Edited Version of April 15, 1998 Transcript

EIIP Virtual Forum Panel Discussion

"FEMA's Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR)"

Featured Panelists:

Kay C. Goss, CEM
Associate Director, Preparedness, Training and Exercise Directorate, FEMA HQ

Robert P. Fletcher
Jr., Director, State and Local Preparedness Division, Preparedness, Training and Exercise Directorate, FEMA Headquarters

James Opoka
Program Specialist, State and Local Assistance Branch, FEMA Region V PT&E

Chris Coudriet
Natural Hazards Planning, North Carolina Division of Emergency Preparedness

The original transcript of the April 15, 1998 online Virtual Forum Panel Discussion is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning. Related questions and discussions from the Brown Bag session.(immediately following the presentation) are included in the edited transcript.

[Opening / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: On behalf of the EIIP, welcome to the Virtual Forum Panel Discussion!

We are pleased to introduce our guests today --- Kay C. Goss, CEM, Associate Director, Preparedness, Training and Exercise Directorate, FEMA Headquarters; Robert P. Fletcher, Jr., Director, State and Local Preparedness Division, Preparedness, Training and Exercise Directorate, FEMA Headquarters; James Opoka, Program Specialist, State and Local Assistance Branch, FEMA Region V PT&E; and Chris Coudriet, Natural Hazards Planning, North Carolina Division of Emergency Preparedness. Thank you for being here today --- we are very happy to have you in the Virtual Forum.

We will start our discussion by calling on each of our panelist in the order they were introduced. We will start with Kay C. Goss, CEM, FEMA PT&E Associate Director Kay, will you please give us an overview of the Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR)?


Kay C. Goss: I am Kay C. Goss, FEMA's Associate Director for the Preparedness, Training and Exercises Directorate and it is a pleasure for me to participate with you today in this live chat session on the Capability Assessment for Readiness or the "CAR process", a new national process that provides public accountability in the emergency management system.

The CAR is a process developed and successfully implemented within each State and Territory during Fiscal Year 1997. It is a joint FEMA and NEMA endeavor. It assesses operational readiness and capabilities of the Federal/State emergency management partnership and focuses on the identification of areas requiring improvements to strengthen States' emergency management programs. These standards will allow emergency managers throughout the United States to build disaster resistant communities by establishing risk-based emergency management programs that will target the specific threats and hazards in their communities.

I would now like to introduce Bob Fletcher, my Division Chief for State and Local Preparedness. Bob's Division developed and implemented the CAR process. He is currently available to answer any questions or concerns regarding the CAR process.

Avagene Moore: Bob, what is the overall purpose of the CAR?

Robert Fletcher: Hello everyone. It's great to be here. The Capability Assessment for Readiness (CAR) was designed to facilitate the process of assessing the operational readiness and capabilities of the Federal/State emergency management partnership.

In simple terms, it is a menu driven, comprehensive functional review of an organizations emergency management program. It is intended to focus on strengths, basic capabilities, and areas needing improvement to strengthen a program.

The assessment process and results assist in establishing priorities and analyzing program performance to improve the quality of emergency management programs.

In addition, for States and FEMA Regions, the results will be linked the Performance Partnership Agreement (PPA) and the FY 1998 Cooperative Agreement with FEMA.

Avagene Moore: Bob, what are the emergency management categories assessed as part of the CAR?

Robert Fletcher: The CAR process examines operational readiness and capabilities of the Federal/State emergency management partnership to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters.

It focuses on the following 13 emergency management functions or program elements:

1. Laws and Authorities

2. Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

3. Hazard Management

4. Resource Management

5. Planning

6. Direction Control and Coordination

7. Communications and Warning

8. Operations and Procedures

9. Logistics and Facilities

10. Training

11. Exercises

12. Public Education and Information

13. Finance and Administration

As you can see, they are generally recognized management functions.

Avagene Moore: Bob, how do the states benefit from the CAR?

Robert Fletcher: In performing a self-assessment, a State determines baseline information for use in program analysis and strategic planning. States may also use the results of their self-assessments to inform their citizens and legislatures about the effectiveness or shortfalls of their emergency management programs.

The assessments additionally allow the States to compare their emergency management programs with those of other States nationally in order to determine their relationship to the national total.

The real value of the CAR is in the face-to-face exchange between the State and the FEMA Region about joint expectations for the Federal-State partnership --- creating and building upon a shared vision for the emergency management enterprise.

Avagene Moore: What do you feel the future has in store for the CAR?

Robert Fletcher: Hopefully, this partnership initiative will evolve quickly into emergency management standards. The National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee on Disaster Management (NFPA) has incorporated the 13 emergency program elements into the current draft of NFPA 1600 Standard for Disaster Management

Also, NEMA is currently investigating the feasibility of accreditation of State Emergency Management organizations based upon review of successful accreditation programs in other related fields such as fire and law enforcement.

A vision for us all is the creation of a process for setting high standards for the emergency management profession and a means for validating that those high standards are being met and maintained. Quite a challenge for any profession.

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Bob. James Opoka, Region V was having problems a little earlier. We will move to Chris and come back later to James. Chris, the CAR was developed as an assessment tool for the States; however, North Carolina is extending the concept to the local level. What approach are you taking to accomplish this?

Chris Coudriet: As early as last Spring, the Division began exploring the possibility of modifying the CAR, which we conducted with FEMA in May 1997, for delivery at the local government level. The responsibility for developing the tool used at the local level was given to the Planning Support Branch, which is part of the Information and Planning Section. To assist the branch with the development of the local government tool, the Division hired the services of a contractor to facilitate the development process. An ad hoc committee made up of the contractor, Division staff, and county emergency management coordinators began modifying the CAR and created the Emergency Management System Capability Assessment (EMSCA).

EMSCA is based on the concept that emergency management is not vested in a single agency, that in fact multiple agencies within local government have responsibilities that relate to emergency management. Efficiency ratings are assigned to various components of the emergency management system.

Avagene Moore: Where are you in the process?

Chris Coudriet: Last Fall EMSCA was beta tested in several counties, and the recommendations from the beta tests are being worked into the new and perhaps official version of EMSCA. We hope to begin full deployment of EMSCA to the field before the end of the state's fiscal year. Delivery of EMSCA will most likely fall upon the shoulders of the Division's three branch offices and the fifteen area coordinators that work daily with the local emergency management programs in the state.

Avagene Moore: What reaction are you getting from local emergency managers?

Chris Coudriet: In the planning phase, most members of committee felt EMSCA may be a tough sale at the local level; people rarely feel comfortable in being judged or rated. To ensure major road blocks were not encountered, everyone realized that EMSCA could not be built around a "punitive" concept. Instead, EMSCA should point out areas of concern or weakness and offer solutions to strengthen those areas. With that understood within the planning committee, the sale has been much easier; little resistant has surfaced at the local level. I believe most county emergency management coordinators recognize EMSCA is a process for improving local programs and building professionalism.

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Chris. We will try James again. James, tell us about the Region V experience with the CAR to date?

James Opoka: CAR was basically well received in Region V. Our FEMA CAR team visited each state to help facilitate the assessments. This approach assured consistency and credibility in the completion of the CAR. We are working with several states to develop a local CAR instrument. Each state had a somewhat different take on the approach.

Avagene Moore: Would someone from FEMA like to give a brief statement about reaction from states? Bob, do you have a feel for that? Please give us your impression.

Robert Fletcher: I'll give it a try although I feel uncomfortable speaking for States on this matter. I think what FEMA Region V is doing in collaborating with the States to tailor the process to the needs of each individual State is the right approach.

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Bob. Thank you, panelists. We will now open the floor for questions --- reminder. We ask that you indicate that you have a question by typing just a question mark (?). Prepare your question, but PLEASE HOLD your question until you are recognized. Janice, please ask your question.

Question -

Janice Rogala: What is the Cost of the planning and implementation of this program at both the State and FEMA level and What are the Benefit Cost expectations?

Robert Fletcher: I'll take a stab at that. In terms of development of the process and the instrument itself, which includes hard copy and software we have spent somewhat less than a million dollars. In terms of personnel cost, we have four FEMA planners dedicated full time. There has been input from more than 300 people both inside of FEMA and at State and local government level. We have tried to incorporate the views of all of our partners in defining the parameters of a successful emergency management program.

Question -

Keith Bea: Can we link CAR to benchmarking and performance planning? FEMA's FY99 Performance Plan does. What about states like Minnesota and Florida that mandate state agencies prepare such plans or benchmarking studies? Bob, or anyone else, is anyone aware of state activities to link CAR with performance results?

Robert Fletcher: In the case of the CAR, NEMA and FEMA are seeking to develop standards which we mutually agree are appropriate and reasonable for public safety.

If I may, in terms of benefit cost ratio, the benefits will be derived from the program improvements and savings in lives, and property protected.

Question -

David King: Robert said it will quickly evolve into EM standards, doesn't that mean funding flow downwards will soon be controlled by compliance with these standards?

Robert Fletcher: In reply to David King, standards setting is a complicated issue. Normally the Federal Government does not set standards in isolation but adopts standards which are embraced by State and local government organizations.

Question -

David King: But, aren't you setting up standards we'll have to comply with to get funding in the future? So states/localities with good programs get more funding for ranking high in CAR, and those needing help go dry?

Robert Fletcher: With respect to funding, the CAR has not been linked directly to funding. However, States have discussed linking capability assessment to funding for their counties and FEMA certainly must consider the results of the State assessment in formulating future budgets and in strategic planning.

Question -

Keven Clouse: We are working on incorporating the CAR at the county level here in OH. One of the things we're struggling with is the grading criteria. We understand the FEMA is designing new criteria. When will it be available? Criteria aka grading scale.

Robert Fletcher: We broadened the rating scale from three to five elements, plus n/a to allow more flexibility in the assessment process.

Question -

Chuck Hagan: Are the capabilities, plans & planning activities, mitigation, training programs and resources of non-government agencies (VolAg & B&I) a factor in the CAR process?

Robert Fletcher: Volunteer Agencies and their resources are covered. However, we rely on the States to assess those capabilities.

Question -

Kevin Farrell: You've discussed the relationship between FEMA and the state and locals. How does FEMA relate to other fed agencies and with DoD with this process?

Robert Fletcher: We have not included other Federal agencies at the national level yet.

Question -

Daniel Lee: Regarding the development of local capability assessment tools. Will FEMA be providing the states with a prototype or some form of development guidance? We feel it is important to incorporate the local perspective but do not want to move forward if a standardized approach is already being developed at the federal level.

Robert Fletcher: We have agreed to work with NEMA in the development of a local instrument. NEMA will invite local emergency management participation in the development process. NEMA has the lead for the development of any local instrument. We will be working on refinement of the State CAR this year and will support NEMA on their schedule as it develops.

Question -

Daniel Lee: Bob, do you have a tentative time table for this collaborative effort to be complete? Who in NEMA is taking the lead on this? Any idea?

Robert Fletcher: Carl Bradford, State Director for West Virginia has been the NEMA lead.

Avagene Moore: Panelists and audience --- we still have 3 or 4 unanswered questions but are out of time in the EIIP Panel Room. Thanks to our speakers and to you, the audience. We trust this discussion has been informative and beneficial. Please join us in the EIIP Virtual Forum for a few minutes. If our speakers can stay for a few minutes, you can speak with them and ask another question or two. Let's move to the Virtual Forum. Thanks to Kay, Bob, Jim and Chris.

Audience Questions

Avagene Moore: Kay, Bob, Jim and Chris --- you were excellent. A lot of information went out to our audience and will continue via the script.

Amy Sebring: Please note, we will do a Round Table on NFPA 1600. That is our Thursday evening session. We picked a date toward end of April ... 30th Ava?

Avagene Moore: Yes, the NFPA 1600 discussion is on Thursday April 30, 8 PM EDT. I think we need more discussion, Bob. We didn't have time here.

Amy Sebring: Robert seems to be here, Robert? Great job. Hope you enjoyed the experience! Much interest in this topic.

Robert Fletcher: Wow!! I'm exhausted. Yes maybe we can break it down into smaller chunks. I really want to know what people think about this.

Chuck Hagan: Avagene: Question:. Would it ever be possible for speakers to post attachments of documents or point to a site to download documents referred to during the sessions?

Avagene Moore: There are some documents reference each time, Chuck.

Amy Sebring: Chuck, see the background material on our web site. For today's session the material is at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/980415.htm

Avagene Moore: And the 13 elements Bob listed are at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/car.htm

Daniel Lee: I think it is a good way to exchange information "real-time" with very little expense relative to face-to-face meetings.

Janice Rogala: How can we stay apprised of what is happening with CAR and receive copies of previous meetings and planning sessions?

Robert Fletcher: While we were developing the CAR, we had a bulletin board. I think it may be up on FEMA.GOV.

Amy Sebring: Haven't seen it Bob.

Robert Fletcher: I'll check it out and get back to you.

Avagene Moore: To take the discussion further. Lots of people haven't even heard of the CAR.

David Crews: CAR awareness might be improved if linked more prominently to Strategic Planning and Fiscal Programming.

Beth Armstrong: IAEM should have a lead role in the local standards!

Janice Rogala: Thank you, Beth!

Robert Fletcher: Hi Beth. I'm happy to hear you say that. We need to talk.

Avagene Moore: IAEM has had a spot on the committee for years. Don't think it has been very well communicated.

Amy Sebring: Which committee Ava? oh, you mean the NFPA Committee?

Avagene Moore: Margaret Dimmick for one, Leo Miller now. Yes, NFPA Committee.

Janice Rogala: Maybe it should be cross linked to Government Information Committee.

Avagene Moore: My opinion, but I think locals are behind the curve on this.

Amy Sebring: Is this CAR process really going to tell us something we don't already know? And is it therefore worth the effort? I am concerned that we will spend more time measuring than actually doing something about the problems.

Robert Fletcher: Not so in my opinion. It is about the process of interaction rather than measuring.

Janice Rogala: I have lived through many FEMA State measurement tools, ie. HYCA MYDP et al and others, none of which started their process with local input and all of which have subsequently failed in their task to "improve" emergency management. Some how locals must get a piece of this project and have credible input. That will be the message at our upcoming Region IX July meeting.

Robert Fletcher: We need to enhance our communications among the players...like in EIIP.. cause we're not communicating effectively yet.

Amy Sebring: I told them my initial reaction to the local assessment instrument was profound depression and despair!

Robert Fletcher: We need to be INCLUSIVE...

Kevin Farrell: Robert, it seems you're well on the road to a great vertical tool, but I'd be interested to know what you have planned in the horizontal.

Keven Clouse: Yeah we've had our CHIPs & DIPs here as well, but this may work as long as it's a self assesment tool...

Amy Sebring: I KNOW what my problems are...just need help in figuring out what needs to be worked on first!

Robert Fletcher: I sympathize Amy, but the CAR will not solve your problems. It is only another tool for improving communications.

Amy Sebring: That's why I am reluctant to spend time on it.

David Crews: Bob, it seems that CAR is really about identifying and applying resources to satisfy requirements which is a major step in Strategic Planning.

Daniel Lee: We recently met to derive strategic planning goals from the results of last year's CAR.

Janice Rogala: I am concerned about the lack of local input in the problem identification stage.


Robert Fletcher: Good bye everyone. Thanks for a great session.

Amy Sebring: Thanks. Some folks from EENet were filming today. We need to wrap up today folks. This has been a terrific session.