One of the great features of WordPress (my blogging platform) is that it identifies various statistics and sets of data for me. One of those bits of data is search terms used to find my blog. Yesterday there were three that caught my eye:
- Which of the 31 core capabilities are useless
- How many of the 31 core capabilities do we really need
- Are there any of the 31 core capabilities that we can do without
Obviously there is some interest in the Core Capabilities. These searches are so similar they are very likely from the same person or a group of people, such as college students. As a side, I have been flattered to find that many of my blog posts have been cited in college papers. It’s quite an honor.
On to the Core Capabilities. First of all, with the release of the second edition of the National Preparedness Goal, there are now 32 Core Capabilities. The Core Capabilities can be viewed as key areas of activity. Mass Care Services, for example, involves a broad array of activities including sheltering, feeding, hydration, mental and spiritual care, and others. Each of the 32 Core Capabilities have applicability, although that applicability will vary from location to location.
My company recently completed a state-wide homeland security and emergency management assessment for a client. This assessment was based upon the Core Capabilities, as they provide consistent definitions of these activity areas and are comprehensive, incorporating all key activities in all phases of emergency management and homeland security and are generally not hazard-specific.
We met face to face with a number of jurisdictions, large and small, to gather input on each Core Capability. It was no surprise that certain Core Capabilities, specifically Planning, Operational Coordination, and Public Information and Warning were consistently identified as top concerns for stakeholders. These three Core Capabilities, by the way, are applicable across all five Mission Areas identified in the National Preparedness Goal.
In our study, there were other Core Capabilities which we found to be important to some, but not to others. Many smaller jurisdictions, especially those without their own law enforcement, saw little applicability to them of those Core Capabilities which are contained within the Prevention and Protection Mission Areas. As these two Mission Areas are generally focused on criminal and homeland security issues, we found that those not in law enforcement tended to be dismissive of their importance. Even some law enforcement professionals, at least in the state we were working in, viewed some of these Core Capabilities as being a responsibility of the State Police and generally not a local police activity.
Potential application of the Core Capabilities is quite broad with many possibilities. Unfortunately, FEMA doesn’t seem to be marketing their applicability very well, which makes the questions about their usefullness quite understandable. Going back about ten years, FEMA provided us with the predecessor to the Core Capabilities – these were the Target Capabilities. The Target Capabilities were a good start, albeit a bit complex and unrefined. The Core Capabilities are a great evolution of the same concept. When the Target Capabilities were released, there was a big push for their integration into all aspects of preparedness. FEMA encouraged their consideration in planning efforts, they encouraged training courses to identify what Target Capabilities were being trained to, and for exercises to identify what Target Capabilities were being exercised. While much of that encouragement has seemed to disappear, there is no reason why we can’t still do it with the Core Capabilities. And we should.
The most direct application of the Core Capabilities is in the THIRA process. THIRA stands for Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment. Many discussions on THIRA can be found here. The annual completion of a THIRA is required of every state, territory, and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funded program. The THIRA is essentially a very thorough and in-depth hazard analysis that other jurisdictions should consider conducting. The insights revealed from the process and the end product are widely applicable and can fully change the basis for an emergency management program. The THIRA process centers on the Core Capabilities.
Other preparedness efforts can certainly reference the Core Capabilities, and easily so. The greatest benefit of the Core Capabilities, from my experience, is consistency. They provide a concise definition of these key activities. The definition is broad enough to find applicability to any jurisdiction, which then uses that definition to identify their own capability targets. Capability targets define how the jurisdiction is going to accomplish each Core Capability. That is the brilliance of the system – national-level definitions for key activity areas which are then refined by each jurisdiction to identify how they will best apply them. While the creation of capability targets is part of the THIRA process, any jurisdiction can do it. These targets help define what they want to accomplish in their emergency management programs.
As with the Target Capabilities, the Core Capabilities can be referenced in planning, training, exercises, assessments, and other activities. Many of the Core Capabilities may warrant their own planning efforts for many jurisdictions. Things like Mass Care Services, Fatality Management, Situational Assessment, and Housing can all be planning annexes to a more comprehensive emergency management planning effort. The HSEEP process still calls for the identification of Core Capabilities early in the exercise design process. This identification, along with the creation of good exercise objectives, helps define the scope of the exercise and maintain focus. The same application works for training programs. From a program management perspective, Core Capabilities should be used to identify areas of focus in a Training and Exercise Plan (TEP).
The definitions that Core Capabilities provide, along with the benefit of jurisdiction-specific capability targets, can help broadly identify what emergency management and homeland security programs are focused on. The consistency allows for increased understanding, prioritization, and connectivity between activities and programs. Integrating the Core Capabilities into EM and HS programs is relatively easy and scalable, it just simply requires a slightly different perspective.
Thanks, as always, to my readers. As mentioned, my company, Emergency Preparedness Solutions, has great experience using the Core Capabilities and applying them to all areas of preparedness. Need help? Give us a call!
© 2015 – Timothy Riecker