Category Archives: Disaster

Mass Care Seminar in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

Leveraging Regional Partnerships for Better Local Planning

On March 18, 2016, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force (SEPA RTF) and the Health and Human Services Workgroup (HHS WG) sponsored a Mass Care Seminar at the Montgomery County Fire Academy in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania to bring together local and regional key stakeholders to discuss mass care preparedness and response planning. This seminar was the second exercise in a series of activities to explore and improve the region’s mass care emergency support function (ESF #6) capacity and capabilities.

Over 60 participants from over 30 local, state, and federal agencies and service providers attended the seminar from key sectors such as emergency management, public health, nongovernmental organizations, human services, and advocacy groups representing access and functional needs and disabled populations.

Participants enjoyed six informational sessions led by nationally recognized subject matter experts in mass care, including Denise Grimm, Dawn Skaggs, and Jon Bodie from BCFS Health and Human Services and Michael Whitehead from the American Red Cross National Headquarters. Session topics provided mass care planning information, best practices, and methods for improving local mass care plans and partnerships. The six sessions led participants through key issues such as providing medical care in local mass care shelters, how to support those with access and functional needs both in planning and in response, incorporating mental health services in emergency planning and sheltering, and how to better coordinate and incorporate nongovernmental organizations and other non-traditional agencies into the local mass care process.

Seminar participants described this effort as important for enhancing agency networking and improving partnerships. Several attendees agreed that the information was crucial but also validated their own organizational directives and planning efforts. The motto “Be Ready, Not Relaxed” was provided by one of the participants, who stated that the seminar was a great collaboration for the region and hoped to see more opportunities like this one for future coordination.

Information from the seminar is available online at: Seminar materials include event objectives, speaker bios, and presentations as well as a list of online resources mentioned throughout the day.

More About the Sponsor:

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force – Health and Human Services Workgroup includes the City and County of Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County. The Health and Human Services Workgroup continues to work to improve the local and regional mass care response within the region through an integrative, collaborative, and cooperative program that builds, maintains, and enhances preparedness capabilities among regional stakeholders.

Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) Planning Resource

The Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) Planning Resource describes duties and responsibilities of individuals, agencies and volunteer organizations in the event of a disaster. The MARC Planning Resource is a living document and the contributors acknowledge there will be changes for each community and instance. The experience and knowledge regarding MARCs is growing. Over time, there will be new and different complexities and challenges, new lessons learned and knowledge gained, and lives improved on the path to recovery. Please share this knowledge and experience with others by collecting and recording information, experiences, expenses and decisions that help people in their time of need.

 Development of the MARC Planning Resource was highly collaborative and written based on the experience of the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army, as this is the experience and knowledge of the contributors and reviewers.  All three organizations were involved throughout the development of the material.

 Additional reviews were completed by teams at FEMA, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army and Red Cross. Over 50 additional individuals provided comments and input to this document, and we hope we have improved the document based on their feedback.

 Also utilized in the development of the document were coalitions and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) in the following states: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina. Feedback was also incorporated in real time from existing MARCs and MARC exercises.

 In addition, a course is available through the American Red Cross:

Online courses are available 24/7 in the Red Cross EDGE learning system at:

Non-Red Cross volunteers can access EDGE by registering at:


State ESF #6 Coordinator Position Guide Book

The State of Washington has developed a new State ESF #6 Coordinator Position Guide Book to assist their mass care lead at the State Emergency Operations Center in performing necessary coordination during a response. This Guide Book will be tested during the State’s participation in the Cascadia Rising national exercise.

“This Position Guide Book lists the essential tasks for the state level ESF #6 Coordinator (alternatively referred to as the “mass care lead”) in the State Emergency Operations Center (State EOC) and/or a Joint Field Office (JFO). This guide serves as a ready reference and describes the basic tasks that must be performed through the ESF #6 desk at the State Emergency Operations Center (State EOC).”

“The ESF #6 Coordinator serves as the primary point of contact at the State EOC for all ESF #6 related matters. Additional ESF #6 positions are discussed in separate position books.”


New Release: Multi-Agency Reunification Services Plan Template

The purpose of the Multi-Agency Reunification Services Plan Template is to supplement a jurisdiction’s Emergency Operations Plan and/or Mass Care Annex and is intended to provide guidance and suggested procedures for a jurisdiction to consider in the development of a Multi-Agency Reunification Services Plan. This template is based on best practices and concepts and can be used by any jurisdiction. Additionally, the template can serve as an educational tool to assist jurisdictions, NGOs, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and other stakeholders who provide reunification services to understand the complexities of implementing a collaborative approach to planning and operations, including but not limited to: identifying  the various sectors that have reunification responsibilities and coordinating among them, assessing planning factors, determining protocols and understanding privacy challenges, learning terminology and determining methods of reunification. This comprehensive multi-agency document was developed in coordination with State Mass Care Coordinators, State of Missouri Department of Mental Health, the American Red Cross, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The Missing Persons Community of Interest, 2-1-1 Virginia, Civil Air Patrol, The Salvation Army, FEMA Headquarters and Regional Mass Care staff, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Library of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Download the Multi-Agency Reunification Services Plan Template

National Mass Evacuation Tracking System (NMETS) in Action

On October 27, 2015, FEMA’s Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs), the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD), and the DHS Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships co-hosted the 1st Annual Voluntary Organization Partnership Day. This unique event recognized the valuable services and support our voluntary, faith-based, and community partners provide to disaster survivors before, during, and after disasters. Exhibitors and participants were welcomed in the morning by members of FEMA leadership.

As part of the day’s activities, the FEMA Mass Care/Emergency Assistance section conducted a demonstration of the National Mass Evacuation Tracking System (NMETS). NMETS is an evacuation tracking tool developed by FEMA and distributed at no cost to States, jurisdictions, or partner agencies to register and track government-assisted evacuees during a disaster. NMETS can also be implemented to track an evacuee’s pets, service animals, durable medical equipment and personal belongings throughout the evacuation cycle. The goal of the demonstration was to simulate certain aspects of the evacuation process by having event participants (“evacuees”) voluntarily enroll into NMETS (registration processing), providing unique identifiers (barcoded wristbands) for accountability, and scanning them through multiple partner exhibits to represent departure (embarkation) and arrival (debarkation) at different evacuation sites. 158 visitors from 40 organizations, including a human/dog comfort team from HOPE AACR, participated in the demonstration by enrolling in NMETS. Four additional organizations participated by using their own computers to log into NMETS via a local server, and used barcode scanners provided by FEMA to track the “evacuees.”

A key take-away expressed by many participants was that FEMA has developed a simple to use evacuee tracking tool that does not require a dedicated inventory of IT assets to operate, and is offered FREE to states, territories, tribes and their evacuation partners. For more information on the NMETS program, please contact Samuel Johnson (, Section Chief, FEMA Mass Care/Emergency Assistance Section.

Did you attend this event or wish to find out more? Share your experiences and photos or learn more about the VAL Partnership Day through hashtag #VOPD15 or contact A.C. Claud (

Edited 06/19/2017 to update the contact information for the FEMA Mass Care/Emergency Assistance Section Chief