Katrina Workshop Cites National Standards as Critical for Emergency Preparedness

DHS under secretary for preparedness says emergency preparedness efforts need standards to be successful


New York, July 14, 2006: Standards are “absolutely critical” to the success of emergency preparedness efforts in the U.S., according to George W. Foresman, U.S. Department of Homeland Security under secretary for preparedness. Foresman spoke at a recent workshop of the American National Standards Institute’s Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP) that analyzed the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

The July 12 event brought together experts from the homeland security and emergency preparedness community in Washington, DC, to further national discussion of how standards, accreditation, and certification programs can help support the implementation of the key recommendations from the major federal reports on the Katrina aftermath.

“The American National Standard on emergency management and business continuity programs is core to our preparedness efforts for measuring preparedness in both the public and private sectors,” said Foresman during his keynote remarks. “[NFPA 1600] is used not only in our nation-wide plan review, but also our day-to-day assessments.” Workshop participants examined the crucial role for NFPA 1600 as well as additional supporting standards and guidance. Breakout sessions focused on command, control, and communications; partnerships; and operations.

“The workshop confirmed and further underscored the importance of standards and specifically NFPA 1600 for emergency preparedness. The standard appears sufficiently comprehensive to support the implementation of most of the Katrina report recommendations, with a few possible exceptions that the ANSI-HSSP will examine further,” stated Joseph Broz, vice president of strategic initiatives at Midwest Research Institute.

Sharon Caudle, assistant director, homeland security and justice team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, served as co-leader of the workshop with Broz. She said to expect a final report from the workshop that will demonstrate the linkages between the elements of NFPA 1600 and the major recommendations for catastrophic event preparedness that have emerged as lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

Nancy Victory, a partner of the law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP, serves as chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) independent panel reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on communications networks. Ms. Victory provided a comprehensive overview of the group’s progress to date and its efforts to improve disaster preparedness, network reliability, and communication among first responders.

“The panel recommended that the FCC work with the appropriate public and private sector stakeholders to promptly develop national credentialing requirements and process guidelines for enabling communications infrastructure providers and their contracted workers with access to the affected area post-disaster,” said Victory.

Representatives from the DHS National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center, the DHS Hurricane Exercise Program, and the American Red Cross, were among others that delivered presentations which helped further identify challenges and the work underway post Katrina to better prepare our nation. A follow-up workshop meeting is planned for early fall.