by Rochelle Ferguson, FEMA Public Works Working Group member
A disaster can strike in a moment, tear apart families and destroy communities.
When catastrophe hits, will emergency response personnel be ready and know where to obtain additional resources—equipment and personnel?
All communities are vulnerable to disaster, so it’s only a matter of when, not if, something will happen in your community.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages communities to prepare now so they are ready to handle anything when a disaster or large-scale event occurs.
National Incident Management System
As part of its response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5, FEMA continues to establish, implement and improve a comprehensive approach to managing domestic incidents: the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The NIMS is a framework for guiding departments and entities in working collaboratively together to prevent, respond to and recover from all types of incidences.
To improve coordination efforts, FEMA’s National Integration Center (NIC) oversees 10 discipline-specific working groups whose primary purpose is to provide recommendations on the personnel qualifications and equipment most commonly requested and deployed during disasters through mutual-aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The primary initiatives of these working groups are to:
- Type resources and equipment for ordering and tracking assets (resource management),
- Define skills, experience and training in qualification charts for those positions most frequently requested for an incident (credentialing),
- Produce job aids, suggested checklists or both for identified job titles (qualification charts),
- Develop guidance aids that help supplement resource typing tables and qualification charts, and
- Provide speakers who can provide outreach information at national conferences and trade-specific events.
The working groups submit their draft guidance documents to a pre-selected group of peer reviewers, practitioners in a specific field of expertise, to comment on and make recommendations before the documents are submitted to FEMA for technical editing in preparation for posting to the Federal Register for the public to review. All states and local jurisdictions are encouraged to view FEMA’s published guidance of typed resources and defined personnel qualifications available on FEMA’s Resource Center website, http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/resourcemngmnt.shtm#item1.
NIMS, Public Works Working Groups
Working group members consist of practitioners from discipline-specific backgrounds with an all-hazards viewpoint such as the Emergency Medical Services Working Group (EMSWG), the Fire and Hazmat Working Group (FHWG) and the Public Works Working Group (PWWG), etc. The NIMS PWWG is made up of various public works professionals with large-scale incident experience from local, state, tribal and federal government and partners with the public, nonprofit and private sector. Some typical public works responsibilities include: streets and highways, water production and supply, storm water collection, sanitary sewers, debris removal, public building maintenance, solid waste collection, fleet maintenance and transportation systems, electrical power, gas supply, communication systems, engineering services and code enforcement.
For six years the PWWG has offered recommendations to FEMA for defining resources—equipment and team structures—and personnel qualifications in support of public works mutual-aid response. This working group draws on the personal experience of their members and a network of review group members and stakeholders to offer thoughtful advice on guidance, tools and other outputs FEMA should consider supporting. The PWWG primarily has focused efforts on defining the minimum resource, team and personnel qualifications necessary to support mutual aid during disasters that range from local incidents to more complex incidents.
|Concord, Ala., May 4, 2011 -- This church was destroyed by the deadly storm and tornado that struck here in April. A Presidential Disaster Declaration has activated FEMA resources to assist storm survivors in recovery. George Armstrong/FEMA|
Credentialing (Job Titles, Aids)
Credentialing efforts help support early identification in response to interstate mutual-aid requests. The goal of credentialing is to get the right person to the right place at the right time. This way the receiving jurisdiction will know if the person is who he or she claims to be; has the skill and competency to perform the work; and has been deployed in response to the request for help.
Credentialing is for those:
- Personnel who are requested (not self-deployed), and
- Personnel who want to deploy voluntarily and do not need to stay behind to handle daily operations.
Credentialing consists of three components:
- Qualification and affiliation, and
- Authorization for deployment.
Job titles. The PWWG has defined the recommended education, training and experience for 23 titles, including: civil and field engineer, debris removal manager, debris site manager, engineering branch manager, engineering division manager, public works director, fleet manager, electric liaison, water distribution manager, etc.
Job aids. In addition to defining these positions, the working group has created job aids that include guidance and suggested checklists for all these positions.
The engineering branch manager job aid includes the following responsibilities, for example:
- Direct, coordinate and manage engineering needs, and
- Manage damage assessment and resource needs for the preservation and restoration activities. May provide status reports to incident commander.
Some standard references and information for an engineering branch manager include, for example:
- Relevant contact lists of public works entities in the affected area,
- Damage assessment guidelines,
- Maps, plans of structures and as-built plans, and
- Jurisdictional geographic information system (GIS) data.
Resources and Teams
The PWWG continues to type resource definitions, which address the staffing and equipping standards for a general public works’ functions during a natural disaster, critical incident or terrorist act.
New resources have been added to the original 120 Typed Resource Definitions for Public Works, including aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, graders, track dozers, front-end loaders, on- and off-road dump trucks, trailers (flatbed), water pumps, backhoes and buses, etc.
In addition, 44 public works teams have been developed to include personnel and typed equipment. Some of these teams and typed equipment include:
- Disaster recovery team,
- Public works management team,
- Damage assessment team (including heavy-duty trucks),
- Debris management and debris removal teams, and (including wheel loaders and tandem dump trucks), and
- Wastewater treatment facilities team (including light-duty trucks).
The Resource Tying Tables list sets of equipment or teams with defined capabilities that might be shared by requesters and suppliers of resources.
Resource typing can have other benefits:
- It helps a community understand its capacities and capabilities of sending equipment and personnel and identifies gaps—what personnel and equipment might need to be budgeted for, borrowed or both.
- Allows states and local jurisdictions to rely upon the same minimum definition and use the same terminology when typing their equipment. This ensures the appropriate resources are dispatched to fill the requirements at the incident, which is critical to a successful response and recovery operation. This way when one jurisdiction requests mutual aid from another, it will receive exactly what’s expected and will get the proper equipment for the job.
- Simplifies and speeds ordering and sending public works mutual aid from state to state by requesting assistance for resources that are pre-typed.
The NIMS Resource Typing also has been integrated fully into the EMAC Operations System, and states have the option to request and track resources by NIMS type.
EMAC has defined Mission Ready Packages, which are specific response and recovery resource capabilities organized and developed prior to an emergency or disaster.
For more information on this process and EMAC’s Mission Ready Packages, visit the EMAC website, http://www.emacweb.org.
The public works community must participate in plans and exercises to address public works issues adequately, such as best practices, safety, coordination of efforts and reimbursement.
Submit questions or input for FEMA on public works emergency preparedness to Diane Linderman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rochelle Ferguson is executive director of Palmetto Breeze, general manager of First Transit in Bluffton, S.C., and a member of the FEMA Public Works Working Group. Reach her at email@example.com.