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Applying FEMA's Core Response Capabilities to Corporate EHS: Part 4

Posted on Mon, May 20, 2013

FEMA’s 31 core capabilities catalog distinct emergency preparedness elements utilized in national preparedness efforts and adaptable frameworks. The capabilities fall into one or more of the five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

The ability to respond effectively to an emergency or disaster can be challenging, hazardous, and multifaceted. Potential response challenges should be identified and addressed during pre-incident planning to ensure all response aspects are accounted for during an incident. However, response measures and decisive actions must be based on actual incident conditions. Planned processes, procedures, and overall response efforts must be flexible enough to effectively respond to the incident.

In part 4 of this series of blogs, we will explore the core capabilities relating to FEMA’s mission area of response. Although the FEMA concepts of the core capabilities are aimed at the public sector and governmental jurisdictions, companies should evaluate these response elements for site specific applicability, methodology, and planning. Implementation of identified measures can minimize responder’s risks and advance strategic and tactical response objectives.


Critical Transportation: “Provide transportation (including infrastructure access and accessible transportation services) for response priority objectives, including the evacuation of people and animals, and the delivery of vital response personnel, equipment, and services into the affected areas.”

Plot plans, evacuation maps, and tactical planning provide  site-specific details to understand transportation requirements and factors. Identifying adequate access and egress points and potential response location(s) at the facility enhances safety and minimizes response time.

Environmental Response/Health and Safety: “Ensure the availability of guidance and resources to address all hazards including hazardous materials, acts of terrorism, and natural disasters in support of the responder operations and the affected communities.”

On-site personnel and response team members must be aware of their predefined roles, responsibilities, and assignments. By identifying specific personnel training needs and responder capabilities, all potential hazards should be accounted for, in order to support a cohesive and effective response.

Fatality Management Services: “Provide fatality management services, including body recovery and victim identification, working with state and local authorities to provide temporary mortuary solutions, sharing information with mass care services for the purpose of reunifying family members and caregivers with missing persons/remains, and providing counseling to the bereaved.”

Implementation of a unified command, including a Liaison Officer, can provide necessary multiagency coordination to manage fatalities and associated issues. In the event an incident grows in size and complexity, off-site recovery support and coordination may be required to provide additional services. Pre-planned coordination efforts among specified emergency management entities offer the opportunity for a more cohesive response across a large location.

Infrastructure Systems: “Stabilize critical infrastructure functions, minimize health and safety threats, and efficiently restore and revitalize systems and services to support a viable, resilient community.”

The ability to identify and quantify critical infrastructure functions that, when not functional, may hinder the ability to operate, is a critical stage in the business continuity planning process. As a result, response priorities should include preservation of those critical functions. Minimizing infrastructural effects, limiting environmental impacts, and maximizing safety can allow for a more viable company in the aftermath of an incident.

Mass Care Services: “Provide life-sustaining services to the affected population with a focus on hydration, feeding, and sheltering to those who have the most need, as well as support for reunifying families.”

Pre-Identifying health care facilities, providers, and community aid organizations can minimize response times for those affected by an incident, potentially minimizing mortality rates. Establishing relationships and memorandums of understanding with assisting entities provides a comprehensive knowledge of response capabilities and the potential needs of the community.

Mass Search and Rescue Operations: “Deliver traditional and atypical search and rescue capabilities, including personnel, services, animals, and assets to survivors in need, with the goal of saving the greatest number of endangered lives in the shortest time possible.”

Broadening the scope of response expertise can greatly limit the timeline of initiating search and rescue operations. Local agencies and specialized contractors may provide additional targeted knowledge based on particular research, experiences, or occupational training. A cohesive agreement between the response team and search and rescue experts should create synchronized operations during the response, and as transition is made from response to recovery.

On-scene Security and Protection: “Ensure a safe and secure environment through law enforcement and related security and protection operations for people and communities located within affected areas and also for all traditional and atypical response personnel engaged in lifesaving and life-sustaining operations.”

Due to the large amount of public attention and increased on-site population at disaster locations, preparing for and responding with additional security measures should be part of the emergency management process. Security protocols should be reviewed to educate security personnel on roles and responsibilities, and inform responders of potential security measures. Such exercises can strengthen security awareness and reduce the potential for added security-related incidents. Each response should incorporate security measures to ensure the safety of personnel, contractors, and response teams.

Operational Communications: “Ensure the capacity for timely communications in support of security, situational awareness, and operations by any and all means available, among and between affected communities in the impact area and all response forces.”

Communicating timely and accurate information to/among facility managers, critical decision makers, emergency response teams, stakeholders, vendors and contractors, and the public, is an important element to any emergency management function. From notification to demobilization, commonly understood terminology is essential for clear communication. Communicating through unfamiliar company radio codes, agency-specific language, perplexing acronyms, or specialized jargon will disconnect and confuse employees, responders, communities, and/or stakeholders, possibly prolonging a response and the initiation of necessary actions. An effective response relies heavily on the ability to put forth effective communications.

Public and Private Services and Resources: “Provide essential public and private services and resources to the affected population and surrounding communities, to include emergency power to critical facilities, fuel support for emergency responders, and access to community staples (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks) and fire and other first response services.”

Emergency managers should  liaise with government agencies, community organizations, and utility companies throughout the  planning cycle to discuss likely emergencies and the available resources available to minimize the effects on the community. During a response, these entities can provide services necessary to minimize the effects of the incident and allow for a more timely response.

Public Health and Medical Services: “Provide lifesaving medical treatment via emergency medical services and related operations and avoid additional disease and injury by providing targeted public health and medical support and products to all people in need within the affected area.”

The safety and health of on-site individuals, as well as the surrounding communities, must be a response priority. Delivering timely  medical treatment  to exposed populations can stabilize victims and potentially minimize the mortality rate. Necessary recovery processes for victims must be assessed and initiated, and medical surge resources must be allocated as necessary.

Situational Assessment: “Provide all decision makers with decision-relevant information regarding the nature and extent of the hazard, any cascading effects, and the status of the response.”

Improving  decision management, timely communications, and swift implementation of response strategies can limit resulting effects of an emergency situation. Continual tactical discussions should reveal situational details that enable response strategies to be implemented or altered. Situational assessments are crucial to the decision-making process, as well as identifying resources necessary to procure incident stabilization and meet basic human needs.

The next blog, Part 5 of the series, will address the core capabilities related to recovery. To begin reading Part 1 of this series, click here.

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Tags: Response Plans, Incident Management, Facility Management