On Friday, September 2, 2011, FEMA announced release of the "NIMS Guideline for the Credentialing of Personnel". Huge kudos go out to FEMA for this effort to uniformly identify the core competencies for personnel in the response communities. Go here.
In essence, this effort is about ensuring the body you "order" to help you out in a crisis, has the qualifications to do the job. Clearly, this effort is needed to ensure taxpayer money is properly spent and effective response efforts are delivered in a timely way.
So why am I crying? Because the powers to be forgot the geospatial community. Indeed, unlike the wildfire community that lives in the Department of the Interior, FEMA in the Department of Homeland Security has yet to truly come to grips with the reality that GIS is no longer about creating electronic versions of maps (something any GIS tech worth their salt can do), but rather about the ability to deliver situational awareness within the emergency preparedness and response framework. For example - with regard to the NIMS Incident Resource Inventory System (IRIS), where does FEMA say its headed? How about in FEMA's own words: "Future system functionality will assist in placing and mobilizing resource requests, GPS tracking of resources, and resource recovery." To me, sure sounds like geospatial is at the core of that management system. Or, how about all those references in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Response Framework (NRF) about the importance of developing a Common Operating Picture (COP) to manage a response - right down to the local level? Like here (page 23), and here (page 32). Sounds like geospatial visualization to me. Yet, unlike other individuals involved in the deliver of emergency services like police and search and rescue personnel, FEMA has not issued any guidance concerning the competency in this critical category of personnel beyond some thinly worded FEMA Task Books: Employee Job Aids designed to support its own internal needs.
So what's the solution? Try this -the EPC developed Geospatial Emergency Management Specialist (GEMS) training program. It's not perfect, but its a start - and that would be a good thing for FEMA to do on this issue.
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