As published by CNBC
SAN ANTONIO, Nov 15, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — As the Northeast struggles to recover from the massive damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, state leaders across the country are witnessing the importance of having an emergency management plan in place that specifically accounts for the unique needs of communities and their residents. Recognizing that all disasters begin locally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded a contract to BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (BCFS EMD) to deliver a multi-tiered national training program that provides specific, realistic tools to enable states to develop inclusive emergency plans for the “whole community.” “Whole community planning” positions officials to analyze and develop targeted operational plans that serve the various needs of all residents and communities in their jurisdiction.
Planning for the whole community may range from identifying populations that predominantly speak a language other than English, to ensuring access to alternate care facilities for health care centers that are not able to handle a significant medical surge. BCFS EMD’s training will also emphasize the importance of engaging individual community members as well as private sector businesses – ranging from grocery chains to energy companies – to ensure efficient and sufficient mass care efforts.
“Even as additional resources are requested from state or federal governments, the responsibility to answer the immediate initial needs of communities impacted by an emergency will typically always fall on the local community,” said BCFS President and CEO Kevin Dinnin.
“Plans on paper don’t mean anything if they aren’t realistic in what a jurisdiction can do and who they are going to serve,” he continued. “That’s why BCFS EMD’s national trainings will be based on best practices in real world operational responses and experience.” Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas and with offices from coast-to-coast and on four continents, BCFS EMD is one of the top emergency management partners for FEMA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and various states across the nation. The organization is a nationally recognized leader in serving vulnerable populations during disasters, and in 2010, wrote FEMA’s national Guidance for the Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters.
BCFS’ EMD division provides critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments, as well as private businesses and institutions, before, during and after disasters. The organization has responded to many of the major disasters that have taken place in the last decade in the U.S., as well as some international emergencies, like the earthquake in Haiti.
“Emergency management officials recognize the need for comprehensive local planning. That’s where disasters begin, and local governments become the initial lifeblood of survival,” said Kari Tatro, BCFS Executive Vice President of Emergency Management. “The more preparedness efforts zero in on specifics in their plans – hearing directly from community members and businesses, identifying gaps in services, and locking in contingency plans with vendors – the more resilient they will be for any type of incident.” BCFS EMD’s whole community planning trainings will be rolled out in five phases, spanning over three years. It will be consistent with federal regulations, policies and guidance. By 2015, the entire training program will encompass Train-the-Trainer courses, national webinar presentations, speaker presentations at national and state level conferences, and online independent study courses featured by the FEMA Emergency Management Institute.
BCFS EMD will also produce a pilot curriculum template for inclusion in FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness at its Noble Training Center located in Anniston, Alabama.
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ABOUT BCFS EMD
BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (BCFS EMD) provides all hazards preparedness consultation, incident management and full-scale emergency response support to local, state and federal agencies throughout the U.S. In addition to FEMA’s whole community planning contract, BCFS EMD is also currently working with the City of Los Angeles to enhance their emergency management program to account for the whole community. This expertise is bolstered by the agency’s position as a national leader in medical sheltering and – having developed FEMA’s Guidance for the Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters – is the foremost expert in writing and implementing equitable emergency operations programs that serve the whole community.
BCFS began its work in emergency management during the 1993 Branch Davidian incident in Waco, Texas, providing emergency sheltering for the children caught in the crossfire.
In recent years, BCFS has been part of many of the most high profile incidences experienced in the U.S. During hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Dolly, Gustav, Ike and Alex, BCFS sheltered thousands of survivors of varying ages whose pre-storm conditions ranged from no disabilities to high medical acuities. In 2008, BCFS led incident command for the Texas Department of State Health Services as part of Texas Task Force Ike – the largest mobilization of response resources in history. BCFS has also responded in sheltering and IMT capacities for other hazards, such as widespread wildfires, the outbreak of the H1N1 Flu, and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound incident.
Abroad, BCFS was called upon by the Sri Lankan government to provide emergency support after the devastating 2004 tsunami killed more than 225,000 people. The agency was also made available as a U.S. resource following the recent earthquake in Haiti, eventually deploying to gain command and control of one of the only operating hospitals near Port au Prince.
Members of BCFS EMD’s Incident Management Team (IMT) have responded to every major critical incident in the U.S. in the past 12 years, including 9/11, the H1N1 flu pandemic, and countless hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods, hazardous material spills and earthquakes. Our team consists of medical and mental health experts, disability policy and rights advocates, former fire and police leaders, national emergency planning and training experts, legal professionals, academicians, research and policy professionals, and public health veterans. It also includes former department leaders from FEMA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In addition to response, BCFS has developed the largest Alternate Care Facility (ACF) capacity in the nation outside of the U.S. military. These sites serve as a medical surge capacity for local hospitals, medical shelters, primary triage points, designated community-focused care clinics, or points of distribution for medications or vaccinations during a public health emergency. Building ACF capacity prevents local healthcare systems from being overwhelmed with demand for services during disaster, thereby enhancing states’ ability to respond.
BCFS speaks and conducts trainings regularly at state and national conferences, and serves as a consultant to jurisdictions throughout the nation regarding shelter operations, emergency preparedness and community capacity building.