Operations: Return-to-Readiness Phase
Once the evacuation re-entry is completed, government agencies must prepare for the next event that may require evacuation operations. Actions taken in this phase should transition the system from an operations cycle back to a state of planning and preparedness.
Funding the Evacuation
The collection of costs and reimbursement of expenditures constitutes one of the activities in the Return-to-Readiness phase of an evacuation. Services may include rehabilitation of equipment, restocking of expendable supplies, and transportation to original storage or usage locations. In many cases, the costs may be reimbursed by the State. In cases where the event resulted in a Presidential declaration of disaster, a State will consolidate local and State expenditures associated with the disaster and seek reimbursement from the Federal government.
Usually, actions taken to safeguard the public and protect property, including evacuation efforts, will be fully covered by the Federal government. Governmental agencies may request and be reimbursed for many of the costs associated with an evacuation. Reimbursement may come from their insurance companies, State and Federal agencies such as FEMA and the FHWA Emergency Relief (ER) and Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Lands programs. To be reimbursed for these costs, agencies must complete a variety of reports and forms to document the expenses incurred. All agencies must have a system in place to record personnel, supplies, and equipment costs to meet the requirements of the reimbursing agencies.
Officials should check with FEMA and FHWA to determine whether various costs associated with evacuating the public would be covered, preferably as a planning and preparedness activity. Examples of reimbursable expenses may include overtime costs for public safety and transportation officials, materials used in support of the evacuation, rehabilitation or replacement of equipment used during the evacuation, and contract labor and equipment (through existing contracts or emergency contracts). As a planning activity, jurisdictions should inventory the contract labor and equipment they may need and which companies can provide those resources, and should put emergency contracts or contracting procedures in place to quickly acquire the necessary resources.
In some situations, there may be a need to back fill for personnel who are involved in the immediate evacuation response. Some of the back-fill labor may come from agency personnel in other departments not involved in the immediate evacuation, from agency personnel in another location outside of the impacted area, or through inter-local or mutual-aid agreements with other jurisdictions who have available personnel resources to meet the need.
Another potential cost is from the provision of support for volunteers or agency personnel from out of the area who need food, water, shelter, restrooms, and shower facilities to rest and prepare for their next work shift.
During the Return-to-Readiness Phase, the jurisdiction will collect documentation of expenses, complete appropriate forms requesting reimbursement, and submit the information through the State to the appropriate organization. Agencies should work with FEMA and FHWA to ensure they provide the proper documentation before submitting their reimbursement requests. The Florida DOT has contracted with a company to prepare all of their Public Assistance Grant Program Project worksheets for FEMA reimbursement. This contract allows their transportation staff to more quickly return to their normal duties after an event. A link to the FHWA Emergency Relief and Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Lands programs, is included in the “Other Information Resources” section of this primer.
AARs and Best Practices and Lessons Learned Reports
An important step is for agencies to conduct an honest review of how the evacuation was executed and determine how they can better prepare for and execute the next evacuation. Each agency should review its actions. When multiple agencies are involved in an evacuation, it is useful to conduct a joint after-action review to address how well agencies worked together and what improvements can be made in future joint operations. Each review should include an AAR that can be shared with decision makers and agency personnel. The AAR should include recommendations for improvements, and it is important for decision makers and agency personnel to consider and implement those recommendations quickly. One means to develop the report and to finalize the operations is the “Hot Wash”, a formal meeting where groups participating in the operation will meet to assess actions, determine follow-up items, and develop recommendations for improving future operations. The results of the Hot Wash and individually submitted AARs should be combined for a jurisdiction’s or agency’s final report.
As a transitional activity from the operations cycle back to day-to-day planning and preparedness activities, agency personnel should review the AAR, evaluate findings (including lessons learned and best practices) and recommendations for improvement, and determine whether changes need to be made to their emergency plans and procedures. Such changes may require revision to agency plans, changes in processes, redefinition of roles and responsibilities, updating checklists and contact lists, and other such actions to improve agency performance.