By Dwight Henninger, Chief of Police, Vail, Colorado, and Member, IACP Homeland Security Committee
A natural disaster or a planned event did not go as intended, and you had to request resources from outside agencies. Did you get what you asked for, or did the telephone game ruin your request? Does your state have an in-state mobilization plan? Who is considering law enforcement’s interests inside FEMA?
mergencies can happen at any time, so addressing issues of mutual aid and mobilization must be done before a crisis. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) Law Enforcement Working Group (LEWG) is made up of law enforcement professionals, within police departments and sheriff organizations of all sizes, with large-scale incident experience at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels. This group offers its recommendations to FEMA for defining resources (equipment and team structures) and personnel qualifications in support of law enforcement mutual-aid response.
The Law Enforcement Patrol Strike Teams Typed Resource Definitions
LEWG’s most recent work product is the Law Enforcement Patrol Strike Teams (LEPST) typed resource definitions, which address the minimum staffing and equipping standards for a general patrol function during a natural disaster, critical incident, or terrorist act.
Resource typing prevent miscommunication when used by both the requesting and providing agencies. This information must be available to incident commanders and emergency operations center personnel who will be asking for this type of assistance.
The use of typing standards simplifies and speeds the process of ordering and sending law enforcement mutual aid from state to state; rather than creating each request from scratch in the heat of battle, a state requesting assistance may simplify and speed its requests by using the “menu” of pretyped/predefined resources. This ensures appropriate resources are dispatched to fill the requirements at the incident and reduces the chance of miscommunication during disasters.
The LEPST table was released on an interim basis for the 2009 hurricane season, and FEMA is requesting feedback from the law enforcement community on how to improve this resource definition before it issues final guidance.
The LEPST comprises organized groups of officers and/or deputies prepared to be called out to assist another jurisdiction or affected area when more law enforcement resources are needed to conduct traffic control, general law enforcement patrol, perimeter security, or other nonspecialized law functions.
These preset LEPST teams will be of great value in rapid response to mutual-aid requests at the state or national level. An analysis of Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) state-to-state mobilizations for hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike revealed that over 80 percent of mutual-aid requests for law enforcement assistance were for nonspecialized law enforcement resources.
To make it easier for law enforcement agencies to get the assistance they need, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) produced a fact sheet on law enforcement EMAC deployments, an effective starting place for officers who are ready to respond to a multiple-day response.
The LEPST and other specialized law enforcement resources have been defined/typed and are posted on the FEMA Resource Center Web site at www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nims/508-6_Law_Enfor_Secur_Resources.pdf:
- Bomb squad/explosive teams
- Law enforcement aviation-helicopters-patrol and surveillance
- Law enforcement observation aircraft (fixed-wing)
- Mobile field force law enforcement (crowd control teams)
- Public safety dive team
- SWAT/tactical teams
Many other public safety disciplines have typed resources that may cross over to other first responders typing: mobile command and communications vehicles, search-and-rescue teams, telecommunicator emergency response task forces (9-1-1/dispatch functions), and incident management resources. Check with your state and FEMA.gov for further information.
The EMAC System
Once your state, tribe, region, or jurisdiction has identified, typed, and trained your mutual-aid resources, you must have a system to mobilize them. At the national level, this is the EMAC system, a congressionally ratified compact established by NEMA that provides form and structure for state-to-state mutual aid.
Through EMAC, states can request and receive assistance from other states using resource typing standards to effectively ensure the right resources are requested, sent, and reimbursed. “Hurricanes Katrina and Rita together generated a total of 2,181 mission requests resulting in 65,929 personnel deployed from 48 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”1
States have many variations of in-state mobilization preparedness, some more robust than others. FEMA has funded the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) to provide technical assistance to state fire chiefs associations to develop and exercise in-state mobilizations plans. If unaware of a state’s plan, visit the IAFC Web site at www.iafc.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=391, contact the state fire chiefs association to see if law enforcement has participated in these planning efforts, or contact the state office of emergency management and ask about instate mutual-aid and mobilization plans.
Law enforcement must participate in these plans and exercises to adequately address law enforcement issues, such as jurisdiction, authority, and reimbursement. When the interim guidance from FEMA on Patrol Strike Teams becomes finalized, consider forming, equipping, and training a team in your jurisdiction or region.
If you have a unique team or resource that differs from the existing typed resources, and you believe it could be useful in state-to-state mutual aid, EMAC offers guidance on mission-ready packages, the mechanism that allows states to pre-identify resources that other states might find useful during disasters, but are not already typed. This guidance can be found at www.emacweb.org/?1555. ■
If you have questions or input for the FEMA on LEWG or any other law enforcement issue, please contact Chuck Eaneff, FEMA’s Deputy Director of Law Enforcement at Chuck.Eaneff@dhs.gov or at 202-646-3147.
1Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) 2005 Hurricane Season Response After-Action Report, EX-1, http://www.emacweb.org/?1455 (accessed January 26, 2010).