Addressing Damage Assessment after Large-Scale Incidents for The Tulsa Fire Department

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1 Addressing Damage Assessment after Large-Scale Incidents for The Tulsa Fire Department Executive Analysis of Fire Service Operations In Emergency Management By: Harry K. Myers III Assistant Chief Officer Tulsa Fire Department Tulsa, Oklahoma An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program September 2008

2 2 Certification Statement I hereby certify that this paper constitutes my own product, that where the language of others is set forth, quotation marks so indicate, and that appropriate credit is given where I have used the language, ideas, expressions, or writings of another. Signed:

3 3 Abstract The Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) has experienced difficulty with assessing damage following significant emergencies or events. The problem was that the TFD has no policies and procedures, plans, or trained workforce to perform initial and follow-up damage assessment following a significant emergency or event, which contributes to having insufficient information to create a responsive plan for restoring the government, economy, security, and survival necessities for the population. The purpose of this research was to identify how the Tulsa Fire Department can develop practices to improve large-scale incident damage assessment processes in the City of Tulsa. Descriptive research methodology will be utilized to answer the following questions: What guidelines, standards, performance measures and or timelines are available to establish a large-scale incident damage assessment program? How are other organizations assessing damages from large-scale emergency incidents? What are some programs, methods, and or processes for large-scale incident damage assessment that the Tulsa Fire Department could consider? What are the emerging technologies for accomplishing incident damage assessment? The procedures utilized for this applied research project included an extensive literature review and the administration of two survey instruments. The first survey was distributed in an effort to collect specific data from the TFD members (interdepartmental

4 4 survey), and the second survey was conducted in order to attain specific information from emergency service agencies (external survey). The results of the research concluded that TFD would benefit from establishing a formal damage assessment program. The recommendations established for the TFD included formalizing a departmental program to assess damage after significant emergency and/or event that would provide the optimal results for the city of Tulsa, and gaining support from the fire chief and Local #176 of the International Association of Firefighters through the utilization of the established Labor-Management Committee Process.

5 5 Table of Contents Certification Statement.2 Abstract.3 Table of Contents..5 Introduction...6 Background and Significance 6 Literature Review...9 Procedures 18 Results..19 Discussion.24 Recommendations.28 References.30 Appendix A...32 Appendix B 35

6 6 Introduction The problem is that because the Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) has no policies and procedures, plans, or trained workforce to perform initial and follow-up damage assessment following a significant emergency or event, insufficient information exists to create a responsive plan to restore the government, economy, security, and survival necessities for the population. The purpose of this research is to identify and describe how the Tulsa Fire Department can develop practices to improve large-scale incident damage assessment processes in the City of Tulsa. Descriptive research methodology will be utilized to answer the following questions: What guidelines, standards, performance measures, and/or timelines are available to establish a large-scale incident damage assessment program? How are other organizations assessing damages from large-scale emergency incidents? What are some programs, methods, and/or processes for large-scale incident damage assessment that the Tulsa Fire Department could consider? What are the emerging technologies for accomplishing incident damage assessment? Background and Significance The City of Tulsa is located in the northeast quadrant of the state of Oklahoma. This general area is also referred to as Green Country. Tulsa is approximately ninety miles northeast of the capital city, Oklahoma City, and is the second largest city in the

7 7 state. The City of Tulsa maintains a population of approximately 400,000 (Tulsa Metro Chamber, 2008) and a Metropolitan Area Population in excess of 800,000 (Tulsa, Oklahoma). The Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) was formally established in 1900 and offers a wide range of services focused on delivering quality life and fire safety services. The Field Operations section is divided into three platoons, providing three shifts for fire suppression personnel. The department maintains thirty-one fire stations, housing twenty-nine engine and twelve ladder companies. The Special Operations section includes Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (Airport) Branch, Hazmat/Technical Rescue Branch, Emergency Medical Service Branch, and the Training Division. The Safety Services section includes the Code Enforcement and the Fire Investigation branches. The Safety and Engineering, Finance, Physical Resources, and Administrative Staff branches are under the supervision of the Command Staff. With an authorized uniformed strength of 695 members, the Department offers the citizens of Tulsa a wide variety of suppression, safety, and prevention services. Tulsa, Oklahoma has experienced significant large-scale disasters such as fire, tornados, ice storms, severe thunderstorms, hazardous materials releases, and floods. Damages resulting from past and recent events in Tulsa and surrounding communities have exceeded hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, the TFD finds itself domesticated in Tornado Alley as well as being exposed to terrorism, increased hazardous materials transfer, and a long list of potential natural and man made disasters. The emergency agency post-disaster damage assessment procedures that are in place for the City and County of Tulsa are found in Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency s (TAEMA) Tulsa County Emergency Operations Plan

8 8 (2003). These procedures are primarily focused towards general documentation and the coordination of multiple agencies. The 2003 plan contains no emphasis on emergency response or the management of emergency personnel relative to the performance of said procedures. In December 2007, a three-day ice storm paralyzed the city, leaving 246,000 citizens without power. The period December was especially crucial; it became necessary for fire personnel to go door to door to over 60,000 homes. The mayoral staff for the city of Tulsa assigned the TFD the majority responsibility of performing initial and post damage assessment procedures during the 2007 ice storm event. This becomes significant due to the fact that after reviewing the ice storm event through the postincident analysis process, city leaders reassigned TAEMA and its associated responsibilities to be under the direction and supervision of the TFD fire chief. Without damage assessment procedures in place, it would be difficult to yield the critical information necessary to make decisions towards restoration and recovery of the community. The establishment of damage assessment procedures for the TFD would contribute toward the preparation required to effectively perform the responsibilities of the TFD during future large scale-disasters. The significance of this applied research project (ARP) relates to the damage assessment curriculum discussed in the Executive Analysis of Fire Service Operations in Emergency Management (EAFSOEM) course (NFA, 2007). Further, this ARP supports the United States Fire Administration (USFA) operational objective: To respond appropriately in a timely manner to emerging issues (FEMA, 2004). In order for the TFD to continue to provide quality life and fire safety services

9 9 and meet the administrative demands and responsibilities that are a prerequisite for a department of its size, it is imperative that TFD adequately prepare its members to be familiar with the types, methods, procedures, and principles of damage assessment. This ARP will examine practices to improve large-scale incident damage assessment in order to help facilitate and support the mission of the TFD. Literature Review The purpose of this literature review is to research components of damage and need assessment programs and examine how others perform and define damage assessments. This review process includes findings from both the private and public sectors relative to damage assessment practices. Research data reviewed were primarily collected from (a) the National Fire Academy s Learning Resource Center (LRC), (b) public and private education training manuals, (c) the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, and (d) the Tulsa Fire Department Training Center. Of all the functions performed after a disaster, there are perhaps none more important than damage assessment (McEntire, 2002, p. 9). McEntire lists several compelling reasons for adequate and immediate damage assessment action: Obtaining a picture of the nature and extent of injuries enables an effective medical response. Gaining information about victims needs facilitates the acquisition of immediate emergency relief. Understanding the degree of damage to residential, commercial and public property is required before state and federal funds can be received for the purpose of long-term recovery. Knowing what areas were affected by a hazard may help reduce vulnerability and improve mitigation capabilities in the future (p. 9).

10 10 From the perspective of the local emergency manager, McEntire (2002) identifies three types of damage assessment: a rapid or initial damage assessment, a preliminary damage assessment, and a technical damage assessment (p. 9). According to McEntire (2002), a rapid damage assessment is done quickly to evaluate the scope of the devastation. This usually involves a focus on the collection of data regarding deaths, injuries, and the number of buildings damaged by the event (p. 9). McEntire (2002) explains that a preliminary damage assessment is carried out with state and federal officials for the purpose of obtaining a presidential disaster declaration. This assessment involves the measurement of losses and focuses on the evaluation of the status of property in terms of safety, security and sanitation (p. 9). McEntire (2002) discusses that a technical damage assessment is performed on structures and infrastructure to view engineering issues (p. 9). This assessment is performed to estimate the costs of damage and to recommend the best approach and methods to repair, demolish, and/or reconstruct. The student manual for the EAFSOEM course at the National Fire Academy (2007) defines damage assessment as a gathering of information related to the impact of an event, or series of events, on life and property within a defined area (p. SM 6-3). The manual also discusses two types of damage assessments: immediate and postincident. An immediate damage assessment is a rapid estimate of damage at a specific incident site or within an incident area. The immediate damage assessment is made on initial arrival and the information obtained is used for a variety of purposes during the active phase of the incident or event (p. SM 6-3). Further, according to the course manual, a postincident damage assessment is a detailed examination and analysis of the total

11 11 damage at a specific incident site or within an incident area (p. SM 6-3). This assessment is performed in the post active phase of the incident or event (p. SM 6-3). Planitz (1999) discusses two damage and needs assessment types, initial and detailed. The initial assessment (1) aims at determining relief and immediate response requirements, (2) is conducted immediately in the early and critical stage of a disaster, as soon as the conditions allow survey teams to operate, and (3) is broad in scope and focuses on overall patterns and trends (p. 2). The detailed assessment (1) aims at determining the longer-term recovery and development requirements, (2) is conducted two to four weeks after a disaster, depending on the accessibility of the affected area, (3) covers critical sectors in terms of the country s future economic and social development strategy, and (4) is carried out by specialists in the sectors concerned (Planitz, 1999, p. 3). Planitz explains that both the initial and detail assessments contain a situation assessment and a needs assessment. The situation assessment should define a picture of the situation, describing what has happened and the impact on population and infrastructure (p. 3). The needs assessment defines the level and type of assistance required for the affected population (p. 3). In other words, What needs to be done? (p. 3). According to Nicholson (2005), On July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission formally endorsed National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600: Recommended Practices for Disaster Management (p. 44). Nicholson writes that NFPA 1600 establishes a shared set of norms for disaster management, emergency management, and business continuity programs (p. 44). Furthermore, NFPA 1600 recognizes ways to exercise plans and makes available a list of resources within the fields of disaster

12 12 recovery, emergency management, and business continuity planning (p. 44). NFPA 1600 requires that all emergency management and business continuity programs comply with its relevant laws, policies, and industry standards (p. 44). According to Planitz (1999), every assessment process is comprised of five basic elements or activities: (1) Planning and Preparation, (2) Survey and Data Collection, (3) Interpretation and Forecasting, (4) Reporting, and (5) Monitoring (pp. 4-6). Planitz emphasizes that assessments must be viewed as a continuous process of re-evaluating the needs and the appropriateness of response and recovery interventions (p. 6). McEntire (2002) explains that in order to carry out effective and efficient assessment of damages, it is necessary to plan, train, and exercise with those responsible for this function (p. 9). McEntire states that those responsible could include (1) department heads, (2) building inspectors, (3) tax assessors, (4) city council members, (5) county engineers, (6) Red Cross members, (7) insurance company representatives, (8) school board officials, and (9) public works (p. 9). The EAFSOEM Student Manual (2007) also gives examples of agencies that may be involved in damage assessment processes. This list of agencies included most of the aforementioned by McEntire and some others, such as fire departments, police departments, and street maintenance or highway departments (pp. SM 6-8). The Tulsa County Emergency Operations Plan (TAEMA, 2003) discusses that in the event city/county resources prove to be inadequate during an emergency, requests would be made for assistance from other local jurisdictions, higher levels of government, and other agencies in accordance with existing or emergency-negotiated agreements and/or understandings.

13 13 According to the Foreword in A Guide to Federal Aid in Disasters (FEMA, 2006), Planning for disaster is a responsibility to be taken seriously at all levels of government- -Federal, State and local disaster plans rely upon a strong supportive partnership beginning at the local level and rising to the highest level necessary to bring about recovery. Disasters can often exceed local and State resources and necessitate Federal assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the President s disaster assistance program, which, as stated in the Foreword, is the primary means of providing Federal assistance. According to the EAFSOEM Student Manual (NFA, 2007), The emergency nature of a disaster does not lessen the need for, nor alleviate, requirements for accurate and complete documentation (p. SM 8-3). The course manual explains that disasters will require greater documentation both in volume and in scope, yield a workload in proportion to the size of the disaster or greater, and demand a greater need for documentation which is driven by causes such as more extensive damage, more agencies involved, greater cost, and increased possibility of something going wrong (p. SM 8-3). In addition, the EAFSOEM Student Manual (NFA, 2007) explains how all government agencies need documentation before, during, and following critical incidents (p. SM 8-3). The purpose of such documentation is required (1) To review activities in order to improve future performance, (2) To provide a basis for current and future planning activities. (3) Oversight responsibilities of legislative bodies require good records. (4) Judicial reviews and litigations depend on complete and accurate documentation. (5) Financial Audits, vendor payments for goods and services, reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other

14 14 agencies, and adjudication of damage claims all depend on accurate reports and records. (6) Good documentation is essential to develop the historical record (p. SM 8-3). According to Poe (2002), Damage assessment reports must be carefully compiled before being submitted to state and federal authorities, else significant delays in declaration and funding will result (p. 12). The collection of data about the extent of damage caused by a disaster is the basis upon which decisions on relief and recovery are taken (Planitz, 1999, p. 5). According to Planitz, Information gathering must proceed rapidly and thoroughly and those surveying should look for patterns and indicators of potential problems (p. 5). Planitz sets out the significant points of survey and data collection: that data collection is an ongoing process, which ensures that up-to-date information is always available; information requirements and the level of detail of information vary at different times, therefore, different types of assessments are conducted such as initial and detailed assessment; and the main subjects on which disaster management authorities need information on are the disaster situation and the needs of the population (p. 5). According to Planitz (1999), when gathering information on the disaster situation, authorities should focus on these main subjects: (1) area affected, (2) number of people affected, (3) mortality rates, (4) injuries and illnesses, (5) condition of the affected population, (6) damage to all sectors, (7) level of local response, (8) response by other agencies, and (9) secondary threats (p. 5). Also, Planitz suggests that when gathering information on the needs of the population, these main subjects should be considered:

15 15 (1) search and rescue, (2) medical and health matters, (3) water supplies, (4) evacuation, (5) clothing, (6) shelter and housing, (7) administration, transport, and communication, (8) food supplies, (9) agriculture, and (10) lifelines and critical facilities (p. 5). According to McEntire (2002), Damage assessments are generally conducted in one of three ways. The rapid or initial assessment is often performed in a vehicle [called the windshield assessment] which allows one to see damages on the ground from a distance (p. 9). Also, the assessment of damages can be viewed from above, utilizing a helicopter or airplane. This assessment practice allows agency leaders and political figures to view large geographic areas to facilitate decision making about response and recovery (p. 9). In comparison, the preliminary and technical damage assessments may include actual site visits to the affected residence, business, school or public property. These assessments are used to verify damages and facilitate report writing about losses and needed repairs (p. 9). The literature review indicated that there are many agencies that conduct damage assessments for reasons other than emergency response. For example, The American Red Cross (ARC) (1998) conducts damage assessments after disasters with a primary focus on determining relief needs of the affected population. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducts damage assessments through its Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (DARP) for the purpose of facilitating the restoration of natural resources damaged by hazardous material incidents (DARP, 1990). The United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) conducts damage

16 16 assessments to estimate and analyze effects of natural phenomena and technological incidents (Swiatek & Kaul, 1999). The literature review found many data collection methods and some emerging technologies in damage assessments. Some data collection methods commonly used in emergencies are (1) initial self-assessment, (2) visual inspection, (3) sample surveying, (4) sentinel surveillance, (5) detailed sector assessments by specialists, and (6) interviews. According to Swaitek and Kaul (1999), the DTRA, FEMA, and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) have created CATS, the Consequences Assessment Tool Set. CATS employs a suite of hazard, casualty and damage estimation modules to estimate and analyze effects due to natural phenomena, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and technological disasters, such as terrorist incidents, involving weapons of mass destruction, and industrial accidents (p. 1). CATS uses the Geographic Information System (GIS) to display and analyze hazard predictions, perform consequences assessment, facilitate resource management and create pictorial and textual reports (p. 1). Cole (1993) discusses the use of two new technologies in damage assessment: global positioning systems to develop mapping and computer software programs to build custom maps that pinpoint the disaster area and provide a basis for the next phase of damage assessment. To meet the often stringent requirements of the state and federal government related to cost recovery, it is important to make changes which enhance the effectiveness of an organization s forms (FEMA, USFA, 1999). The use of data-collection forms

17 17 and/or surveys are an emerging technology that facilitates incident mitigation and cost recovery. Poe (2002) discusses two developments that are in the planning stages for damage assessment. First is the establishment of a link between damage information and county GIS systems so that mapping can be done quickly and efficiently (p. 12). The second development is to link police helicopters computers to GIS maps in an effort to quickly mark damaged areas on their computer maps. This information can then be transmitted to the Emergency Operation Center to aid in the coordination of response (p. 12). According to McDowell (2002), FEMA is the standard used by government to report damage (p. 10). There are many different technologies utilized to aid and facilitate the collection of data and compile said data into a format for submission to FEMA. Some of these technologies are Personal Data Assistants (PDA), GIS mapping software, databases/file managers, detailed damage assessment training, forms, surveys, wireless computer platforms, and biological and chemical sensors (p. 10). In summary, it is clear that assessments must be seen as a continuous process of re-evaluating the needs and the appropriateness of response and recovery regardless of the agency conducting the assessment. Damage assessment reports should be carefully prepared and submitted to all applicable government agencies. The submittal of incomplete or vague reports could likely lead to delays in funding. The findings of others show that the following of a systematic process to assess damages is a prerequisite to effective planning after a disaster or event. Almost all damage assessment programs reviewed in this ARP start with a planning and preparation component and end with a

18 18 monitoring and/or evaluation mechanism. McEntire (2002) stresses that only by performing damage assessment in a professional manner will recovery be enhanced. Emergency managers should therefore give sufficient attention to this important disaster function (p. 12). Procedures The author of this applied research project utilized the descriptive research method in order to compile research and information regarding subject matter on damage assessment programs. An extensive literature review led the initial phase of this ARP. Research data was primarily collected from the National Fire Academy s Learning Resource Center (LRC), public and private sector education training manuals, the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, and the Tulsa Fire Department Training Center. Two survey instruments were developed and utilized to gather specific information concerning the TFD s and other emergency service agencies damage assessment programs (See Appendix A and B). The Tulsa Fire Department Damage Assessment Program Survey in Appendix A was distributed through interoffice mail delivery to one hundred fire department members currently employed with the TFD. The members surveyed represented a cross section of the TFD membership with eighty percent of those surveyed maintaining positions in field operations and twenty percent of those surveyed holding positions in either safety or support services. This interdepartmental survey was transmitted with a cover letter which explained the purpose of the survey, instructions for completing the survey, a reasonable return date for said

19 19 survey, and the willingness to share the results of the research with the membership sample group. Upon expiration of the return date requested, a total of ninety-five interdepartmental surveys were collected, which equated to a return rate of ninety-five percent. The second survey, the Emergency Service Agency Damage Assessment Practices and Programs Telephone Survey, found in Appendix B, was conducted with thirty-fire departments in the United States. The telephone survey yielded a one hundred percent response. The cities surveyed were selected from areas located in the eastern, central, and western sections of the United States. The list of cities surveyed is also noted in Appendix B. Some of the limitations identified with this research are (a) the reliance of the information provided by the participants was based on their personal knowledge of damage assessment programs; (b) the respondents of the telephone survey are assumed to maintain positions within their organizations that hold responsibilities for managing or delivering damage assessment practices within their department; (c) both the interdepartmental and external surveys that were utilized leave the responses and feedback open to subjectivity based on personal experiences with damage assessment programs and/or practices. Results The results of this applied research project were compiled from the procedures performed and the literature reviewed. There were four research questions answered through the study of fire and life safety literature, interdepartmental and external fire

20 20 department surveys, national standards, and applied research projects submitted as a part of the National Fire Academy s (NFA) Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP). Research question 1: What guidelines, standards, performance measures, and/or timelines are available to establish a large scale incident damage assessment program? Research yielded the following sources of some of the guidelines and standards for establishing damage assessment programs: (1) South Pacific Disaster Reduction Programme, A Guide To Successful Damage And Needs Assessment, (2) A Guide To Federal Aid In Disasters, FEMA-262, (3) Responding to Incidents of National Consequence, FEMA 282, (4) Executive Analysis of Fire Service Operations in Emergency Management-Student Manual 2007, (5) FEMA publications Public Assistance Guide (FEMA 322) and Public Assistance Policy Digest (FEMA 321), and (6) NFPA Standard 1600: Recommended Practices for Disaster Management. The external survey results revealed that eighty percent of respondents listed the use of survey forms as a part of an emergency response policy to large-scale incidents. Furthermore, the external survey revealed that the windshield survey form was considered to be the most often used form, and the windshield survey was considered to be the best method for initial damage assessment. The literature review performed resulted in analysis of articles which maintained a heavy emphasis on damage assessment as a multi-step process. The assessment timeline involves two types of damage assessments consistently discussed: immediate and postincident. The external survey found that fifty-five percent of respondents utilize Citizen Emergency Response Teams (CERT) to assist in some part of the damage assessment

21 21 process. Furthermore, forty percent of external respondents revealed that their department maintains policy covering the participation of CERT as it relates to emergency response in general. The external survey yielded a few responses referencing the utilization of CERT to assess damage in the community after large-scale disasters and to prepare for large-scale incident damage assessment without referencing a policy. In response to question three of the external survey, sixty percent of respondents discussed the use of table-top type exercises utilizing existing policies and procedures; ten percent stated that they are not training at any level; and approximately thirty percent shared that various drills are performed annually and sometimes include damage assessment practices. Research question 2: How are other organizations assessing damages from largescale emergency incidents? According to the external survey results to question number two, sixty percent of respondents cited that first-line crews perform initial damage assessment practices. The remaining forty percent answered survey question number two in one of the following ways: not completely sure or joint effort between multiple city and county agencies. The literature reviewed discussed that FEMA is the standard used by the government to report damage. The process used by FEMA identifies damage in four categories (McDowell, 2002). McDowell also reports that the American Red Cross identifies three categories and uses their damage assessments for internal purposes to determine the aid they will need to provide to victims of the disaster (p. 10). In addition, the State of Delaware utilizes a Microsoft Access database to capture field survey assessments on a Personal Data Assistant and then converts the assessments to either the FEMA or Red Cross format (p. 10).

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