Friday, April 27, 2012

A National Mass Care Exercise - Hurricane Gispert

The draft of the new "National Mass Care Strategy" recommends that the nation conduct "an annual national Mass Care System exercise that focuses on state-to-federal coordination systems and integrating staff from key federal, NGO, faith based organizations and the private sector into an effective Mass Care Multi-Agency coordination system." The state of Florida  will conduct just such an exercise in conjunction with the annual State Hurricane Exercise in Tallahassee May 21-24, 2012.

Over 70 persons (50 of which are traveling to the site from out-of-town) from 29 different federal, state, NGO and private sector organizations representing the nation's Whole of Community will participate in the exercise as player, evaluator or controller. The focus of the exercise will be on building the state and the nation's capability to deliver Mass Care Services in furtherance of the National Preparedness Goal.

The scenario for the exercise involves the landfall of Hurricane Gispert in the Tampa Bay area as a major storm. Such an impact on a large, urban, coastal community would require a coordinated, national mass care response. The purpose of the exercise is to test the systems, processes and procedures necessary to coordinate a mass care event of this magnitude.

Many of these procedural documents are new, still in draft form, and have never been tested before. They include:
1) "The Acquisition and Employment of Federal Mass Care Resources, A State Template,"
2) "The State of Florida Multi-Agency Feeding Task Force Standard Operating Guide,"
3) "Draft Multi-Agency Sheltering Task Force Guidance Document,"
4) "Household Disaster Feeding Guidance Document."

Three of these documents are draft national templates that will be refined based on participant feedback during and after the exercise. Once refined, the documents will be made available on the National Mass Care Strategy website for use by the national mass care community.

The exercise will have 3 evaluators to ensure that the lessons learned are captured. There will be a daily and a final "hot wash" to ensure that this critical information is captured while still fresh on the participants minds. The results of these efforts will be incorporated into the After Action Report. This document will also be made available to the nation via the Web.

The ambitious nature of this exercise, both in the number of participants and the complexity of the tasks to be performed, guarantees that this endeavor will be challenging for all participants. This is the best way for us to prepare.

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