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3.2: The Local Emergency Management Agency

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    Similarly, the generic term we will use in this book to refer to the community agency that is responsible for emergency management is the Local Emergency Management Agency (LEMA). In practice, the LEMA might be known as the Office of Civil Defense, Emergency Management, Emergency Services, Homeland Security, some combination of these names, or yet some other name. Moreover, the LEMA might be a separate department, a section of another department, or an individual attached to the chief administrative officer’s office. In many cities and counties, especially those with small populations or limited hazard vulnerability, the LEMA is staffed by a single individual, whose title, like the name of the LEMA, varies. Consequently, we will refer to this individual as the local emergency manager. In larger jurisdictions—especially those that are exposed to major hazards—the local emergency manager is likely to have multiperson staff. The emergency manager almost always reports directly to the jurisdiction’s CAO during emergencies, but frequently reports to the head of a major agency such as police or fire during normal operations. Local emergency managers vary in their employment status—full-time paid, part-time paid, or volunteer—again depending upon jurisdiction size (and, thus, its financial resources) and hazard vulnerability. In the past, local emergency managers have varied significantly in their training and experience, which frequently is associated with their jurisdictions’ resources and vulnerability; those jurisdictions that can afford to pay more tend to attract personnel with greater qualifications. Of course, this is not an invariant rule; there are many well-qualified and dedicated personnel in smaller jurisdictions.

    The Job Description

    A local emergency manager’s first task should be to understand the duties of his or her own position as defined by a job description (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1983). To whom does the incumbent (the person who serves as the local emergency manager) report, who reports to the incumbent, what is the specific function of the position, what duties for the position are specifically listed in the job description, and what are the specific qualifications (education, training, and experience) that are listed in the job description? If there currently is no job description or the one that exists is outdated, the emergency manager should draft a new job description and discuss it with her or his superior.

    LEMA Staffing

    Many LEMAs have administrative (clerk, secretary, or administrative assistant) or professional (emergency management analyst) staff that are paid part- or full-time. Such personnel need to have job descriptions specifying their titles, reporting lines, functions, duties, and qualifications. These personnel support the LEMA by receiving and tracking correspondence, drafting plans and procedures, maintaining databases, scheduling meetings, maintaining meeting minutes, and the like. In many cases, a LEMA’s budget is too small to support enough paid staff to perform all of these activities. Consequently, volunteers are enlisted by contacting community service organizations, clubs, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and others. These volunteers can be a valuable source of assistance in achieving the LEMA’s goals by performing tasks that are delegated by the local emergency manager. Indeed, some volunteers have valuable skills (e.g., computing, radio communications) the emergency manager lacks.

    Each of the LEMA staff members should be given a clear description of his or her duties. In addition, most jurisdictions require paid staff to be provided with periodic (at least annual) performance appraisals. These appraisals allow employees to assess their performance over the previous year and to set training and performance objectives for the year to come. Although rarely mandatory, regularly scheduled performance reviews for volunteers are valuable in guiding their development and enhancing their performance effectiveness. A jurisdiction’s human resources department can provide valuable guidance on its personnel policies.

    LEMA Program Plan

    Emergency managers need to develop program plans that systematically direct their efforts over the course of the year. FEMA (1983, 1993) has advised emergency managers to set annual goals in each of the major programmatic areas for which they are responsible—such as hazard and vulnerability analysis, hazard mitigation, emergency preparedness, recovery preparedness, and community hazard education. Once these goals have been set, the local emergency manager should assess the LEMA’s ability to achieve these goals. This capability assessment is likely to identify satisfactory levels of capability in some areas but not in others. The emergency manager should document the capability shortfall and devise a multiyear development plan to reduce that shortfall. The limited funds available for emergency management make it a certainty that the shortfall cannot be eliminated within a single year, so this is the reason why a multiyear (typically five year) development plan is needed. Despite its long planning horizon, the multiyear development plan should identify specific annual milestones (measurable objective indicators) to determine if progress is being made at a satisfactory rate.

    LEMA Budget Preparation

    An organization’s budget lists the categories of anticipated expenditures and the amount that has been allocated to each category. The budget usually covers the jurisdiction’s fiscal year, which is a 12 month period that might or might not be the same as the calendar year (from January 1 to December 31). The budget is a financial plan that identifies the amount of money that has been allocated to each of its budget categories. Typical budget categories include routine continuing items such as staff salaries, office space, office equipment (e.g., copiers, computers, fax machines), telephone (local and long-distance), travel, and materials and supplies (e.g., paper, toner). The budget should anticipate the need to replace worn out or obsolete equipment or to purchase new equipment that will increase the LEMA’s capabilities. The budget also should contain a contingency fund that addresses the costs of resources that will be expended in a foreseeable emergency.

    The challenge for the emergency manager is to ensure the expenses do not exceed the budgeted amount. This is not difficult to do for the routine continuing items because, for example, staff salaries, office space, and local telephone service are fixed and materials and supplies are quite predictable from month to month. Repairs to office equipment can be unpredictable, but this can be managed by signing a service contract that establishes a fixed fee for routine preventive and corrective maintenance. Long-distance telephone and travel for training are somewhat less predictable but are discretionary, so these activities can be reduced if the expenses for other categories prove to be greater than expected.

    The amount to set aside in the contingency fund for emergency response is more difficult to estimate because the scope of an emergency (or even whether one occurs) is unpredictable. Nonetheless, past agency records or discussions with emergency managers in neighboring jurisdictions can provide some insight into the appropriate amount to request. When preparing a budget, it is essential to justify each of the budget items. Once again, records of previous years’ expenses are useful guides, but it is important to make adjustments for inflation (consult the jurisdiction’s budget office for guidance on the amount they allow) as well as making adjustments for changes in the program plan. Has a new chemical facility been opened? Are there new subdivisions that have been built in flood prone areas? As new needs arise that cannot be addressed with the resources provided by previous budgets, the emergency manager needs to request funding increases that will meet the new program requirements. The nature of these needs is typically documented in a budget narrative that accompanies the budget request. The budget and the accompanying narrative are submitted in written form and, in many cases, are presented orally as well. In the latter case, the use of presentation graphics can be a valuable method of explaining how each of the budget items contributes to the achievement of the program plan.

    Whatever the amounts turn out to be for the budget categories, it is essential that the emergency manager submit the new year’s budget in the format that is being used by his or her jurisdiction. The local budget office will provide assistance in this area.

    LEMA Funding Sources

    The local emergency manager’s most obvious source of funding is the head of the department in which the LEMA is administratively located or, if the LEMA is an independent agency, the jurisdiction’s CAO. It is important to recognize that other funding sources can provide valuable supplements as well. The federal government has a range of programs that provide financial assistance to local government. For example, Emergency Management Performance Grants require LEMAs to submit a statement of work and budget that makes the local jurisdiction eligible for matching funds (i.e., a 50/50 cost sharing). This program is administered through each state’s emergency management agency, which might impose its own requirements for funding. For example, Texas requires a LEMA to have an emergency management plan that meets a specified standard of quality and provides competitive awards based upon the quality of recent planning, training, and exercising activities. Continued financial support is contingent upon meeting performance and financial reporting requirements, as well as achieving the annual objectives specified in the initial proposal.

    Another example is the Hazardous Materials Assistance Program, which provides technical and financial assistance through the states to support oil and hazardous materials emergency planning and exercising. Applications are required to list the program objective, describe the means by which the objective will be achieved (including a list of specific activities and their duration) and the expected achievements of the project. LEMAs submit applications through their state emergency management agencies for review by the corresponding FEMA regional offices.

    There are also local sources that can be contacted for financial and in-kind assistance. Local industrial facilities such as nuclear power plants and chemical facilities might be contacted for financial contributions to defray the costs of emergency preparedness for their facilities. Truck and rail carriers might be contacted for training assistance. Commercial businesses such as large retail outlets might be able to provide in-kind contributions or make small financial contributions for community hazard awareness programs.

    LEMA Budget Management

    As the fiscal year progresses, expenses are automatically incurred for some items such as salaries, space, and local telephone use. Other expenses might require the emergency manager’s authorization (and possibly countersignature by a higher authority). These include purchase orders for equipment and supplies or travel vouchers for attendance at training courses or professional conferences. These records are forwarded to the jurisdiction’s accounting office where they are entered and charged against the appropriate accounts.

    In many jurisdictions, local emergency managers receive monthly program accounting, which refers to the recording of actual expenses and a comparison of these expenses to the corresponding budget amounts. A budget statement lists budget categories in rows and indicates, in one column, how much money was allocated to each category and, in another column, how much money has been spent to date in that category. If the budget was based upon accurate projections, monthly variances (deviations of actual expenditures from anticipated expenditures) will be small. If the monthly variances are large, corrective action will need to be taken. Unforeseen expenditures attributable to a major emergency often are the basis for a supplemental request to the LEMA’s parent department or directly to the CAO, but foreseeable items such as replacement of broken equipment are likely to receive an unfavorable review. Consequently, emergency managers must make mid-year adjustments in other categories. Unfortunately, training and travel are the categories that are commonly cut in such situations—which can produce a chronic training shortfall if budgeting problems are recurrent.

    Senior elected and appointed officials typically require periodic (e.g., monthly or quarterly) reports of progress on the program plan and budget. As is the case with the presentation of each year’s budget, presentation graphics can be a valuable method of explaining which milestones in the program plan have been achieved and how this compares to the level of progress expected to date. In addition, the emergency manager should explain what percentage of each budget line has been expended to date in comparison to the percentage of the year that has elapsed. For example, the emergency manager should find it easy to explain why 0% of the budget for computer replacement has been expended in the first three months (25%) of the year. However, it probably would be more difficult to say why 40% of the budget for salaries had been expended in that same period. In either case, the source of the variances and the anticipated method of adjustment must be explained.

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