Sunday, February 22, 2015

Florida is writing a State Multi-agency Reunification Plan

Last Thursday, February 19, 2015, we had our first meeting/webinar of the State Reunification Plan Work Group at the State Emergency Operations Center here in Tallahassee. Fourteen different local, state, federal, voluntary and nonprofit agencies were represented at the meeting and we identified several others that needed to be brought into the Whole of Community planning process.

Reunification is one of the four activities of mass care, along with feeding, sheltering and distribution of emergency supplies. For this reason Emergency Support Function 6, Mass Care would take the lead in coordinating reunification during a disaster and in drafting a multiagency plan.

I'm sure that this begs the question for a number of people: If we didn't have a State Reunification Plan before, then why do we need one now? One answer is ignorance, on my part as well as others. Reunification issues in a disaster often create the kinds of complex, multiagency problems that give emergency managers a headache and are difficult to write into a plan.. Another, and better, reason that we never had a plan was that there wasn't much written reference material available on multiagency reunification.

That is about to change. Fourteen months ago a national work group was established with the object of creating a Multiagency Reunification Plan Template. I was a member of this work group and I got to listen to numerous conference calls with a lot of smart people who knew much more about reunification than I did. My part in the drama was to help take this information and draft it into the Template.

The national work group finished the draft template and sent the document out to a wider audience for review and comment. We are using this draft Template here in Florida as a basis for our new Plan. By doing so, and including subject matter experts from the national work group on our Thursday call, we were able to get advice on some sticky Florida issues we encountered as well as some ideas for improving the national Template.

We will have a Reunification Workshop at the Governor's Hurricane Conference in Orlando in May in which we will talk about our progress in completing a State Reunification Plan and discuss some of the issues that I'm sure that we will encounter.

We also hope to have the Multiagency Reunification Plan Template completed and up on the National Mass Care Strategy website by this summer.