Yesterday FEMA’s National Integration Center distributed notice of a national engagement period on two new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) related documents: EOC References and Resources Tool and the EOC How-To Quick Reference Guide. This seems to be the initiation of an EOC Toolkit, which I conceptually think is a great idea. My first impression of these documents is that they both have good information and are logically organized. The documents are good, but I’m also not particularly impressed by them.
First up is the EOC References and Resources Tool. The document indicates that the audience is ‘EOC leaders and staff’, and the intent is to provide them with ‘a set of best practices, checklists, references, links, and essential guidance related to EOC operations and administration’. This is a two-page document, seemingly formatted for printing (It’s a PDF), but mostly useless in print form as it has an abundance of internet links to sites and documents which provide much more information. The document itself isn’t really a ‘tool’, per se. It doesn’t have, on its own, any intrinsic utility other than referring you to other sources of information. While the description indicates that this document has checklists, it does not, though several of the documents linked from this document do have checklists. The center of the first page provides a link to the EOC Toolkit website, but it’s not particularly highlighted. To be honest, I think this document should, in essence, be the format and content of the EOC Toolkit site.
The second document is the EOC How-To Quick Reference Guide. This is an 80 page document. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything labeled a ‘quick reference guide’ be that long. If anything, the EOC References and Resources Tool document (discussed previous) is really the ‘quick reference guide’, while this document is more of a ‘tool’. There is solid information in this document, nothing that from a quick review I have any quarrel with. The content areas are fairly comprehensive, giving information on hazard, vulnerability, and capability assessment; EOC site selection; EOC capabilities and physical design; information management; and preparedness. That said, it doesn’t give you much content within any of the topic areas. It almost feels like a literature review.
As with the other document, this document is formatted for printing, but is full of hyperlinks to sites that expand greatly on the information provided. So it’s not really anything I would recommend printing and putting in a binder. Electronically, it does make it a good compendium of resources, but with how rapidly things change and the frequency of new sources of good information becoming available, I think this document is also best organized as a website that can be updated in real time as new information comes available. As soon as one link changes, the document becomes obsolete. That said, the resources they link to are all good and worthwhile. An attachment to this document provides a fairly comprehensive EOC self-assessment tool; though the tool doesn’t really address partially or fully virtual EOC operations and remote access; and while it goes to an extent of detail asking about certain things (such as a helicopter landing pad), it completely misses some functional things (such as dry erase boards) and is far from comprehensive in the realm of security.
As with most national comment periods, the NIC has provided the documents (though without numbered lines) and a comment form. These, along with information on webinars they are conducting, are posted here: https://www.fema.gov/media-collection/emergency-operations-center-eoc-toolkit-how-quick-reference-references-and-tools.
All in all, I feel like these documents hit the outer ring of a dart board. They are fine, but not really close to the bullseye. It seems these were assembled by a NIC employee or consultant who has spent little to no time in an EOC, much less having any role in the design or preparedness activities for an EOC. As I mentioned earlier, they feel a lot like a literature review – providing a summary of sources but themselves providing very little information. Not that that’s a bad thing – but I’d rather see this in a website format.
What are your thoughts on the documents?
© 2020 Timothy Riecker, CEDP
2 thoughts on “EOC Toolkit: National Comment Period”
Tim, you mention the comments you provided for CPG 101 review that weren’t included in the update. What exactly were your comments and can you provide further information on what you would have liked to see especially from someone who would be considered that “novice emergency management” personnel that you are referencing in your blog. I would be interested in connecting with you and picking your brain on this.
Most of my comments were looking for more and more specific references of other materials that we often look at, or should be looking at, in operational planning. As an example, most operational planners largely disregard the value of hazard mitigation plans, even though a ton of analysis went into the hazards there. So much data to mine! I also stressed the need to emphasize and even provide examples on what forms a quality plan. Many would-be operational plans are way too high level and really don’t give much guidance at all. They are largely policy documents (i.e. we will use ICS, these are the agencies with responsibilities, etc.). Real operational plans need to get into processes, procedures, and strategies. Who will do what, when, how, and under whose authority/direction. Good plans should have flow charts, checklists, etc.
With that, I also wanted to see more job aids provided in CPG 101. They have a bunch of checklists, which are certainly helpful, but there should be more. Consider the job aids we have for standards like ICS or HSEEP. Along with checklists, there are flow charts, meeting agendas, etc. A new planner would still really stumble with CPG 101. Things like the realization that the initial meeting with your planning team will largely inform steps 2 and 3 of the process. But to get there you need to know how to prep yourself and them for the meeting, what the agenda will be, and what questions to ask. Then how to fill in the gaps.
Most jurisdictions have the jack of all trades type of emergency manager, who is likely not a specialist in planning, and likely doesn’t have a person who can fully guide and mentor them through this. So CPG 101 needs to be written for them. That’s really the target audience.
I’d be happy to chat more on this. Shoot me an email… firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for the comment!