDF)

Read Managing Chaos: A Disaster Planner’s Handbook (18 pages; PDF)

Reference the Planner’s Checklist to Manage Your Projects (1 page; PDF)

By Section

Planning Criteria
Planner’s Checklist

The Handbook by Phase

Introduction, Instructions and Legend (Pgs. 1-2)

Phase 1: A Consensual Hallucination (Pgs. 3-4)

Form the team that will run the response

Get the Start Agreement (MS WORD)

Phase 2: The Wrong Right Answer (Pgs. 5-6)

Craft a true problem statement

Phase 3: Yes Means Yes (Pgs. 7-8)

Create a network of all actors

Phase 4: Mysterious Ways (Pgs. 9-10)

Define the commander’s strategic approach

Planning Directive Tool – Instructions (MS WORD) and Template (MS WORD)

Problem Frame Worksheet – Instructions (MS WORD) and Template (MS WORD)

Vulnerable Populations Matrix Tool (MS WORD)

Phase 5: Three Choice Courses (Pgs. 11-12)

Design multiple methods to reach the goal

Courses of Action Worksheet Level One – Blank (PDF) and Template (MS WORD)

Courses of Action Worksheet Level Two – Template and Instructions (MS WORD)

Courses of Action Evaluation Tool (MS WORD)

Phase 6: Code Response DNA (Pgs. 13-14)

Assign responsibility and support it

ICS Vocabulary Tool (MS WORD)

Courses of Action Worksheet Level Three– SOARS (MS WORD)

Operational Objectives Template (MS WORD)

Scenario or Functional Plan Template (MS WORD)

Phase 7: Prime Cognition (Pgs. 15-16)

Prepare the leaders to lead

Leadership Under Stress Handout (PDF)

Implement the Plan Worksheet (MS WORD)

Decision Aid Evaluation Criteria (PDF)

Example Threat Response Guide Sections (PDF)

Get the Threat Response Guides securely on CDC’s Epi-X system

Three Column Checklist Sample (MS WORD) and Atul Gawande Checklist for Checklists (PDF)

Operational Timeline Sample (PPT)

Phase 8: Think in the Thick (Pgs. 17-18)

Decide to plan during a crisis

Crisis Action Planning – 15 Steps (MS WORD)

Crisis Action Planning Phase One Task List (MS WORD)

Crisis Action Planning Phase Two Task List (MS WORD) and Quick Plan Outline (MS WORD)

References (Pgs. 19-21)