.EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation January 28, 2009
The National Emergency Management Association
Celebrating 35 Years of Service
Nancy J. Dragani
Executive Director, Ohio Emergency Management Agency
The introduction and closing parts of the transcript are prepared remarks and not necessarily verbatim. The presentation and Q&A portions are prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/NEMA/NEMA36th.pdf for ease of printing.
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org! Today we are celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the National Emergency Management Association. This organization was established in 1974 and has accomplished a great deal over the years. We expect this is not only a time for its members to reflect and celebrate the past, but also to look toward to the future.
Speaking of the future, there has been some attention paid to the issue of Congressional earmarks recently, so there is a related poll on our homepage. "More than 1/3 of EOC and PDM grant funds were earmarked. Should this practice be eliminated? Yes, No" Please take time to participate by voting and review the results thus far.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce todays guest speaker: As director of the Ohio EMA, Nancy J. Dragani leads the state's coordinated preparedness and response to both man-made and natural disasters, administers the State Homeland Security Funding Program, and oversees disaster recovery and mitigation efforts. Ms. Dragani was reappointed to her position by Governor Ted Strickland in 2007. She has been the director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency since January 2005.
In the fall of 2008, Ms. Dragani accepted her elected seat as president of the National Emergency Management Association. She is also one of two state emergency management directors on the Federal Emergency Management Agencys National Advisory Council. Prior to becoming executive director, Ms. Dragani served as the Director of Operations at Ohio EMA where she was responsible for emergency preparedness training, exercises, planning, homeland security and preparedness grants and response operations in the State Emergency Operations Center during disasters.
Welcome Nancy, and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.
Nancy Dragani: Thank you very much, Amy. Welcome to everyone who has joined the forum. Im going to take a few minutes to talk about NEMA as an organization and then I want to take a few minutes to talk about what NEMA has identified as some of our top Emergency Management issues and consequently some recommendations as we look toward the future.
The association was established in February of 1974 and the association represents the emergency management directors from the 50 states and territories, the District of Columbia, and the additional 7 territories that make up the National Emergency Management Association. These individuals are responsible to their governors for all hazards and emergency preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. And NEMA as an organization is a non-partisan, non-profit organization.
In 1990, NEMA became an affiliate organization with the Council of State Governments and we are pleased and happy to celebrate our 35th anniversary as an organization in 2008. I would certainly invite anyone who is interested to our annual conference. It is March 5-12 with a gala to celebrate our 35th anniversary on Saturday the 7th, and welcome anyone to our annual conference, which will be held here in Columbus, Ohio in October of 2008.
Evolution of Emergency Management
Talking about the evolution of Emergency Management, because I think it will set the framework for the discussion about priorities and recommendations. For anyone who has been in Emergency Management I would daresay pre-9/11, you will recognize that Emergency Management really started as and outgrowth of Civil Defense. It was focused early on the cold war and the threat of attack from Russia. It then shifted as a result of some major natural disasters into a dual-focus on civil defense and natural hazards. Certainly the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes, Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew caused a shift in focus. With the end of the cold war and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the focus shifted almost entirely to natural hazards and there was a period of time when that was really the focus for the nation and for Emergency Management, particularly at the state level.
Then we had the Murrah Building attack, and we began to recognize as a community and a culture that we needed to pay attention to acts of terrorism, that it wasnt just an FBI issue but it would in fact impact Emergency Management and emergency responders, and we began to see a little bit of attention on domestic terrorismoverwhelming focus still on natural disasters, but a recognition that Oklahoma was a wake-up call for the rest of the nation and all of us were at risk for those kinds of attacks like those we saw on the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
Then, of course, we had September 11, 2001, and the face of Emergency Management for all of us, state, local, private, every citizen, changed and shifted, and for a time almost an overwhelming focus on terrorism with a lack of intentional focus, it appeared at some times, on the natural hazard and all-hazard issue. We looked at terrorism as well as the emerging bio-threats. We had an intense effort focused on pandemic influenza a couple of years ago with our health partners, and then obviously Hurricane Katrina caused the pendulum to shift back a little bit. It went back so that we were able to recognize that, quite frankly, in many cases Mother Nature is the most damaging terrorist that we can all face.
I think the issue at hand as we move forward is what we dont know, and what threats we havent yet identified. Certainly changing weather patterns, whether you believe or disbelieve in warming trends, certainly we are seeing a shift in some weather patterns. I think the economy will cause us concern. We have not yet fully planned for and prepared for a bio-event, whether it is a naturally-occurring pandemic or an actual attack. Obviously we are continuing to look at the CBRNE issues, radiological dirty bombs, improvised nuclear device and etcetera.
Current challenges (and strategic plan items)
Current challenges that NEMA has identified, and I put in parentheses "strategic plan items", because these are inter-strategic plans but they are really challenges that face all of us as Emergency Managers no matter what level of government we are in.
Evolving environment in which emergency managers must operate
That is, of course, the evolving environment in which we operate. Grants have changed our environment. In many cases, the demands of managing grants, particularly at the local level, have become overwhelming and it has caused decisions to be made about how time is allocated and sometimes how functions occur. I think that is a recognition that we need to face as a challenge for Emergency Management at large.
Constantly changing requirements being placed on states by the federal government
The constantly changing requirements being placed on states by the federal governmentas we look at all the various reporting requirements that are out there, those are a challenge for us and something that we need to learn how to manage, and we need to work with our federal partners, quite frankly, to manage better. As we look at gap analysis, and cost and capability studies and all the other different reporting requirements as well as grant requirements that are being placed on states. All of those have a trickle-down effect because states are not, most of the time, owners of the information and we rely on our local partners. So thats a challenge for the Emergency Management community and certainly a challenge for the NEMA members as well.
Current focus on catastrophic disaster planning and emerging issues such as Pandemic Influenza
I think the challenge with catastrophic planning is creating a plan that is realistic for the jurisdiction, realistic for the environment. I will talk a little bit, as we look at recommendations, about the need to make sure that all the plans that we are developing are based on actual risk analysis and are defensible and logical given our time constraints and our personnel constraints, value-added for state and local partners.
Top 5 National Emergency Management Issues
The top 5 National Emergency Management Issues as identified in a paper developed by NEMA in March of 2008 are as follows (and these again are top 5 issues that I would suggest are not just NEMA issues but Emergency Management Issues at any level):
1. All-hazard emergency preparedness
We have to get to a true all-hazard emergency preparedness focus. Not all-hazard in verbiage but not in practice, but in actual fact to an all-hazard system that allows for the flexibility within an all-hazard system to be able to respond to the event or the occurrence with whatever we need to respond to.
2. Emergency management must be owned by elected officials at all levels of government
This is a recognition that we need to have the ownership - our governors, our mayors, our township trustees, our county commissioners need to understand that Emergency Management is something they have to own. They have to support; they have to resource. The worst thing that can happen for any of us is for that lack of ownership to occur and then we find ourselves on the back end of an event without the resources, without the commitment, without the buy-in, and then we see that pendulum shift back to overwhelming focus. We need to ensure and help our elected officials at all levels embrace and own Emergency Management.
3. Our nation requires an integrated emergency management system
Our nation requires an integrated emergency management system if were going to have an effective response. That system needs to recognize the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of government; local, tribal, state, regional, and federal so that we can actually have a true single management structure in response to disasters without (and this is important) stepping on or overriding the needs, the issues, the responsibilities of those various levels of government.
4. Citizens and businesses must understand and take responsibility
The fourth Emergency Management issue is that citizens and businesses must understand and take responsibility for their own actions. Weve seen somewhat of a shift, it appears to me, in our expectation on the part of our citizenry that they take responsibility for themselves. In the last probably 7 years Ive seen somewhat of a shift from really focusing on that 72 hours, ensuring that you can handle your own needs to the extent that is feasible for that first 72 hours while we wait for resources to come in from state and federal government. It seems like that has been turned on its head and now there is an expectation on the part of some of our citizenry that government is going to be there at any level within hours and sometimes that just isnt practical. So we need to begin to re-educate ourselves as citizens, re-educate our constituents about the need for them to plan and prepare and reinforce the need for them to plan and prepare for their own families, their own businesses, their own survival, and take responsibility for that, knowing that government can step in days later, but they need to be responsible for the first 72 hours or so.
5. Education and training resources are required to build an effective system
Finally, if we are truly going to have Emergency Management continue to grow as a profession, we need to make sure that we have adequate education and training developed to meet the ongoing needs of Emergency Management. Were seeing a tremendous increase in universities and colleges that have specified specific Emergency Management degree programs. I think thats outstanding because quite frankly I view those folks that are coming into my organization from those universities and those colleges as our future. Are they ready now? Of course not. They dont have the seasoning, they dont have the experience, they dont have the on-the-ground knowledge, but theyre coming in far ahead of folks like me who came into the system without an Emergency Management background and learned it through experience.
I think we need to continue that kind of educational focus, these kinds of forums. We need to encourage a systemic, intentional development of our Emergency Management profession rather than a haphazard backing-in to the profession that I think we saw at the very beginning of the development of Emergency Management.
Recommendations for improvement
Ill probably go through these somewhat quickly. There are many, many recommendations in this white paper that we put together for an effective Emergency Management system. I took only some of the highlights. None are more important than others, but I was relatively certain that you didnt want me to go through all twenty-some recommendations, so I narrowed it down to 10 that I think are probably comprehensive and broad-reaching.
1. Build and maintain a baseline capability
We have to continue to focus on building and maintaining a baseline capability, a baseline capability for all jurisdictions at all levels, to be able to respond to those disasters and risks and hazards that are appropriate for them. Some of that is funding, some of that is training, much of that is just simply the commitment that every citizen in the state deserves some kind of baseline response capability from an Emergency Management perspective.
2. Plans must be based on state specific hazard identification and risk assessment
We have to recognize that with limited resources, limited dollars, limited time, limited staffing, we need to focus our plans and our capabilities on those most probable likely events based on risk analysis, risk assessment and hazard identification and not try to do a one-size-fits-all. Frankly it makes absolutely no sense for Ohio to develop a hurricane-type evacuation plan because, no surprise to anyone, Ohio doesnt have hurricanes. What we do need to do is focus on those risks that were susceptible to here in Ohio.
3. Activities must be coordinated at the federal level
This is quite frankly a recommendation for federal partners that weve made. This is coordinating among themselves particularly when they have requirements that cross outside of their own particular domain or jurisdiction. Obviously the classic case that anyone in Emergency Management at the state and local level face is the integration of the pandemic influence of planning process and some of the health planning processes with Emergency Management. Certainly at times and even today it feels that were working down two separate lanes developing duplicitous services and processes and we need to integrate those.
That integration has to occur first at the federal level because if HHS is putting out grant requirements that require state and local health departments to take certain action and FEMA is putting out grant requirements that require state and local government under Emergency Management to take certain action, somehow at the top level they need to better integrate that and make sure that were working together and that we have the freedom and the latitude and the ability to work together so that were building one common plan that works for all.
4. Unity of effort is a pre-requisite for effective disaster response
It is important that relationships be established and those communication networks are in place prior to events so that were not trying to build those when were in the middle of a response at the state, local, or federal level.
5. Interstate and intrastate mutual aid assistance must be recognized and supported
Certainly the National Emergency Management Association is obviously integral and intimately involved in the Emergency Management assistance compact. EMAC which is that compact that is adopted by states which allows states to offer resources to each other. Those resources can be state or local. We have to recognize, embrace, fully evolve that EMAC system so that its dependable, reliable; its there for all of us. That is an ongoing process. It is a good system and were working actively in an ongoing fashion to make sure that it works for all and when improvements can be made, they are, in fact made.
Intrastate mutual aid is also something that NEMA embraces and supports. Many of our states now have intrastate mutual aid compacts and were continuing that effort at a national level.
6. Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) should be recognized
We believe that EMAP should be recognized and used as the accreditation program for emergency management. That is a joint state and local accreditation program. The EMAP Commission has both local Emergency Management Agency folks as well as state and private sector Emergency Management folks on it. We continue to get pulsed as a system as Emergency Managers with lots of different assessment tools. Somehow weve got to get that focused in on the most valuable assessment tools and we would submit that the EMAP accreditation program is one of those assessment tools that is valuable and should be supported.
7. Develop leadership and professional development curricula
If were going to continue to grow the profession of Emergency Management we need to be intentional about developing leadership and professional development activities.
8. Focus on enhanced public information, crisis communications, and warning to include corresponding actions by the public
We need to make sure that both our elected officials and our public understand what these actions are and what were actually asking people to do. Sometimes its very, very easy for us to use the verbiage and assume that the public understand it, when in fact, they dont actually understand what were asking them to do. We need to make sure that we are checking in with our public and making sure they understand our recommended actions as well as our government officials.
9. Understand the limitations of government in disasters
Again, this is just a recognition that each level of government has limitations and each level of government has responsibilities. We need to be very clear in understanding our roles and our limitations so that there isnt frustration about what a certain government body or function did or didnt do. Oftentimes that frustration, quite frankly, is the result of lack of understanding of the ability, their capability, their responsibility, and their limitations so I think we need to do a better job at identifying what those roles, responsibilities and limitations are and then making sure that were educating the right people of what they are before the event occurs.
10. Integrate private sector into the emergency management system.
This is beyond simply having vendors available to provide resources to us when we need them, but actually embracing them, integrating them more fully into the Emergency Management system.
I will credit one of my partner Emergency Management directors with one of my a-ha moments recently when Craig Fugate commented about the fact that he found himself close to a hurricane delivering ice and water and commodities in a Wal-Mart parking lot. And he realized his a-ha moment was, "if we can get Wal-Mart back open, then Wal-Mart can go about the business of selling food, water and commodities to the public rather than the government delivering the same things for free at government tax-payer cost to the public". Sometimes its a hard nut to crack, how do you fully integrate public sector? But those kinds of moments and recognitions help move us forward in making this truly a partnership and not just a vendor/contractor relationship.
These are quite reflective of the recommendations and the issues that I just talked about.
1. Strengthen the nation's emergency management system.
Not just the state system, but the system we are all a part of, from local government, to the private sector, our citizens, our state and our federal partners.
2. Provide national leadership and expertise in comprehensive, all-hazards emergency management.
I would suggest that there are very few, if any, state directors that would say that they have that expertise alone because we all rely on our partners, certainly our partners at the local level, our discussions with our local and our federal partners as well as our private sector. We can help provide that voice at the national level to grow the expertise of comprehensive, all-hazards emergency management.
3. Serve as a vital emergency management information and assistance resource.
4. Advance continuous improvement in emergency management through strategic partnerships, innovative programs, and collaborative policy positions.
Advance continuous improvement in emergency management through strategic partnerships, with all of our partners, innovative programs like EMAP and EMAC and collaborative policy positions particularly with RT our partners like IAEM, CSG, our National Governors Association, the Homeland Security Consortium and partners like that.
To ensure successful national preparedness
The last slide is, I believe, the slide we all need to focus on as we ensure successful national preparedness.
Again, reinforcing that Emergency Management and successful preparedness is all-hazard; it is not just bio, it is not just terrorism, it is not just natural events. It is what we know, and quite frankly, it will become what we do not yet know as a hazard. We need to make sure that our plans and procedures and policies are broad enough to reflect a true all-hazard approach.
Span the national mission areas of prevent, protect, respond, recover
We cant focus on just prevent and protect. We cant focus on just respond and recover. We need to stay on all four of those areas.
Recognize collaborative and cooperative approach with all partners
There is no partner that comes to our table that should be turned away if they bring a resource, an idea, a concept, a hand that can help us do what we do better. We need to recognize that partnership.
Strengthen and promote mitigation
Finally, this is an ad for me because I think it is so important and to some degree attention has shifted away from mitigation. It is important that we recognize that mitigation as part of the "prevent and protect" is the activity that will cause all of us to be able to limit the time, we hope, that we spend responding and recovering from whatever hazard is out there.
The best comment I had during the last flood was from a county director in northern Ohio who said, "If we had not mitigated this particular community, I would be on the phone with you asking for state support. But because we mitigated that community and got those people out of harms way, this director was able to not have the need to respond to a community that had been underwater time and time again."
Mitigation is something we all need to embrace and move forward.
In closing, I want to thank the opportunity to address you. I know there will be an opportunity for Q&A. For more information, you can certainly contact the NEMA website. I re-encourage you to consider the NEMA 35th anniversary. There is some great material on the NEMA website about the timeline of NEMA, the timeline of disasters. Its an interesting site if youre interested in noodling around on it. The mid-year conference again which is in Alexandria, Virginia March 6-11. Thank you again, and at this point I will hand it back to Amy.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Nancy. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Amy Sebring: I noticed, I know its really recent news, but there was a directive that came out of the new DHS Secretary Napolitano to FEMA about enhancing coordination with state and local stakeholders. Have you all been approached on that yet?
Nancy Dragani: We have not to my knowledge yet been approached but we are aware of the directive, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to weigh in on the state and local integration. We have not yet been contacted.
Amy Sebring: Its early days, but I think it bodes well for some of the points and recommendations that you just covered.
Nancy Dragani: Yes, I would agree.
Steven J McGee: Is NEMA open to suggestions as to achieving a "one method fits many" vs. "one size fits all" all hazards approach?
Nancy Dragani: I think absolutely we would be open to that, and I think thats probably the direction were trying to head as a nation. Im sensing from our federal partners that theyre beginning to recognize that "one size fits all" does not work. Theyre trying to come up with a method that would be scalable that would be flexible enough to work in Arizona and New York City or work in Minnesota and California. I think absolutely NEMA would be interested in feedback if somebody has a concept or a process or an idea that would look at methodology rather than simply fill-in-the-blank.
Helen Norris: What are the criteria for membership in NEMA? Is it limited to the State EM Directors?
Nancy Dragani: The membership is not limited to state directors, but the voting members are limited to state directors. We have a membership that includes local partners, significant private sector membership; key state staff are members, as well as individuals that just choose to join NEMA as an individual members. But the one caveat again is that the voting membership is limited to those 58 states and territories including the District of Columbia.
Kenny Shaw: Regarding your bullet on professional development: the Fire Service has a strong program at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg - the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program. Police have the FBI Academy. Emergency Management has nothing comparable. It should be easy to have EMI copy the EFO program for Emergency Managers. I've pushed it to a lot of folks (some high up in FEMA) but it never gets going. When do you anticipate a mid-career professional development program like one of those above?
Nancy Dragani: Yes, I would support that idea. Thats kind of a short answer. I think there are a lot of different models out there that can be looked at. Certainly the fire service, the FBI Academy, the military has a very robust mid-level, senior-level manager training program.
I think we used to have that in Emergency Management under the old Capstone program, where there was a series of professional development courses that an individual would attend in person, and at the conclusion of that series they could go to EMI for a final Capstone course. We got away from that years ago. I think that kind of course development needs to be considered and reinforced. I think we would absolutely support the development of a series of professional development courses for both mid-level and senior-level management in Emergency Management.
Bo: Training and exercises provide one of the best venues for the private sector to become engaged. Is there a centralized area/list the private sector can have access to which gives a timeline of exercises in their respective geographic areas?
Nancy Dragani: There is, unfortunately I dont have it at my fingertips. There is now a national database that captures exercises, a national exercise database. I dont know about training. I suspect that would be a little more problematic because each state offers training a little bit differently. But there is a national exercise database. [See the National Exercise Schedule (NEXS) System at https://hseep.dhs.gov/DHS_SSO/?ReturnUrl=%2fhseep_em%2fToolkitHome.aspx . Requires a user account.]
Tom Kelley: Nancy, are there any drastic changes on the horizon with the change of the administration in D.C.?
Nancy Dragani: I think its too early to tell. Certainly we still have a FEMA administrator. The regional administrators, with the exception of a couple, are still acting deputy administrators. I think obviously, much discussion about FEMA in or out of DHS. I dont think there has been any decision on that. It seems still to be very fluid. Much discussion on HSC (the Homeland Security Council) migrating into the National Security CouncilI think that is, in fact, occurring.
I dont know that I have any information on major changes at this point. As much as you all are, I am somewhat anxiously and eagerly waiting for word from our federal partners on those key appointments as well as once those appointments are made, whether or not there are any course corrections and how theyre moving programs out as well as administering FEMA.
Amy Sebring: For your mid-year conference and celebration, are there any particular highlights, keynote speakers, a sense of time when you think you might actually be getting some of that kind of that information, some of the administration?
Nancy Dragani: Yes, we certainly invited the secretary. We hope to have a FEMA administrator that can participate. We have invited Nancy Ward, who is the current acting FEMA administrator. Nancy is the regional administrator from Region 9 out in California. She is very capable at holding the reins of FEMA and we would like to have her at any case come and attend our conference.
We also have a couple of interesting keynote speakers. Larry Sabato will take a look at Presidential transitions and trends, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, who is a keynote speaker, will take a look at historical look at Presidents. Weve reformatted this particular conference to do a few more general sessions to take advantage of these kinds of keynote speakers and then integrated some of the days with general session integrated with committee meetings, as opposed to our normal agenda which is primarily focused on committee meetings the first couple of days and then one general session. I think it will be an interesting conference. Im looking forward to both Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as Larry Sabato. Ive heard Larry, he is an awesome speaker, and it will be an interesting perspective to get from both of them as we look at the transition.
Steven J McGee: What is NEMA's relationship to NENA, APCO, TIEMS, in context with achieving, as you described during your talk, an "All Hazards Approach?"
Nancy Dragani: Certainly I think every state Emergency Management Agency has an individual, an integration with those associations because of the emergency communications and warning systems that all of us are a part of. I know that NEMA does interface with NENA, NEMA interfaces certainly with APCO. We have a state director who acts as that interface on behalf of NEMA.
As we look at the all-hazards environment, particularly from a technological standpoint, we need to start exploring ways to both maximize technology, to reach out to our publics in ways they want to be reached out to. By that I mean concepts like Twitter and Flickr and Facebook and YouTube. I was excited to see from a technological standpoint, David Paulsons recent YouTube presentations, which some people may think were geeky, I dont know, but I thought they were pretty cool and I watched them.
I think that kind of use of technology is the direction we have to go, because I can tell you that anybody who has a teenager at (and I have an 18-year-old at home) she does not rely on those traditional methods of communication that I still rely on, like the newspaper, the radio and the television, but rather shes getting her information from these new types of communication avenues. Thats kind of a long way to answer it, and Im not sure thats what Steven was looking for, but to go back to the beginning, we do certainly interface with NENA and APCO and other communication associations on somewhat of a regular basis.
Kathy DeWeese: How would you recommend closing the gap present between those practices that are implemented at local levels vs. the state and federal recommendations/ standards/ mandates?
Nancy Dragani: I think thats a huge issue, and I dont know that I have a good recommendation rather than clarity in requirements and trying to increase the understanding of both our federal partners and our congressional partners on what the requirement means at the state and local level.
I will use an example. There is a congressionally-driven requirement in the current grant guide that requires 25% of EMPG and 25% of Homeland Security Grant, State Home and Security Grant Program funds to be used for planning and/or training and exercise. Great idea! Difficult to implement, particularly at the local level. Very difficult to implement. Somehow I think we need to craft messages in a way that help our congressional and our federal partners understand what these great ideas that people are coming up with actually look like at the back end, or at the point end of the sphere, if you will.
Sometimes I think we say it, we present, we go to our congressional partners and to FEMA and we tell them why its problematic, but we dont tell them why in a way that makes it real. We need to make these issues real, and living and breathing, and using a case study that says, "this requirement has this kind of impact on this county director. When they have one and a half staff people, and youre asking them to do XYZ, it simply isnt possible, or practical, or defensible for their elected officials for them to spend that time.
I think that being clearer and more descriptive about these requirements look like on the back end will help our federal partners and our congressional partners, because much of these are driven by Congress, understand that these requirements have an impact. It isnt always, quite frankly, able to be accomplished. Its a longwinded answer, but I think we need to do a better job collectively, (and by "we" Im primarily talking to state and local Emergency Managers) of really coming up with a way to help our partners understand at the federal and congressional level what these requirements do and how difficult they can be to implement particularly by our local partners.
Bob Fletcher: Good summary Nancy. As a 40-year veteran of this business, it was a nice stroll down memory lane. Since Hurricane Camille, my first field experience, I have seen many changes in the profession as we have evolved from the Civil Defense era though Emergency Management through Homeland Security to today's rather diffuse perspective of all hazards all the time everywhere.
I recently worked the Inaugural NSSE with FEMA and was once more amazed at the growing cast of characters who come into play on any single event. Thus my question: Do you see any focusing/ narrowing/ clarification of the sphere of responsibility of Ems, or perhaps a redefinition of the role of the EM as a "grand facilitator" as opposed to "manager?" Shrinking resources and growing expectations have begun to collide in a way never expected when we began this journey. What do you think from the State perspective?
Nancy Dragani: Its an interesting question because I just came from a briefing, as we struggle with a snow event in Ohio, where I told my staff for this briefing, "we are just the facilitators", because all of this information was gathered to determine whether or not we keep non-required workers at home rather than reporting to work. That is not necessarily an Emergency Management issue; its an issue by public safety, the Governors office, Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol, its a safety issue.
Its interesting because I reminded my staff that facilitation is what Emergency Management does best, and in this case, we are in fact the grand facilitators, pulling together the information and presenting it in such a way that those key decision makers can make a decision based on the information we gather. Im seeing a lot more of that, quite frankly, Im seeing a lot more of Emergency Management simply pulling the parties to the table, which is what weve always done and done well.
Some issues we will always own because we need to own them. Some issues we simply need to act as a facilitator and force the ownership to stay in the hands of those people who own the action or own the information, but we just gather it and put it into a framework that allows actions to occur and decisions to be made.
Its a difficult situation. The field is growing and evolving. I would daresay that every state director in the nation and many local directions would probably, if you surveyed 100 local directors or 50 state directors you might get 50 definitions or 100 definitions of what their job entails. Some of it is driven by politics, some of it is driven by rifts, some of it quite frankly is driven by ability.
Amy Sebring: I assume youre aware of IAEMs effort with the Emergency Management Principles Initiative. Weve done a previous Forum presentation on those ideas, where theyre trying to define what are the core principles, and this goes to Bobs question in terms of defining who we are and what we do. So my question is, is NEMA participating in that?
Nancy Dragani: Im sorry, Amy, I dont know. Id have to check.
Amy Sebring: Thats being done under the auspices of EMI and Wayne Blanchard up there at EMI.
Nancy Dragani: I certainly think if were not, we want to.
Amy Sebring: And you may be already.
Avagene Moore: Nancy, you mentioned that emergency management must be owned by elected officials at all levels and I am sure everyone in this meeting agrees with that. In your opinion, do you or NEMA have plans and ideas for getting more buy-in from elected officials? If so, can you share with us today?
Nancy Dragani: Yes, we do update that material on a regular basis. It is focused in many cases on the state level, but certainly as we work with congressional partners, were reaching out to local government, I hope were reaching out to local government, I know we do in Ohio, so that when we present information were presenting on the system and not just the state snapshot. Absolutely, were looking at ways to help our officials at the state and federal levels from the state perspective understand Emergency Management and own it.
I think all of us need to take opportunities when things occur to educate our officials at whatever level were at. I think every Emergency Manager in the nation had the opportunity to educate their local officials post-Katrina, for good or ill, about what their risks were in their jurisdiction. We need to be vigilant and take those opportunities, whether its national preparedness month, or its individual earthquake safety week, or an emergency storm weather week that you have, we need to use those opportunities to get in front of our officials and our publics and educate them about their responsibilities and for our officials about their ownership and the impact of their lack of ownership which weve all see post-disaster in certain areas in the country.
Kenny Shaw: 14 months ago we started an email group listserv for the emergency managers in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. It now has the biggest 60 cities and some other metro area cities. Though Police, Fire, and virtually every public administration profession has a "large or metro cities" committee, Emergency Management does not. We have approached IAEM about starting a "Metro Cities" sub-committee. Would NEMA consider developing something similar or supporting our new effort if IAEM decides not to?
Nancy Dragani: I think the appropriate avenue for that is IAEM. Certainly that is under the purview of local government, even if it is a major metro area. I think NEMA would support it. I know there is a UASI listserv that I get frequent E-Mails from. I think we need to encourage it. Another avenue is the National Homeland Security Consortium, which has a broad membership to include major city police chiefs as well as county officials, state legislators, Homeland Security, Emergency Management, public health, public works, etcetera. I think its a valuable tool. We would certainly support IAEMs efforts.
Amy Sebring: We have long been interested in the application of technology to Emergency Management. You brought up the technology issue, so thats why I wanted to follow up. In the state communications plan your focus has been on interoperable radios and voice communications, and Ive not really found a focal point in NEMA for a vast array of application of technology, even right down to what is EMAT going to be using in terms of how to implement the resource dispatch and so forth. My question to you is, is there a focal point in NEMA for the broad range of technological issues that impact our business?
Nancy Dragani: I dont know that there is one focal point right now but I do know that it is absolutely a discussion topic. In the last three meetings that I have been at with NEMA to include our strategic planning meeting, new technology, application of new technology is something we have discusses with a great vigor, if you will, as we as a group, as a profession, struggle not just with communicating with our public but obviously radio technology, using the best technology available to do things just like this, the EM Forum, maximizing our ability to communicate on all levels as well as to develop and share information.
I dont know that there is one focal point right now. I wouldnt be surprised if we dont see a focal point come out of NEMA within the next couple of years that is focused on addressing technological issues. We certainly have several directors who are very, very engaged in this and very eager to see it move forward.
Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much Nancy for an excellent job. We wish you every success in your role as NEMA President. We think this is a very critical time as we move forward.
Nancy Dragani: Thank you very much. Wonderful questions and I know that I will be looking forward to the roll up and the meeting minutes so that we can take some of those questions and begin to work them and discuss them at the NEMA level.
Amy Sebring: Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements.
Again, the recording should be available later today and the transcript on Friday. 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.
Don't forget to vote in our poll, and PLEASE take a moment to do the rating/review! Note: We are asking you to rate the relevance of the information, and this will assist our future visitors.
Thanks to everyone for participating today. We stand adjourned.