EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation -- August 9, 2006

Long-Term Community Recovery
Emergency Support Function #14

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah
Program Specialist, Recovery Division
Department of Homeland Security/FEMA

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 and welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum. Before we get started today, I will turn the floor over to Avagene for a sad announcement. Ava please.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Lacy Suiter on Tuesday, August 8. Lacy was on the EIIP Board of Directors and was formerly with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and worked With FEMA during the Clinton Administration. He was a good friend personally and professionally. Losing Lacy is a great loss to his family, friends, peers and the emergency management community. If any of you would like further information about arrangements for Lacy, please send me an email at [email protected]. If you would like to see Lacy's photo and read a short bio, please see the "About Us" link on our homepage at your convenience. Thank you and back to Amy.

Amy Sebring: Our topic today is Long-Term Community Recovery, Emergency Support Function #14 of the National Response Plan. As we have seen in the news this past year, decisions about recovery planning can be difficult and complex, and we wanted to address this topic as an opportunity to learn about the process.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's speaker: Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah has served as a Program Specialist in FEMA's Recovery Division since 2002. She has worked on the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program, Catastrophic Planning initiatives, and most recently, Emergency Support Function #14 - Long-Term Community Recovery.

Prior to joining FEMA, she worked for the Corporation for National and Community Service and previously for the Peace Corps for four and a half years, serving in multiple capacities ranging from Country Desk Officer to overseas Administrative Officer. Welcome Shauna and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s nice to be with you all today to talk about Emergency Support Function (ESF) #14, Long-Term Community Recovery under the National Response Plan. As was mentioned, I work in the Recovery Division at FEMA headquarters and have been involved in ESF #14 planning and development since its inception.

ESF #14 is the "new kid on the block." It was conceived shortly before the promulgation of the National Response Plan in September 2004 to deal with those extraordinary disasters where coordination requirements and needs are such that a special coordination mechanism is needed to integrate the many assistance programs that may be available to communities to aid in their recovery.

As you all know, disaster recovery typically occurs in phases, with initial efforts dedicated to helping those affected meet immediate needs for housing, food and water. As homes and businesses are repaired, people return to work and communities continue with cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Many government agencies, voluntary organizations, and the private sector cooperate to provide assistance and support.

Some individuals, families and communities that are especially hard hit by a disaster may need more time and specialized assistance to recover, and a more formalized structure to support them. Specialized assistance may be needed to address unique needs that are not satisfied by routine disaster assistance programs. It may also be required for very complex restoration or rebuilding challenges. ESF #14 addresses these ongoing needs by taking a holistic, long-term view of critical recovery needs, and coordinating the mobilization of resources at the federal level to support state and local long-term community recovery activities.

Under the National Response Plan, Emergency Support Function (ESF) #14 Long-Term Community Recovery coordinates the resources of Federal departments and agencies to support the long-term recovery of States and communities, and to reduce or eliminate risk from future incidents. While consideration of long-term recovery is imbedded in the routine administration of the disaster assistance and mitigation programs of FEMA and other Federal agencies, some incidents, due to the severity of the impacts and the complexity of the recovery, will require considerable interagency coordination and technical support.

ESF #14 efforts are driven by State/local priorities, focusing on permanent restoration of infrastructure, housing, and the local economy. When activated, ESF #14 provides the coordination mechanisms for the Federal government to:

• Assess the social and economic impacts of affected areas and coordinate Federal efforts to address long-term community recovery issues resulting from incidents requiring a coordinated national response;

• Advise on the long-term community recovery implications of response activities, the transition from response to recovery in field operations, and facilitate recovery decision-making across ESFs with particular attention to areas like rebuilding public infrastructure (ESFs #1 and #3), housing (ESF #6), health care infrastructure (ESF #8), and agriculture and natural resources (ESF #11);

• Identify appropriate Federal programs and agencies to support implementation of the long-term community recovery plan, ensure coordination, and identify gaps in available resources;

• Avoid duplication of assistance, coordinate to the extent possible program application processes and planning requirements to streamline assistance, and identify and coordinate resolution of policy and program issues; and

• Provide a vehicle to maintain continuity in program delivery among Federal departments and agencies, and with State, local, and tribal governments and other involved parties, to ensure effective implementation of recovery and hazard mitigation efforts.

ESF #14, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is supported by six primary agencies which include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development and Treasury, as well as the Small Business Administration. A number of other agencies serve in a support role.

As we can see, the Federal government has a vast array of programs and services that can be mobilized to support long-term community recovery from a disaster. Additional information about ESF #14 partner agencies can be found in the FEMA publication Disaster Assistance: A Guide to Recovery Programs (FEMA-229). This document, as well as other ESF #14 Planning Resources can be found at: http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/ltcr/plan_resource.shtm

The following paragraphs profile ESF #14 primary agencies:

U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA has extensive expertise in community development, resource conservation, housing, and programs for rural communities. USDA Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and the U.S. Forest Service are actively engaged in disaster recovery efforts in agricultural and rural areas, and offer programs and assistance with restoration of community facilities, water, sewer, electricity, broadband, business, and energy programs.

Department of Commerce, Economic Development Agency (EDA). Under existing statutory authority, EDA administers disaster program funds through targeted grants to disaster-impacted communities designed to achieve long-term economic recovery. EDA disaster recovery efforts assist communities in shifting their focus when appropriate from the short-term emergency response to the long-term economic impacts of the disaster, and enable the development of an economic recovery program that reflects local priorities.

Department of the Treasury. Treasury provides analysis of economic and financial resilience and vitality, including reliability of public and private payments systems and financial flows. Impediments to economic activity following a disaster often can be addressed through tax waivers, credits, and incentives. Treasury also provides financial and technical assistance for distressed urban and rural communities, including those affected by disaster through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) fund.

Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has a strong tradition of empowering communities following a disaster to aid in their recovery. HUD addresses a broad spectrum of needs related to community viability, including housing, economic development, and community development. For example, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) programs can be particularly useful following disaster as HUD can waive regulatory and statutory program requirements to increase flexibility of these programs to be utilized for disaster recovery.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA provides long-term assistance to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private nonprofit organizations for repair, replacement, mitigation, relocation, or code-required upgrades of disaster-damaged property. SBA can also provide loan assistance to small businesses to address adverse economic impacts due to disaster events.

Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, and initiates hazard mitigation activities. FEMA’s disaster assistance programs include:

    - Individual assistance for individuals, families, and businesses – loans and grants, emergency housing, tax relief and unemployment assistance

    - Public assistance for states, local communities and nonprofit groups – financial assistance to restore public systems and facilities

    - Matching mitigation funds for states and local communities for projects that eliminate or reduce an area’s vulnerability to a hazard.

ESF #14 primary and support agencies work in concert to bring critical resources to bear, including help with assessment, technical assistance with recovery planning and project specification, and support to identify funding possibilities. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought the first activation of ESF #14 for the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We are in the process of evaluating how these operations worked and how we need to modify our procedures. But I can tell you that the more communities and States think about their long-term recovery strategies in advance of a disaster, the better prepared they will be to implement long-term recovery plans, and the better ESF #14 will work to support these efforts.

With this brief overview, I would be happy to take any questions that you may have and turn the floor back over to our Moderator.

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

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Claire Rubin: We actually have been thinking about disaster recovery for decades, yet we still do not seem to know what the phase is all about. What is DSH doing to help cities and states? I know you have issued some handbooks, but what is the real life technical assistance?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: In reference to long term community recovery, DHS/FEMA is providing technical assistance to state -and locals to assist them in identifying long-term recovery priorities, articulate their planning processes, and engage local and community partners in the long-term recovery process. Technical assistance usually comes in the form of providing subject matter experts and or planners. These staffers may come from DHS/FEMA or other Federal Agencies. Bear in mind throughout recovery (both immediate and long-term) that state and local priorities guide the recovery process.

Avagene Moore: Shauna, you mentioned an evaluation of ESF 14 re: the Gulf Coast. When will the evaluation be complete / available? Will it be a public or an internal report?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: Excellent question. FEMA Recovery Division conducted a Katrina after action review several months ago. The recommendations from that review are currently being prioritized here within FEMA. I do not know if the details of the recommendations will be made public, or some type of summary document. I can give you an indication of some of the themes that came out of the recommendations: need for additional trained staff (in all areas - both response and recovery), and need for additional training.

Lloyd Bokman: You mentioned that States should think about their long-term recovery strategies in advance. Is their any guidance on perhaps documenting these strategies in advance or doing a preliminary generic recovery plan that would then change, based on the details of specific incidents? Is this feasible to do?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: There are several resources that can assist States in developing long-term recovery strategies. The APA publication titled Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction and a Long-Term Community Recovery Self-Help Guide developed by FEMA (reference the link mentioned earlier in my presentation where you will be able to access both documents). I strongly recommend that communities take the time to begin long-term recovery planning prior to a disaster rather than in the heat of response and recovery activities. At a minimum, communities should be able to identify their planning capabilities and resources in advance.

Richard Weiser: Up till 2 months ago I was with the Louisiana Emergency Management and have seen some of the programs initiated such as CDBG and others. What efforts are DHS taking to inform the states of all available activities ESF 14 can assist with and will DHS provide informational training to their state partners?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: A couple of comments for Richard: FEMA has developed a Guide to Recovery Programs - FEMA Publication 229. The document contains a listing of all federal recovery programs and is a good reference point for communities. The document is available on the website referenced in presentation. ESF #14 has also identified Regional Coordinators who will work closely with their State counterparts to conduct education and outreach on ESF 14 partners and capabilities.

Claire Rubin: Are any efforts being made by the FEMA Recovery Division and others in your agency to take into account the many years of research and experience with recovery from major disasters? It seems to me that hard-earned knowledge is not being captured and then utilized by the relatively few persons really expert about recovery. How will learning take place unless there is exposure to facts and experts outside of DHS?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: I agree that capturing this history and lessons learned is critical. Our efforts in this area are geared toward reviewing case studies and engaging as many stakeholders in ongoing program development as possible. If you have any specific recommendations, we would certainly welcome your input.

Chad Holgerson: As an NGO, in the recovery process we bring a lot of resources to the table. Is there encouragement in these documents to work with NGOs, and are there funding programs to support the NGOs efforts?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: NGOs play an important role in both individual and community recovery. We have tried to engage them in long-term community recovery activities - however, our experience has shown that NGOs tend to focus on individual recovery and information/ resource sharing rather than broader long-term community recovery activities. We strongly believe individual and community recovery are connected. NVOAD and the American Red Cross are support agencies for ESF 14. That is an important link for us.

Don Bonchack: There is a group that most of the time forms after a disaster with a similar name, ‘Long-Term Recovery Committee,' which is comprised of non-profits and community agencies and groups from the area. FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons work closely with them. This group will work with the individuals to address the unmet needs and to try to keep people from falling through the cracks. Are there interactions between ESF# 14 and the LTRC's, and if not should there be? Suggestions to make this happen?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: Yes, there is interaction between the two. That interaction has been limited to information sharing at this point. This is due to the fact that the LTR Committee is focused on individual/case management type issues rather than broader community reconstruction and rebuilding issues. There should be more interaction between the two and I recommend that ESF #14 become more engaged in communications with the VALs and ESF #6 throughout pre-post disaster operations.

Kenton Friesen: Unlike the Response Phase, Recovery is unclear with respects to the ending of the phase. Does FEMA have a clear definition of Short-Term Recovery, Long-Term Recovery, or is there a set of criteria that would assist communities to clearly delineate the beginning and ending of recovery (whether short or long)?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: We have struggled with the definition ourselves. I do not believe there is a clear distinction between when short-term recovery ends and long-term begins. Effective long-term recovery requires being at the table during both response and short-term recovery phases as those are the timeframes when critical decisions are being made (temporary housing, evacuations, etc.) that will influence the shape of State LTR priorities.

Avagene Moore: Shauna, earlier you mentioned the recommendations of better trained staff and more training needed. With all the new hirees at FEMA gearing up for this hurricane season, am I correct in assuming they serve as Disaster Assistance Employees (DAEs) for response and recovery? How much training is required of these new folks and was disaster experience a requirement for hiring them?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: FEMA has been actively working to hire staff as DAEs and some temporary full time (CORE) positions. This is due to the fact that staffing enhancements are needed both in the field and at the national and regional level to support field operations. In terms of how training is required, that depends on the DAE assignment. I do not know what percentage of DAEs have pre-existing FEMA experience.

I can say that they all require a basic understanding of FEMA disaster assistance programs. FEMA is in the process of developing additional training modules for new DAEs. Also, when a disaster hits and a Joint Field Office is established, the Joint Field Office has the ability to offer a limited amount of 'just in time' training to gear up new DAEs before they hit the field.

Nicole Haeberle: What are some of the activities that have resulted from the activation of ESF #14 after Hurricane Katrina and is there any preliminary information as to their effectiveness in addressing long-term recovery concerns and challenges?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: ESF #14 has assisted the States of LA, MS, and AL in the creation of long-term community recovery plans. (I believe these plans are available through respective State websites.) The effectiveness of these LTR plans remains to be seen as the States move to identify funding and implementation capabilities for their long-term recovery projects.

Amy Sebring: There were, perhaps, unprecedented numbers of displaced persons from the Gulf Coast. Has there been an attempt to involve displaced persons in the recovery planning process? If so, how?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: I can speak to the LA efforts. In order to get input from displaced populations on long-term recovery activities and priorities, LA worked the ESF 14 to conduct planning workshops in several states. I believe they were conducted in TN, GA, and TX (may be others, but unable to confirm at this moment). The purpose of these workshops was to invite displaced persons into a forum where they could identify their top concerns and recovery priorities. Input from these workshops directly informed and shaped State's LTR priorities.

Sarah Fusarelli: As someone new to emergency management, I have been taking many of the FEMA Independent Study Courses. What is your opinion of these courses, particularly with respect to their coverage of recovery activities? Could they be used for the aforementioned training needs?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: We always encourage our staff to take advantage of the online independent study courses. They are an excellent (and portable) resource.

Claire Rubin: Yesterday, the NY Times had an article that was very critical of the recovery process in New Orleans and indicated that the public sector at each level had been deficient in helping shape an effective recovery plan. It also said the FEMA/DHS had closed shop on the recovery process there. Why is the recovery going so poorly and is DHS still involved in N.O. where recovery has barely begun?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: I can't speak to the article since I haven't seen it. I can say that DHS/FEMA still maintains a presence in New Orleans and is also working closely with the White House Appointed Office of the Gulf Coast Recovery Coordinator (Chairman Powell etc.). I believe that the situation in New Orleans is truly unique in the number of political issues and alliances that are overshadowing recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Amy Sebring: Another challenge must be coordination with local businesses. In terms of the economic recovery, what role do small and large businesses play in the planning?

Shauna Blanchard-Mbangah: We work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the DHS/Private Sector Office to identify business needs and capabilities in impacted areas. They are a critical stakeholder in the LTR planning process.


Amy Sebring: Let's wrap it up for today. Thank you very much Shauna for an excellent job, and also thanks to Jane Kushma for bringing this topic to our attention. 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 a new Partner today -- Southern Missouri Emergency Services, Inc. (SOMOES), POC: J. Duane Robinson, CEO and Founder. If your organization is interested in becoming a Partner, please see the link on our homepage.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. GREAT questions! 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 Shauna for a fine job.