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Apr 7 2014

Capstone 2014 and The Future of Mutual Aid

By Joel Thomas and Jon Fisk

Topics: EarthquakesInformation SharingRecoveryResilienceResponseState and Local

Part I: The Future of Mutual Aid

Certain catastrophic events, such as earthquakes, can leave emergency managers from neighboring jurisdictions scrambling to gather the same kinds of help in the time of need. Resource planning for just this type of scenario is now going on for 8 primary states and 12 assisting states in the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium.

In the past year, CUSEC regional partners have updated their assessment of the anticipated impact and they have defined their own needs in the wake of a catastrophic Earthquake. This process is helping them determine if and how they can assist their neighbors, developing resource plans that are based on a shared understanding of each other's anticipated needs, emergency response plans, and available resources.

The Planning Process

The planning process requires 1) a basic assumption of the scale of the disaster, 2) an understanding of the response that is needed, and 3) a way to organize the tasks and capabilities that address those needs.

Plans and Processes that Streamline Mutual Aid

Pre-packaging resources according to the pre-scripted missions/needs called out in a given response plan, has been a priority of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM), the National Emergency Management Association and the FEMA National Integration Center, and led to the development of a system which has now become a national model called the Mutual Aid Support System (MASS). By understanding Mutual Aid as the product of shared threats, plans, missions, and Mission Ready Packages, MASS is helping KYEM and nearly 20 states associated with the Central United Earthquake Consortium plan for and respond to an earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Having better understanding of the plans, capabilities and capability gaps informs when an agency should ask for assistance from...

  • Other states via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact
  • Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
  • Private Sector
  • FEMA
  • The National Guard
  • NORTHCOMM
  • The International community

Understanding Missions

One of the elements of this regional exercise is to determine how best to organize and share capabilities so that the planned emergency response can be properly resourced. Two kinds of information have emerged as anchors to this discussion:

  1. Missions
  2. Mission Ready Packages

"Missions" are created because there is a need (or an anticipated need) that is expected to exist at a particular place and time. Missions are created in the expectation that Search and Rescue, Mass Care, Logistics, or other emergency service functions, will need to be directed to specific communities based on hazard assessments and response plans. Missions are also expected to be phased in or out temporally, depending on the demand of certain emergency services during course of the response or recovery.

A "Mission Ready Package" is a collection of resources ready to be assigned to a particular mission. These "packages" contain the all personnel, equipment, and resources required to be fully operational for a pre-determined amount of time. Pre-packaging resources according to the missions they will likely be called upon to serve, has been a priority of KYEM, and led them to develop a system called the Mutual Aid Support System which is now in the process of being exercised by more than twenty states and transitioned to a national capability hosted by the National Emergency Management Association.

In Part II, we'll dive deeper into how integrated planning, operations and GIS is being realized through some use cases and highlights around the country.

Get Involved

Wouldn't it be nice if there were more focus on solutions to the problem we are trying to solve nationally versus silos of excellence in each community? As understanding of missions and mission capabilities increases, as planning is more holistically integrated, and as processes for request and acquisition of mutual aid become clearer, so will the use of the various technologies to discover, request, and track missions from numerous sources.

Join the National Information Sharing Consortium and DHS First Responders Group Capacity Building Webinar Series session on Mutual Aid on April 17th to hear from some influential voices helping to shape the national dialogue.

Also, contact us to observe the CUSEC Capstone 2014 Exercise scheduled June 16-20, 2014 today!

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