This year's conference has the most interesting lineup of mass care sessions that I have seen. This morning there is a four hour training session on functional needs. Sound exciting? Not really. But functional needs is probably the hottest topic in emergency management in the country.
The training is being conducted by Katherine Galifianakis of the American Red Cross and Susanne Simmons of FEMA Mass Care in the District. They are heroically presenting an eight hour course in just four hours. The problem in presenting this course is that the federal guidance for functional need support services in general population shelters raises a host of questions that the instructors are not in a position to clearly answer.
Unfortunately most of the questions are one of degree and timing. Do all these services have to be available when the doors to the shelter opens? Do all the services have to be available in every shelter? Many people believe that the answers to these questions have been taken out of the hands of local emergency managers and placed in the nebulous clutches of federal lawyers in the employ of the Department of Justice. And these lawyers have no practical experience in emergency management at the local level.