Timely responses to natural and manmade disasters require the effective coordination of numerous federal, state and local resources. Indeed, effective responses can make the difference between life and death for countless citizens, and there is therefore a need for a framework to coordinate these disparate but valuable first responder resources. In this regard, the National Response Framework provides such a framework, but given the enormous range of providers that are involved, it is not surprising that the framework is also lengthy and complex. Moreover, the NRF recently superseded the National Response Plan (NRP) and provided a number of incident annexes concerning optimal contingency or hazard situation responses. To gain additional insights into the provisions of these annexes, this paper provides a summary of the annexes to the NRF, followed by recapitulation of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
Summary of National Response Framework Annexes
Incident Annex Introduction
The Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) National Response Plan Resource Center reports that the Incident Annexes provide guidance concerning the responses needed to address specific contingency or hazard situations or an element of an incident requiring specialized application of the NRF (Incident annexes, 2012). The NRF Resource Center also advises the Incident Annexes summarized below were updated and now supersede the December 2004 versions.
This annex is used to define the respective responsibilities, actions and roles for responses that specifically involve human disease outbreaks of communicable and non- communicable nature attributable to either natural or mandate sources of unknown origin that require federal assistance; the annex notes that incidents restricted to animal, plant, or food health or safety are addressed in other annexes. The steps outlined in this annex can be taken in the absence of a Presidential Stafford Act declaration or a public health emergency declaration by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and provides guidance concerning biological incident response actions such as (a) threat assessment notification procedures, (b) laboratory testing, (c) joint investigative/response procedures, and (d) activities related to recovery (Biological incident annex, 2012).
This annex sets forth the various strategies that will be employed for the implementation and coordination of an efficient, forward-looking national-level response to catastrophic incidents; however, the preface to this annex also notes that additional and more detailed guidance is provided separately in a supplement to the NRF (Catastrophic incident annex, 2012). The annex, though, does emphasize the potential impact of catastrophic incidents and the disruption that such events could have at the national level, making the need for an efficient and coordinated response paramount (Catastrophic incident annex, 2012)
This annex is intended to provide relevant policies, actions and responsibilities required to respond to cyber-related events that have national implications. The annex sets forth the coordinated responses from federal, state, local, tribal and private-sector partners. This annex is based on the National Cyberspace Security Response System which is published separately (Cyber incident annex, 2012).
Food and Agriculture Incident
This annex codifies the respective roles and responsibilities of agencies responding to food and agriculture-related incidents at the national level. The annex sets forth the key principles that will guide such responses and establishes protocols to be followed in a coordinated federal response to such incidents. As with biological responses, the annex states that responses to food and agriculture incidents may also be taken in the absence of a Stafford Act Presidential declaration or a public health emergency declaration by the Secretary of Health and Human Services or an emergency declaration by the Secretary of Agriculture (Food and agriculture incident annex, 2012).
Mass Evacuation Incident
This annex sets forth the NRF guidelines for responsible agencies, their respective roles and responsibilities as well as relevant guidelines concerning optimal integrated responses by federal, states, local, and tribal resources. The annex contains five main parts: (a) the criteria under which federal support to mass evacuations is provided; (b) a concept of operations for federal-level mass evacuation support; (c) the agencies and organizations involved in a federally supported mass evacuation; (d) the roles and responsibilities of federal entities in planning, preparing for, and conducting mass evacuations in support of state, tribal, and local authorities; and (e) guidelines to improve coordination among federal, State, tribal, and local authorities when federal evacuation support is required. (Mass evacuation incident annex, 2012).