Back in April, FEMA released the drafts of EOC skillset documents and position task books for public comment. A few days ago, the final versions of these documents were released on FEMA’s National Qualification System (NQS) website: www.fema.gov/national-qualification-system.
While the hub of emergency response is the incident command post, the hub of emergency coordination is the Emergency Operations Center. While life saving tactics, directed from the ICP, are absolutely essential, a comprehensive and long-term response can’t be sustained without the activities of an EOC. We have gone far too long in emergency management without having good national guidance on the organization and qualification of personnel in the EOC.
When you crack into the website you may be a bit overwhelmed by all the documents you find. Don’t look to this as something that must be implemented 100% right away. Take a deep breath and remember that most things done well in emergency management, ironically enough, are an evolution and take time. Also remember that while this has been established as guidance, it’s not a requirement. Implement what you can, when you can. Focus on establishing a foundation you can build from and do what makes sense for your jurisdiction or organization.
The foundation of everything in emergency management is planning, so whatever you do decide to implement should find its way into plans, which may need to be supported by policy. While implementing a qualification system with task books can be cumbersome, it can also solve some problems when it comes to having less than qualified personnel working in your EOC. The position task books are a great way for individuals to see what standards they are being held to and allows them to track progress. If you don’t feel that the use of position task books will work for your jurisdiction or you are on a slower track to implementation, it’s still worthwhile to examine the skillset documents for each position you have identified in your EOC. These can support your own developed standards, expectations, and plans; serve as a foundation for training course development; and support exercise evaluation.
Lastly, talk about these with your committees and your peers. It’s easy to forget about them so keep these visible. These documents offer an abundance of solid guidance which can strongly support your operational coordination.
What are your thoughts on the EOC skillsets? Do you plan on implementing them in your system? If so, how? If not, why not?
Timothy Riecker, CEDP