EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation -- November 27, 2002
"Are You Ready for Local Program Accreditation?"
An Update on the Emergency Management Accreditation Program
Emily B. DeMers
Accreditation Coordinator, EMAP
Moderator, EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator
The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available upon request to email@example.com
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! We especially appreciate those who made it today, one day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Our session today is to provide you with an update on the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. We will begin with a presentation and then we will invite your questions.
We first presented a Forum session on the EMAP program two years ago in connection with a special VFRE session on NFPA 1600. If you are interested in those materials you can visit our home page later and see under Quick Picks, Special Events, NFPA 1600.
We are pleased to have Emily DeMers with us once again to bring us up to date. Emily is the Accreditation Coordinator for the EMAP program. She has extensive experience in professional credentialing and administrative law and policy. Welcome back, Emily, and we now turn the floor over to you.
Emily DeMers: Thanks, Amy. I appreciate the Forum inviting me to share an update on some of the interesting things going with the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
As many of you know, the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, or EMAP, is a voluntary accreditation process for state/territorial and local government emergency management programs. Accreditation through EMAP is different from individual certification for example, through IAEM's CEM program, in that accreditation is for an emergency management program, rather than of individuals.
EMAP began as a concept in 1997 with groups like IAEM, NEMA, FEMA, DOJ, USDOT, National League of Cities, National Governors Association, and others involved in its design and implementation. In 2002, EMAP began accepting state program applications and is conducting two local pilots - in Bellevue, WA, and Summit County, OH. EMAP has made a lot of progress since we last talked about it here in the fall of 2000.
EMAP is designed to provide a mechanism for verified review of a program's activities against agreed-upon national standards and serve as a catalyst and structure for strengthening and improving emergency management.
State/territorial, local and federal emergency managers were involved in creating EMAP and the EMAP Standard, which is the set of standards used to determine if a program is accredited. The EMAP Standard is built on the NFPA 1600 Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, 2000, which is created by a recognized standard-writing body, the NFPA. EMAP's standards and process materials are available for $125 by registering with EMAP.
An important concept of EMAP is that it looks at a jurisdiction's program or system of emergency management as a whole not just at the emergency management agency or department.
It looks at how emergency management integrates and coordinates all the players who should be at the table in planning and preparedness activities as well as in response (for example, involvement of public health, transportation, etc.)
Steps of the accreditation process include self-assessment and documentation, on-site assessment by a team of emergency managers from other jurisdictions, an assessment report, committee review, and accreditation decision by the EMAP Commission.
A key piece of the assessment and accreditation process is the assessor team. EMAP has held six assessor training courses since August 2001 and will hold another in February. The two-day assessor training prepares individuals who are already experienced state or local emergency managers to serve as assessors. That means they visit another program's location and review its proofs of compliance with EMAP standards.
Qualifications to serve as an assessor include at least five years of state/territorial or local emergency management experience, experience in at least one emergency operation requiring implementation of operational response procedures and willingness and ability to serve as a neutral observer, as well as a few others.
Also, assessors are expected to abide by an EMAP assessor code of conduct that addresses confidentiality of program information, conflict of interest, and other issues. Information on the 2003 schedule of assessor training sessions will be available on the EMAP web site in mid-December.
For those who may be asked to lead their own programs through an accreditation effort, EMAP is preparing an accreditation manager training. The accreditation manager is an emergency management program's lead contact with EMAP who coordinates his/her program's documentation of compliance with standards.
The accreditation manager should generally be someone who is knowledgeable about the structure as well as details of the program and who can lead and organize program staff including those in other departments to pull together documentation. Accreditation manager training will be available to registered programs in an online presentation from the EMAP web site. It will also be offered in person on Friday, Feb. 21, in Washington, DC. The location is still being worked out, but it will be 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will be available to pre-registered staff from registered programs.
On another interesting front, EMAP is developing an online assessment tool that will help an emergency management program's staff walk through the EMAP Standard, noting their program's compliance with each standard. Registered programs will have access to the tool from a secure portion of the EMAP web site.
Part of the tool that I think will be of additional interest is its "steps needed" planning feature. This will allow program staff to enter information about steps needed to reach compliance and even add information about the time and additional resources needed, if applicable. This information can then be generated in a report to help the program prioritize needs, justify resources, and plan for future improvements. This tool will be available to any "registered" program whether state, county, municipal, whatever.
As we've said, seeking accreditation through EMAP is voluntary, and can be pursued by a program at its own pace.
In a slightly different but I hope complementary vein EMAP will embark on a project in January that will involve conducting assessments of all 56 state/territorial emergency management programs in the next two years.
These state baseline assessments are still voluntary. A program does not have to do one but are funded by the FEMA Office of National Preparedness (perhaps I should now say its successor) as an effort to determine the status of state/territorial coordination of preparedness and response activities against a consistent set of criteria.
The idea is for this to be instead of a state CAR (Capability Assessment for Readiness) during fiscal year 2003 and 2004. It also will give states and territories a great opportunity for a free "trial run" at meeting accreditation standards. It is not expected that states will be fully compliant with all the standards at this point. States and territories will be receiving EMAP packets in the next week or so to begin getting ready and signing up for baseline assessments.
Three states are already scheduled for January: Arizona, North Dakota, and Iowa. I encourage state/territorial directors or staff to contact me if they have questions. EMAP staff will be providing more information in the next few weeks.
While EMAP conducts these baseline assessments, it will continue to work with and complete the two local pilot tests and prepare to open EMAP to local government emergency management program applications. EMAP plans to use the same standards and process for local programs as it uses with state programs, so the local pilots will tell us whether any details of the process need to be tweaked for use with local emergency management.
As you can see, there is a lot going on related to emergency management accreditation. It is an exciting and challenging time for emergency management, and for EMAP. I appreciate the opportunity to provide an update, and I especially appreciate your interest and participation on this day before Thanksgiving. For further contact information:
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Emily. We are now ready to begin our Q&A.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Steve Davis: I understand that EMAP is based on higher level aspect of NFPA 1600; is there any plan to get into the more detailed requirements? Is it possible to meet the EMAP requirements but not fully meet the requirements of NFPA 1600?
Emily DeMers: Not at this point. The NFPA 1600 language is part of the EMAP Standard so you have to meet the NFPA 1600 -- albeit clarified for state/local government vernacular to meet the EMAP Standard.
Rick Tobin: I noted the stressing of the evaluators need to be neutral. What was the focus of that concern?
Emily DeMers: There we are trying to emphasize the need for unbiased assessment; basically that an assessor doesn't have a strong personal relationship or perhaps former -- whether positive or negative -- employment or other relationship with the program being assessed.
Helen Norris: I wanted to ask if only states can use the baseline assessment tool, but I think you answered that yes for now. Is that correct?
Emily DeMers: Yes, any registered program will be able to access and use the online assessment tool including local programs.
Steve Davis: Why do this instead of CAR? Could you address how EMAP and CAR overlap?
Emily DeMers: CAR was an important step in this process especially when you look at the development of the NFPA 1600 and EMAP standards. What EMAP adds to the equation is the verification/documentation aspect. A team of emergency managers from other places go to a program and look at how it documents its compliance with a set of criteria. Its a powerful tool that was not part of CAR, at least not in the way CAR was used in most jurisdictions.
Karen Windon: Regarding the state baseline assessments - what will be the composition of the assessment teams? Will it be same as the pilots for accreditation?
Emily DeMers: Yes. Assessors will be experienced state and local emergency managers that have gone through EMAP Assessor Training. For state programs, the majority of the assessor team will have state EM experience, and the team leader will have state experience. For local programs, the majority of the team will have local EM experience, and the team leader will be from a local emergency management program. For that reason and others, a recent hybrid pilot test we did in the District of Columbia was very interesting.
Lloyd Bokman: Your slide #6 states that FEMA will pay the costs of an onsite assessment. Is this for both local and state assessment and how much will they pay?
Emily DeMers: That was specifically for the baseline assessments of all states and territories in FY03 and FY04; that project does not address local EM, at least not at this time.
Claire Rubin: What has been the experience with reviewing plans to date? How many reviews have been done and what was the quality?
Emily DeMers: That's a broad question. We've done two state pilots, and the assessment in DC and planning is certainly the area of the standards that requires the most assessor labor. I wont comment on particulars with the assessments EMAP has done but I wouldn't say that many of the areas of noncompliance showed up in plans.
Frederick Frey: How many programs are expected to be assessed within the next 6 months?
Emily DeMers: Frederick's question is a daunting one. We will do two local pilots in the early part of 2003 and begin the state/territorial baseline assessments. For those baseline assessments, EMAP will try to do an average of three per month so as to get all 56 states and territories done by the end of FY 04.
Isabel McCurdy: Emily, can Canadians participate in this program?
Emily DeMers: At this point, EMAP is open only to U.S. State and Local government emergency management programs. It would be interesting the future, I think, especially given the regional cooperation that has to take place, to see how EMAP standards and procedures would work with Canadian provincial and local programs.
Rick Tobin: Some sensitive data from grant applications for terrorism funding was recently provided to the media. What assurances do jurisdictions have that these EMAP assessments will not go public?
Emily DeMers: EMAP will not release information it has without a court order. It has a confidentiality policy regarding information; however, materials prepared by a program are always going to be subject to that locales and state's public records/information laws.
Avagene Moore: For those interested in being an evaluator, how much time is required for training and onsite visits? Are all expenses covered by EMAP?
Emily DeMers: Assessor Training is a two-day course that EMAP will continue to offer several times a year. Once approved to serve as an assessor, an individual would have an opportunity to commit to serving on one or up to three teams per year. An on-site assessment can be expected to last about a work week plus a travel day and travel expenses are covered by EMAP (by the applicant program if it is a real accreditation application.) EMAP doesn't pay assessors' salaries, however.
Steve Davis: What would you advise for a city program that is interested in accreditation? Use CAR for now? When can they expect to get accreditation?
Emily DeMers: You could certainly register with EMAP and get the standards and procedures materials which, as soon as it's available, would also give you access to the online tool. I believe we have a lot of interest in accreditation from local programs so we are trying to get EMAP ready to accept local applications as soon in 2003 as possible. I have one program I know of that has their application check sitting on ready. Once a program registers, it is up the program how long before they are ready to ask for on-site assessment so how long until they would be accredited depends.
Lloyd Colston: Good morning, Emily. Most of the information you have provided so far does not appear to impact local (as in City and County EMs). When will it impact them? What is the timeframe? How should they prepare now? May we have your email address? Thanks.
Emily DeMers: EMAP is working with two local pilots to see how its standards and processes work with city and county programs in an effort to open EMAP to local EM program applications by spring of 2003. The baseline assessments do not directly impact local programs, as you noted. The standards and assessment pieces of EMAP are available to local programs -- both to work toward and soon to seek accreditation and to help bolster justifications for resource needs with your state and federal partners. My e-mail address direct is firstname.lastname@example.org ; I am eager to receive feedback from any of you.
Helen Norris: You said it is up to the program as to when they do final assessment, but is there a time limit from registration to assessment, or could it be several years? (We may have a lot of work to do. I don't want to register and run out of time.)
Emily DeMers: Good point. Registration is good for one year, and it is renewable and then I believe a program has 18 months from its self-assessment until its on-site assessment. The key is that the information gathered is still current and valid or it will show up and slow down the on-site assessment.
Rick Tobin: Are you planning to build the team with a regional basis, to both ensure continuity of approach (which varies in the US) and to reduce costs for the assessors?
Emily DeMers: The EMAP Commission, and its predecessor, the EMAP Steering Committee, discussed those issues. At this point, it is left open. Back to the impartiality issue, we probably will not have an entire team from one region conducting an on-site assessment of a program in that region. You increase the complications with close professional and personal relationships a bit if you rely on completely regionalized teams. Emergency management is a pretty close world we know.
Andrea Tennison: I think it's wonderful that FEMA is paying for the initial baseline assessments. In addition to assisting states in assessing their readiness, is there any indication of what else FEMA might use it for? (For example, the CAR was related to the EMPG program.) Is there any indication FEMA might use the results of the state baseline assessments to assess future funding needs? Or perhaps someday set national standards (as opposed to voluntary)?
Emily DeMers: EMAP and its stakeholders have talked with FEMA about any possible ties to funding and frankly have discouraged that at this point. We do believe that these types of baseline assessments and resulting identification of needs and priorities as well as a benchmark for improvements to be measured against could help justify calls for future increases - it is hoped -- in programs like EMPG, which is vital, if we are truly concerned about improving local and state preparedness.
Amy Sebring: In follow up to Helen's earlier question, if a program fails certification, is there a time period in which to correct deficiencies?
Emily DeMers: In an accreditation attempt, EMAP figures a program is not going to request on-site assessment until it is fairly certain it is compliant or at least close. What many programs may reach is "conditional accreditation" which allows the EMAP Commission to conditionally accredit a program that may not be compliant with all standards but has only a few areas of noncompliance that can reasonably be expected to be corrected within a nine-month window. The program would also prepare a plan for how it would reach compliance so that's kind of the interim step to accreditation.
Back on the standards and FEMA, it is important to note that this is a collaboratively developed standard by the EM community rather than one created or put forward by FEMA.
Rick Tobin: What is the long-term funding source for the EMAP program to ensure it will not be an abbreviated process?
Emily DeMers: That brings us to costs of accreditation. For an accreditation effort, a program registers for the materials, as we've said, then when it is ready, it pays an application fee that ranges from $2,000 to $7,500 depending on the size of the jurisdiction population. It also will pay the on-site assessment costs (travel costs of assessors) so that is of particular note to some states that may be close to seeking accreditation. If they can get ready in time to use the baseline assessment for a read accreditation visit, then that part could be paid for them. They would still have to pay the application fee. All the fees are available on the EMAP web site at http://www.emaponline.org .
Amy Sebring: Emily, do you want to mention current status of funding for the baseline program?
Emily DeMers: I can say that the funding for the project has now been approved, so we are moving forward to begin baseline assessments in January.
Amy Sebring: Regarding the collaboratively developed standard, do you expect the Commission to participate in future revisions to the standard, based on its experience with applying it?
Emily DeMers: EMAP has a standing Standards Committee named by the EMAP Commission. The committee in the last few weeks recommended a few additional clarifications to the EMAP language part of the standards based on questions that have arisen in pilot assessments as well as in exercises in applying the standards in EMAP assessor training sessions. Those recommendations will be considered by the Commission at its next meeting. EMAP also continues to be interested in revisions and developments with the NFPA 1600, on which the EMAP Standard is based, so that committee will monitor and comment on proposed NFPA 1600 revisions as well.
Amy Sebring: Thank you, Emily. We are about out of time and I am sure some folks are ready to get started on their holiday. We will have a transcript posted late this afternoon. Thanks to everyone for participating today.
Please consider joining us next week when we will be presenting a session on the new DisasterHelp.gov prototype Web site. We will have further info posted by Friday, but in the meantime, you can check it out at http://disasterhelp.gov .
Have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday and please help us thank Emily for her fine presentation!