FEMA forms incident management teams

Move comes as lesson learned from Katrina

The Federal Emergency Management Agency expects to deploy four newly created Incident Management Assistance Teams by September 30 bringing expertise and communications equipment quickly to major disaster scenes.

The largest new team, a 26-member national incident management team, along with a 15-member regional team will be operational by June 30, and two additional 15-member regional teams will be deployed by September 30, Robert F. Powers, acting deputy assistant administrator of the Disaster Operations Directorate in the Homeland Security Department, told the Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response on May 9.

The new teams eventually will incorporate two existing FEMA teams known as the Emergency Response Teams and the Federal Incident Response Support Teams, Powers said. They will operate in similar ways to those existing teams, except staff members will be permanent and full-time instead of temporary duty. The new teams are still being designed and decisions on team assets, equipment and expected capabilities are not yet final, he said.

To facilitate post-disaster communications, the existing teams bring in IT-related equipment and communications services, and the new teams will take over those functions, Powers said. The services currently include Internet, satellite telephones, mobile satellite, Internet services, computer services, television services, high-frequency repeaters, mobile radios and geospatial positioning units. The new teams also will be supported by additional caches of communications equipment managed by FEMA.
Initially, the teams will be staffed by existing personnel, and each team will be led by a credentialed federal coordinating officer.

The improvements are meant to satisfy Congress' requirements to beef up the agency's capabilities following the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

"FEMA is developing the next generation of rapidly deployable interagency emergency response teams, tentatively identified as IMATs, designed to provide a forward Federal presence to facilitate managing the national response to catastrophic incidents," Powers told the subcommittee.

The national federal incident management team will deploy to the incident site within 12 hours to provide leadership in identifying and providing federal assistance and coordinate inter-jurisdictional response. They will support state and local efforts, possess the ability to provide situational awareness for federal officials and support initial unified command, Powers said.

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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