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Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Plan Evaluation: A Report to Congress
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Appendix H: Coordination and Command for Mass Evacuations

In Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5 (HSPD-5), President Bush called on the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a national incident management system to provide a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, tribal and local governments to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size or complexity. On March 1, 2004, after close collaboration with State and local government officials and representatives from a wide range of public safety organizations, Homeland Security issued the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which incorporates many existing best practices into a comprehensive national approach to domestic incident management, applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across all functional disciplines.

The NIMS represents a core set of doctrine, principles, terminology, and organizational processes to enable effective, efficient and collaborative incident management at all levels. To provide the framework for interoperability and compatibility, the NIMS is based on a balance between flexibility and standardization. One of the most important practices that has been incorporated into the NIMS is the Incident Command System (ICS), a standard, on-scene, all-hazards incident management system already in use by firefighters, hazardous materials teams, rescuers, and emergency medical teams. The ICS has been established by the NIMS as the standardized incident organizational structure for the management of all incidents.

NIMS standard incident command structures are based on the following three key organizational systems:

  1. Multiagency Coordination Systems: These define the operating characteristics, interactive management components, and organizational structure of supporting incident management entities engaged at the Federal, State, local, tribal, and regional levels through mutual-aid agreements and other assistance arrangements.

  2. ICS: The ICS defines the operating characteristics, interactive management components, and structure of incident management and emergency response organizations engaged throughout the life cycle of an incident.

  3. Public Information Systems: These refer to processes, procedures, and systems for communicating timely and accurate information to the public during crisis or emergency situations.

In a letter written in October 2005, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the Governors that Hurricane Katrina was a stark reminder of how critical it is for our nation to approach incident management in a coordinated, consistent, and efficient manner. Secretary Chertoff emphasized that all levels of government need to work together to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from any emergency or disaster.

To better understand how ICS and NIMS relate to catastrophic evacuations, this appendix provides a description of the major components of the command structure for Federal, State, and local governments as discussed in Chapter II of this report.

HSPD-5 designates the Secretary of Homeland Security as the "principal Federal official" (PFO) for domestic incident management."[75] The U.S. DOT plays support or leadership roles in many areas of emergency management, including Emergency Support Function (ESF) 1, Transportation, under the NRP. No incident, whether an evacuation is involved or not, can be successfully prepared for or recovered from without the movement of people and goods using our nation's transportation systems. In addition to the roles defined in the NRP, such as providing emergency exemptions on the transport of hazardous materials like fuel, the U.S. DOT also assists with preparation by supporting the development of intelligent transportation systems, and developing guidance for transportation professionals on emergency management. These roles are outlined in detail later in this appendix.

Multiagency Coordination Entity

This entity functions within a broader multiagency coordination system. It may establish priorities among incidents and associated resource allocations, de-conflict agency policies, and provide strategic guidance and direction to support incident management activities.[76]

Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG)

The IIMG is a Federal headquarters-level multiagency coordination entity that facilitates strategic Federal domestic incident management for Incidents of National Significance. The Secretary of Homeland Security activates the IIMG based on the nature, severity, magnitude, and complexity of the threat or incident. The Secretary of Homeland Security may activate the IIMG for high-profile, large-scale events that present high-probability targets, such as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), and in heightened threat situations. The IIMG is comprised of senior representatives from DHS components, other Federal departments and agencies, and NGOs, as required.[77]

Joint Field Office (JFO) Coordination Group

Utilizing the NIMS principle of Unified Command, JFO activities are directed by a JFO Coordination Group, which may include the PFO, Senior Federal Law Enforcement Official (SFLEO), Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO)/Federal Resource Coordinator (FRC), or other SFOs with primary jurisdictional responsibility or functional authority for the incident.

The JFO Coordination Group also includes a limited number of principal State, local, and tribal officials (such as the State Coordinating Officer or SCO), as well as NGO and private-sector representatives. The JFO Coordination Group functions as a multiagency coordination entity and works jointly to establish priorities (single or multiple incidents) and associated resource allocation, resolve agency policy issues, and provide strategic guidance to support Federal incident management activities. Generally, the PFO, in consultation with the FCO and SFLEO, determines the composition of the JFO Coordination Group.[78]

PFO: The PFO is the local representative of the Secretary of DHS, appointed to oversee, coordinate, and execute the Federal government's incident management responsibilities for Incidents of National Significance. Moreover, the PFO addresses long-term care and treatment of affected persons, implements additional measures for community restoration, incorporates mitigation measures and techniques as feasible, evaluates the incident to identify lessons learned, and develops initiatives to mitigate the effects of future incidents. Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, however, a PFO may not always be designated, in which case the FCO will provide the Federal lead.[79]

SFLEO: The SFLEO is the senior law enforcement official from the agency with primary jurisdictional responsibility as directed by statute, Presidential directive, existing Federal policies, and/or the Attorney General. The SFLEO directs intelligence and investigative law enforcement operations related to the incident and supports the law enforcement component of the Unified Command on scene. In the event of a terrorist incident, this official will normally be the FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC).[80]

FCO: The FCO manages and coordinates Federal resource support activities related to Stafford Act disasters and emergencies. The FCO is responsible for coordinating the timely delivery of Federal disaster assistance resources and programs to the affected State and local governments, individual victims, and the private sector. The FCO assists the Unified Command and/or the Area Command, and works closely with the PFO, SFLEO, and other SFOs. In Stafford Act situations where a PFO has not been assigned, the FCO provides overall coordination for the Federal components of the JFO.[81]

FRC: In non-Stafford Act situations when a Federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested the assistance of the Secretary of Homeland Security to obtain support from other Federal departments and agencies, DHS designates an FRC. In these situations, the FRC coordinates support through interagency agreements and MOUs. Relying on the same skill set, DHS may select the FRC from the FCO cadre or other personnel with equivalent knowledge, skills, and abilities. The FRC is responsible for coordinating the timely delivery of resources to the requesting agency.[82]

SCO: The SCO represents the State, and is appointed to manage State resource support activities related to disasters and emergencies. The SCO is the State's principal point-of-contact with the Federal Government. Additionally, the SCO is responsible for coordinating the timely delivery of State disaster assistance resources and programs to the affected local governments, individual victims, and the private sector. The SCO works with the FCO to identify emergency response requirements for the State.[83]

Multiagency Coordination Centers

Multiagency coordination centers and emergency operations centers (EOCs) provide central locations for operational information-sharing and resource coordination in support of on-scene efforts.[84]

Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC)

The HSOC is the primary national hub for domestic incident management operational coordination and situational awareness. The HSOC is a standing 24/7 interagency organization fusing law enforcement, national intelligence, emergency response, and private sector reporting. The HSOC facilitates homeland security information-sharing and operational coordination with other Federal, State, local, tribal, and nongovernmental EOCs.[85]

National Response Coordination Center (NRCC)

The NRCC is a multiagency center that provides overall Federal response coordination for Incidents of National Significance, including coordinating the use of Federal remote sensing and disaster assessment support, and emergency management program implementation. During an incident, the NRCC operates on a 24/7 basis or as required in coordination with other elements of the HSOC. To support incident operations, more than 40 departments and agencies from activated ESF primary and support agencies provide representatives to augment the NRCC. Moreover, FEMA maintains the NRCC as a functional component of the HSOC in support of incident management operations. The NRCC monitors potential or developing Incidents of National Significance and supports the efforts of regional and field components. If required, the NRCC will activate and deploy national-level entities such as the National Disaster Medical System, Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, Mobile Emergency Response Support, and Emergency Response Team (ERT).[86]

Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC)

The RRCC is a standing facility operated by FEMA that is activated to coordinate regional response efforts, establish Federal priorities, and implement local Federal program support until a JFO is established in the field and/or the PFO, FCO, or FRC can assume their National Response Plan coordination responsibilities. The RRCC establishes communications with the affected State emergency management agency and the NRCC, and coordinates deployment of the Emergency Response Team–Advance Element (ERT-A) to field locations. Moreover, the RRCC assesses damage information, develops situation reports, and issues initial mission assignments.[87]


The JFO is a multiagency coordination center established locally. It provides a central location for coordination of Federal, State, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and private sector organizations with primary responsibility for threat response and incident support. The JFO enables the effective and efficient coordination of Federal incident-related prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery actions. The JFO organization adapts to the magnitude and complexity of the situation at hand, and incorporates the NIMS principles regarding span of control and organizational structure including management, operations, planning, logistics, and finance and administration. Although the JFO uses an ICS structure, it does not manage on-scene operations. Instead, the JFO focuses on providing support to on-scene efforts and conducts broader support operations that may extend beyond the incident site.[88]

State (and Local) EOCs

The State EOC is a physical location at which the coordination of information and resources to support state incident management activities normally takes place. The State EOC may be a temporary facility or may be located in a more central or permanently established facility, perhaps at a higher level of organization within a jurisdiction. Moreover, it may be organized by major functional disciplines (e.g., fire, law enforcement, and medical services). When advance warning of potential disaster or emergencies is possible, DHS through its HSOC may deploy and request other Federal agencies to deploy liaison officers and personnel to the State EOC to assess the emerging situation. During an emergency, the State Governor will activate the State EOC.[89]

Incident Command

As noted in the introduction, ICS is a standard, on-scene, all-hazards incident management system already in use by the Federal, State, local first responder community.

Area Command (Unified Area Command Structure)

An Area Command is established to oversee the management of multiple incidents that are each being handled by a separate ICS organization or to oversee the management of a very large or complex incident that has multiple incident management teams engaged. An Area Command Structure becomes a Unified Area Command Structure when incidents are multi-jurisdictional. Agencies work together through the designated members of the Unified Command to establish their designated Incident Commanders at a single Incident Command Post (ICP) and to establish a common set of objectives and strategies and a single Incident Action Plan. The organization has the responsibility to set overall strategy and priorities, allocate critical resources according to priorities, ensure that incidents are properly managed, and ensure that objectives are met and strategies followed. [90]


This is the field location at which the primary tactical-level, on-scene incident command functions are performed. The ICP may be collocated with the incident base or other incident facilities and is normally identified by a green rotating or flashing light.[91]

Other Coordination Entities


U.S. DOT's Emergency Management Support Functions and Capabilities

State and Local

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