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Region VII: Response

This page discusses the Response Division's responsibilities and work functions.

There are over 50 employees in the Response Division. We are planners, state liaisons, resource managers, incident commanders for federal disaster operations and incident support and disaster human resources/personnel specialists.

We are responsible for a variety of functions supporting FEMA assistance capabilities. We oversee the steady-state (normal operations) watch and monitoring of natural and man-made situations around the region. We work with many political jurisdictions and officials, individuals and organizations contributing to and affected by, or involved with the planning, responding to or recovering from emergency situations. 

During a Disaster
When a disaster event is developing, the Response Division is monitoring the situation, coordinating with local and state officials and developing a strategy for federal response involvement.

In Region VII, our most common threats are:

  • Tornadoes

  • Destructive wind and hail events

  • Flooding

  • Snow and ice storms

  • Grass and wildfires

  • Earthquakes

Because all disaster events are local and most incidents are handled at the local government level, when a local government’s resources become overwhelmed, local officials seek help from state partners. State officials use available resources to meet unmet needs of the local community. If the state does not have the resources, or if their resources become overwhelmed (in large-scale events or situations where disaster damages span many miles or when multiple communities are impacted), the governor will ask the president of the United States for disaster assistance.

For some events, like flooding and winter storms, FEMA usually has enough time to place resources close to the communities and people who may be impacted. This is called pre-staging. The federal government pays for the transportation and storage of pre-staging disaster items. The only time a state or local government is asked to pay for anything pre-staged, is if the president declares a disaster and the state uses whatever was pre-staged. 

Types of resources FEMA may pre-stage include:

  • Generators for a community’s critical buildings like water treatment facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and 911 dispatch centers

  • Water

  • Cots

  • Blankets

  • Food

  • People

Pre-staged FEMA staff can include:

  • State Liaison Officers

  • Incident Management Assistance Teams

  • Emergency power teams

  • Debris clearance teams

  • Emergency communications teams

  • Search and rescue teams

Steady-state Operations
The Response Division has seven branches dedicated to maintaining regional situational awareness, building partnerships and developing local, state, public, private and whole community capabilities.

Building Planned Capabilities (Planning Branch) 

We are all hazard specialists focused on whole community disaster planning and creating crisis action plans for all levels of government.

We support our partners by hosting meetings; planning and participating in exercises; and providing geospatial (mapping) support. 

We work closely with other emergency management partners to create formal all-hazard products, including plans, for Region VII response activities. Some of our plans are hazard-specific (e.g., earthquake, flooding, tornado, etc.) and written before an incident occurs.  Other plans address how to mitigate (create and implement preventative measures to stop or lessen disaster damage), respond to, and recover from future threats or hazards.

Crisis Action Plans are time-sensitive and written during an on-going or fast-approaching incident. They plan for who, what, when, why, where and how the federal government is to provide resources to lessen the impact to communities and their residents.

Examples of crisis action planning products include:

  • Recovery Support Strategies

  • Disaster Housing Plans

  • Power Restoration Plans

  • Search and Rescue Operation Plans

Building Emergency Management Community Capability (Operations Integration Branch) 

We build partnerships with our local, state, tribal and other federal agency partners before, during and after disasters to enhance overall capabilities and communication. This helps ensure successful collaboration at a moment’s notice, when action is required.  

When a state anticipates or experiences a disaster beyond its capabilities, its leaders may request assistance from the federal government. If requested, FEMA will send a liaison to work inside the state’s emergency operation center as a situation unfolds. Liaisons can assist state personnel with assessing disaster damage; evaluating the storm’s impacts on communities and their citizens; determining initial community resource shortfalls; and making requests for federal assistance. State liaisons provide vital situational awareness back to regional leadership.

First-to-Deploy Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT)

The IMAT is a full-time, FEMA rapid-response team. This team provides the initial emergency management structure to support the state and or local government during a disaster. Teams include planning, operations, logistics, finance and public information staff who can deploy within two hours of a request and be on-scene at an emergency or disaster within 12-hours of being notified of an incident.

Region VII’s IMAT team is one of FEMA’s 13 regional IMAT teams. There are three national IMAT teams

When a disaster happens, the IMAT quickly deploys to the scene and begins working with local and state officials to identify the level and type of immediate federal support required. The operations, logistics, planning, finance and administration and external affairs staff provide critical situational awareness to federal and state decision-makers.

The team is a self-sufficient. The IMAT has its own transportation and communications equipment. Members includes senior-level managers authorized on behalf of the FEMA Region VII Regional Administrator to make decisions about federal assistance during an emergency situation. 

When the IMAT is not deployed, the staff works alongside other Response Division staff to build and maintain close-working relationships with our federal, state, tribal, local and private sector emergency management partners. Members continually train and exercise in preparation for the next disaster response.

Movement of Goods and Services (Logistics Branch)

We are resource managers experienced at getting the needed supplies for disaster response in-place, at the right place and on-time.

During an event, we assess and respond to operational needs and requests from within FEMA and from our state, tribal, and other federal agency partners.  We ensure regional staff have the equipment and supplies needed to respond to a disaster.

Manpower (Workforce Management)

Specialists within the Workforce Management Division (WMD) team work to ensure our region’s disaster readiness by supporting a FEMA workforce that is trained, qualified, professional and ready to deploy in response to disasters within the region and across the nation.

The workforce management team assists regional employees with becoming credentialed in the FEMA Qualification System (FQS) across the 23 national cadres and integrating the five disaster workforces into disaster response, recovery, logistics, and mitigation activities. Interested in a career at FEMA?

Communication During Disasters (Regional Emergency Communications Branch)

We are communications specialists dedicated to ensuring first responders (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) and disaster survivors can communicate with each other and their families before, during and after an emergency.

Before a disaster happens, the communications staff works with local, state, tribal, other federal agency, as well as private-sector partners to identify network capabilities and potential communications limitations.

The ability to communicate is a critical basic need for disaster survivors and emergency management partners involved in the disaster response and recovery processes. When  communications are maintained, disaster survivors stay informed and in-touch with their families, friends and emergency services (9-1-1). Communications allow first responders and public service providers (e.g. water, gas, electric, etc.) to share important information about an event.

Communications systems include:

  • Landline (home telephone) networks:
  • Wireless telephone (cellular phone) networks

  • Local and cable television

  • AM/FM radio

  • Public safety radio networks

  • Satellite systems

  • The Internet

Keeping Watch (Regional Watch and Response Coordination Centers [RRCC] Branch)

We are situational awareness specialists and information analysts specializing in creating a common operating picture for the emergency management community. We are often considered the “hub of the information collection, information analysis, information management and information distribution wheel.”  

24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year--Regional Watch Center (RWC) staff monitor national and local media outlets, Internet and local, state, other federal, voluntary and private agencies’ reports for situational awareness. We provide real-time advisories about developing emergency situations to FEMA senior leadership and emergency response teams. We keep leadership informed of potential or actual events that might result in a loss of life and or property.

The RWC provides initial disaster support for local, state and tribal partners. Before response teams and equipment deploy, the RWC is working with state officials to identify any resource shortfalls and critical needs. This rapid assessment of local needs helps FEMA send the right resources to the right places. 

The Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) provides a common place where staff, responding to a disaster event, can come and work. The RRCC facility is always ready-to-go when a disaster happens.  

FEMA does not have all the resources necessary to support all the needs of a state, its communities and disaster survivors. When FEMA needs a resource (a resource may be people or things), we call upon our other federal and voluntary agency partners for support through the federal government’s mutual-aid agreement, the National Response Framework

Depending upon the event, FEMA will activate a variety of agencies or emergency management partners to its RRCC to begin collecting, analyzing and distributing information and resources to response teams in the field. Every agency or partner activated to support the RRCC has a mission and contributes something to the event. 

The following are examples of agencies that could be activated to support an RRCC operation during an emergency or disaster:

  • U.S. Department of Transportation

  • U.S. Department of Energy

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration

  • The American Red Cross

  • The Salvation Army

The Regional Response Coordination Staff oversee regional response efforts, establish federal priorities and implement federal disaster programs until a Joint Field Office (JFO) is established and a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) can assume responsibility for the incident, should the event be declared a disaster. A FCO is appointed by the FEMA administrator, on behalf of the president of the United States. He/she manages all federal disaster activities following a presidential disaster or emergency declaration, in accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Act (the Stafford Act).

A JFO is a joint state, federal and tribal coordination center located near a disaster area. JFO staff focus on supporting local, state and tribal response efforts and implementing federal disaster response and recovery programs.


Last Updated: 
01/09/2018 - 17:00