FEMA crafts credentialing system for first responders

Documentation for millions of police, firefighters, medical workers and other emergency personnel nationwide is being aggregated into a National Emergency Responder Credentialing System that the Homeland Security Department expects to make operational next year.

At a future date, the new credentialing system may include a national identification card for emergency responders and a record-keeping system, according to a DHS fact sheet published on project.

The little-publicized credentialing system is intended to assist in identifying which responders should be allowed to enter an incident scene immediately following a disaster or terrorist attack. It is designed to help prohibit unauthorized entry of volunteers who may not be qualified to assist.

The new system is part of the National Incident Management System and the National Mutual Aid and Resource Management Initiative, both of which are run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The management system standardizes how commanders from various disciplines should work together following an incident, and provides an organizational structure for the chain of command. The mutual aid system is a series of pacts between states and communities to help one another following major incidents.

While the credentialing system is under development, the fact sheet states that starting Oct. 1, states and localities must begin to credential responders in accordance to the national standards developed by FEMA.

As of April, working groups have been meeting to write standard criteria for credentials for various disciplines: emergency management, emergency medical services, firefighting and hazardous materials response, law enforcement, health care, public health, public works, and search and rescue.

The FEMA fact sheet describes a national credentialing system that draws on the framework of state licensure and credentialing systems as much as possible. The new system will "function within federal, state, tribal and local identification and qualification protocols, where feasible," the fact sheet stated.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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