Monday, November 21, 2011

FEMA's new Think Tank Project

A New Collaboration Community

FEMA has created a new "Collaboration Community" where stakeholders can come to a forum-type website and view, contribute and comment on conversations about emergency preparedness, disaster response and recovery, and other emergency management topics. They are calling this the "FEMA Think Tank".

The FEMA web page giving background information on the Think Tank is at

The site has gotten off to a great start since being announced at the IAEM conference last week. As of today, the usage statistics show that 72 ideas have been posted with 199 comments and 613 votes from 389 users.  The ideas are very interesting, some are a bit off topic, some are venting, and some are a bit redundant. However, I am sure that FEMA is getting a lot of good ideas from the stream of consciousness presented on the site already.

How does it work?

The site is built to run on user ideas and votes. Users submit their ideas, then the community discusses and votes for ideas and the best ideas "bubble up to the top". I am not sure exactly how this will work but each idea can be voted on as "I agree" or "I disagree" and then each can receive comments and the comments can receive votes and comments in a nested forum structure.  How all this ends up as a way to have ideas "bubble up" is beyond me. I am not sure that a "like or dislike" option is the best way to go here.

As I have worked with this IdealScales site, which I think is wonderful and robust (although it was slowed to a crawl this morning), I have been somewhat frustrated by the binary nature of giving ideas and comments either a thumbs up or thumbs down. It is not always that simple.  And, I hate to say that I dislike someone' s ideas. I do not want to vote "I disagree" to someone's idea when I am really trying to say it is not as important as some of the other ideas.

Prioritization vs. Voting "Up or Down"

I tried to add this to the discussion on the Think Tank site but it was found to be "off topic" so I will do it here.  My idea is that we need to prioritize what will eventually be a very large list of ideas if we really want the best to bubble up to the top.

It seems to me that a better approach might be to ask for a score on a five or ten point scale to help identify priorities for further research and implementation. I'm not sure if this is possible but I don't think that a number of people that "like" something is equivalent to the value of the idea. It is more important how much people think the idea is valuable. 

So, I'm suggesting that the site change over to some form of value voting. That is my thought for the day...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

National Disaster Recovery Framework Based on ERI / All Hands Consulting Best Practices

I found this little bit of history interesting... Good work "back in the day" by my good friend and business partner Rick LaValla was the basis of the new FEMA doctrine for recovery. Rick did not get any credit for this groundbreaking work but the story below helps set the record straight.


Reviewing the Origins of the National Disaster Recovery Framework

The basis for the newly released National Disaster Recovery Framework is the concept of "Recovery Support Functions” (RSFs). The original idea and concepts of RSFs was born in Cape Coral, Florida in 2001-2002. This pioneering work was the result of Rick LaValla, President of ERI International and Co-Founder and Vice President of All Hands Consulting, done under on contract with the City of Cape Coral.

Mr. LaValla conducted recovery workshops and focus groups with Cape Coral Fire Chief and Emergency Manager William “Bill” Van Helden in 2001 and 2002 which led to the development of the recovery function concept. Rick recalled that “It was late one evening that the epiphany occurred; we were staring at the walls and reviewing the work of the focus group when suddenly it occurred to me that if we use ESFs for response, then why not use RSFs for recovery?". Bill and Rick quickly brainstormed and developed a recovery framework based on RSFs.

This pioneering work was then utilized in Hilton Head Island, SC and Jefferson County, AL; many other local jurisdictions, and ultimately in Monroe County, FL. FEMA uses the Cape Coral Recovery Plan at EMI and its RSFs are a case study and best practice in their Disaster Recovery Planning courses. Out of all this sprang the newly released National Disaster Recovery Framework.

Many AHC clients are now using the RSF framework in their CEMP Recovery Annex and in their Recovery Plans and procedures.

Emergency Support Functions and Recovery Support Functions

Local government response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters begins with activation of Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). ESFs represent groupings of types of assistance activities that local government citizens and visitors are likely to need in times of emergency or disaster. A lead agency/department for each ESF is indicated, and is responsible for coordinating the delivery of that ESF to the emergency area. The lead agency/department is responsible for identifying the resources within the ESF that will accomplish the mission, and will coordinate the resource delivery. During emergencies, the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) determines which County ESFs are activated to meet the disaster response needs.

Recovery planning also begins when the EOC is activated. Recovery planners begin an assessment of the disaster impacts and determine which Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) will be activated to meet the local government’s recovery needs. Just like ESFs, Recovery Support Functions represent groupings of types of recovery activities and programs that the local government and its citizens/visitors are likely to need following disaster. Some ESFs will become RSFs as their scope changes from “emergency” to “recovery.” An example is the "ESF: Public Information". During the emergency phase, this ESF is concerned with the issuing of warning, emergency instructions and information. As the emergency phase ends and the recovery phase begin, this function becomes RSF: Public Information, and is now concerned with providing recovery information, post disaster health and safety information, and so.

Just like ESFs, a “primary” agency/department for each RSF is indicated, and will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the recovery activity or programs. The primary agency/department will be responsible for identifying the resources (support departments and organizations) within the RSF that will accomplish the post disaster activities. The primary agency/department is also responsible for coordinating the resource delivery.

Schedule of RSFs

While the NDRF describes six federal RSFs that can be activated to support state and local governments, there are many more RSFs to consider. Disasters are owned by local governments and they have many more recovery tasks to consider than the federal government does.
Local government RSFs can include:

RSF # 1        Impact Assessment (Disaster Assessment)
RSF # 2        Continuation of Government
RSF # 3        Public Information; Community Relations
RSF # 4        Human Services (Short–term)
RSF # 5        Individual Assistance
RSF # 6        Volunteers and Donations
RSF # 7        Unmet Needs
RSF # 8        Debris Management
RSF # 9        Reentry, Security
RSF # 10      Health
RSF # 11      Safety
RSF # 12      Repair and Restoration of Public Infrastructure, Services, Buildings
RSF # 13      Building Inspections and Permits
RSF # 14      Rebuilding, Construction, Repairs, Restoration
RSF # 15      Housing
RSF # 16      Redevelopment (Planning and Community Development)
RSF # 17      Economic Restoration and Development
RSF # 18      Environmental Concerns
RSF # 19      Mitigation
RSF # 20      Recovery Administration and Finance
RSF # 21      Mutual Aid