Core vs. Program Functions

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

This article reviews the concepts of core and program functions of emergency management.

FEMA’s IS-230a, Fundamentals of Emergency Management, describes emergency management as consisting of both core and program functions. FEMA defines core functions as those that are performed during emergencies – response phase. It does not describe what a first responder does during the response phase. Program functions, on the other hand, are duties performed on a day-to-day basis that support the jurisdiction’s response capability – during the preparedness, recovery and mitigation phases.

Core Functions

There are eight core functions in emergency management. They are: direction and control, communications, warning, emergency public information, evacuation, mass care, health and medical, and resource management. In most cases, these duties, without further explanation, are considered technical and not managerial. That is, these functions perform technical tasks, such as communicating on a radio, issuing a public announcement, going house-to-house to evacuate residents, or performing triage. Your job description may include specific core functions, but by themselves, the core function titles are not enough to demonstrate comprehensive emergency management duties.

Remember that emergency managers are not first responders, and first responders are not emergency managers. While both groups are important, their specific duties are very different. For example, during a mass care event, the first responder performs triage duties; the emergency manager does not. Emergency managers ensure mass care procedures exist and are being performed by the appropriate stakeholders or they ensure assistance is requested from supporting entities in accordance with the emergency operations plan (EOP).

First responders may be included in plan development, and they should be, but emergency managers develop and maintain the EOP. If the job descriptions are not clear, the candidate should include additional documentation describing how the core functions the candidate performed are related to what an emergency manager does and not just what a first responder does.

Program Functions

There are 13 emergency management program functions. They are: laws and authorities; hazard identification and risk assessment; hazard mitigation; resource management; planning, direction and control; communication and warning; operations and procedures; logistics and facilities; training; exercises; evaluations and corrective actions; public education and information; and finance and administration.

Emergency managers usually perform these 13 program functions during preparedness, recovery and mitigation phases. They will also perform some of these functions during the response phase. For example, laws and authorities are a critical part of plan development in the preparedness, recovery and mitigation phases. Laws and authorities are also a critical part of execution during all four phases. Perform these 13 functions on all hazards with all jurisdictions/stakeholders, and you are performing emergency management duties.

Commission’s Interpretation

The CEM Commission’s interpretation is the same as that defined by FEMA. Emergency managers are not first responders, and they do not perform first responder duties. Emergency managers perform program functions on a day-to-day basis. Emergency managers perform specifically defined core functions, usually during the response phase. Emergency managers perform their response duties in the emergency operations center. First responders perform their response duties on scene.

CEM Commissioners base their evaluation of comprehensive emergency management experience strictly on the documentation provided by the candidate. If the duties described consist only of the core functions and none or few of the program functions, then that experience is judged to be too technical and not managerial (recall that management is key). Therefore, the Commissioners will not count it toward the three years of full-time equivalent disaster/emergency management experience. For it to count, the candidate should provide additional documentation that clearly demonstrates how the claimed experience really is managerial (emergency management) and not strictly technical (first responder).

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that a candidate’s claimed experience could include the core functions of emergency management, but to be judged as comprehensive, the candidate also needs to document experience in the emergency management program functions, across all four phases, for all hazards, and with all actors/stakeholders.

IAEM Bulletin, March 2012

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