Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 16, 2006

DHS releases “Nationwide Plan Review” Phase II report

Filed under: DHS News,Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 16, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security is submitting its Nationwide Plan Review: Phase II report to Congress today, a follow-on to the Phase I report released in February. The report makes 39 “initial conclusions” – 15 for state & urban areas, and 24 for the federal government – which strongly suggest that the nation’s preparedness for a catastrophic attack is still lacking in many ways.

The report was previewed in an AP story last night:

Most American cities and states remain unprepared for catastrophes, a government analysis concludes, calling the shortcomings in emergency planning a cause “for significant national concern.”

Nearly five years after the 9/11 attacks and 10 months after Hurricane Katrina, the Homeland Security Department concluded that nationwide response plans for major disasters are antiquated and often uncoordinated.

Although emergency plans appear to be stronger in 18 states along the nation’s “Hurricane Belt,” the analysis cited preparedness gaps in 131 state and city emergency response plans. Planning for evacuations, too, remains “an area of profound concern,” the review found.

The 15 findings for states and urban areas:

  1. The majority of the Nation’s current emergency operations plans and planning processes cannot be characterized as fully adequate, feasible, or acceptable to manage catastrophic events as defined in the National Response Plan (NRP).
  2. States and urban areas are not conducting adequate collaborative planning as a part of “steady state” preparedness.
  3. Assumptions in Basic Plans do not adequately address catastrophic events.
  4. Basic Plans do not adequately address continuity of operations and continuity of government.
  5. The most common deficiency among State and urban area Direction and Control Annexes is the absence of a clearly defined command structure.
  6. Many States and urban areas need to improve systems and procedures for communications among all operational components.
  7. All Functional Annexes did not adequately address special needs populations.
  8. States should designate a specific State agency that is responsible for providing oversight and ensuring accountability for including people with disabilities in the shelter operations process.
  9. Timely warnings requiring emergency actions are not adequately disseminated to custodial institutions, appropriate government officials, and the public.
  10. The ability to give the public accurate, timely, and useful information and instructions through the emergency period should be strengthened.
  11. Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern.
  12. Capabilities to manage reception and care for large numbers of evacuees are inadequate.
  13. Capabilities to track patients under emergency or disaster conditions and license of out-of-State medical personnel are limited.
  14. Resource management is the “Achilles heel” of emergency planning. Resource Management Annexes do not adequately describe in detail the means, organization, and process by which States and urban areas will find, obtain, allocate, track, and distribute resources to meet operational needs.
  15. Plans should clearly define resource requirements, conduct resource inventories, match available resources to requirements, and identify and resolve shortfalls.

And the 24 findings for the federal government:

  1. Planning products, processes, tools, and technologies should be developed to facilitate a common nationwide approach to catastrophic planning in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  2. Planning modernization should be fully integrated with other key homeland security initiatives.
  3. Clear guidance should be developed on how State and local governments plan for coordinated operations with Federal partners under the NRP.
  4. Existing Federal technical assistance should be used to help States and urban areas address the specific issues identified during the Nationwide Plan Review.
  5. Critical tasks, target capabilities, and associated performance measures, such as those identified in the National Preparedness Goal should serve as the common reference system for planning and the language of synchronization.
  6. Detailed planning assumptions and planning magnitudes for catastrophic incidents should be defined, such as has been initiated through the National Planning Scenarios.
  7. Current preparedness data should be readily accessible to planners.
  8. Regional planning capabilities, processes, and resources should be strengthened in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priorities to Expand Regional Collaboration and Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  9. Collaboration between government and non-governmental entities should be strengthened at all levels, as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Expand Regional Collaboration.
  10. The Federal Government should develop a consistent definition of the term “special needs”.
  11. The Federal Government should provide guidance to States and local governments on incorporation of disability-related demographic analysis into emergency planning.
  12. Federal, State, and local governments should work with the private sector to identify and coordinate effective means of transporting individuals with disabilities before, during, and after an emergency.
  13. Improvements in public preparedness and emergency public information should be implemented in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  14. Federal, State, and local governments should take action to better integrate nongovernmental resources to meet surge capacity.
  15. The Federal Government should provide the leadership, doctrine, policies, guidance, standards, and resources necessary to build a shared national homeland security planning system.
  16. Identification of desired technologies, tools, and architecture(s) for the national homeland security planning community should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  17. Comprehensive national guidance on the potential consequences associated with catastrophic risks and hazards should be developed to drive risk management and operational planning.
  18. Development of focused training, education, and professional development programs for homeland security planners should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  19. Collaborative planning and planning excellence should be incentivized. Funding and projects should be linked to operational readiness through a specific task or capability in a plan or plan annex.
  20. Federal, State, and local governments should increase the participation of people with disabilities and disability subject-matter experts in the development and execution of plans, training, and exercises.
  21. The Federal Government should provide technical assistance to clarify the extent to which emergency communications, including public information associatedwith emergencies, must be in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. This assistance should address all aspects of communication, including, for example, televised and other types of emergency notification and instructions, shelter announcements, and applications and forms for government and private disaster benefits.
  22. The status of the Nation’s plans should be a central focus of the annual report to the President on the Nation’s preparedness required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8).
  23. Emergency Operations Plans should be a focal point for resource allocation, accountability, and assessments of operational readiness.
  24. Performance management frameworks to support the National Preparedness Goal should measure the ability to:
    – Integrate a multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency response based on the intersection of tasks and capabilities in combined plans; and
    – Maintain operations in the face of disruptions of service, damage to the environment in which operations occur, or loss of critical resources.

This is a worrying list for the cities, states, and federal government, and it’s important now that they work to prioritize and address these deficiencies. This was a necessary planning exercise, to establish a baseline in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but now it’s time to focus on execution.

Update (6/16): Here’s the DHS press release announcing the report.

Update 2 (6/16): An AP story this afternoon adds details on how various states fared in this review:

New Orleans is still woefully unprepared for catastrophes 10 months after Hurricane Katrina, and the two cities targeted by the 9/11 attacks don’t meet all guidelines for responding to major disasters, a federal security analysis concluded Friday.

Ten states were rated in a Homeland Security Department scorecard as having sufficient plans to respond to disasters: Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

Florida, accustomed to being whipped with hurricane winds, was the only state to meet all of the department’s basic requirements for planning for catastrophes. Response plans for Louisiana, still devastated from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, were deemed insufficient to manage huge emergencies.

….New York and Washington, al-Qaida’s targets on Sept. 11, 2001, received lukewarm ratings. Seventy-one percent of New York’s emergency plans were described as only partially sufficient. In Washington, 67 percent of the plans were deemed partially sufficient and 2 percent insufficient.

Update 3 (6/19): Here’s the link to the official DHS document that shows the preparedness statistics for all 50 states and dozens of major U.S. cities.

Update 4 (6/19): A good post from David Stephenson on the report.

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Comment by Gary

June 16, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

how about the fact that many components of HSPD-8 have yet to be set forth, such as a National Exercise Plan? How can we be prepared if we do not train nor do we exercise well?

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 17, 2006 @ 9:23 am

It should be of some interest that the plans were reviewed against SLG 101 (1996) and NFPA 1600. After the repeal of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, as amended (Public Law 81-920) in 1994 by Public Law 103-337 and language substitutiong “emergency preparedness” for “civil defense” in some of the FCDA language incorportated into the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707)the old system of Civil Preparedness Guides (CPS’s) issued under the FCDA were all repealed and watered down versions of some were retained. These were specifically to accomodate the State and local government interest in more general requirements and less real substance. SLG 101 was one of those documents and specifically did NOT address catastrophe planning or preparedness. Clearly prepared prior to 9/11 and not incorporating any lessons learned from that event, it is tragic that a very fine document Attachment G also prepared prior to 9/11 and issued in June 2001 was not even mentioned or utilized by the Plan reviews Phase I or II. That document had more substance. Also a very fine redraft post 9/11 was prepared but because FEMA was being starved for staff and fund for Preparedness under the actions of both Congress and the Administration no organization made sure that draft was issued. Also, the Office of Domestic Preparedness in DOJ later transferred to DHS and eventually incorporated into the State and Local Preparedness and Coordination Office (Directorate?) was only about giving out money not standards or substance no new guidance post-9/11 has been issued to the State and locals. Assuming the NRP is always triggered in a catastrophic situation (a reasonable assumption) guidance for state and local planning and preparedness should be closely integrated with federal operational systems. This is not expensive relatively speaking to get right, but the separation of Preparedness speaks loudly to the complete lack of understanding in the immediate office of the Secretary of emergency management principles. A hard-nosed Deputy for Domestic Crisis Response should be established with the Under Secretary of Federal Emergency Management (FEM?) and the Under Secretary for Preparedness reporting to him/her. One compliment to the departed Joe Allbaugh, he at least wanted catastrophic planning for certain scenarios that were dramatic and large scale. Even the various exercises like Response 98 conducted prior to TOPOFF I (2000) did not have MESL’s (Master Event Scenario Lists) that tested and stretched preparedness and response and recovery systems. Tip-of-the-hat! It is significant of course that despite the effort, nothing was accomplished as evidence by the Phase I and Phase II report.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 17, 2006 @ 7:02 pm

I probably should have mentioned that requirements of HSPD-8 and other federal documents need to be integrated into the SLG planning guidance. No interconnection in the plans reduces the likelihood of a successful response. The National Preparedness Guidance and the TCL are other items that need to be integrated into State and local planning. And of course NIMS!

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