EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — June 28, 2006

The Nationwide Plan Review
A Local Perspective

Eric E. Holdeman
Director, Office of Emergency Management
King County, Washington State

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: Good morning/afternoon everyone. On behalf of Avagene and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is a local perspective on the recently completed Nationwide Plan Review (NPR). Access to the press release announcing the Phase 2 report, together with related fact sheets and link to the full report is available at: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=5695

Providing our local perspective today is Eric Holdeman, Director, Office of Emergency Management for King County, Washington, where he is responsible for emergency management and E-911 regional support to all areas of King County (which is the greater metropolitan area of the City of Seattle).

The King County OEM web site is nationally recognized as one of the best. Eric has an official "Blog" called "Eric's Corner" that is updated weekly with news and information pertinent to the broader emergency management and response communities. See http://www.metrokc.gov/prepare/

He has also been showing up in the national media quite a bit this past year. You can find further biographical info on today's Background Page (just click on Eric's photo) and also links to the NPR Phase 2 Report, as well as the Department of Transportation's Report to Congress on Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Planning.

Welcome back Eric and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Eric Holdeman: Hi everyone. Great to spend some time with you today. I look forward to our chatting together today. The Nationwide Plan Review (NPR), and that is not a radio network, was conducted in two phases. Its purpose was to assess the viability of planning in each state and specifically named urban areas, 75 of these I believe. Phase I was a self assessment by every state and urban area of the status of their disaster response plans and was submitted to the Department of Homeland Security earlier in 2006.

Phase II involved teams of contractors doing on site visits to states and urban areas to repeat this assessment. In our case, they met with Washington State Emergency Management Division personnel and the emergency management staff representatives from the City of Seattle and the core county (Seattle UASI), that being King County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

The team that visited us was led by a former state emergency management director and an additional two staff. One being a local emergency manager and the other from public policy company. All three being experienced in the subject area of planning and emergency management. I respect them as being our peers.

We spent a total of four days together going over the state, county and city plans. We chose to do this as one group, state, county and city, and not in sequence as separate entities. It was the most detailed review of our joint planning we have ever experienced.

My comments that follow are reflective of my experience in going through the review and our efforts as a county in doing individual jurisdictional and regional planning with the public and private sectors.

General Thoughts: I thought of the Phase 2 experience as an audit, but the auditors smiled and were not in a "gotcha" mode of evaluating our planning. That doesn't mean that we agreed on everything. We had disagreements many times brought on by our individual perspectives. It was an excellent give and take during the four days we spent together.

What prompted this NPR process was Katrina, and the failed ability of the federal (by that I mean the federal, state and local) system to work in an effective manner in response to that disaster.

Who among you will stand up and say they are ready for a catastrophic disaster? By their definition, catastrophic disasters are supposed to be overwhelming. They will naturally exceed the capabilities of any single jurisdiction and state.

Catastrophes will require the response of the "nation as a whole" and we can't start with the premise that states and urban areas have to become capable of handling a catastrophe on their own. The one exception to this I might add will be a flu pandemic, since we are all going to be on our own. Having said the above, I do believe that we can do a better job of planning by including "catastrophic size" disasters in our thinking and doing exercises that stretch the limits of our plans.

I have found that some people and agencies have avoided catastrophic disaster planning because of the size and complexity of the problems they present. When proposing doing a catastrophic disaster exercise it is not that unusual (previously) to hear from someone, "if it is that bad, there is nothing we can do." Which of course is not true. Yes, it will be bad, very, very bad, but this is what we get paid to do. Only about 2% of a population dies in a catastrophic disaster. If you are the emergency manager, planning on being one of the dead people, and therefore not have to deal with the disaster--this is "not a good planning assumption."

Phase II Report Findings: The full National Plan Review Phase 2 Report is about 174 pages long. DHS produced a Fact Sheet that summarized 15 Initial Conclusions for States and Urban Areas and another 24 Initial Conclusions for the Federal Government. The report and the fact sheet can be found on my "Eric's Corner" blog at www.metrokc.gov/prepare, or just Google "Eric's Corner."

Planning Modernization: I shudder when I think about how DHS might contract with a company like the Rand Corporation to come up with a way to "modernize our planning process." I foresee charts and graphs, linkages to the National Preparedness Goal, Target Capabilities List (TCL) and a 12 step process (we might all need a different 12 step process, by the time we're done) to doing catastrophic planning. I believe the air conditioned "think tank" approach is not what we need.

Having facilitated, cajoled, and enjoyed some success with regional planning I would offer a different approach that cuts across many of the findings that were identified. First, "modernize the National Response Plan." It was a good initial step towards thinking beyond the old federal agency response. But there are big holes in it when it comes to "regional planning." As the plan was structured they left all the nuts and bolts a bit loose.

What I find is that people and jurisdictions are not always willing to come to the table to sort out how you function "together" especially when it comes to deciding "who's going to be in charge." Leaving it too loosey goosey is not a good thing-when disaster strikes. An example of this is how the Multi-agency Coordination Center (MAC) is defined. Every EOC at every level could end up calling themselves a MAC, which is what I'm hearing from more than one jurisdiction and level of government right here in Washington State.

Additionally, DHS is going to have to mandate "regional planning" if you want that to happen. And, then go beyond planning to establish "operational regions" that work together. Every state is going to need something like the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) that pre-establishes disaster relationships and response protocols.

We have been involving private business in our planning for about eight years. This is another area that was identified as needing improvement across the national scene. How about including the media in that planning? I can hear the howls of pain from people who fear that their level of preparedness will be "divulged." Tell me what is the national security issue blanket that you can throw up to keep the media out of your planning process when it is natural disasters you are looking at?

We need federal representatives out in the regions working with states and urban areas on doing regional planning. Since FEMA is no longer in the preparedness business the new Preparedness Directorate is going to need to find a way to accomplish this mission if we expect to move the planning ball down the court.

Evacuation Planning-Mass Care: The questions that were being asked about evacuation planning were set in a hurricane context. For us West Coast folks, our Katrina is an earthquake. A) there is no evacuation for a no-notice event like an earthquake, B) You don't typically evacuate an area because of an earthquake. BUT, here in this region our worst case event may cause an evacuation "after the event" because we can't get people and supplies into the impacted area. I call it the "walk-out plan" because of the constrained route and bridge issues we face here in our region.

The harder part of evacuation is the mass care aspect, vulnerable populations being one significant sub-issue for both evacuation and mass care. If you remember the good old Civil Defense days, all the time and effort went into "mass care" with civil defense shelter program. We could spend all of our time just on this issue, ignoring the rest of our emergency management programs.

Resource Management: Ouch! This is an area that nationally we have a problem with as emergency managers. While King County has handled 20 Presidentially Declared Disasters in the last 41 years, none of them have caused a logistics surge like a catastrophic disaster will. We need local, state and federal planners at the table when doing this planning since it can't be done in isolation by each jurisdiction and level of government doing their own thing-that then doesn't mesh when the time comes to execute the plan.

Public Education: I'll close with this last item. The review showed the lack of effort and results that have gone into public education and citizen readiness. While there is lots said about the topic, when you look at how the funds are allocated, this item is many times at the bottom of the funding totem pole. A prepared population can either be a force multiplier or an anchor that will drag you and your response to a screeching halt with needs out pacing your ability to respond. It is time to put our wallet where our mouths are on this one!

Finally, I look forward to our dialog on these topics or any other planning issues that you saw brought forward from the Phase 2 Plan review. I'm turning it back over to the moderator. Let's chat!

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Eric. Now, to proceed to your questions and comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Michael Jallo: Here in VA we also recognize the need for media involvement. Essentially, they are key to getting the word out on the plan so local citizens know what to do. Have you prepared a "written" media annex and gotten local TV/radio station managers to agree to their role in this effort? Explain please how you intend to use the media and how you garner their cooperation to do it.

Eric Holdeman: I call this effort--like much of what we do-- missionary work. My effort has gone towards trying to get them involved and become signatories to our regional disaster plan, which allows for private businesses to participate. I've got Clear Channel, the ABC TV/Radio stations and CBS Radio on board. Still chasing others. And, we are also looking to include them in our critical infrastructure planning. I think they are the "18th" critical infrastructure (CI), unnamed by DHS, and no--we don't have a written annex.

Ed Kostiuk: In the report (page 26) it states "notable weaknesses in tracking these individuals (only 25% of States and 16% of urban areas were rated Sufficient by the Review) exacerbated the problem of reuniting families and ensuring appropriate medical care and social services." The problem we encountered during Katrina was patients were flown into our state without any type of documentation or accompanying medical records. Is the plan relying on States rather than the Federal System to create a tracking system? If so, will it be accomplished regionally specific?

Eric Holdeman: Ed, I'm thinking this is a federal plan that should kick in--the states can't independently set this up.

Craig Irwin: We were one of the states that got a "passing grade". But I don't feel prepared for a catastrophic event. We did a bad job with the Katrina evacuees that we received. Exactly what constituted a "passing grade" on the assessment? Having lots of written plans?

Eric Holdeman: Craig, I understand what you are saying about the catastrophic aspect of our planning. For us, we engaged in a lengthy dialog on almost every issue. The guide used was the template that the evaluation team had. Not perfect, but like I said, the best evaluation of our plans to date.

Rich Vandame: Do you have feedback on the effectiveness of public emergency alerting systems?

Eric Holdeman: There is a new item going up on "Eric's Corner" later today on that topic.

One of the things it specifically talks to is the reverse 911 systems that people detect as telemarketers and ignore. We have not done any research on our own. We have fully integrated the Weather Warning Radios and National Weather System into our State's EAS network.

Burt Wallrich: How has Washington VOAD been integrated into your planning? (Notice that I don't ask "if" it's been integrated. I'm sure it has been.)

Eric Holdeman: So-so. This is based on interest and energy from the volunteer base. We have had some good participation from this region of the State, since we have 52% of the state's population in the three urban counties that make up the Seattle UASI. But, our integration can always get better. The next thing we are working on is to use 211, that was just launched state-wide to help in the coordination of non-profit response.

Fernando de Guzman: If you were to start "from scratch" creating an ideal EOC, what would you do?

Eric Holdeman: There is an issue on this. The Feds have not created a document that details what the elements of a good EOC is. Everything in print dates back to the Civil Defense, hole in the ground days. I'll put up our "lessons learned" from doing our own EOC/ECC here on Eric's Corner later today. Going out and visiting some current/new facilities is something we did and we garnered a great amount of ideas from those field trips.

Burt Wallrich: 211 Los Angeles just completed updating its Emergency Ops Manual which provides a good model, from that side of the table, of integration with the local VOAD and city and state OEMs. I'm sure they would share it, if you ask. (Or I could get permission to do so - I drafted it.)

Eric Holdeman: Burt, send it up to me and I'll put it on my blog!

Fernando de Guzman: How would you speed up logistic issues to deal with a natural and/or man-made disaster?

Eric Holdeman: Remember this was the "ouch" I mentioned in my first presentation. This is an area where we are not very progressive. I believe in the planning process, but we need to get local, state and feds in the room to kick it all off. Doing it in isolation will not work. We have had our share of disasters, but it is the big ones that stress the logistics systems.

Joe Sukaskas: Did the assessment look at how well WA coordinates with neighboring/regional States and Provinces, and if so did any cross-border (US-Canada) issues arise?

Eric Holdeman: You are testing my memory. This is a big issue for us and we've found the feds are not that keen on including the Canada in the mix. As I recall, that was not a part of the Q&A we had, but we press this issue a lot when working the Critical Infrastructure work. Look on Eric's Corner for Blue Cascades III Exercise outcomes to see some of our work in that area.

Amy Sebring: To what extent can you gauge preparedness, (or operational readiness) based on a review of planning documents? Not only might plan documents overstate capabilities, they might also understate them. Should other measures be used, such as manpower etc.?

Eric Holdeman: I don't think that you can gauge it from plans. This is the mistake that elected officials often make in thinking that if they have a plan then everything is ok. Operational readiness is a fleeting thing. It is based on having a plan, training to the plan, and then exercising. I would gauge operational readiness much more on the exercises conducted and the after action corrections than on the plan.

Paul Neatrour: I agree that educating the citizenship is a force multiplier. The local school districts are the logical place to educate the citizenry on emergency preparedness topics. However, the schools cannot be expected to do this because "no child left behind" and "state standards" etc. take all of their time and effort. What are your thoughts on how to accomplish educating citizens outside of the schools?

Eric Holdeman: I believe --and our attack on this issue has been-- with motivating people to become prepared. I think for most of Americans, they have the knowledge and the economic/wealth to become prepared. They are just not motivated. So we have been using DHS funds in partnership with local TV and radio stations to do media campaigns.

Kellie Pettyjohn: Was there any discussion on how the universities and colleges within the Seattle area have been integrated into planning? I.e. how the city would react to a UW campus evacuation.

Eric Holdeman: Kellie, not that I recall, although we have a great example here in the University of WA. Steve Charvat, who some of you may know, has created a program from scratch in just under three years. Having a paid staff position in the University, focused on EM, is key. Then the city and County have someone to work with. They have many resources to tap into and also may have some challenges to deal with--partnering with the Universities is a great idea.

Amy Sebring: And if I may add, we did a previous Forum program with Steve Charvat, which is in our archives. [See http://www.emforum.org/vforum/lc050112.htm ]

Suzanne Boccia: What exactly were the standards that all these plans were reviewed against?

Eric Holdeman: They used the National Response Plan, National Incident Management System.

And, here in Washington State there is a State Guide for writing the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans. What I think is missing and it showed up in the review is the "Regional" aspect of planning. How do you go about doing that? How do you get people to the table? How do you resolve direction and control issues when authorities are not specific?

Amy Sebring: Also, if I may add, they used FEMA's SLG-101 planning guidance which has not been updated since it was issued in the late 90's and was never a requirement.

Joseph Sernell: Eric, you mentioned a blog. Could you provide the address for all of us please? Also, how have you worked in addressing the education requirements for the ICS and NIMS for your region?

Eric Holdeman: You can just Google "Eric's Corner" and it will come up [or use http://www.metrokc.gov/prepare/ ] Check out the rest of our web site for our Regional Plan and Disaster Preparedness info. All of our TV and radio PSAs are on the site. For our region (we are a home rule state) each jurisdiction is on their own to meet the NIMS requirements. Our State EM office has an on-line reporting tool for agencies to track []. Jim Kadrmas at State EM, (1-800-562-6108 [in state only]) can tell you more about it.

Amy Sebring: The study was most definitely a post-Katrina, hurricane focused review, which was then applied to non-coastal states and cities as you mentioned. There were no questions related to hazards or vulnerability analyses. My own fear is this will lead to a one size fits all approach in future planning 'guidance' (i.e., requirements). Do you think a national level natural hazards risk assessment might help communicate the actual risks to the public, federal government, and Congress? (This area has also been cited by EMAP as being weak at the state level.)

Eric Holdeman: Yes, I agree that the natural risk assessment would be great! The Natural Hazards Center in Boulder would be great to lead this effort. While Katrina showed what a natural disaster can do, it has not significantly altered the funding mechanism. Still, the DHS funds are earmarked for terrorism, with a new "dual use" concept. But you cannot start with just becoming prepared for an earthquake or hurricane and get funding.

Craig Irwin: Absolutely! It might even help with the flow of money into EM programs.

Amy Sebring: Since Secretary Chertoff has been focused on allocating terrorism money based on vulnerability assessments, I don't know why they do not use this same approach for natural hazards.

Eric Holdeman: On the funding issue--the Grant and Training folks are still DOJ people at heart.

Luis Morales: I've attended meetings were DHS is also putting dollars into EM planning in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. They are hiring EM planners to assist the locals and states with their NMSZ planning.

Eric Holdeman: My question for others, if anyone else went through the process; did you feel that the team that did the assessment was your peers? In our case they were.

Ed Kostiuk: I can only answer for Oklahoma but yes they were.

Amy Sebring: I had no problem with them being qualified as peers, but my problem is with the emphasis by DHS on using 'peer review' to validate the study, when it is apparent that the reviewers were working from the DHS template. That is, I am not convinced that peers designed the criteria.

Eric Holdeman: I agree on the criteria comment by Amy.

Ken Rudnicki: I was a member of one of the review teams and I'd like to expand on some of the items discussed here. We did look at cross-border issues and one of the recommendations we took back to DHS was the expansion of mutual aid agreements along the border with Canada. There are existing agreements on the east and west coast but none in the middle states. We also looked at hazard analysis during the visits. Other guides that we referenced were NFP 1600 and EMAP standards.

Avagene Moore:
We know that the National Response Plan has undergone some revisions; however, we have yet to see the federal Catastrophic Incident Supplement since it is "Official Use Only." Should DHS update the NRP-CIS to include natural hazards and publish at least that part of it?

Eric Holdeman: Absolutely! Somehow we have to get by this FOUO/Classified/Confidential issue. As a former Infantry Officer I understand Operations Security, but I think we are just blinding ourselves to becoming better prepared.

Amy Sebring:
Eric, is there any joint planning going on involving federal, state, and local levels on commodity distribution that you are aware of? I keep hearing that FEMA is improving their system, but I am not seeing any guidance.

Eric Holdeman: FEMA, as I understand it, is not in charge of planning. Planning is a preparedness function and therefore belongs to the Preparedness Directorate. This separating preparedness from FEMA is "Biggest" mistake that DHS has done. George Foresman is a great Under Secretary, but how are you going to do planning if you have no one in the regions to work with state and locals?

Amy Sebring:
Eric, any final comment you would like to add?

Eric Holdeman: I believe that we all individually can make a tremendous difference. I commend you all for what you are doing and don't stop. Best of all to you and your families, have a safe and sane Fourth of July--and alcohol and fireworks don't mix!


Amy Sebring: Let's wrap it up for today. Thank you very much Eric for an excellent job. Please stand by a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements. Again, the formatted transcript will be available later today. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to subscribe.

We are pleased to welcome two new Partners today:

- Disaster Survival Strategies Co, Ltd (located in Thailand); POC: Dr David R Garrison, President.

- Dallas County Office of Security & Emergency Management; http://www.dallascounty.org/department/osem/osem_intro.html ; POC: Christine Jacobs, Assistant EMC.

If your organization is interested in becoming a Partner, please see the link on our homepage.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. For first-timers, we hope you enjoyed the program and will come again. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Eric for a fine job.