Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council Provides Comments to National Response Framework

The National Response Framework (NRF) was open for public comment.

Summary of Comments Provided:

The framework includes awareness and training for Citizen Corps Council programs. There is also a section on managing spontaneous volunteers. However, there is limited guidance on how the trained emergency response volunteers (CERT, MRC, VIPS, etc.) will deploy, how they will work with affiliate programs (such as the Red Cross or Volunteer organizations), how they will coordinate with government entities, etc.

From: FEMA-NRF [Fema-NRF@dhs.gov]
Subject: RE: National Response Framework Comment

Thank you for your comment submission regarding the National Response Framework and/or its supporting documents. DHS/FEMA appreciates your input toward improving the nation's emergency management response capabilities.

1 comment:

Neighbors Helping Neighbors said...

It is recommended that an annex be created to address how these trained citizens will be deployed.

The document specifies we should train volunteers, through programs such as CERT, MRC, etc., but does not clearly specify when or how to use this training.

These are not spontaneous volunteers, as covered in other areas of the document. These are trained volunteers who represent emergency response volunteer organizations, as part of the Citizen Corps Council.

Having the opportunity to participate in multiple tabletop, full scale exercises and National Conferences, it becomes clear the confusion between the roles of Citizen Corps Council programs and that of affiliate organizations. To increase the complexity, there is additional confusion between these organizations and that of multiple departments within local government.

Should an Office of Emergency Management take the lead? Does it work this way for all jurisdictions? Where does a County Volunteer program fit in? Should the Red Cross also seek out volunteers? It is not uncommon to hear representatives from multiple volunteer agencies to say they will put out a press release looking for volunteers. Having multiple agencies do this, will just cause more confusion for our citizens. There needs to be more of a coordinated effort.

In the event of an actual emergency, better guidance and coordination is needed beyond spontaneous volunteer coordination. There needs to be clearer guidance as “Who is in charge of these trained volunteers?” And not “We all are?” Or my jurisdiction handles it this way, while another does it that way.

When deployed to a major disaster, it is essential that Citizen Corps Council programs follow the same guidelines as the professional responders. This should include guidelines as when to be deployed, by who, and some credentialing/proof of training, and even potentially background checks.

By creating these open volunteer programs, are we potentially opening ourselves up to more risk without incorporating these suggestions into the National Response Framework.

While this might seem extreme, but would it be that difficult for someone to go through CERT training online and for them to say they are CERT trained and have the EMI certificate to prove it. Then purchase a CERT vest and gear. Then deploy to a disaster in another part of the country? Would some jurisdictions just assume a background check was already completed and give them access to areas their trained professionals are covering? They are “dressing the part”. This could potentially put these responders at risk.

As part of the goal to “Integrate and institutionalize citizen participation in all homeland security efforts nationwide”, this is probably not what you mean. Is it really appropriate to have citizens involved in all homeland security efforts? However, it is also recommended that volunteer representatives who are volunteers sit on your planning/strategic committees.

It is also recommended that all volunteers go through ICS-300 for Volunteers, to help them better understand how they fit into the command structure.

While an individual jurisdiction can put guidelines in place, often in a disaster we are working across jurisdictions.

Members of the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council, including myself, would be more than willing to volunteer to help write this proposed section and participate in these efforts.