Where is the evidence for emergency planning: a scoping review

BMC Public Health. 2012 Jul 23;12:542. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-542.


Background: Recent terrorist attacks and natural disasters have led to an increased awareness of the importance of emergency planning. However, the extent to which emergency planners can access or use evidence remains unclear. The aim of this study was to identify, analyse and assess the location, source and quality of emergency planning publications in the academic and UK grey literature.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review, using as data sources for academic literature Embase, Medline, Medline in Process, Psychinfo, Biosis, Science Citation Index, Cinahl, Cochrane library and Clinicaltrials.gov. For grey literature identification we used databases at the Health Protection Agency, NHS Evidence, British Association of Immediate Care Schemes, Emergency Planning College and the Health and Safety Executive, and the websites of UK Department of Health Emergency Planning Division and UK Resilience.Aggregative synthesis was used to analyse papers and documents against a framework based on a modified FEMA Emergency Planning cycle.

Results: Of 2736 titles identified from the academic literature, 1603 were relevant. 45% were from North America, 27% were commentaries or editorials and 22% were event reports.Of 192 documents from the grey literature, 97 were relevant. 76% of these were event reports.The majority of documents addressed emergency planning and response. Very few documents related to hazard analysis, mitigation or capability assessment.

Conclusions: Although a large body of literature exists, its validity and generalisability is unclear There is little evidence that this potential evidence base has been exploited through synthesis to inform policy and practice. The type and structure of evidence that would be of most value of emergency planners and policymakers has yet to be identified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning*
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • United Kingdom