EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – December 15, 2004

Catastrophic Incident Planning
Strategies for a Proactive National Response

David E. Garratt
Acting Director, FEMA Preparedness Division
Department of Homeland Security

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene Moore and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum for our last program of 2004! It has been an exciting year. And we look forward to the next! Today's topic is the development of a pro-active national strategy for catastrophic response that is occurring under the framework of the National Response Plan.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce today's speaker, David E. Garratt, recently named Acting Director, FEMA Preparedness Division, Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Garratt serves as Chair of the interagency Catastrophic Incident Planning Group. Previous FEMA assignments included Chief of Capability Assurance within the Preparedness Division; Director of Assessments and Exercises in the Office of National Preparedness; and Executive Operations Officer to the Assistant Director for Readiness, Response and Recovery. Mr. Garratt has served in key positions in over 30 Presidentially declared disasters or emergency operations, including as the Director of the national interagency Emergency Support Team following the World Trade Center/Pentagon Terrorist Attacks of 2001. He also served as Director of the Homeland Security Coordination Center.

Welcome to the Forum David, and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you.


David Garratt: Thanks, Amy, and greetings. The interagency Catastrophic Incident Planning Group is responsible for developing an accelerated federal response strategy for catastrophic incidents. That strategy will be embodied in the Catastrophic Incident Supplement to the National Response Plan, or NRP-CIS.

The NRP-CIS, mandated by the NRP and currently in the coordination process, is designed to support the NRP's Catastrophic Incident Annex (NRP-CIA) by outlining a detailed, coordinated strategy for accelerating the delivery and application of Federal resources and capabilities to federal mobilization centers or staging areas in support of a jurisdictional response to a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation incident. As part of the Federal response strategy, the NRP-CIS outlines key planning assumptions, includes a concept of operations, establishes an execution schedule, and outlines specific responsibilities of departments and agencies. Due to the detailed aggregation of operational information, the NRP-CIS is designated For Official Use Only, and will be maintained under separate cover from the NRP.

A catastrophic incident is a natural, technological, or terrorist WMD event resulting (either immediately or over time) in tens of thousands of casualties (dead, dying, injured), and producing tens of thousands of evacuees and/or affected-in-place. Under such conditions, it is expected that the response capabilities and resources of the local jurisdiction (to include mutual aid from surrounding jurisdictions and response support from the State) will be profoundly insufficient and quickly, if not immediately, overwhelmed, necessitating immediate life-saving support and augmentation from the federal government. A catastrophic incident is expected to overwhelm venue capabilities in one or more of the following critical areas:

- Mass care
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Search and rescue
- Victim and fatality management and transportation
- Decontamination
- Public health and medical support
- Public information

Recognizing that Federal resources will be required to support state and local response efforts, the Federal government has pre-identified resources that are expected to be critically and quickly needed/required at or in support of a catastrophic incident venue. These resources will (when directed by the Secretary of Homeland Security) be automatically activated and/or deployed to a federal mobilization center or federal reception point near the incident area in accordance with the Catastrophic Incident Response Execution Schedule in the NRP-CIS.

Resources will not be deployed to an incident site unless or until requested by the incident commander or delegate. The NRP-CIS recognizes that state and local authorities may or may not ultimately require all of the resources that are initially "pushed " or made available to an incident venue in support of catastrophic incident response operations and in anticipation of projected needs. Nevertheless, absent credible verification that certain types of resources are not or will not be needed, these resources will be deployed as rapidly as possible to ensure their timely availability, if and when needed and requested. Additional resources will be deployed, if available, as precise requirements are subsequently identified through post-incident needs assessments.

While the NRP-CIS will help assure the swift and coordinated delivery of urgently needed assistance to profoundly overwhelmed jurisdictions, the effective utilization of those federal resources into the jurisdictionally led incident response will be greatly enhanced by -- and further facilitated through -- the integration of those pre-designated resources into jurisdiction-level catastrophic response plans. Specifically, the following jurisdictional planning activities will accelerate the utilization of federal resources deploying under the NRP-CIS:

  • Retooling existing state and jurisdiction response plans to reflect a coordinated advance strategy for receiving, deploying and/or utilizing the pre-identified resources contained in the Catastrophic Incident Response Execution Schedule (or venue-tailored variation thereof).

  • Identifying mobilization centers, staging areas, receiving and distribution sites, casualty collection points, temporary housing sites, and other key operational support facilities.

  • Identifying projected, priority support requirements that will not be met either by the Catastrophic Incident Response Execution Schedule or through existing local, mutual aid, and state resources and capabilities.

Several ongoing initiatives will help jurisdictions with effective and comprehensive catastrophic incident planning.

  • The Department of Homeland Security is working with the City of Charlotte, North Carolina to prototype a process for integrating NRP-CIS resources into local planning and, based on lessons learned, develop a generic catastrophic planning template. This prototyping effort may be expanded to include an additional jurisdiction.

  • In addition, the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency recently completed a detailed joint catastrophic planning initiative with the State of Louisiana and the southeastern Louisiana Parishes and New Orleans.

A hurricane disaster scenario simulating massive damage was used to focus the planning efforts, especially relative to assessing emergency operating capabilities, defining existing response resources and capabilities, completing gaps analyses, identifying resources to fill the gaps, developing methodologies to deliver resources, and examining housing and community relocation issues associated with a devastating disaster.

Results from planning efforts and the functional exercise will form the basis of a New Orleans, Louisiana Catastrophic Disaster Response Plan as well as a generic catastrophic disaster planning template/planning guide for use in other high-risk areas. The Louisiana model will be used in reviewing other high-risk areas across the country in FY 05-06. The southeastern Louisiana/New Orleans planning effort will be completed in FY 05 and planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (MO, KY, TN, MS, AR, IN, IL) will be started.

That's an overview, and I will be happy to respond to your questions, so I will now turn the floor back over to our Moderator.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much David.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Stephen Melvin: Mr. Garratt, your initial plan seems to be focusing on natural disasters. I was wondering if you had any plans to focus on terrorist events in the near future?

David Garratt: Actually, the NRP-CIS does concentrate on WMD events. Not exclusively but it certainly is the primary focus.

Dale Sizemore: Will the planning direction and templates follow that of programs like the Strategic National Stockpile Program, which is very complete and well received by District level Emergency Coordinators?

David Garratt: Hard to say, Dale. Need to wait and evaluate the results of our prototype efforts. But I agree that any templates should try to build on previous and similar activities.

Evelyn Muniz: Are you open to all methodologies or are there specific ones that you have already selected for evaluation? Are any "templates" publicly available for review?

David Garratt: We are open to any methodologies and the templates will be available once complete.

Amy Sebring: David, is Military Support to Civilian Authorities well integrated into this planning effort, that is, are they represented on the planning council?

David Garratt: Yes.

Evelyn Muniz: You said "templates will be available once complete". By whom? Based on what? When?

David Garratt: We are working with the City of Charlotte to examine how to integrate the NRP-CIS resources into their response plans. We will pull the lessons learned from that effort and begin developing a planning template that can be made available nationally. The templates will provide guidance for jurisdictions to integrate these federal resources into their advance response planning, and help guide gap analyses efforts. They will not be "model" plans.

Burt Wallrich: David, has NVOAD been involved in the planning effort? If so, what is its role?

David Garratt: American Red Cross has a seat on the Catastrophic Incident Planning Group. They have been very involved from a mass care perspective.

Avagene Moore: Dave, when will the retooling of State and Local plans across the country be started re: catastrophic planning? What type of timeframe is predicted for completion?

David Garratt: It will begin this year, on several fronts. We are hoping to see the upcoming Homeland Security Grant guidance include language allowing and encouraging the use of funding for catastrophic planning. That will be a self-initiated activity at the S/L level. We will also be initiating several discrete planning activities, as mentioned in my opening statement.

Isabel McCurdy: David, has Canada been invited in the catastrophic planning ?

David Garratt: Not directly as a part of the NRP-CIS development effort, but once we get the document fielded, our plan is to expand the scope into the international support arena.

Lloyd Bokman: Does NEMA sit on the Planning Group? What is the vision for coordinating Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) resources with the federal resources that you are discussing? Are there priorities or protocols being discussed?

David Garratt: The Planning Group involves federal representatives only, including the DHS Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP) has run the NRP-CIS by a group of S/L representatives. And the document, once it enters into the formal coordination process, will be disseminated, through FOUO channels, to S/Ls on a broader basis to review and comment upon.

Evelyn Muniz: Typically plans are discussed, information gathered, written for hardcopy, then distributed on paper or electronically via flat file. Is there any initiative to interactively capture information on line, and distribute softcopy, interactive plans?

David Garratt: That is outside the scope of what we are looking at. This effort is focused on a system for rapidly delivering needed resources to a catastrophically impacted venue.

Amy Sebring: David, do you anticipate the catastrophic planning to be integrated with the National Preparedness goals/activities under HSPD #8?

David Garratt: Yes. Certainly.

Avagene Moore: Dave, how do the pre-identified federal resources tie into the Pre-positioned Equipment Program (PEP)?

David Garratt: Closely. Part of the effort is to identify all resources available to a jurisdiction, to include PEP resources, and integrate them into the response strategy.

Stephen Melvin: How will this plan tie in with DHS Urban Area Security Initiative?

David Garratt: Good question, Stephen. We are hoping that the FY05 UASI guidance will reflect catastrophic planning activities as an important goal, and authorize funding for that purpose. To include authorizing funding for specific planning activities that support the goals of the NRP-CIS, which are to improve state and local response capabilities.

Helen Norris: Have you heard and/or addressed concerns regarding the requirements of this effort interfering with local control of response efforts? How can small jurisdictions meet requirements that are designed to cover everything written for, say New York?

David Garratt: Helen, this effort is designed to operate on a non-interference basis. Resources will automatically be deployed to federal mobilization centers, but will not be deployed to an incident site unless requested by the incident management authorities at the state/local level.

Helen Norris: I did not mean to be disrespectful, but I have heard these concerns locally and what has been released to us thus far is very sketchy. This does make me feel better. Thank you, sir.

David Garratt: Helen, it was a good question. Thanks for asking it.

Amy Sebring: David, are information services to support catastrophic response is within the scope of your activity?

David Garratt: What we are looking at are key response areas and capabilities that we believe are likely to be overwhelmed in a truly catastrophic incident. Among those areas is incident communications; i.e., getting timely credible information to the public. So, within that framework, yes.


Isabel McCurdy: David, would your recent flu vaccine shortage been considered criteria for your catastrophic plan?

David Garratt: The catastrophic strategy is based on a loose threshold - tens to hundreds of thousands of casualties and evacuees and is deigned as a stopgap measure to ensure that resources are rapidly deployed to be available to an incident venue. Perhaps even before the jurisdiction has determined the full extent of the support they need. So, no, I don't think the flu vaccine shortage would qualify.


Amy Sebring: Thank you David. We greatly appreciate your effort and time on our behalf today. Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements.

We have two new partners to announce: Mountaintop Technologies, Inc., URL: http://www.mntntp.com, POC: Mark Drummey, Director of Medical Services, and Phoenix Disaster Services, LLC, URL: http://www.pdstx.com, POC: Brian Dopp, President. We are pleased to welcome you both!

Again, the transcript will be posted late this afternoon and you will be able to access it from our home page or the background page.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We wish you all safe and happy holidays, and renewed energies for the challenges of the coming New Year!