History

Since 1941, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has been providing disaster and emergency planning and response services to the City of Philadelphia. Retrace our milestones in the timeline below.

Please take a look at our recent accomplishments:


  • 2007 – Present
    The Deputy Managing Director for Emergency Management and the staff of the Office of Emergency Management continue to implement the recommendations outlined in the Emergency Preparedness Review Committee Report. These include developing plans for vulnerable populations, expanding the use of Geographic Information Systems, and partnering with the private sector.
  • 2006
    The Mayor set up a six-month Emergency Preparedness Review Committee to look at Philadelphia’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. The Committee worked with independent experts. The Committee conducted a major review of thousands of pages of existing documents, agreements and plans. They also did more than 200 extensive in-depth interviews and site visits.

    • The assessment and more than 200 recommendations focused on eight major areas:
    • improve emergency management capacity
    • enhance emergency communications
    • integrate health and human services into emergency management
    • enhance Federal, State, regional and local partnerships
    • promote transparency and community engagement in emergency management
    • ensure continuity of government and continuity of operations planning
    • protect critical infrastructure and promote public-private partnerships
    • develop comprehensive evacuation plans.
    • The Mayor signed an Executive Order to make the National Incident Management System (NIMS) a City policy. The order certified the City’s compliance with NIMS. This ensured that key City staff members would go through NIMS training.
    • The Mayor authorized a new position, Deputy Managing Director for Emergency Management. This Deputy Managing Director is charged only with emergency management duties. Under the leadership of the Deputy Managing Director, the City is now implementing plans. These include long-term plans for emergency preparedness, and setting up a holistic approach to emergency management planning. City departments implement a large number of emergency management and preparedness reforms.
  • 1985
    The City’s Office of Emergency Preparedness Executive Director was appointed County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator by the Governor, after a recommendation by the Mayor.In November 1985, the Office of Emergency Preparedness was transferred to the Managing Director’s Office. It was renamed the Office of Emergency Management, and its Executive Director reported to the City Managing Director. The Civil Service position of Emergency Management Services Director was formally set up. Responsibility for environmental and hazardous material activity coordination was transferred to OEM. The EOC was improved and automated.
  • 1975
    When the new Fire Administration Building was dedicated in 1975, it included the City’s Emergency Operations Center next to the new Office of Emergency Preparedness.
  • 1972
    The Mayor made the Philadelphia Civil Defense Council part of the Fire Department. It became the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP). Upon the Mayor’s recommendation, the Governor appointed the Fire Commissioner as Director. Until the mid 1970s, Federal law said that “civil defense/civil preparedness/emergency preparedness” was for only enemy attack.
  • 1951
    In response to the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1951, the Philadelphia Civil Defense Council was run by a Director. This Director was appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Mayor. It was a separate agency that reported to the Mayor. Starting in 1965, it reported to the Managing Director.
  • 1941
    The first emergency management organization was set up during World War II.

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