Meeting Minutes: November 17-18, 2008
Regional Advisory Council DHS/FEMA Region VIII, Denver CO
Garry Briese convened the fourth meeting of the Regional Advisory Council for Region VIII on November 17-18, 2008, in the Longs Peak Room of the Regional Office in Denver. The Council meeting began at noon local time on 11/17/08 and ended at 2 p.m. on 11/18/08.
Participating Council Members
Garry Briese - Regional Administrator, FEMA Region VIII
Chris Burbank - Chief, Salt Lake City UT Police Department
Dr. Greg Burcham - Denver emergency physician, Colorado US&R Task Force
Dwight Henninger - Chief, Vail CO Police Department
Bruce Hoover - Chief, Fargo ND Fire Department
Hans Kallam - Director, CO Div. of Emergency Management
Dan McGowan - Homeland Security Advisor, Montana Dept. of Military Affairs
Joe Moore - Director, WY Office of Homeland Security
Keith Squires - Deputy Commissioner, UT Department of Public Safety
Kristi Turman - Director, SD Office of Emergency Management
Tom Wardle 1 - Assistant State Forester, CO Forest Service
1 Mr. Wardle attended as a surrogate for newly appointed RAC member Jeff Jahnke, CO state forester.
Ann Walker, Program Director, Western Governors Association
Doug Gore, Deputy Regional Administrator, FEMA Region VIII
Tim Deal, Federal Preparedness Coordinator, FEMA Region VIII
Dan Griffiths, Disaster Operations Division Director, FEMA Region VIII
John Kainrad, Disaster Assistance Division Director, FEMA Region VIII
Jeanine Petterson, Mitigation Division Director, FEMA Region VIII
Mike Hopkinson, Management Division Director, FEMA Region VIII
Norman Winterowd, Denver MERS Chief
COL Mark Johnson, Defense Coordinating Officer, FEMA Region VIII
Donovan Puffer, FEMA Region VIII, designated support officer for the Council
Jerry DeFelice, public affairs specialist, FEMA Region VIII
Andrea Hoagland, intern, FEMA Region VIII
C.J. Crumley, Grants Management Branch Chief, FEMA Region VIII
Dan Carlson, Grants Specialist, FEMA Region VIII
Lynn Pisano-Pedigo, Preparedness Analyst, FEMA Region VIII
Handouts Distributed to RAC Members in Advance of or During Meeting
Updated contact list, Regional Advisory Council
Region VIII Strategic Plan for 2008-2013
Tri-fold brochure "FEMA Strategic Plan in Brief for 2008-2013"
Powerpoint presentation "Region VIII Regional Status Briefing" dated 10/28/08
Powerpoint presentation "State and Local Officials' Views on Federal Preparedness Requirements," dated Sept. 2008
Introductions and Opening Comments
The meeting began informally at noon on 11/17/08 with an optional lunch in the Longs Peak Room. Sandwiches were brought in and attendees had lunch together.
At 1 p.m., Garry Briese convened the RAC meeting and thanked the participants for attending. He reviewed the agenda to ensure attendees were aware of the topics to be discussed. Then Mr. Briese invited each attendee to introduce themselves and briefly describe their interests in emergency management.
Dwight Henninger: Interested in promoting regional assistance, the use of ICS, and the use of Incident Management Teams (IMTs).
Greg Burcham: Interested in maintaining and broadening the role of the National Urban Search and Rescue System, and the integration of public health agencies into the realm of emergency preparedness and planning.
Tom Wardle: Interested in preparedness for mega-fires, and in the consequences of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. As a small state agency with a total staff of 145, the CO Forest Service depends greatly on cooperation with other organizations.
Bruce Hoover: Voiced the same concerns as Tom Wardle, including the thought that Fargo ND, as a small city and small fire department, depends on mutual aid working within our region.
Dan McGowan had three concerns: 1) Integrating emergency management and homeland security both vertically and horizontally between the federal, state, tribal, and local levels. Need for integration is evinced by the fractures and incongruities in DHS's latest initiatives, like the Integrated Planning System and the Target Capabilities List revision. 2) We should find ways to leverage our capabilities by doing more joint regional efforts. 3) The region would benefit from having Prairie Regional Emergency Management Assistance Council (PREMAC) agreements in place with Canadian provinces. These agreements would enable EMAC-style mutual aid between the U.S. and Canada.
Kristi Turman had two concerns: 1) A regional planning effort is needed so we're ready to respond. It has to be initiated by the states and federal agencies, because most local emergency managers have few resources and almost no time to plan. The RAC is a good forum to tackle these issues. A regional planning effort could serve as the basis for developing best practices in areas like credentialing and IMTs that could drive efforts nationwide. For example, South Dakota recently implemented a project to establish four intra-state Type 3 IMTs, and it's the best decision and investment we've made. 2) The 24/7 media cycle has greatly increased public expectations about what emergency management can do. We need to manage expectations and do a better job of educating and explaining to the public just what we can and cannot do.
Joe Moore had two concerns: 1) The state health department coming to the state Office of Homeland Security and asking them to assist - for example, evacuation planning. 2) DHS and HHS at the federal headquarters level not accepting each others policies or plans for preparedness previously approved by them for the state.
Keith Squires: He advised that because of Utah Department of Public Safety's structure, all aspects of homeland security, emergency management, and public safety were being communicated and coordinated effectively. The senior command staffs of the Utah DPS and Utah National Guard have for the past year been meeting regularly to ensure that communication and coordination is effective between these organizations also. He is concerned about a lack of awareness for emergency management on the part of local officials, who believe in a disaster the federal government will step in and take care of everything. He is very interested in the concept of IMTs, which seems like a great capability to have. He also is concerned about the funding outlook, local budgets, and some agencies looking toward their individual needs as opposed to the regional sharing concepts that were developed after 9/11.
Chris Burbank: Concerned about the competition for funds that Salt Lake City will face as a new UASI city. He would be interested in conversations at the RAC level concerning effective decision-making on investments, building regional capabilities, and avoiding redundancy and waste.
Hans Kallam: DHS has created some inefficiencies and challenges in the way it has pursued its initiatives. As an example, he cited the national planning scenarios as not being relevant to the majority of rural communities, yet they're the basis for so much of DHS's planning. Another of his concerns is the dilution or diminution of emergency management in the homeland security view of the world.
FEMA Region VIII division directors were invited as ex officio participants to the RAC meeting. During their introductions, they identified the following interests or concerns:
Mike Hopkinson: Interested in how to effectively manage grants and promote mutual aid in the Region.
Tim Deal: Interested in regional planning and capability measurement.
John Kainrad: Said he is concerned about maintaining regional capabilities in an era of decreasing revenues.
Jeanine Petterson: Said her focus is on reducing future losses of life and property, and her biggest challenge is communicating information about risks. Another concern she mentioned is the financial status of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is currently $17 billion in debt.
Dan Griffiths: Interests include situational awareness, getting regional emergency teams deployed quickly, and bringing the right staff when teams are deployed.
COL Mark Johnson, the Region VIII Defense Coordinating Officer, also was invited to the RAC meeting as an observer. He said he wants the RAC members and other regional stakeholders to be familiar with DoD capabilities and how to ask for them during disasters.
Ann Walker, a staff program director from the Western Governors Association (WGA), was invited to the RAC meeting as an observer. She said she started with WGA in June 2008, and she has worked on the National Fire Plan and forest health issues. One of her concerns is wildfire suppression. She said the WGA has 3 active resolutions it is working related to forest health, sustainability, and roads.
Region VIII Status Briefing & Discussion/Critique. Garry Briese asked the Council members to listen to the regional status briefing he delivered to Chief Paulison on 10/28/08, and offer suggestions for improvement. During and after the presentation, RAC members said the briefing was useful and informative; they did not recommend any specific changes. Hans Kallam asked for an electronic copy of the Powerpoint file, so he could use the information with his staff (D. Puffer gave him a CD during the meeting). Dan McGowan commented on the charts dealing with Native American tribal relations. He advocated the practice of placing a FEMA representative in each state to work specifically with the tribes on planning, training, exercising, and especially when they are affected by a disaster.
Overview of 2009 FEMA Grants Programs. C.J. Crumley gave a brief overview of the grant programs being offered by FEMA in FY2009, and answered questions from RAC participants. Dan McGowan initiated a discussion afterward by offering the opinion that DHS and FEMA should consider halting the practice of imposing new NIMS requirements every year since 2004. He recommended the states be allowed to establish a state strategy for NIMS implementation, be given the flexibility to implement that strategy, then be held accountable for results. Other RAC participants spoke up in support of Mr. McGowan's position.
Lessons Learned for Region VIII from the China Earthquake. Doug Bausch delivered a presentation on two earthquakes in Taiwan and China, and his experiences from a recent professional visit to the areas affected by the China earthquake. RAC participants appreciated the information presented and asked questions of Mr. Bausch. Discussion ensued about how Region VIII should apply the lessons learned, and RAC members proposed that the region should use a catastrophic earthquake scenario in Utah as the basis for future regional joint planning. It appeared to be a consensus among the RAC members that the enhancements to regional capabilities that would result from Wasatch earthquake planning would be beneficial in a much broader way to all of the states in the region for a range of hazards.
The Council meeting adjourned for the day at 4:45 p.m.
At 8 a.m. on 11/18/08, the Council members reconvened in the Longs Peak Room, where Mike Pendergrass of R8-DO delivered the morning situational awareness briefing.
Analysis of Federal Preparedness Requirements. Donovan Puffer delivered a brief presentation summarizing the joint FEMA/NEMA project initiated in 2007 to assess the impact on States of Federal preparedness program requirements.
Mark Johnson commented that issues about Federal requirements being redundant or uncoordinated may be related to the structure with the FEMA regional office, which doesn't have a direct homeland security connection or correlation to state homeland security offices. Hans Kallam reframed the issue as a question: Who is DHS Secretary Chertoff's counterpart at the regional level?
Dan McGowan supported this position with the observation that the DHS Protective Security Advisors are not integrated with FEMA regional organizations, although CI/KR is integrated into a single office for most states.
Greg Burcham: From a US&R perspective, after 9/11 as a national system of teams we worked on preparing to respond to future terrorism events. But when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the US&R system found we didn't have any boats to perform waterborne search and rescue. The lesson is we're being trained to prepare for our last response, rather than our next one.
Dwight Henninger: In response to the question about whether the RRCC should be integrated with fusion centers, he thinks not. He said the network of state and local fusion centers are a good system, we just need to get better information flowing through the system.
Hans Kallam said he worries about diluting the fusion-center system even more by adding RRCCs and an all-hazards orientation to them. He said most of the existing fusion centers have a law enforcement orientation, which is working well.
Bruce Hoover agreed the state and local jurisdictions are getting a lot of information from fusion centers [at the national level], but he commented the information "says nothing," and he questioned why less-than-useful information is being repackaged and sent.
RAC Interactions with the National Advisory Council. Garry Briese asked the RAC participants to suggest specific recommendations they would want the National Advisory Council (NAC) to talk about at their upcoming meeting in mid-December.
Joe Moore: Consider having Region VIII redesignate its RRCC or another office as the all-hazard information center, rather than changing the way the state fusion centers do their work.
Dan McGowan: Most Region VIII states already use WebEOC, and South Dakota and Montana are in the process of adding it. Consider having Region VIII obtain a WebEOC account so it becomes the common platform for information sharing.
Tom Wardle commented that it sounded like Hans Kallam and Joe Moore were talking about separating the Law Enforcement information from the rest of the information being communicated among the fusion centers, then working on sharing better the rest of the information. Dwight Henninger added that we should feed back the other all-hazards information to the state fusion centers so they're aware of it.
Joe Moore asked about how much sharing of information takes place between states in the region. He said incident information would be helpful if shared promptly. Dan McGowan added that information sharing among the Region VIII states could promote resource sharing through EMAC. For example, if Montana knows that Colorado or South Dakota has a set of Type 3 IMTs available, they'll request them first from a neighboring state before going out with a nationwide request through EMAC.
Garry Briese said he heard two themes coming out of this discussion: 1) Assess the role of the RRCC and how it can be adapted to better take advantage of information coming from state fusion centers; and 2) Region VIII should incorporate WebEOC as a common information sharing platform with its states.
2009 Transition Planning. Garry Briese said the Region VIII management team would be meeting with the Obama transition team this week during the FEMA leadership conference. He asked the RAC participants what concerns they'd like the Regional staff to pass along.
Joe Moore recommended the incoming administration maintain funding for DHS/FEMA grant programs, and not diminish funding allocated for rural or small-population states. Hans Kallam responded with the opinion that, at some point, states are "going to have to be content with what we've got and figure out the best way to manage it and sustain what we've got."
Kristi Turman agreed with Hans Kallam, and added that DHS/FEMA should not eliminate the matching requirement currently incorporated in grants. She said the matching requirement creates buy-in at the state and local levels; if you take away the match, you reduce the buy-in.
Dwight Henninger recommended that a new administration not throw out what we've been doing in homeland security and emergency preparedness. He said it's an imperfect system, but we've started to work within it, figure out the imperfections, and apply workarounds. He recommended that a new DHS or FEMA executive team take the results of surveys from states, like the Analysis of Federal Preparedness Requirements conducted in 2007, and continue working on applying them, rather than just starting over.
Dan McGowan: The DHS/FEMA transition team needs to form a true partnership with states and involve them in a collaborative way, not just consult them at the end of a process, after all of the significant decisions already have been made.
Mr. McGowan's comment and follow-up comments by Kristi Turman sparked a discussion among RAC participants about the real strength of the national emergency management system being its bottom-up approach, wherein we ask local jurisdictions what they need and then build capability at that level, rather than building a giant federal capability at the top of the pyramid.
Dan McGowan said we should consider revising the paradigm of response so that regionally involved states are cooperating during the event from the onset, figuring out who's going to partner and share. He invoked the experience during and after Hurricane Katrina, when host states across the U.S. coordinated to accept large numbers of evacuees from the Gulf Coast.
Economic Conditions & Consequences for Emergency Management. Garry Briese initiated a discussion about the current economic downturn and its potential impact on emergency management. If conditions worsen, is there a role for emergency management in providing types and levels of assistance beyond what we currently do? Hans Kallam and other RAC participants said there are existing social programs to care for special needs populations and needy citizens; we need to promote personal responsibility and not do anything to create more needy citizens. As a region, we need to find ways to promote personal resilience, self-sufficiency, and individual preparedness.
Type 3 Incident Management Teams. Garry Briese was interested in hearing from RAC participants about their experiences in creating or using regional IMTs, and identifying ways the region could promote the continued development of state-level IMTs.
Dwight Henninger said about 40 states around the country have IMTs, and just recently a national conference was held to share successes and best practices. Hans Kallam recommended we perhaps bring together the existing IMTs in the region, and ask their members to identify ways to promote their growth and proliferation.
Tom Wardle recommended the region focus on adding type 3 and 2 IMTs to the existing fire system, rather than creating all-hazard IMTs as a separate system. His point was that the fire system's IMTs are typed and standardized in a uniform manner, so that users know exactly what they're getting when they request deployment of an IMT. A parallel system of all-hazards IMTs that differ in their organization, staffing, missions, equipment, etc. would cast doubt on what the resource can do.
Closing Comments & Questions
Dwight Henninger said he would like to see model plans, SOPs, etc. made available so that local jurisdictions can have a starting point and a benchmark in developing their own, and so that small emergency management organizations would benefit from others' earlier work.
Garry Briese asked the RAC if it would be useful for Region VIII to go through the Emergency Management Accreditation (EMAP) process. Hans Kallam responded that the Region needs to look at the EMAP Standards and decide which ones are applicable to us.
Garry Briese also asked the RAC participants to recap what they decided about joint planning. Kristi Turman responded she is in favor of talking with the other states and doing joint needs assessments and planning. Dan McGowan is in favor of it, and commented the regional stakeholders should support Utah in joint planning for a Wasatch Front earthquake scenario by identifying the resources needed and available to accomplish the missions, and as a result any joint planning we do for a Wasatch earthquake would benefit all of the states in Region VIII, not just Utah.
Garry Briese asked the participants if IMTs are the most cost-effective solution we can put in place now, and the response was positive. Kristi Turman said creating four regional IMTs in South Dakota was the best decision and investment they've made.
Tom Wardle offered the recommendation that the RAC should continue to focus on the things that this group can accomplish. It may be interesting and useful to talk about national-level topics, but it's more useful in the long run to talk about things that are within the power of this group or this region to do. He said the fire organizations in Region VIII can probably help with some of the issues the RAC members have talked about during this meeting, since they encountered and overcame many of the same issues during the fire system's development, and also because the fire organizations already have agreements in place with other federal agencies and with counties.
Dwight Henninger commented that local jurisdictions count on state emergency management offices to be able to implement mutual aid under EMAC in the event of a disaster. He asked the participants if EMAC is working right now in Region VIII - Are Region VIII states prepared to order and provide resources from each other? Chief Henninger proposed we work on providing a technical expert to support the requesting EMAC state within our region, with a particular focus on law enforcement support. He said the law enforcement and fire organizations in Colorado would be interested in supporting and benefiting from EMAC and mutual aid, they just don't know enough about it. Bruce Hoover supported this idea, and said as a local fire chief we would benefit from having access to an assistance team that knows how to request EMAC resources.
As a representative of the US&R system, Greg Burcham said he recognizes that if US&R is deployed for an incident, it means a failure of mitigation or planning occurred in the past. Thus he'd like to see the region put its emphasis on planning and mitigation, as a way of reducing the likelihood and scope of future response operations. He also asked the RAC members to keep in mind that decisions to request and deploy US&R assets need to happen quickly, since the vast majority of "live finds" occur within the first 72 hours after the incident occurs.
Dan McGowan said the RAC members have two challenges - identifying the areas where we can collaborate, like IMTs and Joint Information Centers, and actually implementing the ideas for collaboration. If we can figure out how to link the RAC with the RISC, and pass along its recommendations so the RISC can act upon them, then we'll get something done that would be a model for the country. Then the RISC would be more of a regional interagency planning committee, and the RAC would be steering its work with solid recommendations.
In closing, Garry Briese said he'd like to see a list of recommendations or actions as a result of this RAC meeting. He committed to drafting this list and circulating it to the RAC members for feedback. His intent would be to pass along this list of recommendations/actions to the next Regional Administrator for continuity.
RVIII RAC Recommendations for Action. In summary, the Region VIII Regional Advisory Council offers the following recommendations to the Regional Administrator:
- Use the Utah earthquake scenario as the primary basis for our regional joint planning efforts. Cross-cutting preparedness planning, mitigation efforts, response readiness, and post-disaster recovery capacity for a 7.0 earthquake along the Wasatch Front in Utah would engage all of the regional stakeholders, not solely the state of Utah, in developing the planning basis, target capabilities and capacities appropriate for a large-scale incident anywhere in the region.
- Identify ways the regional stakeholders jointly can promote and strengthen citizen preparedness. Promoting a culture of individual, family and community responsibility and preparedness is the best means of ensuring our communities have the resilience needed to reduce their potential losses from future disasters and to recover quickly from the consequences in the event a disaster occurs.
- Initiate a program among regional stakeholders to plan jointly for the pre-identification, provision, deployment and employment of resource packages for all-hazards incident response. Resource packages would include teams, task forces, strike teams, equipment sets, and commodity orders intended to perform pre-identified missions or to fulfill pre-identified unmet needs arising from an incident, emergency, or declared disaster within the region. The planning and agreement to identify, provide, deploy and employ resource packages would constitute an intra-regional mutual aid system among the States in the region.
- Promote the creation, maintenance, and interoperability of Type 3 incident management teams (IMTs) throughout the region. In the experience of our states, the creation of regional Type 3 IMTs has proven to be a sound decision and investment. IMTs are a force multiplier, enabling a responding jurisdiction to magnify the effectiveness of its other response and recovery capabilities. A network of Type 3 IMTs provides the capability and capacity to deploy one or more trained and equipped teams to assist impacted local jurisdictions anywhere in the state. A joint regional effort to share information and best practices about the creation, training, equipping, deployment, employment, and reimbursement of Type 3 IMTs would promote their development throughout the region. This effort also would relieve some of the strain on the limited number of existing Type 3 IMTs in the wildland fire system, and would constitute an added resource for intra-regional mutual aid. RAC members differed on the question of whether new Type 3 IMTs should be organized for all-hazards missions, or whether states should add new Type 3 IMTs to the existing wildland fire system.
- Establish one or more intra-regional mutual aid advisory teams. State-to-state mutual aid through the EMAC system has proven its worth in national-level disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Ike. Region VIII states are interested in establishing an intra-regional mutual aid system. The level of experience and expertise, however, in using mutual aid and EMAC differs among our regional stakeholders. States within the region would benefit if they were able to request the use of a small, inter-regional team of personnel who are subject-matter experts in obtaining resources through mutual aid and the EMAC system. This team would be staffed, requested, deployed, employed, and reimbursed through cooperative agreement among the Region VIII states.
- Identify and improve the information sharing priorities and processes in the region. The infrastructure for information sharing exists within the region, but it is unclear whether the regional stakeholders agree on what information we need, and how it should be shared. Consider taking action to identify the regional Essential Elements of Information (EEI) for scenarios that are likely to be of common interest or are likely to require incident management. Consider bringing in key stakeholders to identify how these EEI can best be fulfilled; how to simplify and improve the information products currently being disseminated by national and regional fusion centers and operations centers; and how to safeguard the sharing of law enforcement information currently being disseminated through state fusion centers, while improving the flow of other information of interest to emergency management and other disciplines. Assess the role of the Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC), its relationship to the state fusion centers, and a potential role the FEMA Regional Office can play in the fusion center system.
- Consider the adoption of WebEOC as a common platform for information sharing within the region. Four of the six states within Region VIII already use WebEOC, and the remaining two states are adopting it. Assess the feasibility of Region VIII becoming a WebEOC account holder, and reach agreement among the regional WebEOC participants in the content, formats and protocols for sharing specific information products via WebEOC.
- Establish a process that links the recommendations of the RAC to the work priorities of the RISC. The RAC's mission is complementary to the purpose of the RISC, in identifying areas where the regional stakeholders can collaborate to maintain and enhance the region's emergency management capabilities. It would be worthwhile for the two organizations to agree specifically on how the RAC's recommendations would be incorporated into the RISC Executive Committee's guidance to its members and subcommittees. Additionally, a process should be established for the RISC to provide feedback to the RAC on the status of its efforts.
Mr. Briese thanked Council members for participating, and adjourned the meeting at 2 p.m.