FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate announced the publication of the National Preparedness Goal this month and "Mass Care Services" is one of the national core capabilities identified in the document. The NPG is the first of several outcomes directed by Presidential Policy Directive / PPD-8: National Preparedness, released in March of this year. Buried in PPD-8, the NPG and The National Preparedness System document (due to be released next month) is verbiage designed to better target the dwindling future stream of homeland security dollars.
With headlines like "How Far Did $635 Billion Spent on Homeland Security Go?," and Congress seeking more accountability of where the money is going, FEMA and DHS must be able to answer the following questions:
- How Prepared are we?
- Where are the shortfalls in capability?
- Who gets the priority for resources?
The previous administration tried to tackle this monster with the Targeted Capability List (TCL), among other things, to less than rave reviews from state and local emergency managers. From 2007-2009 I participated on a mass care working group assembled by the FEMA Preparedness Directorate to prepare the next version of the TCL. Called Capability Level Guidance (CLG), we developed a pretty good document for mass care. FEMA decided to hold off on publishing the document until the new PPD-8 and the NPG were released. I didn't want to wait that long.
The problem was that there was no doctrine anywhere on coordinating mass care at the state level. There was no way that that I could objectively measure the mass care capability for the state, or to establish a standard that I could train to. The Mass Care CLG that we developed was the first and only document that fit the bill. And FEMA wanted to wait on it.
So I took the document, de-federalized it, and added some Florida specific items that wouldn't fit in a national document. The document was still 95% like the original. I worked with my mass care partners in the state to get their buy-in, and then asked the Florida Division of Emergency Management to agree to adopt it as the mass care capability standard for the State Emergency Response Team. The State of Florida Mass Care Capability Level Guidance was released in July 2011.
With the release of the NPG FEMA will get in the business of defining core capabilities. A core capability is made up of distinct critical elements necessary to achieve the National Preparedness Goal. A capability provides the means to achieve an outcome. Mission Areas - Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery - are groups of core capabilities. Mass Care Services is one of the core capabilities in the Response Mission Area.
The term "mass care" is commonly understood in the emergency management community as feeding, sheltering and distribution of relief supplies to disaster survivors. Mass Care Services is defined in the National Preparedness Goal (NPG) as: "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."
If we want to define the amount of mass care resources that we want to pay for, then we need to define what level of outcome we want this capability to achieve. In the NPG FEMA started this process by assigning each core capability one or more performance thresholds. The preliminary (which means FEMA is amenable to modification) targets for Mass Care Services are:
"1. Move and deliver resources and capabilities to meet the needs of disaster survivors, including
individuals with access and functional needs and others who may be considered to be at-risk.
2. Establish, staff, and equip emergency shelters and other temporary housing options (including
accessible housing) for the affected population.
3. Move from congregate care to non-congregate care alternatives and provide relocation assistance or
interim housing solutions for families unable to return to their pre-disaster homes."
As the NPG makes clear: "The capability targets - the performance threshold(s) for each core capability - will guide our allocation of resources in support of our national preparedness."
The mass care community needs to be involved in this discussion about capability. We can start by understanding the National Preparedness Goal. Next up, next month, is the release of the National Preparedness System. This document will provide more detail about defining and measuring capability.