Wow, what a busy week this past week was. You can tell because I missed my weekly blog post this past weekend. As I am writing this post today, I am sitting in Union Station in Washington, D.C. This is a flashback for me to high school. We took a class trip to DC and it included a stop here at Union Station. So since my last post, we have been going non-stop. That weekend was the Incident Action Planning (IAP) class (ominous foreshadowing for later in this post ;). On Monday, we had classes on both the WebEOC online management tool and the general use of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). After Sandy hit, they flew plans and took over 60,000 geo-tagged pictures and then placed them on a map. Each green dot is one or more pictures. This allowed survivors to virtually check out their house.
On Tuesday, we started the Incident Management III course. This is the course that was a combination of classroom learning and a functional exercise that would help certify us as a type III team (see my first post for type info). Before the class even started on Tuesday, we had to write a one page essay on one of the 20 key FEMA items and relate it to the events of Katrina in Alabama. Tuesday was a leadership class all day. Wednesday was five classes that covered the various programs FEMA offers such as Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and internal spent plan processing (government budgeting). These five classes would be the basis for our final exam. Thursday was spent covering what happened in Katrina and some of the lessons learned from that disaster.
And then we get to the exercise. This was designed to simulate the first response to a type III event. It started Thursday night at 7 PM with the disaster briefing. This event was taken directly from the Nashville/Tennessee flooding of 2010. After that we immediately started our “pre-departure” work of preparing for the event. The night was meant to simulate travel so we “arrived” on site Friday morning at 8 AM. We had until 4 PM to complete all of our work. Each of us preformed our specific roles. For me, that meant ordering staff, equipment, and services for the various FEMA field locations at a disaster: the Joint Field Office (JFO), Area Field Offices (AFO’s), and Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC’s). I was also responsible for creating the radio usage plan for all federal employees sent to the disaster.
The major thing that we had to complete by 4 PM was the IAP. This team document was 30% of every team member’s overall score. Since the course required at least 75% to pass, this one document allow could cause everyone to fail even if they did perfect on everything else. As we got to about 2 PM, it was clear our planning division, the main area responsible for creating the IAP, was in trouble. Using our team approach, I went over and asked what I could do to help out. They gave me a bunch of the raw, hand written data. I took these forms and translated them into the correct FEMA 215 and 204 forms. We also had issues with the network that prevented shared printing. But I got a cable and was able hook up a local system. By completing several of the 215’s and 204’s, we ended up printing out our 22 page IAP at 3:58 PM, got it signed, and turned in right at 4 PM.
Saturday we had our final written exam based on Wednesday’s classes. Finally, after the test we got a chance to get our grades from all week long. Our pre-class essay was up to 14 points, 20 points for class participation on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 30 points for the IAP, 16 points for our individual work during the exercise, and 20 points for the final exam. I ended up getting all 14 points on the paper (which I was told was rare), 20 for class, our IAP earned 27 points (90%), 12 for the exercise (which was the default score), and 19 on my final exam, totaling 92 points (second highest score for the class).
On Sunday, we left Alabama at 8 AM to head to the Atlanta airport. After sitting on the runway for 2 hours because of a storm, we had a quick flight up to DC. My parents picked me up at the airport. It was great to see them. We went over to see where my new office is in Herndon and check out the surrounding cities. I think I found the area I want to move to, so now the hunt intensifies.
Monday, today, we spent at FEMA Headquarters at 500 C Street in the heart of DC. We got to spend some quality time with the CIO again today so we could get a better understanding of how he wants us to fit into the overall picture. And now I sit here at Union Station waiting to catch a train to New York’s Penn Station. Tomorrow morning we need to report to the JFO (see above;) bright and early at 7:30 AM, keeping in mind it will take an hour to get there on the subway. We had hear rumors they are planning another real world exercise for us here on Thursday. We will see! And Friday afternoon, I get to fly home to Rochester. We get three whole days off before having to return back to Alabama.