Whole Community Approach


Whole Community is defined by FEMA as "a means by which residents, emergency management practitioners, organizational and community leaders, and government officials can collectively understand and assess the needs of their respective communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capacities, and interests."

Using a strategic Whole Community approach leverages the knowledge and experiences of all individuals in a community when preparing for, protecting against, responding to, and recovering from emergencies.


As outlined in A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action, a Whole Community approach has the following benefits:

  • Shared understanding of community needs and capabilities
  • Greater empowerment and integration of resources from across the community
  • Stronger social infrastructure
  • Establishment of relationships that facilitate more effective prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery activities
  • Increased individual and collective preparedness
  • Greater resiliency at both the community and national levels


The following three principles provide the foundation for constructing a Whole Community approach:

  1. Understand and meet the actual needs of the Whole Community
  2. Engage and empower all parts of the community
  3. Strengthen what works well in communities on a daily basis

To learn more about the principles, visit the Whole Community page of the FEMA website.

Strategic Themes

The following six strategic themes represent ways to effectively operationalize the principles outlined above:

  1. Understand community complexity
  2. Recognize community capabilities and needs
  3. Foster relationships with community leaders
  4. Build and maintain partnerships
  5. Empower local action
  6. Leverage and strengthen social infrastructure, networks, and assets

For specific, real-world applications of the strategic themes, read A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action.

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