A New Standard for Emergency Management Programs

Over two years ago I wrote on the two primary standards for emergency management programs in the United States – the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600: Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.  These two standards are voluntary in their adoption and provide common sense guidelines on proven effectiveness and best practices for emergency management programs.  EMAP goes the additional step in offering accreditation for jurisdictions and/or programs based upon compliance with their standards.

Recently, New York’s Governor Cuomo announced what is apparently the nation’s first state-coordinated local emergency management accreditation program.  New York’s program is based upon 21 standards, created and maintained by a committee co-chaired by the NYS Emergency Management Association and the NYS Office of Emergency Management.  The accreditation process identified by NYS’ program guidance is fairly similar to EMAP’s, with application, preparation, a site visit, and committee review.

On the plus side, New York’s system is a further encouragement of the use and application of standards and has enough similarity to EMAP which puts the two accreditations on a close enough path that a jurisdiction can pursue both with little deviation.  The processes of preparation, an on-site review, and final accreditation council review are very similar. Further, agencies accredited through the New York State program are granted the ability to display the accreditation program logo, similar to EMAP, as a matter of pride and recognition.  New York’s system also requires a periodic reaccreditation, which encourages jurisdictions to maintain their accreditation standards.

Where New York’s program differs from EMAP…

  • EMAP accreditation is available to any entity, whereas New York’s appears to be specifically designed for local/county emergency management offices, although it does acknowledge the need for a whole community approach to emergency management
  • EMAP standards identify what components must be in place, not the means and methods used to accomplish those components. This is a significant difference from New York State’s program, which rather heavy handedly dictates means and methods, including mandatory completion of New York State’s emergency management and certification training by key staff, completion of the State’s County Emergency Preparedness Assessment (CEPA) program, and active use of the NY Responds system.  While fundamentally, I agree with promoting these as standards across the state, requiring them for accreditation can lead to a stagnated or stalled program if better training or systems are made available and the standard is not able to be kept current.  Required means and methods also stall innovation, which is another reason by NFPA 1600 and EMAP shy away from this practice.  That said, the aforementioned means and methods are the standard of practice in New York State, so this is a good opportunity to reinforce use of those standards.

New York’s new standard provides a solid exploration into the new territory of state-coordinated accreditation.  I’m a big proponent of states’ rights, and firmly believe this to be a good practice, especially when such accreditations reflect the principles of nationally recognized standards such as EMAP and NFPA 1600.  I don’t view New York’s system as being competitive with EMAP, rather it is quite complimentary.  With additional interests in standards, I’m hopeful that all standards will remain contemporary and cutting edge, constantly encouraging excellence and striving for improvements.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts on state-coordinated accreditation and emergency management standards in general.

© 2017 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

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