Order Code RL32520
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Overview and Options for Congress
Updated August 30, 2006
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Emergency Management Preparedness Standards:
Overview and Options for Congress
The deficiencies of the troubled and much-criticized governmental response to
Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 has been attributed, in part, to the failure to
establish adequate emergency preparedness standards or to adhere to standards that
were established. This is not a new issue for congressional concern. The report
issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also
referred to as the “9/11 Commission”) also identified emergency response gaps
evident after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In short, while heroic actions after
both catastrophes saved thousands of people, many lives were lost, in part because
standard procedures were not in place, or were not followed, and because
standardized technologies had not yet been developed or were not used by
To correct those deficiencies, the 9/11 Commission report included
recommendations that emergency response standards be adopted nationwide.
Investigations and reviews conducted after Hurricane Katrina address the same
concerns, and the Senate and White House reports included recommendations as
Through enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) Congress addressed these recommendations. In addition, the
Department of Homeland Security has taken administrative action to establish and
implement standards to improve emergency response capabilities. Also, legislation
before the 109th Congress (S. 3721, H.R. 5351, H.R. 5316) would continue to shape
federal policy on emergency preparedness standards.
Questions that might be raised as Congress debates the pending legislation
include the following: Would federally imposed or endorsed standards diminish the
authority and ability of state and local governments to establish operational
procedures that best fit the needs of their communities? Would the imposition of
standards through legislation raise unfunded mandate concerns? What effect might
the adoption of such standards have upon the intergovernmental partnership in
homeland security and emergency management response efforts? Are existing
mechanisms sufficient in order to assess state and local capabilities, or should DHS
establish new evaluation or accreditation procedures? By what means are the
capabilities of federal agencies, notably DHS, subject to evaluation and assessment?
Do federal agencies meet existing standards?
This report will be updated as legislative developments and administrative
9/11 Commission Findings and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
The Final Report of the Commission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Hurricane Katrina Investigations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Evacuation Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Data and Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Credentials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Summary of Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Adoption of the Incident Command System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Mutual Aid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
ANSI Emergency Preparedness Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Other Options Related to Emergency Response Standards . . . . . 10
Overview of Existing Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Organizations that Establish Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
American National Standards Institute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
National Fire Protection Association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) . . . . . . 15
Use of Standards in Accreditation Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Emergency Management Accreditation Program . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
National Capability Assurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Issues and Options for Congressional Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Nationwide Adoption of ICS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Federal Mutual Aid Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
ANSI Standards for Private Sector Emergency Preparedness . . . . . . . 24
Additional Issue Areas and Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
List of Tables
Table 1. Emergency Management Preparedness Recommendations and
Findings on Emergency Preparedness Standards, 9/11 Commission and
Public Discourse Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Table 2. Components of NFPA 1600 Standards and Selected Explanatory
Material . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Overview and Options for Congress
Within a five year period, two catastrophes — the terrorist attacks of September
11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 — raised congressional
awareness of the need to reexamine emergency preparedness capabilities. Questions
have been raised about past practices and ongoing efforts of the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) to improve capabilities to respond to other catastrophic
events in the future. In response to these questions a range of bills remains pending
before the 109th Congress to revise emergency management preparedness authorities.1
Technological and human systems must operate in a complex and dynamic
environment when disasters occur. Facilities, systems, and infrastructure may be
destroyed, damaged, or overwhelmed by demands for assistance. Individuals key to
response and crisis management may be injured, killed, or unable to reach their
stations. Catastrophic incidents, whether natural or manmade, create an unfortunate
paradox — at a time when equipment, plans, systems, organizations, and individuals
are most needed to speed relief and save lives, the necessary elements and actors may
be unable to operate during or after a catastrophe.
After-action reports and investigations of disaster response procedures provide
information on successes and failures. Through such examinations policymakers,
analysts, and administrators adopt policy and guidance that incorporate standards for
future actions to minimize failures in future events. In addition to the lessons learned
from actual events, officials build knowledge by examining data on capabilities,
systems, and processes before disasters occur. Taken together, pre- and post-disaster
assessments are used to develop and modify emergency preparedness standards that
set out realistic expectations and benchmarks that help answer questions such as the
Did systems perform as designed? If not, at what points did failures
occur? Would human or technological “fixes” be required to reduce
the likelihood of those failures in future catastrophes?
For information on bills that have been acted upon see CRS Report RL33522, FEMA
Reorganization Legislation in the 109th Congress, by Keith Bea and Henry Hogue. For
summaries of pending legislation see CRS Report RL33369, Federal Emergency
Management and Homeland Security Organization: Historical Developments and
Legislative Options, by Henry B. Hogue and Keith Bea.
Are program goals or objectives appropriate? Are they focused on
minor indicators that provide limited information? Are they so
general that analysts are unable to use the information?
What benchmarks or metrics are associated with the standards? Can
achievements be measured or quantified?
The strengths, limitations, and application of existing standards is at issue. The
investigations and studies conducted after the 2001 terrorist attacks as well as
Hurricane Katrina examine how governmental and nongovernmental entities
responded to catastrophes. This report provides information on existing emergency
management preparedness standards in the context of lessons learned from these two
recent catastrophes, and discusses issues that might be considered by Congress in
establishing policy related to such standards.
9/11 Commission Findings and Recommendations
The majority of the recommendations issued by the National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (“the 9/11 Commission” or “the
commission”) focused on the need to reform the intelligence community of the
United States.2 The commission also investigated other issues pertinent to the
terrorist attacks. Based upon two days of public hearings and subsequent evaluations
conducted by commission staff on the responses at the sites of the attacks in New
York City and Virginia, the report recommended improvements in emergency
response procedures and capabilities through the adoption and use of organization
and planning standards.3
The 9/11 Commission concluded that the responses of civilians, public safety
officers, and administrators were heroic and sustained throughout those horrific
events. The commission also concluded that lapses and procedural deficiencies
added to the tragic events of September 11th. As summarized by the commission,
confusion and tragedy resulted not only from the immense scale of the attacks
(particularly in New York City), but also from inadequate planning, lack of
coordination, and inadequate technology. Of concern to the commission, these
systemic deficiencies were presumed to exist elsewhere in the nation, and,
accordingly, require federal action. Summary findings reported by the commission
that bear on these findings include the following:
It is a fair inference, given the differing situations in New York City and
Northern Virginia, that the problems in command, control, and communications
that occurred at both sites will likely recur in any emergency of similar scale.
U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11
Commission Report (Washington: GPO, 2004). The report is available online at
[http://www.9-11commission.gov/], visited Jan. 24, 2006.
On May 18 and 19, 2004, commission members received testimony from witnesses
familiar with the details of, or were active in the responses to, the sites of the attacks. See
[http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing11.htm], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
The task looking forward is to enable first responders to respond in a coordinated
manner with the greatest possible awareness of the situation.4
If New York and other major cities are to be prepared for future terrorist attacks,
different first responder agencies within each city must be fully coordinated, just
as different branches of the U.S. military are. Coordination entails a unified
command that comprehensively deploys all dispatched police, fire, and other first
The attacks on 9/11 demonstrated that even the most robust emergency response
capabilities can be overwhelmed if an attack is large enough. Teamwork,
collaboration, and cooperation at an incident site are critical to a successful
response .... Preparedness in the private sector and public sector for rescue,
restart, and recovery of operations should include (1) a plan for evacuation, (2)
adequate communications capabilities, and (3) a plan for continuity of operations
.... [T]he lack of a widely embraced private-sector preparedness standard was a
principal contributing factor to this lack of preparedness.6
On the basis of these and other findings, the commission issued
recommendations to improve the emergency response capabilities of the federal and
state and local governments, as well as individuals and the private sector.
The Final Report of the Commission. On December 5, 2005 (after
Hurricane Katrina), the chair and vice chair of the 9/11 commission (former
Governor Thomas Kean and former Representative Lee Hamilton) released findings
of their assessment of progress made, or not made, on the recommendations.7 The
brief final report issued by the “9/11 Public Discourse Project,” (the successor to the
full commission) was described as a “report card” on actions taken by Congress, the
Administration, and other entities on the recommendations. In general, the chair and
vice chair noted dissatisfaction with the lack of progress. With specific attention to
those recommendations concerning emergency preparedness standards, the Public
Discourse Project assigned grades of “C,” signifying that some progress, but not
enough, had occurred.
The text of the recommendations on emergency preparedness standards, as
originally presented in the 9/11 commission report, and the information in the Public
Discourse Project “report card,” are presented in Table 1, below.
Ibid, p. 315.
Ibid, p. 321-322.
Ibid, p. 397-398.
Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, Dec. 5, 2005, available at
[http://www.9-11pdp.org/press/2005-12-05_report.pdf], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
Table 1. Emergency Management Preparedness
Recommendations and Findings on Emergency Preparedness Standards, 9/11 Commission and Public Discourse
Text of recommendation
Summary statements of congressional options
“Emergency response agencies nationwide should adopt the
Incident Command System (ICS). When multiple agencies or
multiple jurisdictions are involved, they should adopt a unified
command. Both are proven frameworks for emergency
response. We strongly support the decision that federal
homeland security funding will be contingent, as of October 1,
2004, upon the adoption and regular use of ICS and unified
command procedures. In the future, the Department of
Homeland Security should consider making funding contingent
on aggressive and realistic training in accordance with ICS and
unified command procedures.”
(A) Condition federal homeland security funding
upon accreditation of units of governments;
(B) urge or require DHS to evaluate the capability of
units of government in terms of ICS attainment;
(C) require that funds be conditioned based on
criteria or indicators of need;
(D) monitor use of ICS through new planning
mechanisms in process in DHS;
(E) mandate that DHS assess conditions under which
ICS is best used; or,
(F) take no action and allow administrators to decide.
“Report card grade”
C - “Although there is
awareness of and some
training in the ICS,
absence of full
compliance during a
statewide catastrophe —
and its resulting costs.”
Text of recommendation
Summary statements of congressional options
“Report card grade”
“Congress should pass legislation to remedy the long-standing
indemnification and liability impediments to the provision of
public safety mutual aid in the National Capital Region and
where applicable throughout the nation.”A
(A) Enact the recommended legislation;
(B) assess the necessary scope of such legislation;
(C) evaluate the impact of federal legislation on the
Emergency Management Assistance Compact
(D) evaluate the deficiencies of EMAC or other
mutual aid agreements.
“We endorse the American National Standards Institute’s
recommended standard for private preparedness. We were
encouraged by Secretary Tom Ridge’s praise of the standard,
and urge the Department of Homeland Security to promote its
adoption. We also encourage the insurance and credit-rating
industries to look closely at a company’s compliance with the
ANSI standard in assessing its insurability and
creditworthiness. We believe that compliance with the standard
should define the standard of care owed by a company to its
employees and the public for legal purposes.”
(A) Enact legislation requiring that companies
receiving federal contracts adopt the standards
through the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR);
(B) authorize funds to extend the existing
accreditation processes to private companies;
(C) approve incentives for companies to adopt the
ANSI preparedness standards; or,
(D) take no action unless a mandate imposing the
standard on the private sector is funded.
C - “National
are only beginning to
find their way into
private sector business
practices. Private sector
preparedness needs to
be a higher priority for
DHS and for American
Source: The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 397-398.
The second recommendation (concerning mutual aid agreements) is not highlighted as a recommendation, but is included in the discussion of findings on page 397 of the report.
It is included here as a recommendation for Congress as the phrase “Congress should pass legislation ...” conveys the intent of a recommendation.
Hurricane Katrina Investigations
The scope and severity of the situation along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane
Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005, resulted from failures of human and
technological systems as well as historically powerful natural forces. For example,
organizational systems that guide the work of state and local emergency responders
and operations commanders failed because key personnel died, were injured, or were
unable to perform their missions. Communication and information transmission
systems failed because the wind and flood destroyed much of the infrastructure,
complicating efforts to save lives. Response systems failed because they had not
been sufficiently practiced or developed, notably to address the challenges posed by
tons of debris that halted traditional means of delivering needed supplies. In short,
the failures associated with the response to Hurricane Katrina resulted from
overwhelmed, compromised, or destroyed capabilities affected not only by wind,
water and other forces of destruction, but by systematic breakdowns as well.
Investigative studies by Congress and the White House noted that some of the
failures could be attributed, in part, to the inability of administrators to ensure that
their systems met existing standards.8 The post-Katrina investigations found that the
capabilities to meet those standards must be improved. Some of the findings,
conclusions, and recommendations from the post-Katrina investigations concerned
with emergency management preparedness standards are reviewed in this section.
Evacuation Plans. While evacuation plans existed for some facilities
and units of government in the Gulf Coast, the absence of requirements to prepare
sufficient plans for evacuation, or the failure to enforce existing requirements,
resulted in loss of life and severe disruptions, particularly for low-income and special
needs persons and families. As summarized in the Senate report, “While they were
required to have plans on file with local government, there was no process to ensure
that there were sufficient resources to evacuate all the nursing homes at once, and
dozens of patients who were not evacuated died.”9 The White House report
recommends that state and local government use an existing tool that identifies
specific goals, the Target Capabilities List, “as a standard for the development” of
U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,
Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: 2006).
The White House, The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned
(Washington: 2006). U.S. Congress, House, Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the
Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, A Failure of Initiative, 109th Cong., 2nd
sess. (Washington: 2006).
Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared, p. 13.
The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, p. 100. For background
on the TCL see CRS Report RL32803, The National Preparedness System: Issues in the
109th Congress, by Keith Bea. An examination of compliance of nursing homes in the
United States, and the Gulf Coast states in particular, with federal emergency planning
(including evacuation) standards is presented in: U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Office of Inspector General, Nursing Home Emergency Preparedness and
Training. Training standards were nonexistent or not adhered to. State, local,
and federal officials received scant training on basic federal plans and procedures.
As noted in the Senate report, “Louisiana Emergency Management Officials and
National Guardsmen were receiving basic NRP [National Response Plan] and
Incident Command System (ICS) training two days after the storm hit. Certain
FEMA officials, also, were inadequately trained on the NRP and ICS.... The lack of
familiarity with emergency-management principles and plans hampered the Katrina
Data and Information. Deficient information sharing and data quality
standards and practices led to service delivery problems and exacerbated fraud and
waste conditions. These deficiencies resulted in public safety, health care delivery,
and general operations failures. For example, the Senate report notes that the “lack
of an interoperable data system often prevented medical personnel from obtaining
information about patients, even if their facility had suffered no hurricane damage.”12
The report includes a recommendation that the administration “should develop data
sharing arrangement with other federal agencies, prior to the next disaster, to more
effectively respond to disasters, while protecting privacy, and to protect against
waste, fraud and abuse.”13
In addition to the dearth of standards concerning the means of sharing data and
information, communications and information systems failures in the Gulf Coast
demonstrated that lessons supposedly learned after 9/11 remained unresolved.
Reminiscent of the 9/11 Commission report, the Senate Committee report on
Hurricane Katrina recommended that “DHS should develop a national strategy,
including time frames, for implementing a survivable, resilient, national interoperable
communications network.”14 The Committee also recommended that “DHS should
adopt a common computer software standard for use by all federal and state entities
involved in incident management that will serve as the information architecture for
shared situational and operational awareness.”15
Credentials. The influx of volunteers and professionals from federal agencies
other than DHS, and from various states and foreign nations into the Gulf Coast
states introduced an issue for emergency managers: “Is this person skilled to provide
the service?” The Senate report noted that development of standards for the
Response During Recent Hurricanes, OEI-06-06-00020 (Washington: 2006), available at
[http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-06-00020.pdf], visited Aug. 23, 2006.
The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, p. 15.
Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared, p. 18-2.
Ibid., p. Recommendations-16.
Ibid., p. Recommendations-17.
Ibid., p. Recommendations-18.
recognition of professional or skills credentials is a priority issue to be resolved.16
The report issued by the White House included similar recommendations: that
incident management teams (IMTs) “maintain certification in all levels” of incident
command;17 and, that “DHS should create a national search and rescue volunteer
Summary of Issues
The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the conclusions reached by
the Public Discourse Project share a common attribute — the assumption that the
adoption of standard procedures and guidelines will improve the capabilities of
individuals, businesses, and public agencies to respond to catastrophes and enhance
the safety of individuals and communities after a disaster occurs. It might be argued
that the recommendations only begin to indicate the need for congressional action on
a wide range of emergency preparedness matters. As can be seen in the
congressional and White House reports on Hurricane Katrina, other emergency
response issues became apparent after the devastation in August 2005.
The issues include the need to ensure that emergency operations plans can be
implemented, the deficiencies of emergency operations centers, questionable
evacuation policies and procedures, and the challenges of coordinating federal and
non-federal efforts after “super catastrophes.” Accordingly, Congress may choose
to examine the federal emergency management policy field and issues associated
with the establishment of standards. This report discusses emergency preparedness
standards and issues that might be examined in the remainder of the second session
of the 109th Congress.
Adoption of the Incident Command System.
“Emergency response agencies throughout the nation should adopt
the Incident Command System (ICS).”19 The ICS has been applied
for decades to minimize operational difficulties as multiple agencies
respond to disaster sites. The Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) incorporated the ICS in the National Incident Management
System (NIMS). State and local governments must adopt NIMS and
ICS protocol in order to receive federal preparedness financial
assistance in FY2007.20 Terrorist attacks pose a particular danger to
See Ibid., p. Recommendations-23.
The White House, The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned
(Washington: 2006), p. 90.
Ibid., p. 102.
Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, p. 397.
See the NIMS text at U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “National Incident
Management System,” [http://www.fema.gov/pdf/nims/nims_doc_cvr.pdf], visited Jan. 24,
2006. The FY2006 grant application guide includes the following statement: “State, local,
and tribal entities are required to become fully compliant with NIMS by the end of FY2006
responders, as secondary explosions, small arms fire, or chemical
weapons may be used specifically to kill officials or impair rescue
efforts. One issue is whether past principles that have guided ICS
operations might endanger the lives or welfare of first responders
and recovery specialists, and whether ICS has limitations for certain
types of public agencies limited by size, finances, or geographic
characteristics. An attendant concern is the degree to which unified
command structures would accommodate, or might fail to
accommodate, the range of needs and capabilities of responding
agencies. For example, if a terrorist attack suddenly shifts the need
for resources, local agencies and concerned citizens might be
concerned that they would lack sufficient authority to set priorities
and respond as needed under a unified command structure. Also, as
revealed in the investigations into Hurricane Katrina, while leaders
in Mississippi held “a very high level of knowledge and
understanding of NIMS ICS,” others in Louisiana did not. “Where
and when personnel with experience and training on NIMS ICS were
in control with an adequate number of trained support personnel,
coupled with the discipline to adhere to the doctrine of NIMS ICS,
it made a positive difference in the quality and success of
implementing an incident command structure, establishing a unified
command, and the response.”21
“Congress should pass legislation to remedy indemnification and
liability impediments to mutual aid in the National Capital Region
and other areas.”22 The 108th Congress enacted legislation pertinent
to this recommendation in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism
Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458).23 In addition, almost all of
the states (including Virginia, Maryland, and the District of
Columbia) have incorporated provisions of the Emergency
Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) into their statutory
codes. EMAC establishes a framework under which standard
procedures and operational policies are agreed upon by the states to
facilitate the provision of mutual aid when emergencies occur,
including a provision which ensures that when officers or employees
of one state render aid in another in emergency situations, they are
(September 30, 2006). Entities are required to meet the FY2006 NIMS implementation
requirements as a condition of receiving federal preparedness funding assistance in
FY2007.” See U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FY2006 Homeland Security Grant
Program: Program Guidance and Application Kit (Washington: 2005), p. 6, available at
[http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/odp/docs/fy2006hsgp.pdf], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared, p. Findings-21.
Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, p. 397.
For more information see page 23 of this report.
treated as agents of the requesting state for tort and immunity
purposes. [EMAC does not address indemnification.] In addition,
many states have adopted mutual aid compacts that address liability
concerns.24 Given the liability protection that EMAC provides to
signatory states, including those in the National Capital Region, if
Congress considers such legislation, it might examine its impact on
EMAC-based agreements among the states, and whether increased
federal action in this area is warranted. According to the reports
issued after Hurricane Katrina, the implementation of EMAC is one
success story associated with that catastrophe.
ANSI Emergency Preparedness Standards.
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should promote
adoption of ANSI standards for emergency preparedness by the
private sector.”25 Like other ANSI standards, the emergency
preparedness standards recommended for adoption are voluntary;
that is, they are not mandated to be adopted. The commission report
urges DHS to take action to promote the adoption of these standards
by the private sector. The appropriate federal role for Congress or
DHS in encouraging the private sector to adopt such standards is an
Other Options Related to Emergency Response Standards. In
addition to the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, Congress might consider
taking action on the following issues:
Review of existing federal authorities for emergency response.
Federal statutes provide authority for executive branch actions in the
event of emergencies. Congress might evaluate whether the
authorities should be revised, particularly in light of the questions
being raised about the implementation of the National Response
Plan after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast states. Current
law provides federal financial assistance for state and local personnel
and administrative expenses needed to maintain emergency
preparedness plans. Current law also requires that plans submitted
by states meet requirements, including “standards approved by” the
Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Members
State emergency management mutual aid agreements that have been enacted into law by
the states, as well as liability protection provisions for those rendering emergency aid, have
been identified for the states. For a summary see the “Mutual Aid” and “Other” categories
of information in: CRS Report RL32287, Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Statutory Authorities in the States, District of Columbia, and Insular Areas: A Summary, by
Keith Bea, L. Cheryl Runyon, and Kae M. Warnock. For summaries of and citations to the
mutual aid agreements and liability provisions enacted by each state see the individual
profile reports cited in Table 1 of RL32287.
Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, p. 398.
of Congress might elect to specify components of the standards to be
used in the approval process.26
Emergency responder and civilian health. Civilians and first
responders in New York City reportedly have experienced severe
health problems since September 11, 2001.27 Congress might
consider options related to monitoring the health of such responders.
Enforcement mechanisms. The White House report on the response
to Hurricane Katrina notes that means should be established to
ensure that established standards result in action and improvements.
By tying the receipt of federal funds to the establishment of
“uniform standards and conditions of awards,” state and local
governments would be expected to provide for more effect law
enforcement in disaster situations.28 Congress might elect to link the
receipt of federal assistance to continued compliance with
emergency preparedness standards.
Overview of Existing Standards
Public safety organizations, analysts, and professional associations have
collaborated for years to develop emergency response standards to improve the
efficiency of response agencies, eliminate obstacles that might impede or prevent the
delivery of assistance after a disaster, and satisfy public and fiduciary agent concerns.
This section of the report introduces, and provides references to, standards and
related processes directly relevant to the commission recommendations presented in
Table 1, above.
Organizations that Establish Standards. Two non-federal organizations
have developed or endorsed emergency preparedness standards. In addition, at least
one federal authority, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),
has established standards for emergency response actions. A summary of these
organizations’ activities follows.
American National Standards Institute. The American National
Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization “that administers and
coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.”29
A “Homeland Security Standards Panel” (ANSI-HSSP) has been established to
42 U.S.C. 5196b(b)(3).
The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health of the Department of Health and Human Services are conducting a baseline screening
study to establish a database of health problems encountered by individuals who worked at
the site of the World Trade Center collapse in the aftermath of the attack. See
[http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-OH-04-004.html], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
Ibid., p. 104.
For information see [http://www.ansi.org/about_ansi/overview/overview.aspx?menuid=1],
visited Jan. 25, 2006.
facilitate the development of standards related to homeland security needs. The task
before the panel has been summarized as follows.
Established by ANSI in February 2003, the ANSI-HSSP has as its scope to
catalog, promote, accelerate and coordinate the timely development of consensus
standards within the national and international voluntary standards systems
intended to meet identified homeland security needs, and communicate the
existence of such standards appropriately to governmental units and the private
sector. The Panel will initially focus its activities on responding to the most
immediate standards needs of DHS.30
According to information distributed by ANSI in a letter dated January 23, 2004,
the 9/11 Commission asked ANSI to “develop a consensus on a ‘National Standard
for Preparedness’ for the private sector.31 In workshops held in the early months of
2004, ANSI-HSSP served as the forum for discussions among private and public
sector representatives on the improvement of private sector emergency preparedness
and business continuity plans. Participants “concluded that a high-level, voluntary
standard applicable to all businesses regardless of industry, size, or location, [was]
needed to establish a common framework for emergency preparedness.”32
Discussions in the workshop focused on the 2004 edition of the
Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs standard acted
upon by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in late 2003 and made
effective February 5, 2004.33 ANSI subsequently proposed to the 9/11 Commission
that NFPA 1600 “be accepted as the common framework for private-sector national
preparedness;” the 9/11 Commission endorsed the proposal. ANSI-HSSP also
developed recommendations for enhancements to NFPA 1600 that have been
submitted to its technical committee for consideration and has recommended that a
“national implementation strategy” be developed that involves the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies to support use of the standard.
For information on the panel, including meeting schedules and areas of interest, see
menuid=3#overview], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
This information based on a telephone conversation with Matthew Deane, Secretary for
ANSI-HSSP, and the text of the document titled “Recommendation to the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,” transmitted to CRS. For
information on the standard and the process used in establishing the standard, see
Jan. 25, 2006.
For background on the development of NFPA 1600, see National Fire Protection
Association, NFPA 1600 Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business
Continuity Programs 2004 Edition, available at [http://www.nfpa.org/PDF/nfpa1600.
pdf?src=nfpa], p.1600-1, visited Jan. 25, 2006.
In addition to the effort conducted thus far by ANSI-HSSP for the 9/11
Commission, ANSI has received a contract from DHS to conduct a large scale effort
to build a database of standards for “products, processes, systems, services and
training programs that relate to homeland security.”34
National Fire Protection Association. The National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA) is a voluntary professional association that, for over 100 years,
has developed standards related to fire prevention and firefighting.35 The NFPA 1600
standard recommended by ANSI that is the subject of the 9/11 Commission’s
endorsement is based upon work that has been conducted for over a decade. The
NFPA Technical Committee on Disaster Management developed NFPA 1600,
Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs
on the basis of work completed on the antecedent document, Recommended Practice
for Disaster Management, initially produced in 1995. The 2000 edition of NFPA
1600 expanded the “recommended practice” to a standard by incorporating
provisions related to emergency management and business continuity programs to
ease the consequences of a disaster. The 2004 edition retains the basic features of the
NFPA 1600 sets out criteria that enable administrators to evaluate existing
programs to improve disaster and emergency management and business continuity
programs. The standard includes five sub-categories — administration, a reserved
section, definitions, program management, and program elements. Table 2 of this
report presents summary information on the components of standards within these
sub-categories. The complete text of the standard should be referred to for further
Table 2. Components of NFPA 1600 Standards and
Selected Explanatory Material
Component or element
1.1 — Scope of the standard
establishes common criteria for
2. Reserved for Referenced
1.1 — Private and public entities have unique
needs and capabilities; programs designed
For more information on the standards database project, see [http://www.ansi.org/
news_publications/news_story.aspx?menuid=7&articleid=718], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
For background and information on NFPA, see the organization’s website available online
at [http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp?cookie%5Ftest=1], visited Jan. 252006
Information taken from “Origin and Development of NFPA 1600” in NFPA 1600
Standard on Disaster/Emergency management and Business Continuity Programs 2004
Edition, p. 1600-1.
Component or element
See NFPA for details.
See NFPA for details.
4. Program management:
4.1 — Documentation of goals,
objectives, plans, procedures.
4.2 — Identification of program
coordinator with authority.
4.3 — Establishment of advisory
4.4 — Establishment of
performance objectives for
4.1 — Policy should include mission statement,
4.2 — Position description for coordinator
should be written.
4.3 — Characteristics and authority of advisory
committee members are identified.
4.4 — Evaluation based on program
management components and program elements
and periodic review of objectives.
5. Program elements:
5.1 — Program should address all
phases of disaster management.
5.2 — Compliance with legal
5.3 — Identification of hazards
5.4 — Development of hazard
5.5 — Identification of means to
5.6 — Composition of mutual aid
5.7 — Development of plans and
identification of elements.
5.8 — Development of means to
control response and recovery
5.9 — Establishment of warning
5.10 — Development and
implementation of operational
5.11 — Identification of logistical
resources and facilities to support
5.12 — Assessment of training
needs and development of
5.1 — Management phases include mitigation,
preparedness, response, and recovery.
5.2 — Include periodic review of authorities and
5.3 — Use suggested means for identifying
hazards and conducting risk assessments.
5.4 — Components of such strategies are
5.5 — The categories of resources are identified,
along with organizations.
5.6 — Identifies the types of such agreements
and some characteristics and components.
5.7 — Attributes of plans and the processes to
be followed are identified.
5.8 — Incident management system that
includes procedures to facilitate control of
disaster area should be developed.
5.9 — Protocols should be tested and include
5.10 — Procedures are to be established to
minimize property damage, assess damages, and
provide for continuity of operations.
5.11 — The capabilities of facilities and
associated resources should meet expected
5.12 — Training and curriculum should comply
with applicable regulations and records
5.13 — Evaluation of procedures
5.14 — Development of
procedures to provide information.
5.15 — Development of finance
and administration procedures.
5.13 — Corrective actions should be taken to
5.14 — Public information capabilities should
identify communication modes.
5.15 — Framework should allow for flexibility
and means of expediting requests.
The entire NFPA 1600 document comprises 40 pages. However, a relatively
small portion of NFPA 1600 identifies standards; most of the document contains
references to organizations and related information sources, including other NFPA
standards for specific activities.37
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard (HAZWOPER) is
a federal regulation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) that specifies standards for employees responding to a hazardous materials
incident, including public safety personnel.38 Congress directed OSHA to develop
the regulation in 1986, after finding OSHA’s actions deficient with regard to a 1980
The HAZWOPER regulation took effect in March 1990 and addresses several
elements of hazardous materials response. It identifies the types of organizations and
operational activities that must comply with the standards, precautionary actions to
be taken when hazardous materials are removed from a site, training requirements,
elements of an emergency response plan (lines of authority, site security, and
evacuation), and medical evaluations of responders, among other matters.
Appendices to the regulation provide specifications on test methods for personal
equipment, types and levels of protective gear, compliance and training curriculum
guidelines, and reference sources. The regulation specifies the levels of knowledge,
skills, and abilities that emergency responders must possess at specified competency
A number of HAZWOPER provisions were based on NFPA standards for
hazardous materials response. The HAZWOPER standard has served as the basis of
some federal agencies’ response practices, including those of the Environmental
Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Use of Standards in Accreditation Processes. Two systems are used
to assess the capabilities of agencies and the quality of emergency preparedness
programs. The Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) consists of
a tool that may be used to evaluate emergency management programs. The National
Emergency Management Baseline Capability Assurance Program (NEMB-CAP),
administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the
For brief statements of required program components see Ibid, pp. 1600-4 through 1600-7.
Explanatory information on some, but not all components is presented in Annex A, pp.
1600-7 through 1600-12. The remainder of the document comprises lists of organizations
(pp. 1600-12 through 1600-25 and pp. 1600-26 through 1600-36) and references to
supporting documents (pp. 1600-25, 26 and pp. 1600-36 through 1600-38).
29 CFR 1910.120. Implementation guides have been developed pursuant to the
HAZWOPER regulations. See, for example: David M. Einolf, HAZWOPER Incident
Command; A Manual for Emergency Responders (Rockville, MD: Government Institutes,
1998) and Incident Command (Alsip, IL: North Central Environmental and Industrial Safety
Training Center, 1995).
The 1986 directive is found in Title I of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization
Act of 1986 (SARA, P.L. 99-499), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675. The 1980 authorization is found
in Title I of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability and
Recovery Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-510).
Department of Homeland Security, is used to assess the emergency response
capabilities of state and local governments and tribal organizations.
Emergency Management Accreditation Program. The Emergency
Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) is an incorporated, nonprofit
organization administered through the Council of State Governments and jointly
sponsored by national organizations concerned with the improvement of state and
local emergency management capabilities.40 The EMAP process enables state and
local emergency management agencies to conduct evaluations of their emergency
response capabilities. As summarized by EMAP administrators:
By offering consistent standards and a process through which emergency
management programs can demonstrate compliance, EMAP will strengthen
communities’ capabilities in responding to all types of hazards, from tornadoes
and earthquakes to school violence and bioterrorism. Accreditation is voluntary
and is not tied to any type of funding. Its intent is to encourage examination of
strengths and weaknesses, pursuit of corrective measures, and communication
and planning among different sectors of government and the community.41
The standards used in the EMAP process are derived from NFPA 1600 and “are
essentially the same as those listed in NFPA 1600 — training based upon an
assessment of need, focus on building awareness and skills, identification of
frequency and scope of training, incident management training, and record
keeping.”42 As part of the process, evaluators examine the components of a
jurisdiction’s emergency management program against the EMAP standard.43
Program elements covered by EMAP include legal authorities, hazard identification
and risk assessment, hazard mitigation strategies, resource management, mutual aid,
planning, logistics and facilities, communications, finance, and training, among
By the end of calendar year 2005, 35 states had completed baseline assessments
and seven jurisdictions (the states of Arizona, Florida, North Dakota, Pennsylvania,
and Virginia, and the District of Columbia and the consolidated city and county
Organizations involved in the EMAP process include the National Emergency
Management Association (NEMA, comprised of state officials), the International
Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM, comprised of local officials), the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and others. Staff support for EMAP is provided
by NEMA and funded primarily from FEMA.
For details on EMAP, see
[http://www.emaponline.org/What/Background/Description_Full.cfm], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
Email of July 23, 2004, with William Waugh, Department of Public Administration and
Urban Studies, Georgia State University, 2004 member of the EMAP commission.
Individuals selected to conduct EMAP assessments must have “a minimum of three years
experience with a state or local emergency management program.” Brian V. Bovyn, “The
EMAP Process: An Assessor’s Perspective, Part 1: How to Become an EMAP Assessor,”
IAEM Bulletin, v. 23, Aug. 2006, p. 1, 4-5.
EMAP standards are summarized in the document EMAP Standard, available from the
Emergency Management Accreditation Program, Sept. 2004.
government of Jacksonville/Duval County, Florida) had attained EMAP
accreditation.45 This activity is consistent with the self-assessment requirements that
have been added to the FY2006 application requirements for homeland security
preparedness grants administered by the Department of Homeland Security.46
National Capability Assurance. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security administers the
National Emergency Management Baseline Capability Assurance Program (NEMBCAP) “to establish a baseline measurement of the nation’s emergency management
capabilities and to help the emergency management community at all levels to
improve its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters of all
kinds.”47 NEMB-CAP uses the EMAP process and “associated assessment
processes” in evaluating the emergency management capabilities of state and local
governments and tribal organizations. According to one news report, 30 states
completed baseline assessments by mid-September 2004.48
Issues and Options for Congressional Action
The findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission concerning
emergency preparedness standards include several facets that might be considered
appropriate for congressional action. These include the three presented in Table 1
of this report, as follows:
adoption of the Incident Command System (ICS) nationwide and
encouragement of training in ICS procedures by conditioning federal
funding on such actions;
congressional approval of legislation to remedy indemnification and
liability impediments to mutual aid agreements;
promotion of the ANSI standards for private preparedness by the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Nationwide Adoption of ICS. The 9/11 Commission report found that a
unified command structure on September 11, 2001, could have resolved some of the
problems encountered in New York City.49 Failures identified by commission staff
(e.g., the difficulty fire commanders experienced communicating with their units, the
lack of knowledge about the availability of “self-dispatched” responders, the failure
“Three Programs Achieve National Emergency Management Accreditation,” Nov. 11,
2005, press release.
See Preparedness Directorate Information Bulletin No. 197, from Robert B. Stephan,
Acting Under Secretary for Preparedness, “Nationwide Plan Review,” Nov. 23, 2005,
available at [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/odp/docs/info197.pdf], visited Jan. 26, 2006.
See [http://www.fema.gov/preparedness/baseline.shtm], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
Alice Lipowicz, “A National Emergency Preparedness Standard is on the Way,” CQ
Homeland Security CQ.Com, visited Sept. 17, 2004.
See The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 321
to integrate the work of 911 operators and fire dispatchers, and the lack of
coordination with dispatched units at the site of the attack) may be addressed through
ICS and associated training.
The ICS framework was developed in the 1970s after a series of California
wildfires led some to observe recurring problems when more than one agency
responded to the fires. These problems included inconsistent terminology and plans,
lack of flexibility in responding to the shifting demands posed by an evolving
disaster, and a dearth of adequate facilities. ICS is generally recognized to be an
appropriate framework to address these and other problems as the classification level
of the disaster may fluctuate, requirements of responders adjusted, functions added
or subtracted, and units assigned as needed.50 Five components comprise ICS:
command, planning, operations, logistics, and finance/administration.
For decades, many emergency management officials have debated, refined, and
adopted ICS. The reach and complexity of the attacks of September 11, 2001,
stimulated renewed interest in ICS, and related systems, even before the 9/11
Commission examined the issue. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 mandated that
the Secretary of DHS build a “national incident management system” (NIMS) to
respond to disasters and attacks.51 Subsequently, President Bush issued a presidential
directive that required that the Secretary prepare a NIMS that must include, among
other features, “a core set of concepts, principles, terminology, and technologies
covering the incident command system.”52
During the course of its investigation the commission concluded that the
confusion and losses of September 11, 2001, indicated the need for widespread
adoption of a unified command system. The report also noted, however, that the
conditions of the tragedy in New York City differed in important respects from those
that occurred at the Pentagon.53 The National Response Plan (NRP) and NIMS
incorporate the ICS approach; the challenge remains for DHS and state and local
governments to become more adept at using and participating in an ICS controlled
While the level of awareness and acceptance of the ICS standard appears greater
than in years past, some might disagree with the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission
that ICS should be adopted throughout the nation. In considering the
Under HAZWOPER regulations, for example, the incident commander assesses the need
for resources under the following four levels: Level A, the highest degree of skin and
respiratory protection of responders; Level B, the highest level of respiratory protection and
a lower degree of skin protection; Level C, a lower level of respiratory protection but a
comparable level of skin protection; and Level D, the lowest level of protection required.
See Incident Command (Alsip, IL: North Central Environmental and Industrial Safety
Training Center, 1995), p. 4-6.
Sec. 502(5) of P.L. 107-296, 6 U.S.C. 312(5).
U.S. President (George W. Bush), “Management of Domestic Incidents,” Homeland
Security Presidential Directive-5, Sec. 15, Feb. 28, 2003, available at [http://www.fas.org/
irp/offdocs/nspd/hspd-5.html], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
See The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 315.
recommendation Congress might elect to review several issues, including the
The appropriate role of Congress, or an executive branch agency
such as DHS, in encouraging or mandating the method by which
state and local governments train and manage emergency response
operations. Most of the disasters that occur throughout the United
States are managed by local government officials, notably fire and
law enforcement units. Some might contend that the imposition of
the ICS system, as set out in the National Incident Management
System (NIMS), signals federal involvement in an arena traditionally
administered by state or local governments. Such individuals might
argue that such an approach could lead to practices and decisions
that may result in inefficiencies, more bureaucracy, or an erosion of
state authority guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution.54 Others might argue that the national threat posed by
catastrophic terrorist attacks, or other disasters, requires a more
integrated response capability that can only be built with federal
ICS might be a challenge for small jurisdictions with few resources
that can be allocated to prepare for a multi-agency response. Small
or lower-income communities would likely be overwhelmed by a
significant terrorist attack, and often find their resources stretched to
respond to lesser events. If such communities are required to adopt
ICS principles as a condition of receiving federal funds, some may
contend that they are ill-equipped to spend time and effort meeting
the federal requirement, particularly if federal funding terminates
and the community is faced with funding the enhanced capabilities
on its own. The caution developed by one source appears
A caveat should be entered here: ICS approaches incident control from the task,
tactical, and strategic perspectives of the fire service and appears to assume a
large, well-organized, and probably urban fire department. The system may not
be appropriate for local governments with small or mid-sized fire departments
and may require considerable refitting for nonfire emergency activities.
Regardless of the size of the community, the ICS application should be flexible
For example, see William C. Nicholson, “The New (?) Federal Approach to
Emergencies,” Homeland Protection Professional, vol. 2, Aug. 2003, p. 8.
One summary of the application of ICS to the wildfires that burned thousands of acres
noted that both local and out-of-state firefighters were not familiar with ICS protocol and
procedures. See Sandra Sutphen, “California Wildfires: How Integrated Emergency
Management Succeeds and Fails,” in Richard T. Sylves and William L. Waugh, Jr., Disaster
Management in the U.S. and Canada (Springfield, IL.: Charles C. Thomas, Pub., 1996), p.
enough to allow for local differences in organization, politics, and needs. ICS
should therefore be reviewed for applicability before it is adopted.56
The ICS framework may help as well as hinder spontaneous and
creative responses by volunteers. Following the attacks in New
York City on September 11, 2001, thousands of volunteers arrived
at the site to provide any assistance possible. Many arrived without
skills or without a connection to one of the many voluntary
organizations that traditionally provide disaster assistance. The
surge of people to a disaster scene adds to the complexity of the
event and creates additional demands on professional responders.
Conversely, the positive effect volunteers have in helping victims as
well as responders is well documented. The positive and negative
impacts of ICS on spontaneous volunteer responses, both those
initiated on impulse and those associated with some training could
be investigated.57 In addition, formal volunteer efforts could be part
of that analysis. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs)
represent one method by which the efforts of volunteers can be
systematically brought into the response process.58
Nationwide implementation of ICS is a challenge for certain types
of first responders. At a recent hearing before Congress a DHS
official noted that administration officials have spoken of
“compliance with the ICS as being possible in the short term.” Such
a claim, however, is being challenged. Representatives of the law
enforcement, fire fighting, and emergency medical response
communities testified that some agencies need more time to adopt
NIMS and work under an ICS framework. Also, the witnesses spoke
of the need to further develop the NIMS document to address
specific concerns of their sector.59
In light of these concerns and cautions, Congress may wish to explore the
Thomas E. Drabek and Gerard J. Hoetmer, eds., Emergency Management: Principles and
Practice for Local Government (Washington: International City Management Association,
1991), p. 277.
For related research see James Kendra and Tricia Wachtendorf, “Creativity in Emergency
Response to the World Trade Center Disaster,” and Seana Lowe and Alice Fothergill, “A
Need to Help: Emergent Volunteer Behavior after September 11th,” both in: Beyond
September 11 th : An Account of Post-Disaster Research, available at
[http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/sp/sp39/], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
For example, see Colin A. Campbell, “CERT’s Growth Spurt,” Homeland Protection
Professional, vol. 3, July 2004: pp. 30-38.
U.S. Congress, House, Select Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on
Emergency Preparedness and Response, Hearing on the National Incident Management
System: Enhancing Response to Terrorist Attacks, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., hearing, Sept. 29,
fully endorse the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission regarding
the ICS system by enacting legislation that would require the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to condition homeland
security funding for all state and local governments on adoption of
and training associated with ICS procedures;
endorse the recommendation, in part, by enacting legislation that
would require DHS to condition homeland security funding for state
and local governments that adopt the ICS framework and attain
minimum accreditation status through EMAP or NEMB-CAP;
consider the recommendation as guidance to be given to DHS in
evaluating the emergency response capabilities of state, local, and
tribal governments under NEMB-CAP;
mandate that federal funds be conditioned upon adoption and
implementation of ICS, so long as applicants meet specified criteria
or indicators of need, such as population size, history of disasters
and a track record of management problems, or vulnerability to
through its oversight mechanisms, monitor the application of ICS as
the new procedures set out in NIMS and the NRP are implemented;
through legislation or report language, mandate that DHS evaluate
the advantages and disadvantages of nationwide adoption of ICS,
and report to Congress by a specified date; or,
take no action and allow DHS, state emergency management
officials, and local officials to design the approach most appropriate
to the nation’s and local areas’ safety.
Federal Mutual Aid Legislation. The 9/11 Commission report includes the
finding that “a serious obstacle to multi-jurisdictional response has been the lack of
indemnification for mutual-aid responders in areas such as the National Capital
Region.”60 The report continues that federal and state emergency management
officials should develop “a regional focus” and promote mutual aid agreements, and
that federal legislation is needed to address “long-standing indemnification and
liability impediments” to mutual aid emergency response in the Washington, D.C.
area “and where applicable throughout the nation.”61
The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 397.
Relatively little support is offered by the commission for the recommendation
that Congress enact legislation to rectify indemnification and liability impediments.62
Some may contend that this statement is given a lower status than the formal
recommendations as it is presented as a statement in a paragraph, not a bolded
recommendation.63 To assist Congress in more fully evaluating the 9/11 Commission
report, this statement is examined as a commission recommendation in this report.
Emergency management mutual aid agreements have been negotiated and
approved by the states for years.64 Of greatest significance, the Emergency
Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), approved by Congress in 1996, is the
primary mutual aid agreement that facilitates the provision of emergency response
aid among signatory states.65
EMAC establishes a framework under which standard procedures and
operational policies are agreed upon by the states to facilitate the provision of mutual
aid when emergencies occur. Article VI of EMAC includes a provision which
ensures that when officers or employees of one state render aid in another in
emergency situations, they are treated as agents of the requesting state for tort and
immunity purposes. The text of the article follows.
Officers or employees of a party state rendering aid in another state pursuant to
this compact shall be considered agents of the requesting state for tort liability
and immunity purposes. No party state or its officers or employees rendering aid
in another state pursuant to this compact shall be liable on account of any act or
omission in good faith on the part of such forces while so engaged or on account
of the maintenance or use of any equipment or supplies in connection therewith.
To the extent found, references in the report and the pertinent staff statement evoked
positive aspects of mutual aid at the Pentagon. For example, Staff Statement #14 noted that
“Local, regional, state and federal agencies immediately responded to the Pentagon attack
.... Regional mutual aid, as in Northern Virginia, could become a formal joint response plan
with neighboring jurisdictions working together ....” See pp. 5,6. By comparison, the report
noted that a lack of coordination hampered the response in New York City. However no
references could be found in the report or staff statements indicating that indemnification
and liability impediments obstructed the response in New York City. It is appropriate to
note, however, that New York and five other states were not EMAC participants until after
September 11, 2001. It is possible that the commission staff found that the absence of the
liability protection offered through EMAC impeded response efforts from other states, but
failed to include that finding in the report.
This statement is considered a recommendation in this CRS report as the 9/11 commission
report uses the phrase “Congress should ....”
For a summary of state emergency management mutual aid agreements see CRS Report
RL32287 Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities in the
States, District of Columbia, and Insular Areas: A Summary, by Keith Bea, L. Cheryl
Runyon and Kae M. Warnock. For citations to emergency management mutual aid
agreements adopted by each state see the “Mutual Aid” section of each state profile listed
in Table 1 of CRS Report RL32287.
For information on EMAC, see CRS Report RS21227, The Emergency Management
Assistance Compact (EMAC): An Overview, by Keith Bea.
Good faith in this article shall not include willful misconduct, gross negligence,
EMAC does not provide for indemnification of officers or employees held liable for
acts or omissions not accomplished in good faith.67
Through EMAC or specific provisions enacted into law many states have
adopted mutual aid compacts that address liability concerns. For example,
Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, the sovereign entities within the National
Capital Region (NCR), have incorporated EMAC into their statutory codes, in
addition to other mutual aid provisions.68
Through enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) the 108th Congress acted to resolve concerns that the existing
provisions did not provide sufficient protection. The statute authorizes NCR state
and local officials to enter into mutual aid agreements for emergency response and
training purposes. The statute also specifies that EMAC provisions are not affected
by this provision. This provision, limited to the NCR, was adopted in conference
committee negotiations instead of the broader provision adopted by the House in its
version of the legislation.69
During the 109th Congress Members may elect to revisit the issue by considering
the following options:
enact legislation, comparable to that passed by the House in 2004 in
H.R. 10, that specifically protects all emergency responders from
liability concerns and provides indemnification;
assess the scope of the problem and determine whether legislation
should: reach beyond the provisions of Article VI of EMAC, solely
address the issue of indemnification or extend other protections, or
authorize the use of disaster relief funds to reimburse states and
municipalities for costs associated with providing mutual aid;70
P.L. 104-321, 110 Stat. 3880.
Liability protection statutes ensure that individuals or organizations that take certain
action cannot be sued. Indemnification statutes, by comparison, provide for government
reimbursement of individuals and organizations for payments for which they are held liable.
See D.C. Code Ann. §7-2332, §7-2206; Virginia Code §44-146.28:1, §44-146.14(b);
Maryland Criminal Procedure Code §2-105(e).
Section 5101 et. seq. of H.R. 10, as approved by the House, (“Mutual Aid and Litigation
Management Authorization Act of 2004”) would have limited liability of responders,
throughout the nation, to the extent permitted by law of the source state of the responding
Congress appropriates disaster relief funds to DHS to pay for the costs associated with the
Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.
For background see CRS Report RL33053, Federal Stafford Act Disaster Assistance:
Presidential Declarations, Eligible Activities, and Funding, by Keith Bea.
assess the impact of such legislation on EMAC-based agreements
among the states, and the consequences of increased federal action
in an area that has historically been addressed among the states; or,
evaluate the areas in which existing mutual aid agreements,
including EMAC, have proven deficient and could benefit from
ANSI Standards for Private Sector Emergency Preparedness. The
9/11 Commission report endorsed the emergency management standards
recommended by ANSI; those standards are based upon NFPA 1600. According to
the commission, the adoption of such standards is essential, since the private sector
owns and manages the majority of the critical infrastructure in the United States.
Private civilians at their places of employment may be the first responders to the
scene of an attack.71
ANSI has traditionally operated on the basis that the standards adopted by the
organization are voluntary. If the recommendation is adopted, consumers and
government officials recognize that a company or product in compliance with ANSI
standards meets specified levels of quality and safety. The 9/11 Commission
concluded that private preparedness plans should consist of three components —
evacuation plans, communications capabilities, and continuity of operations plans.
The Commission report does not recommend legislative action on this issue;
instead, the report urges DHS to promote adoption of the standard and encourages
private sector action through insurance and credit-rating actions. Members of the
Commission may have concluded that congressional action might not be appropriate
because legislation might involve a discussion of whether the Unfunded Mandates
Reform Act (UMRA) provisions would be at issue.72 UMRA established
mechanisms to limit federal imposition of unfunded mandates on other levels of
government (called “intergovernmental mandates”) and on the private sector. The
statute allows points of order to be raised if committees do not include a report on
mandates projected to cost the private sector $117 million or more.73
Options that might be considered by Congress in this area include:
require that private companies adopt ANSI standards in order to be
certified as a “responsible source” under the Federal Acquisition
The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 398.
P.L. 104-4, 2 U.S.C. 658(5), (7).
For background on UMRA see CRS Report RS20058, Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
Summarized, by Keith Bea and Richard S. Beth. See provisions at 2 U.S.C. 658b(c), 2
U.S.C. 658c, 2 U.S.C. 658d.
Under FAR, such companies must meet certain compliance requirements. For example,
enact legislation authorizing funds that would extend existing
accreditation processes, either or both EMAP and NEMB-CAP, to
the private sector, bringing to the companies the resources necessary
to fully assess their emergency preparedness capabilities;
approve incentives for the private sector to adopt the ANSI
standards, perhaps through the use of business tax write-offs,
extension of tax credits, tax deduction of accelerated depreciation,
or conditioning the receipt of federal assistance such as Small
Business Administration loans; or
take no action.
On September 23, 2004, DHS released an Internet-based campaign that provides
instructions to businesses on preparedness for and response to attacks and other
disasters. Continuity of business plans, physical security, cost estimates of certain
preparedness activities, and emergency plans are components of the program.75
Businesses can also obtain information on preparedness activities by calling a tollfree number established by DHS (1-800-237-3239).
Additional Issue Areas and Options
The 9/11 Commission focused on broad policy areas, notably the intelligence
failures related to the attacks. The emergency management issues considered by the
commission were limited to those observed during the immediate response to the
attacks. While the work of the commission has raised awareness of emergency
response issues, it arguably has identified only the tip of the iceberg of a vast area of
public policy. The devastation of September 11 and the problematic response to
Hurricane Katrina made evident a number of issues, deficiencies, and problems that
might be explored by Congress. Taken together, the findings and recommendations
from the investigations other issues for congressional attention, among which are the
Authorities and triggers for federal action. Both the attack on the
Pentagon and in New York City resulted in explosions. The Stafford
Act authorizes the President to issue a major disaster declaration,
and therefore dedicate the full range of federal resources, in the
event of fires or explosions “regardless of cause.”76 Some terrorist
attacks, however, may involve the dispersal of chemical weapons,
pursuant to the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-690), companies must agree to
provide a drug-free workplace to employees. Congress could enact legislation that similarly
required that companies meet the ANSI emergency preparedness standard. For the FAR
regulation, see Subpart 23.5, “Drug-Free Workplace,”
at[http://www.arnet.gov/far/current/pdf/FAR.book.pdf], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
“Ready Business,” at [http://www.ready.gov/business/index.html], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
42 U.S.C. 5122(2).
prolonged small arms fire in different locations, cyber-attacks, or
other causal agents that are not covered by existing law. To a certain
extent, the President may use the authority under the National
Emergencies Act to expedite federal assistance and coordinate
response. At issue may be the adequacy of existing emergency
response authorities and triggers and whether there is a need to
establish legislative standards for presidential or other executive
Emergency responder and civilian/responder health. Some have
contended that the air was so full of pollutants in downtown
Manhattan on September 11, 2001, that it could have been declared
a site for federal assistance under major environmental laws. The
combination of toxic substances in New Orleans after Hurricane
Katrina has resulted in long-lasting concerns about environmental
quality in the soil.78 The adequacy of existing laws, and the need for
standards for measuring environmental threats to responders and
civilians might be considered by Congress.79
Emergent or spontaneous actions. Disaster research indicates that
the behavior of responders and civilians at the scene of a catastrophe
does not resemble the horrified mass of people running away and
trampling each other (as often represented in movies) but concerned
and committed individuals willing to sacrifice to help others. The
effect of federal policy on informal emergency response activities
might be examined. As summarized by one team of researchers,
“Creative action as exhibited by emergency response personnel and
groups after the attacks yielded not only positive results but also
conflicts and challenges, not unlike those documented in prior
studies of the convergence phenomenon after disasters, in which
volunteers, opportunists, and others converge on the scene, adding
an element of uncontrollability that can complicate emergency
operations, safety, and security.”80
For background on the National Emergencies Act see CRS Report RS21017, Terrorist
Attacks and National Emergencies Act Declarations, by Harold C. Relyea.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a statement that, “in general, the
sediments left behind by the flooding from the hurricanes are not expected to cause adverse
health impacts to individuals returning to New Orleans.” See U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, Summary Results of Sediment Sampling Conducted by the Environmental
Protection Agency in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, available at
[http://www.epa.gov/katrina/testresults/sediments/summary.html#c], visited Aug. 18, 2006.
See sections on public health studies and environmental hazard assessment in CRS Report
RL31464, Federal Disaster Policies After Terrorists Strike: Issues and Options for
Congress, coordinated by Keith Bea (available from the author).
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Public Entity Risk
Institute, and Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, Beyond September 11th: An Account
of Post-Disaster Research (Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, 2003), p. 6, available at
Coordination of standards with the national preparedness goal.
President Bush directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to
prepare a national preparedness goal that must include “standards for
preparedness assessments and strategies, and a system for assessing
the nation’s overall preparedness to respond to major events,
especially those involving acts of terrorism.”81 One aspect of the
effort to ensure that capabilities comply with the goal concerns
equipment standards. The directive specifically requires that the
Secretary “establish and implement streamlined procedures for the
ongoing development and adoption of appropriate first responder
equipment standards that support nationwide interoperability and
other capabilities...”82 According to a report conducted by staff of
the Office of Inspector General for DHS, “some progress” has been
made by adopting 12 standards for equipment and communication
interoperability.83 The report notes concern, however, because no
new standards have been adopted since February 2004, adopted
standards rarely apply to equipment designated as eligible for
purchase by grantees, and the standards are limited to specific types
of equipment (personal protection and detection). Congress might
elect to conduct investigations on efforts by DHS to comply with the
Authority to establish standards. DHS adopts equipment standards
generated by nongovernmental standard development organizations,
such as ANSI and the NFPA. The Homeland Security Act of 2002
(P.L. 109-296) prohibits the Secretary, through the Science and
Technology Directorate, from establishing standards for first
responders.84 Congress might elect to reconsider this prohibition by
eliminating the restriction, modifying it to set limits on the types and
reach of the standards that might be developed by DHS, or directing
the Secretary to ensure that affected communities have the
opportunity to exercise appeals of DHS decisions. As another
[http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/sp/sp39/], visited Jan. 25, 2006.
U.S. President, George W. Bush, “National Preparedness,” Homeland Security
Presidential Directive/HSPD-8, Dec. 17, 2003, section (6). For information on the national
preparedness goal see CRS Report RL32803, The National Preparedness System: Issues in
the 109th Congress, by Keith Bea.
“National Preparedness,” section (14).
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Review of DHS’
Progress in Adopting and Enforcing Equipment Standards for First Responders, OIG-06-30
(Washington: 2006), p. 2.
“Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing the Secretary or the technical
assistance team established under subsection (b)(3) of this section to set standards for
technology to be used by the Department, any other executive agency, any State or local
government entity, or any private sector entity.” 6 U.S.C. 193(c)
option, DHS might use the existing authority to issue regulations
that have the effect of directing standards development.85
The report by the 9/11 Commission has stimulated discussion throughout the
nation on a range of issues, primarily concerned with intelligence reform, associated
with the attacks of 2001. Recommendations in the report section “Protect Against
and Prepare for Terrorist Attacks” concern the capabilities of the public and private
sectors to adequately prepare for and respond to further attacks. Those
recommendations, and the final assessments issued by the Public Discourse Project
that are pertinent to the adoption or use of emergency management standards, have
been discussed in this report.
While most observers believe some of the recommendations have merit and may
lead to improved protection and response capabilities, it may also be argued that
adoption of the recommendations may impact long-standing practices, impose new
obligations, and possibly affect constitutional protections for the states.
It appears that the federal role in emergency management will continue to grow
in certain areas, presaging a more activist federal government and a greater span of
federal control. It is also possible that the actions taken by Congress will stimulate
and maintain a commitment of non-federal resources and capabilities by funding
programs, encouraging DHS and the states to incorporate standards in their
operational procedures, and more fully engage in emergency management activities.
On the other hand, Congress might take no action on some or all of the
recommendations, allowing the private sector and the state and local governments to
develop mechanisms for improving emergency response capabilities.
“The Secretary, acting through the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, may
issue necessary regulations with respect to research, development, demonstration, testing,
and evaluation activities of the Department, including the conducting, funding, and
reviewing of such activities.” 6 U.S.C. 186(c)