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APWA attends National Partnership Summit

Larry Nadeau, Project Manager, City of Port St. Lucie, FL
Paul H. Brum, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Oklahoma City, OK
Larry Lux, President, Lux Advisors, Plainfield, IL

The nation’s principal state and local emergency responder associations came together recently to begin an in-depth dialogue on all-hazards emergency preparedness and homeland security during the National Emergency Preparedness and Response Partnership Summit. The Summit, hosted by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), provided an opportunity to promote cooperation and communication while advancing emergency preparedness, public safety and homeland security efforts.

Participating Organizations:

  • American Public Works Association
  • Association of Public Safety Communications Officials
  • Association of State & Territorial Health Officials
  • International Association of Emergency Managers
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • National Association of State EMS Directors
  • National Emergency Management Association
  • National Sheriffs’ Association
  • The Adjutants General Association of the United States
Each of the ten partner organizations briefed the group on the issues and priorities of their individual disciplines. Summit participants then organized into three facilitated breakout groups to discuss programs, operations and legislation. A summary of the key issues discussed at the Summit follows.

Homeland Security Funding
Federal funding is critical for building a national homeland security system and emergency preparedness and response capability. State and local budgets will not accommodate new cost-share requirements for homeland security funding. Stakeholder organizations are concerned that existing public safety programs will suffer if they must compete with new homeland security programs.

Summit outcomes suggested a federal funding strategy that:

  • Provides a transitional approach to funding homeland security: 100 percent federal funding for several years and then move to a cost-sharing arrangement;
  • Eliminates unfunded mandates;
  • Avoids unintended consequences of funding adjustments;
  • Addresses the importance of existing programmatic funding streams and new funding streams and the need for both in the system;
  • Requires a systems approach—not an “either/or approach.” The government cannot fund equipment without the required training or response without prevention activities. It must fund the system as a whole;
  • Does not cut existing programs to fund new ones; and
  • Provides for funding to be coordinated through a single point of contact in each state for coordination and a standardized approach.
National Incident Management System
The National Strategy for Homeland Security noted the need for a national incident management system as a priority for national security. A national system must be viewed comprehensively and include all disciplines and organizations potentially involved in disaster prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Participating organizations believe this must be established through a bottom-up approach with local government recognized as the front line of defense and response to disasters and emergencies, including homeland security.

Summit Comments:

  • Consider the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS) as the standard national incident management system for all disciplines and organizations potentially involved in disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
  • The federal CONPLAN is not the best approach to achieving a bottom-up national incident management system.
  • An all-hazards approach must be maintained while recognizing the heightened importance of law enforcement responsibilities for prevention and crisis management in addition to preparedness and response for homeland security.
  • Ensure that support systems are in place (emergency operations centers, communications, training).
  • Planning, training and equipment interoperability must work within the NIIMS framework.
  • A resource management capability must be in place or available and must be able to expand as the incident grows.
  • Federal agencies should make consistency with NIIMS a requirement to be eligible for federal funding.
  • Federal funding should address the requirements of the system and not individual components within the system.
Interoperable Communications
Additional public safety spectrum is necessary to achieve interoperable communications. Functional communications allows First Responders and emergency management personnel to communicate during the course of a disaster without disrupting the flow of critical information in response coordination. Also, technology is available to achieve interoperable communications but it is cost prohibitive for state and local governments.

Summit Comments:

  • Address interoperability problems at the national level in support of functions of the National Interagency Incident Management System, including long-term work on development of standards for equipment interoperability.
  • Develop a standardized national interoperability model/system whereby federal funding is tied to participation in the national system (use national railway/highway systems as a model).
  • Design a matrix that guides interoperability standards for interaction between local, state, federal; strategic, policy, tactical; and various levels of incident command.
  • Consider short-term solutions given current investments in existing systems.
  • Utilize existing private sector resources to achieve interoperable communications in the near term. User groups must provide requirements to the private sector for future products and services that meet the needs of state and local government at affordable prices.
  • All disciplines involved in emergency preparedness and response should be involved in addressing the problem.
Issue: Training
There is inadequate coordination or standardization between the training programs offered by various federal agencies leading to inconsistencies in the preparedness of state and local personnel.

Summit Comments:

  • Conduct a comprehensive and academic review of all existing homeland security training programs, among all disciplines, to identify overlap, gaps and best practices.
  • Include police, fire, EMS, public works and others to review and identify federal program interface, overlaps, best practices and prioritization of training needs.
  • The Department of Homeland Security should establish a single, national agenda for all training programs (to include a delivery method) with input by stakeholder organizations.
  • Create a “National Training Academy” to deliver integrated training among all disciplines. This will ensure a coordinated and standardized approach.
  • Include training on the Federal Response Plan for all disciplines.
  • Review federal regulations and state laws hampering the ability of state and local agencies to provide training to their personnel (i.e., Fair Labor, Family Medical Leave Act, overtime pay).
Mutual Aid
Mutual aid at the local, state and regional level provides access to additional response and recovery capabilities at times when local and state resources are overwhelmed. The National Strategy for Homeland Security encourages establishment of statewide mutual aid agreements; future federal funding may be contingent upon having such agreements in place.

Summit Comments:

  • Establish statewide mutual aid agreements that include all disciplines, including public safety communications personnel.
  • Develop standardized operating protocols for mutual aid.
  • Develop standards for deployable assets.
  • Encourage frequent use of mutual aid so that it works smoothly and naturally during major disasters or emergencies.
  • Create rules that discourage self-dispatching of personnel/volunteers.
  • Establish credentialing system for personnel deployed through mutual aid and/or volunteers.
  • Ensure local mutual aid addresses issues of liability, workers compensation, and reimbursement, and is consistent with state laws governing mutual aid.
  • Utilize existing and proven mutual aid agreements at the state and local level as models for statewide agreements and operating protocols.
At the end of the day-and-a-half Summit, participants agreed that the exchange of information and dialogue among the organizations was very informative and useful. The group recognized the important role they could play in helping to shape and implement the National Strategy and in providing input into the organizational structure and coordination functions within the new Department of Homeland Security.

The willingness of each participant to share information and engage in open discussion about issues of importance to each discipline created a spirit of cooperation and led to a greater understanding of the key issues that must be addressed if the nation is to be successful in all-hazards emergency preparedness, homeland security and overall public safety. This group plans to continue meeting and to capitalize on the momentum generated from the Partnership Summit to ensure state and local governments are involved in the refinement and implementation of the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

Larry Nadeau is the chair of APWA’s Emergency Management Committee; Paul Brum is a member of the committee; and Larry Lux is the board liaison to the committee. Larry Nadeau can be reached at (772) 871-5100 or at lnadeau@cityofpsl.com; Paul Brum can be reached at (405) 297-2033 or at paul.brum@ci.okc.ok.us; and Larry Lux can be reached at (815) 886-6909 or at llux@westerncom.net.