The Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) provides funding to various emergency response services. As part of its mandate, FEMA gives grants to various fire departments across America to boost their emergency response capacity. In this regard, the Newport fire department would like to apply to for a grant from FEMA to improve its fire emergency response capacity. This paper presents a proposal developed in line with the FEMA grant application guidelines that will aid the city of Newport to apply for a grant.
The city of Newport currently has three disaster response agencies, the police, the fire department, and the public works department. During disasters, there is no clear command structure to govern the works of the emergency response units. This leads to loss of life, and poor resource allocations. NEREC, is a proposed unit that will coordinate the work of the three departments. The establishment of NEREC requires 1.5 million dollars.
The money will fund the construction of the center, equipping an d staffing it, and carrying out assessment of existing disaster response mechanisms in Newport. NEREC will have a director, and its board will be include the director, the three heads of the emergency response organs in Newport, and the mayor (or his alternate).
The administration of the city of Newport has invested in a robust emergency response system comprised of a police department, a fire department, and a public works department. These three agencies work in tandem to handle all emergencies, with one of the taking the lead depending on the type of emergency. The fire department runs various safety programs for Newport communities and its staff to increase the effectiveness of emergency response measures. The police department usually focuses on public order during emergencies. Public order is a crucial part of effective response to emergencies (Hanna, 2010).
Public order has an effect on the mobility of emergency response teams, and at times, it is a factor in effective execution of emergency protocols aimed at rescuing people in danger. The public works department provides support whenever an emergency may include the collapsed infrastructure, or the associated risks. The activities of these departments are not controlled centrally. They all report to the Mayor’s office directly without any administrative structure.
Clear coordination among first responders in the initial stages of an emergency, and later among emergency response teams influences the survival rate of victims caught up in an emergency (The 9/11 Commission, 2004). Many agencies that investigated the effectiveness of the emergency response units during the 911 disaster concluded that better coordination might have lead to a higher survival rate among the victims (The 9/11 Commission, 2004). Lack of a clear coordination mechanism among different emergencies can lead to several problems. These problems include turf wars, slow decision-making, and inadequate resource allocation.
The current situation in Newport is such that each agency decides on what role it should play during an emergency. This situation is not ideal despite the fact that inter-agency cooperation is very good. The city depends too much on the goodwill of the three agencies. This can change very quickly especially if there is a change of leadership.
Naturally, the absence of a centralized command structure during emergencies slows down decision-making (McHugh, Van Dyke, McClelland, & Moss, 2011). During an emergency, wasted seconds can mean the difference between saving lives and losing them. The current situation is therefore a liability to the city’s efforts to establish an effective disaster management policy.
In addition to these two challenges, the city is also aware that the different agencies in the city invest in their own systems independently. One of the best examples of this is that the fire department has a separate radio system, independent from the police system, which is also independent from the public works radio system. The investment in these separate systems, among other expenditures such as training and capacity building leads to multiple bills for the city (Meredeth & Mantel, 2011).
The central problem that the city is experiencing is the lack of a centralized agency that can coordinate disaster management within the city. There is a need to establish a disaster response authority within the city to handle all emergencies.
Newport require a central coordinating office that can coordinate the disaster preparedness activities of the disaster response agencies in the city. This office will be called Newport Emergency Response Centre (NEREC). The main objectives identified in the effort to create a centralized disaster and emergency response unit in Newport is as follows.
- To establish a central coordinating office that will streamline all emergency preparedness activities in Newport.
- To acquire all equipment needed to coordinate the work of emergency response units in Newport.
- To kick start operations of the central coordinating office
The following activities are necessary for the establishment of NEREC
Under the first objective, the city needs to do the following to establish NEREC
- Identify a physical location to serve as the headquarters of NEREC
- Purchase all office equipment needed for NEREC’s operations.
- Create a command structure for use during emergencies in consulation with the existing emergency response agencies
- Take stock and harmonize existing operational protocol from all the emergency response agencies in newport
- Prepare policies for the operation of NEREC
The second objective requires the following activities
- Take stock of all the existing emergency equipment, an analyse them for suitability and upgrade.
- Consider and purchase technological solutions that can transform the existing radio infrastructure into one unit capable of handling interagency communications.
The third objective will require the following activities for effective implementation.
- Appoint a new head for NEREC and employ the core staff
- Hand over all protocols and equipment purchased for NEREC’s use
Other approaches that have been used in the past to foster interagency cooperation especially during disasters include the following. First, the current practice is to assign one agency to take a lead role in emergency relief operations. For instance, the fire department is the lead agency whenever a fire breaks out, and the police department is the lead agency whenever there is an issue touching on public order. A situation where riots lead to fires creates a conflict regarding which agency should play a leading role when responding to the disaster. This approach usually leads to time wasting as each agency assesses the situation to decide whether it should play a lead role (Arson & Gray, 2011).
Another approach has been to set us a disaster task force in the mayor’s office to respond to the disaster. This is time consuming, and the members of the taskforce are usually not well briefed regarding the inner working of the response agencies.
These approaches are currently not serving the interests of the city and they would be insufficient in the face of citywide or regional disaster.
The three main aspects that will form the evaluation criteria for the success of this project are as follows
- Has Newport City managed to establish a functional disaster response office? This evaluation questions will consider whether each of the aspects identified as part of the implementation methodology has been established
- Does NEREC have all the equipment it needs to operate efficiently? This will involve taking stock of the needs of NEREC versus what the city acquires for it.
- Is NEREC functional? This question will essentially test whether NEREC is able to deliver on its mandate.
|Acquisition of Office Premises||700,000||NEREC Need a custom built centre of operations that has a call center, a board room, and a field coordination unit. It also requires office for staff and administrators, seminar rooms and training facilities. These need are beyond the city’s current budgetary allocations|
|Acquisition of Office Equipment||100,000||Office furniture and technology tools for use in normal operations|
|Hiring consultants to carry out assessments||300,000||The assessments are necessary to determine the needs of the city in regards to the three objectives|
|Emergency equipment acquisition||400,000||NEREC needs specific technology tools such as radio transmitters and handheld devices that are compatible to all the radio equipment used by emergency response agencies in the area.|
Once the center is operational, the actual running costs will not be very high. Partly, this will arise from the small number of resident staff. The city can afford to pay their salaries and to support their basic programs. The city intends to enlist the support of the state government to fund safety programs of interest to the entire state.
NEREC Operational Plan
NEREC will serve as an interagency coordination platform to enhance the disaster response capacity of the city of Newport. This means that the structure of NEREC must take into account the existing agencies to ensure that it brings on board all the disaster response agencies in the city. The leadership structure will be as follows.
NEREC will have a director as its overall head. The director of NEREC will preferably be someone who has many years of experience in disaster response. Candidates who have been working in any of Newports disaster response agencies will be given first priority. The ideal director will be someone who understands how command structures work, and should be able to issues orders. He must have achieved a level of seniority in his line that will make it possible and amicable for existing chiefs to respect him.
During disasters, the NEREC director will be in charge of all disaster operations. The director will have the discretion to assign a lead agency to a disaster depending in its nature (Daughtry & Casselman, 2009). In such cases, the director will issue a formal order asking the other agencies to submit to the lead agency. In this case, the head of the lead agency will assume operational command over the disaster.
The three heads of the agencies, together with the NEREC director, and the Mayor (or his alternate), will compose NERECs board. This board will make staffing and policy decisions regarding NERECs operations.
Arson, E. W., & Gray, C. F. (2011). Project Management: The Managerial Process. New York, NY: McGraw Hill International.
Daughtry, T. C., & Casselman, G. L. (2009). Executing Strategy: From Boardroom to Frontline. Herndon, VI: Capital Books.
Hanna, N. (2010). Transforming Government and Building the Information Society: Challenges and Opportunities for the Developing World. New York, NY: Springer.
McHugh, M., Van Dyke, K., McClelland, M., & Moss, D. (2011). Improving Patient Flow and Reducing Emergency Department Crowding: A Guide for Hospitals. Rockville, MD: AHRQ.
Meredeth, J. R., & Mantel, S. J. (2011). Project Management: A Managerial Approach (8 ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
The 9/11 Commission. (2004). Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Web.