EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — February 14, 2007

ICMA Networked Approach
to Improvements in Emergency Management

Kenneth W. Parker
City Manager, City of Port Orange, FL

William R. Whitson
City Manager, City of Cairo, GA

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. Thank you for joining us today. On behalf of Avagene and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is the ICMA white paper "A Networked Approach to Improvements in Emergency Management."

The paper may be accessed from the ICMA Website at http://www.icma.org/main/ld.asp?ldid=20120&hsid=10&tpid=23&stid=31

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's guests. Kenneth Parker has been the City Manager for the City of Port Orange since 1984. Ken has been involved in local, state, national and international organizations and programs, and has served as the Southeast Regional Vice President for ICMA.

William Whitson served as an Assistant City Manager for Port Orange until recently. He now serves as City Manager for the City of Cairo, Georgia. Mr. Whitson is also active in professional city management organizations and previously served with the U.S. EPA as Chief of Operations, Gulf of Mexico Program Office, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Please see the Background Page for today's session for further details at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/070214.htm

Mr. Whitson will begin our presentation by describing the experience of the Florida communities who provided assistance to the Mississippi coastal cities. Mr. Parker will then continue by describing the key concepts of the ICMA white paper.

Welcome to you both gentlemen, and thank you for joining us today. I now turn the floor over to Mr. Whitson to start us off please.

[Presentation]

William Whitson: Thanks Amy. On August 30, 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck the US Gulf Coast as a strong category 3 storm. The Hurricane carried a 32-foot storm surge into coastal Mississippi. The result of Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in US history. Devastation from the storm ranged from just west of New Orleans Louisiana to the western shore of Alabama, a swath of over 150 miles.

On September 7, 2005 the Port Orange City Council discussed the disaster and determined that selecting a municipality in the impacted area to work with was the best course of action we could take to assist the victims of this tragedy. City staff had already been in contact with officials of Long Beach, MS to determine basic needs/supplies. Long Beach Mississippi was recommended due to the severe impact of the storm on the community and the ability of our staff to successfully make contact with the Long Beach Civil Defense Director- Fire Chief George Bass.

Long Beach is a quiet, residential-based community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, population 18,000 prior to the storm. The first mission was dispatched from Port Orange on September 9, 2005. The mission consisted of requested supplies to sustain Long Beach recovery operations and an assessment team from Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach and Palm Bay. The mission stayed in Pensacola, going in and coming from the Long Beach area due to logistics and fuel shortages in the impacted area.

It was later determined by our assessment teams that Long Beach had suffered a loss of nearly 50% of its housing stock and 61% of its business/commercial base. The area in Long Beach south of the railroad tracks experienced almost total destruction from the storm. These next couple of photos will give you an idea of the destruction.

[Slide 1]

[Slide 2]

The Coalition of Florida communities working to assist Long Beach came from across the State. This effort was modeled after the efforts the Florida City/County Management Association (FCCMA) and Port Orange initiated after Hurricane Andrew struck the State in 1992.

The team consisted of staff, equipment and support from the following communities & organizations in Florida:

1. Port Orange
2. New Smyrna Beach
3. Volusia County
4. Palm Bay
5. Kissimmee
6. Punta Gorda
7. Seminole County
8. Lake Mary
9. Cape Coral
10. South Daytona
11. Deland
12. Palm Coast
13. Pensacola

It should be noted that some of the communities (Palm Coast, Lake Mary, Cape Coral and Seminole County) from the list above formed the basis for the team that also assisted Pass Christian. Later in November of 2006, Port Orange, Palm Bay, Boynton Beach, Panama City and other Florida Cities & Counties lead an effort to assist Pascagoula, MS with recovery.

Our teams all received support from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the Florida League of Cities (FLC) and the Mississippi Municipal League and Fannie Mae Corp. Our team was also able to coordinate a contribution to Long Beach Schools with Gardner Kansas, Naperville, Illinois. Finally, we have also coordinated part of the Christmas Project with Beaufort South Carolina.

In addition, our team had to coordinate weekly with FEMA, Harrison County EOC, the Mississippi Dept. of Emergency Management (MEMA) and the State of Florida EOC. The Florida EOC team in Tallahassee was excellent and even functioned to support our team during Tropical Storm Ophelia & Hurricane Wilma with no problems. NIMS organizational principles were applied in all the missions and worked well.

As with any disaster, the mission required our team to adapt and change on a weekly basis depending on the needs identified by Long Beach /Pass Christian/ Pascagoula as most critical at the time. Our teams performed multiple tasks each week. However, the primary mission we were seeking to achieve was to support the Long Beach Katrina recovery effort by assisting the City re-build its financial capability and benefit from the many experiences we had accumulated during the 2004 Hurricane season.

In short, we were involved in community building. Our team focused on the following:

1. Deliver needed relief supplies to bridge & sustain City Operations

2. Provide consulting support to re-establish City financial accounting systems and re-build important utility service & billing capacity

3. Provide technology support to improve documentation of damage & information flow. This primarily involved the creation of a damage assessment model that would help Long Beach receive critical FEMA re-imbursement dollars faster. This model covered streets, utilities, public buildings, equipment and more.

4. Provide general support to City Hall staff & the Building Dept.

5. Provide support for the City web site and other community outreach and communication efforts.

6. Provide resources and support to assist Long Beach Library, Schools and other community organizations re-build capacity to serve the public.

7. Provide assistance in building long term partnerships that sustain the capacity to support new financial & technology systems created during the recovery operation.

Port Orange served as the overall coordinator for each of the thirteen (13) missions dispatched to Long Beach and the missions run to Pass Christian & Pascagoula were sanctioned through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

It was an experience I will never forget! Our experience with assisting the Mississippi communities formed the basis of the team concept described in the ICMA white paper. I now turn the session over to Ken to discuss the ICMA proposal.

Ken Parker: Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this presentation. As illustrated by our experience with Katrina, in a catastrophic disaster, local and state capabilities are quickly overwhelmed, especially when local response personnel are victims as well. The need for a fresh look at how disaster response is organized was recognized.

As a result, ICMA's Governmental Affairs and Policy Committee, chaired by Scott Hancock, Executive Director of the Maryland Municipal League, in consultation with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Governors' Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Council of State Governments, (the "Big Seven") selected this issue for a white paper.

A consensus was reached that the "command and control" approach has significant limitations, and ICMA and other organizations representing local governments are proposing an alternative - a dynamic and network-centered approach that has the flexibility to move resources and assets where they need to be, when they need to be there.

One of the problems we saw was that state-level emergency managers in Louisiana and Mississippi were flooded with requests for help as well as offers of assistance. It took three weeks for some cities to receive ANY assistance, even though local governments that were prepared to help made heroic efforts to get teams into the region sooner.

Many local governments found ways to get help into the Gulf Region after Hurricane Katrina through their personal relationships with individuals in the communities affected by the disaster. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) pipeline for interstate mutual aid became backlogged due to lack of capacity to process requests, and few local governments knew how to work with EMAC.

Finally, local government assets and personnel, beyond the initial search and rescue stage, are not well organized or documented. Local governments possess deep and broad resources that can be tapped in emergencies if an effective networked approach can be developed.

Major disasters require more than public safety expertise. The recovery and restoration phases require a wide array of talent, well beyond first responders. Building inspectors, technology and communications professionals, utility workers, finance and accounting specialists, lawyers, planners, and engineers all have extensive roles.

We are focusing on this aspect of the recommendations today, but we would like to note that the paper also includes recommendations with respect to FEMA, changes to the Stafford Act, and improvements in EMAC processes. Local government organizations have been participating in all these initiatives.

It should also be noted that after the December 2004 tsunami, ICMA worked through its CityLinks project to provide long-term support to affected communities in India and Sri Lanka. With financial support from USAID, ICMA was able to deploy local government teams to provide restoration support to areas devastated by the tsunami; however, there is no comparable system to assist devastated communities in the U.S.!

The networked approach ICMA is recommending is based on the development of regional, multi-disciplinary teams with a full range of local government expertise that are pre-identified and pre-approved through a rigorous training and certification process to demonstrate the ability to respond to a disaster.

States would be involved in developing the pre-certification criteria, and the local government personnel who are willing and able to be deployed through EMAC would be certified to respond across state lines in specific functional areas, e.g., information technology, utilities, code enforcement, public works, finance and accounting, housing, EMS, police and fire, and other essential operations.

This networked solution also includes a technology platform that consists of a comprehensive database of human and physical assets from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors available for emergency response and recovery efforts and a geo-mapping tool to identify, select, activate, track, and manage response assets.

The database would accommodate the organization of human and physical assets available for rapid deployment and participating local governments would use the database to maintain information about the availability of people, equipment, and technology that could be called upon in a disaster.

The following actions are needed to build the foundation to support regional response teams:

1. Identify the skills and experience necessary to respond to the four phases of a disaster.

2. Develop a system to identify regional or state-based local government teams and individuals with the necessary skills and experience.

3. Develop a process of pre-certification for the local government teams in cooperation with NEMA and EMAC, to include a streamlined approval process to deploy teams to other states.

4. Use tested software that can systematically organize the human and physical assets so that they could be accessed during and after a large-scale event.

5. Develop a model for training, practice, and simulation programs that would address preparation, response, recovery, and restoration to cover communication, staffing, skills, disaster environments and challenges, policies, procedures, and problem-solving.

We are pleased to have this opportunity to share this overview with you today, and we can get into more detail in response to your questions. I now turn the floor back over to our Moderator to begin our Q&A.

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

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Question:
Shawn Smith: Ken and William: To what extent is the Mutual Aid Consortium of communities and counties across Florida currently assisting Lake Mary and New Smyrna Beach in their recovery efforts from the recent tornados?

Ken Parker: We were in contact with the communities immediately after the storms. They requested fire and rescue assistance immediately after the storm, and now they are asking for building plan examiners. We are working with the communities to meet their needs. It appears the system can work in all types of emergencies.

Question:
Mike Jallo: First of all, bless you, your city council and your citizens for taking on this mission of relief and support. Saw the reference to USAID funding for Tsunami Aid. Did you receive any State or Federal funding for Katrina? If so, how were they requested/controlled/dispensed?

Ken Parker: The City of Port Orange did submit reimbursement requests through the State of Florida. To date we have received only small amounts of money. Our Council was not worried about funds.

William Whitson: Yes, We did. We filed for reimbursement. I believe we received money back already. It was a good portion of what we spent but not all.

Question:
David Graham: To what extent have you found written agreements entered with private parties providing assistance (such as, pre-positioned contracts for debris removal, etc.)?

Ken Parker The City of Port Orange has a number of pre-agreements in place. They work extremely well.

William Whitson: Others were reluctant to use this due to FEMA rules.

David Graham: I assume that such agreements negotiated prior to disasters save the localities money. Do you agree?

Ken Parker: They allow you to hit the ground immediately after the storm event. For example, it costs 250K to activate our debris contractors and pre-position them.

William Whitson: Yes, but sometimes we have found the rules change. We need to get some set guidelines to help out. Regulatory uncertainty slows down the response effort.

Question:
Amy Sebring: Ken, as you mentioned, the types of skills needed go beyond First Responders per se. The NIMS Integration Center (NIC) has been working to define standardized job titles as part of its credentialing initiative. Other than Public Works, the NIC has not as yet gone beyond the traditional First Responder disciplines. (Nor do they seem to see a need to do so.) Does ICMA and/or the other local government organizations participate in the NIC resource definition process and possibly the new National Advisory Council that is being set up?

William Whitson: Yes, we need to broaden the disciplines included in a response effort like this.

Ken Parker: It needs to go way beyond the typical jobs. We have found that it needs to be an integrated response. The mission changes daily.

William Whitson: The system works because most cities’/counties’ local governments deliver the same basic and essential services

Question:
Lori Wieber: William, you spoke of developing a model for the damage assessment process. I take it this was a GIS database? Is this model available as a resource for future teams to utilize?

William Whitson: Yes, GIS. It was further developed by Port Orange staff. It is called Storm Tracker. We gathered pieces of base maps and from satellite photos. This was done in cooperation with the locals who had no idea how to put this together. GIS is a great tool!

Ken Parker: Our staff worked with the Damage Assessment Team to develop the GIS and other tools needed to make it work. GIS is an important tool that most people do not include in their disaster response to other communities.

Question:
Amy Sebring: Ken, I understand that you have taken a couple of steps in the State of Florida towards implementing these ideas. Can you describe briefly?

Ken Parker: We are working on an electronic database of equipment and personnel. We have tested with ICMA a software package that will help track available resources. Florida is also working on pre-arranged agreements in the SERT Teams model. We are working with the State of Florida to organize and pre-identify available personnel and equipment that can quickly respond to emergencies.

Amy Sebring: Also, can you mention your sister-city type approach?

Ken Parker: This goes beyond the traditional police and fire. We have interlocal agreements with other cities. We are prepared to respond immediately to emergencies in those communities with resources that they need.

William Whitson: This is easier in Florida too because of statewide mutual aide.

Amy Sebring: (For description of mutual aid program and actual existing samples see http://www.fccma.org/pdf/florida%20recovery%20partnerships2006.pdf )

Question:
David Graham: For those of us not as familiar with ICMA as others, what is the process for making many of the excellent recommendations in the white paper a reality, Ken? Is legislation needed on a local or State level or simply a willingness to implement the recommendations by the individual localities?

Ken Parker: A little of all of the above. I know that ICMA is working with FEMA. Locally, we are working with the State of Florida. We have made several presentations about the value of regional response teams.

Comment:
Barbara Yuhas: ICMA has a technology solution for the recommendations in the white paper. The link is http://www.nemn.net

William Whitson: Yes, we are excited about that. It is a major step forward.

Ken Parker: It will allow emergency managers to see what is available in real time rather than using traditional email and faxes.

Question:
Amy Sebring: Ken or William, what are the advantages/disadvantages of working through the EMAC system?

William Whitson: Yes, that is the law and the process -- it has to work! EMAC, however, was overwhelmed too by the same things Ken pointed out earlier. Technology and a spirit of partnership among all levels of government will help a lot!

Ken Parker: It takes patience to work through the process. EMAC provides the protection that local government needs for its employees as well as for reimbursement.

Amy Sebring: Have you discussed with EMAC the idea of having a local government liaison perhaps to facilitate the process?

William Whitson: Yes, they are aware. I participated as ICMA's rep in the post-Katrina review with EMAC in Atlanta last year

Ken Parker: We will have a liaison in the Florida EOC. That liaison can advise the State of available local resources that are available to be moved immediately.

Question:
Amy Sebring: If somebody would like to get further information on the Storm Tracker system you developed for damage assessment, is there an individual they can contact?

Ken Parker: Tony Marino at the City of Port Orange. His email address is [email protected]

William Whitson: For your information there is a DVD that places many resources of the Florida Coalition in one place as well. Ken can get that to you all.

Ken Parker: The email address is [email protected] Let us know your mailing address if you want a copy and we will send it to you. It is a great asset. We believe this is a good national model that can help local governments respond and recover in a more systematic way to disasters.

[Closing]

Amy Sebring: Let's wrap it up for today. Thank you very much to Mr. Parker and Mr. Whitson for an excellent job. We hope you enjoyed the experience today.

William Whitson: Amy, I want to thank you very much for this opportunity. I enjoyed it and can be reached afterwards at [email protected]

Ken Parker: Thank you for allowing us this opportunity

Amy Sebring: 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.

If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please go to our home page and click on "Partnership for You"

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Ken and William for a fine job.