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FEMA IS-27: Orientation to FEMA Logistics Course Summary

Lesson 1: Course Objectives and Navigation Tools

Course Overview and Objectives

This course is an orientation to FEMA Logistics. The following six lessons will give you an understanding of the uniqueness and complexities of the FEMA Logistics mission. You will learn how FEMA Logistics prepares for, responds to, and sustains disaster relief efforts at the national, regional, and incident levels.

At the end of this course, you will be able to identify:

  • FEMA Headquarters Logistics preparations in support of the agency’s mission.
  • FEMA Regional and Field Logistics preparedness, response, and recovery operations.
  • FEMA Logistics branches within the Incident Command System (ICS) structure.
  • Units within the branches and the roles and responsibilities within the units.

The remainder of this lesson will introduce the course’s user interface, including navigational elements, resources, and functions available to you as you take each lesson.


Navigation – General

In order to confidently navigate through each lesson, you will need to be familiar with the course interface. The navigation buttons are located on the bottom right-hand corner and top right-hand corner of the screen: The green Back arrow takes you back to the last page you just visited, and the green Next arrow takes you to the next page.


Navigation – Audio and Videos

Audio and videos are also presented in some of the lessons. Audio player navigation buttons include the following:

  • Stop: The Stop button stops the audio or video.
  • Play: The Play button plays the audio or video.
  • Restart: The Restart button plays the audio or video from the beginning.
  • Transcript: Provides the text of the audio in a new window.
  • CC: Closed caption displays the audio text for a page below the image. Click the CC to turn off the closed captioning.


Navigation – Glossary

Acronyms and terms used in this course are defined in the Glossary. To access the Glossary, click on the blue abc button. The Glossary will open in a new window. Select the letter of the word you want to look up. If the letter is grayed out, the Glossary does not contain any words for that letter.


Navigation – Help

The Help function provides additional information you may want to know. The help topics include the following:

  • Using Navigation
  • Navigating Using Your Keyboard
  • Course Structure
  • Receiving Credit
  • Moving Through the Course
  • Completing Lessons
  • Enlarging Screen Text Size
  • Accessing PDF Files
  • Using JAWS Assistive Technology

To access the Help function, click the green question mark button. The Help function will open in a new window. Each of the topics can be printed by clicking on the Print icon.


Navigation – Menu

The Course Menu contains links to each lesson. Take a lesson by simply clicking on the title. The lesson will open in a new window. The Course Menu window stays open as long as you are taking the course. Access the Course Menu at any time by clicking on the window. Your current lesson window will stay open until you finish the lesson or click the red X in the upper right-hand corner of the window.


Receiving Credit

To receive credit for this course, you must complete all of the lessons. Lesson times vary between 10 and 50 minutes. It is important to allow enough time to complete the course in its entirety. To view your progress in a lesson, refer to the progress tracker in the upper right portion of the screen. If you roll your mouse over the progress bar, it will display the status by page number.


Lesson 2: Overview of FEMA Logistics

Lesson Overview

This lesson gives you an overview of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Logistics Section. This lesson explains:

  • The FEMA Logistics mission.
  • The logistics functions at FEMA HQ, FEMA regions, and in the field.
  • How to formally request FEMA assistance.
  • Unique challenges of the FEMA Logistics mission.


FEMA Logistics

Video Transcript:

FEMA is a customer-service oriented agency. We do emergency response but we work for our customers. So, whoever that survivor may be whoever that state is whoever that local person is we work for them.

The logistics function has a major role to play. That role is to ensure that the requirements laid out by Operations are fully supported. To perform that mission, we need to make sure that we have sufficient operational facilities, that responders have the resources they require to perform their duties, that matters of health and safety are actively addressed to ensure the workforce has a good environment to work from, and to bring all those resources together requires a team effort all the way through the federal family.

We’re always prepared to do what we have to do to ensure that the American people receive the resources they need to recover.


The FEMA Logistics Mission

The FEMA Logistics mission is to provide an efficient, transparent, and flexible logistics capability for the procurement and delivery of life-sustaining goods and services to an impacted population while simultaneously coordinating support to all the responders. This simultaneous coordination element and the “element of surprise” inherent in disasters makes the FEMA Logistics mission uniquely challenging. As you will discover in this course, logistics support during a disaster presents issues not commonly encountered in other logistics operations.


The FEMA Logistics Mission, continued

The FEMA Logistics mission is to plan, coordinate, and sustain a federal-level capability to response and recovery operations for domestic emergencies and special events. In other words, FEMA’s mission is to coordinate and support everyone else’s mission.

FEMA must move life-sustaining as well as operational resources into a disaster area within a 12 to 24 hour period and account for those resources.


The FEMA Logistics Mission, continued

For those of us in FEMA Logistics, the challenge is compounded in that we do not own many of the resources we are moving; we don’t own the vehicles that deliver these resources and we can’t know, in advance and with certainty, the types or amounts of these resources that are needed by the impacted population.


The FEMA Logistics Mission, continued

The scope and impact of a disaster cannot be known in advance. Therefore, our preparation activities must be adaptable to meet a variety of potential situations. We must keep our plans and response flexible, ready to be modified as changes unfold.

A static logistics system, where specific products in a defined quantity are delivered over scheduled routes, cannot react to the shifting conditions surrounding a disaster. You will learn how FEMA Logistics, in this unique environment, functions differently from logistics in any other organization.


FEMA’s Authority (Where FEMA Gets its Authority)

FEMA’s mission and organization is driven by several authorities, enabling legislation and public law. These include the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief and Assistance Act, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the Homeland Security Presidential Directives, the National Response Framework (NRF), the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the Incident Command System (ICS).


FEMA Headquarters

Video Transcript:

FEMA Headquarters Logistics has, from our perspective, a role of being a supporter. Helping us meet the requirements that are put upon us at the state and local level. And to be there to help us develop policies and procedures that will make everything run smoothly so we are all kind of working from same sheet of music and making everything clear and concise so that we don’t have mix ups, we don’t have short falls and we don’t make mistakes when the balloon goes up and we have to jump at a moment’s notice.

When I’m responding to a disaster usually either at the state Emergency Operations Center or at the Joint Field Office after it’s been established I’ll reach back to FEMA Headquarters primarily through Etaskers or some of our other systems to request resources that are needed that I know that are in storage for example at the distribution centers or disaster information systems clearing house where we’ll have our IT assets stored so I’ll reach back to FEMA Headquarters for resource support.

For Headquarters, their job is to support us. We actually become the customer of our Headquarters. The NRCC or whoever the Logistics Chief is on the NRCC at the national level will reach out to us for our requirements or whatever is coming out of Ops. Any ARFs, mission assignments or things of that nature that we may have created to let them know what is coming down the pipe. Obviously because all our assets are national assets so Headquarters needs to be involved in any decision we make.


FEMA Headquarters: The Logistics Management Directorate

Logistics Management at FEMA Headquarters is responsible for policy, guidance, standards, execution, and governance of logistics support, services, and operations. Headquarters Logistics plans, manages, and sustains national logistics operations in support of the FEMA regions that are responding for domestic emergencies and special events. There are five separate divisions at FEMA Headquarters Logistics, each with specific responsibilities.


FEMA Headquarters, continued

A successful response to disasters begins with strong leadership. Logistics Management at FEMA Headquarters continuously coordinates emergency logistics planning and preparedness through its five divisions.

Distribution Management Division – The Distribution Management Division manages a comprehensive supply chain, warehouse, and transportation operation. This division coordinates with strategic alliances to distribute resources.

Logistics Operations Division – The Logistics Operations Division serves as the central reporting element for all logistics actions.

Plans and Exercises Division – The Plans and Exercises Division provides logistics plans and exercises for short- and long-term readiness requirements.

Property Management Division – The Property Management Division develops the concept of operations and processes for property visibility, accountability, reutilization, and disposal.

Business Management Division – The Business Management Division provides fiscal, personnel, and administrative services.


FEMA HQ Perspective on Disaster Management

FEMA Headquarters Logistics developed the concept and defined the role of the National Logistics Coordinator to serve as the single integration point for all national level resources required to support a disaster. To maintain this mission capability, FEMA Headquarters Logistics works continuously to build:

  • A professional workforce.
  • Collaborative relationships that allow FEMA to meet customer requirements.
  • Business processes to implement an integrated logistics system.
  • A logistics management system that supports property accountability and maintenance.


FEMA HQ Perspective on Disaster Management, continued

Further examine FEMA’s mission capabilities.

Build a professional workforce – Hire, train, and manage the cadre of national disaster logistics reservists.

Build collaborative relationships that allow us to meet customer requirements – In support of the 10 FEMA regions, provide funding, staffing, tools, and direction through policy and program guidance. Work with private-sector, other federal agencies, Department of Defense (DoD), and state logistics teams to bring every resource to bear on the response.

Build business processes to implement an integrated logistics team – Standardize internal business processes to support disaster and day-to-day activities and functions.

Build a logistics management system that supports property accountability and maintenance – Account for and maintain the readiness of all FEMA-managed property that supports the disaster.


Regional Perspective on Disaster Management

Each FEMA region is responsible for implementing the national strategy for disaster response at the regional level.


Regional Perspective on Disaster Management, continued

Each FEMA region is responsible for maintaining and supporting its permanent facilities. They hire and manage a regional cadre of disaster logistics reservists ready to respond.

FEMA regions develop and maintain regional plans, policies, and procedures that are in line with national strategy to ensure regional response capability for any disaster scenario. The regions work within the regional area of responsibility with federal, state, and local partners to pre-identify response capabilities and possible resource short-falls to develop a logistics strategy for all hazards.


Regional Perspective on Disaster Management, continued

In response to a disaster, the FEMA office in the affected region stands up a full Logistics Section responsible for filling all disaster-related requirements. This involves filling requests for logistical assistance from state and federal partners. When filling these requirements, the Logistics Section sources, acquires, ships, tracks, and distributes resources. This involves coordination with FEMA Operations, Logistics Management Directorate (LMD), the private sector, other federal agencies, and the state. Requests for logistical support include the following:

Facility support and acquisition – Responder support camps, distribution centers, Initial Operating Facilities, Joint Field Offices, Disaster Recovery Centers, Incident Support Bases, and any other facilities supporting response operations.

Supply and equipment acquisition – Regions maintain a cache of supplies and equipment used to support the initial response. In this cache you will find items such as IT and communications equipment, office supplies, generators, and so on. Readily available supplies will differ from region to region. Additional supplies and equipment are purchased locally or requested from national stockpiles. Tracking of supply requisitions is accomplished through a single-point ordering process.

Evacuation support – Evacuation from the impacted area is a state responsibility. Upon request from the state, FEMA Regional Logistics coordinates for additional transportation and/or fuel support for large scale operations.

Medical service provisions for federal responders – Regions will facilitate contracting for medical services as needed in support of response personnel.


FEMA Regional Field Perspective

Following a Presidential Disaster Declaration (PDD) the regions establish a temporary field operation as close as possible to the impacted area. The Logistics Section locates, assesses, acquires, establishes, and maintains temporary disaster-specific facilities. These facilities may be Joint Field Offices, Incident Support Bases/staging areas, Responder Camps, Joint Operation Centers, or Disaster Recovery Centers. Response and recovery operations are conducted through these and other temporary field facilities through the life of the disaster.


Disaster Response Responsibilities

Let’s look at the disaster response responsibilities of various groups and see at what point FEMA Logistics gets involved.

Local, state, and tribal emergency response groups – Disaster incidents are managed at the lowest possible jurisdictional level. The first responders are local, state, and tribal emergency response groups. Local emergency management officials are responsible for meeting all demands within their capability. If a hazard requires action and resources above and beyond the capability of a local community to provide, then the local community may request further assistance through the state Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

State Emergency Management Agency (EMA) – The governor will task the state EMA to ensure that all unmet response-generated requirements are addressed. This is typically associated with a state declaration of emergency.

State Governor – If an incident exceeds the state’s ability to respond (i.e. it is beyond the state’s existing resources), the governor of the state requests federal assistance through the Office of the President of the United States.

FEMA Logistics – So now, at the invitation of the state and upon a federal disaster declaration, FEMA Logistics resources are officially engaged. But even before the declaration, FEMA Logistics planners were already engaged, reviewing state capabilities and anticipating needs. FEMA Logistics and partners are always on alert to potential requirements.


Official Guidelines for Requesting FEMA Assistance

FEMA is not the first entity to respond to a disaster. In accordance with ICS, disaster response is executed at the lowest jurisdictional level. The first response is local. FEMA Logistics is designed to provide additional disaster support to the state if and when it is needed. However, we do monitor situations and anticipate requirements that may exceed a particular state’s capability. Early on in a projected incident, we may initiate the pre-positioning of commodities, equipment, and people (teams).


Official Guidelines for Requesting FEMA Assistance, continued

To ask for federal support or technical assistance, a request must be submitted to FEMA on an Action Request Form, or ARF. The ARF is the official document for requesting federal assistance.

Official request for assistance – A state-authorized official must sign and date the ARF for the federal assistance to be processed. By signing the ARF, the state is officially requesting assistance and waiving liability stating that the support needed is beyond local or state resources or contracting capabilities. ARFs are jointly validated by FEMA Operations and FEMA Logistics and a decision is made whether to fill the requirement with internal FEMA assets or to assign the requirement to another federal agency.

Assistance given – Upon receiving the ARF from Operations, FEMA Logistics quickly ramps up to move large amounts of relief supplies into the impacted area. This can be a challenging task as commodities must be identified, ordered, tracked, received, staged, and distributed in an area with a damaged infrastructure.


FEMA ARF Process

Video Transcript:

States ask for FEMA support through an Action Request Form or an ARF, basically upon signing an ARF the state is saying that this is a requirement that they have that is outside their state resource capability and they are asking for FEMA assistance on that. Also by signing the ARF the state is committing to paying their cost share portion of the expense associated with bringing that resource into the impacted area. For example, commodities, a state may submit an action request form or ARF for, for example, 500 truckloads of meals or probably more accurately 1000 liters of water to support an impacted population. An ARF is the form the state uses to request federal assistance. The Mission Assignment is a mechanism where FEMA tasks other federal agencies with providing resources.

The States are going to base their requirements on the local communities and what they say they need. The State will decide whether they can actually support that. If they feel they cannot then they’ll fill out an Action Request Form or an ARF and that will be passed up through the chain into the RRCC. Again, we’ll look at our support mechanisms and see how we can best serve them. The ARF will be vetted and then we’ll do a mission assignment if it’s required. If FEMA, if we ourselves cannot support this then a Mission Assignment can be done to any of our ESF partners who can decide if whether they can support that mission.

An ARF is an action request form and generally comes from the states—those are the most common types of ARFs but we can receive an ARF from another federal agency that’s in support of the mission. The Red Cross could submit an ARF to Operations saying, “Hey you asked us to provide meals for X number of people and our resources will only allow us to provide meals to Y number of people”. This is the delta these are the resources we need to fulfill that delta.


National Distribution Centers

Immediately we look for resources in our national distribution centers. FEMA distribution centers are permanent federal storage facilities that receive, store, and ship disaster commodities and equipment. They also develop modular support kits designed for special purpose events or missions (ex: JFO kits). These facilities are managed by FEMA HQ.


Distribution Centers, continued

Besides maintaining supplies in our own distribution centers, FEMA Logistics continually researches supply sources—developing and maintaining contracts with private enterprises—to provide commodities during a disaster

These relationships enable us to source requirements from a wide variety of entities and physical locations throughout the country. For example, instead of moving resources from the nearest distribution center, which still may be hundreds of miles away from the incident, Headquarters Logistics may be able to procure and move the same resource from a partner much closer to the location where needed.


Distribution Centers, continued

These relationships also expedite FEMA’s ability to get required resources to the disaster survivors while also often minimizing costs associated with having to store and maintain these resources in its own facilities.

When working with private sources, FEMA advises on the urgent nature of the distribution effort and endeavors to pre-establish time frames. As our partners are aware, many of these resources are life-sustaining.


Supporting FEMA Logistics Operations

Video Transcript:

FEMA Logistics is there to support any requirements that comes across and I think we do that very well. Where I think the expectation is though is that we can do it and pull a magic rabbit out of a hat. And we’re no different than everybody else, we have to see the request, we have to develop the requirement, and we have to be specific when we go out and we’re doing some kind of procurement, and it’s not something that you can do at the drop of a hat, it takes time to initiate that. So I think the most important thing for the states is to plan ahead and think out and to look at their true capabilities and then to really look at what the expectation is they are going to put on the federal government to come and support them. And expect that we are there to support them, not take it over and run it for them. We don’t want to do that it’s not our mission. And so we do that, and we develop a very strong partnership with them and we try and build on their capability, their existing capability, to ensure they are moving forward and they are meeting their mission and supporting their constituents and the folks that they’re there to support.

We have a multitude of resources at our disposal. The one request that I would have as a logistics chief to any agency seeking our support is help us to identify your requirement. Often our customers just come to us with a problem and we’re presented with a problem that we’re asked to solve. I ask that our customers, whether it be a state or another federal agency, help us identify a solution to the problem. It just helps us more rapidly fulfill the resources that would be associated with solving that problem.

We need some planning on their part. If they can pre-determine or at least give us an idea of what their population needs are in case of an event so that we can better support them in a timely and efficient manner. You aren’t hurting as bad if we are ahead of the curve. Any pre-planning they can do on their end prior to these events would greatly help our mission.

The more consistently that the planning and preparedness activities apply the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System the more effective we will all be when we meet together at a particular disaster to provide a response.

I really think that, as a whole, the state and federal family we work together really well. But I also think it’s important to note that a lot of our resources come from contractors, third-party providers and sometimes those things aren’t readily available or it takes time to get these resources in the pipeline.

If the states could give us some advance notice of future requirements what that would allow us to do is better source those requirements and provide them in a more timely manner. And they’ll end up with a better product. It’s been my experience that on occasion the state will come to us at the very, very last second and have a requirement for a resource that we don’t have and we have to go source. And it’s a very short timeframe in which they need it. Sometimes as little as 8 to 12 hours. When that happens, we don’t get to go out and source the proper resource for them, we end up with something that kind of works, it kind of doesn’t and it might cost too much, it might not be of the best quality. Advance notice of pending requirements would be a great benefit to everybody.


Lesson Summary

FEMA Headquarters Logistics, FEMA Regional Logistics, and FEMA Field Logistics work together to provide an efficient and flexible logistics capability to get life-sustaining commodities and services to the impacted population and the responders. FEMA Logistics simultaneously coordinates with other government and private agencies that may assist in the operation.

In this lesson, you learned:

  • The FEMA Logistics mission.
  • The logistics functions at FEMA HQ, FEMA regions, and in the field.
  • How to formally request FEMA assistance.
  • Unique challenges of the FEMA Logistics mission.

Lesson 3: Disaster Facilities

Lesson Overview

Some incidents require the establishment of temporary response and recovery facilities within or closer to the impacted area. These facilities include the Joint Field Office, Incident Support Bases, Disaster Recovery Centers, and Responder Base Camps.


Disaster Facilities Supported by FEMA Logistics

[Still image of workers setting up a technology center at a Joint Field Office]

FEMA Regional Logistics sends teams out to identify and assess locations for facilities including Incident Support Bases, Joint Field Offices (JFOs), and Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs). While these are often pre-identified in disaster planning, it is not known until after a physical assessment of the area and the facilities if they are still functioning following an incident. Before occupying any building, a joint site assessment team, including logistics personnel, assesses the soundness of a structure, data and telephone capability within, and the availability of utilities, parking, and state and local code compliance.


Disaster Facilities Supported by FEMA Logistics

Joint Field Office – The Joint Field Office is a temporary federal multi-agency coordination center established locally to facilitate field level response activities. The JFO provides a central location for coordination of federal, state, local, tribal, non-governmental, and private sector organizations involved in incident support.

Disaster Recovery Centers – A Disaster Recovery Center is a readily accessible facility or mobile office where disaster survivors may go for information about FEMA or to apply for disaster assistance or for questions about their application.

Responder Support Camps – When conventional lodging is unavailable, Logistics is responsible for establishing a camp for response personnel working in the disaster. Logistics supports these austere camps with shelter, food, and other basic needs. These camps are not for the disaster survivors.


Disaster Facilities Supported by FEMA Logistics, continued

An Incident Support Base (ISB) is a temporary location for receiving and staging resources (supplies, equipment, and teams) that may be provided to state and local governments. During incidents involving large numbers of commodities or response teams, the regional Logistics Section will stand up and staff an ISB. ISBs are normally pre-identified during response planning, and may be stood up prior to a known event such as an approaching storm. Logistics personnel maintain oversight over the ordering of all resources. Whether received from FEMA distribution centers, other federal agencies (OFAs), private partners, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Logistics personnel are responsible for tracking, receiving, accounting for, staging and organizing, and dispatching resources from the ISB.

Gary Martin, FEMA Site Manager:
We are in Seguin Texas at Randolph Auxiliary Air Force Base. We are pre positioning some of the commodities. We have water, tarps, meals, generators. What our plan is in being here is when we set this location up it’s a pre positioned site to keep away from wherever the hurricane may be coming into. The other people that are here, not only FEMA, we have Corps of Engineers that help support us, we have contact shuttle drivers here to support this mission.

Steve Minnick, FEMA Site Deputy:
I’m gonna go get with our folks, our T A V folks, I’m gonna give them the heads up warning order so we can get the first five meals that came in and get those guys ready, let the drivers know they are moving out tonight.

Gary Martin:
Right. That’s 5 trucks of meals. Each truck holds right around 21,312 meals per truck. The other thing now since the state has started making some requests for some of the commodities that we have, I’m sure we may start looking at, hey, we need to move this whole staging area forward. Everything on this site, if it looks like the state may be needing our assets, we’re going to start moving forward. That could happen tonight. Safety comes first. We run into rain, high winds you are gonna have to stop. Don’t take a chance. Safety always comes first.


Lesson Summary

FEMA has been preparing all along for all-hazards across the country and in our protectorate territories abroad. When the president declares a disaster, it is FEMA Logistics at the forefront of the response effort. As quickly as possible and in coordination with FEMA Operations and other response personnel, FEMA Logistics is assessing sites for functional and safe occupancy, setting up facilities from which to launch support to the affected area and population, and receiving and dispatching teams and supplies.

Lesson 4: Organizational Structure of FEMA Logistics

Lesson Overview

The Logistics Section is divided into three branches: the Service Branch, the Support Branch, and the External Support Branch. The Logistics Section Chief supervises these three branches.

In this lesson, you will learn the organizational structure of FEMA Logistics.


Logistics Section Chief Responsibilities

Video Transcript:

As a log chief in the region I have two responsibilities. One is a day-to-day where we have out responsibility from a preparedness perspective to work with the states in making them aware of changes and improvements they can do to improve their capability so they can be self-sufficient during times of emergency up to a certain degree before the exceed that capability and they have to turn to us. That is a big piece of what we do on a daily basis.

In addition to that we have responsibilities within the region itself. In my case, maintaining facilities, we maintain the RRCC and we have responsibilities for inventory and preparedness of all the regions’ response equipment. During an actual disaster my responsibilities shift from a preparedness to a response where I work very closely with the Ops Chief ensuring that all the unmet needs that have come in from the state and locals are being met sufficiently.

I’m the Log Chief on the IMAT team so generally what I’d do is get together with the rest of the team and we’d make our way to the EOC to work directly with the state and the local officials to assist in the direction of federal aid into the affected area.

Now if it’s a notice event the process is kind of the same it’s just a little less formal because it’s kind of implied. We see a hurricane coming or we see a flood happening so there are a series of meetings that take place in the RRCC, the Regional Response Coordination Center and a lot of times those include VTCs with headquarters to discuss what the event is, when a declaration may come, and what types of resource we need or what the requirements are going to be from the state.

My responsibilities in the region on a day-to-day basis are planning and preparing for the next event.

As a Headquarters element we have responsibilities day to day to maintain our readiness. We do that through a variety of methods. Training and attendance at exercises, participation in conferences, supporting review and providing advice on policy and guidance that will affect and drive the next steps the agency may take in improving its ability to respond.


Logistics Chief

The Logistics planning and response efforts are led by the Logistics Section Chief. The Logistics Chief is a member of the General Staff and the person responsible for providing facilities, services, and material in support of the incident. The Logistics Chief participates in the development of the Incident Action Plan (IAP) for the disaster response and activates and supervises the branches and units in the Logistics Section.


Primary Duties of the Logistics Chief

Some of the primary duties of the Logistics Chief include:

  • Ensuring work assignments are clear and sufficient staff is available for support.
  • Accounting for all personnel at all times, keeping general welfare and safety a priority.
  • Keeping everyone informed of the status of the mission.
  • Anticipating service and support requirements.
  • Participating in planning activities.
  • Ensuring accountability of property in accordance with federal and existing agency property management regulations.
  • Documenting in writing all significant decisions and facts relative to Logistics Section activities.


The Service Branch, Support Branch, and External Support Branch

When a disaster incident is very large and/or requires a number of facilities with a large amount of equipment, the Logistics Section must concern itself with a span of control issues. The Logistics Section Chief may have one or more deputies to assist with a complex operation.

Another way to enable more effective supervision and coordination among the individual units is to divide the Logistics Section into three branches: the Service Branch, the Support Branch, and the External Support Branch. Conversely, in smaller incidents or when fewer resources are needed, this branch configuration may be used to combine the task assignments of individual units within the branch structure.


Organizational Structure

What you see here is an organization structure with the Logistics section branches. A smaller incident may not require the establishment of each and every unit in each branch. Various individual unit functions may be combined within the branch. Simply put, in a smaller incident, a single person may fulfill more than one function or duty—wearing two or more hats as the saying goes.


Lesson Summary

There are three branches in the Logistics Section: the Service Branch, the Support Branch, and the External Support Branch.

In this lesson, you learned the organizational structure of FEMA Logistics.


Lesson 5: External Support Branch

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides an orientation to the roles and responsibilities of the External Support Branch; one of the three branches that constitutes the FEMA Logistics Section. At the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify:

  • The purpose and role of the External Support Branch within the organizational structure.
  • The External Support Branch Units and the roles and responsibilities carried out by those units.
  • The External Support Branch’s best practices.


External Support Branch

In the initial response, FEMA Logistics immediately begins coordinating support to the internal FEMA staff as well as to external entities such as disaster responders and disaster survivors. The simultaneous activities and all the considerable intricacies involved in this function will fall under the External Support Branch. This lesson provides an orientation to the roles and responsibilities of the External Support Branch—probably the most complex of the three FEMA Logistics branches.


External Support Branch, continued

As already stated, FEMA Logistics is responsible for providing support to both the internal FEMA staff and to external customers. These external customers can include disaster responders as well as the disaster survivors themselves. The coordination of support to these external customers is a function of the Logistics External Support Branch.


The Organization of the External Support Branch

The External Support Branch is organized to focus attention on the external-to-logistics customers that FEMA Logistics supports. The External Support Branch has four units:

  • Disaster Recovery Center Support Unit
  • Mass Care Unit
  • Camp Unit
  • Temporary Housing Unit

These units provide support to the following groups:

  • Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)
  • Mass Care
  • Responder Support Camps
  • Temporary Housing
  • Incident Support Bases (ISBs)


The External Support Branch Director

The External Support Branch is led by the External Support Branch Director. The External Support Branch Director reports to the Logistics Section Chief and is responsible for providing logistical support for selected external operations.

The External Support Branch Director’s responsibilities include:

  • Strategic coordination and planning to ensure that the Logistics Section is servicing its customers by rapidly filling requirements and moving resources into the disaster area.
  • Using sound cost-avoidance and property accountability principles.
  • Ensuring that activities are coordinated with other FEMA response organizations and other federal partners.
  • Managing and supervising the branch to provide effective communications, resource tracking, movement coordination, and ISB support.


Logistical Support Provided by the External Support Branch

The External Support Branch provides logistical support to the following groups:

  • Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)
  • Mass Care
  • Responder Support Camps
  • Temporary Housing
  • Incident Support Bases (ISBs)

On the following pages, you will read about the types of logistical support these groups require.


Support for the DRC

The External Support Branch provides support to the DRC by completing the following functions:

  • Equipping the DRC with telecommunications support, office supplies, service, and laptops
  • Maintaining support for the duration of the life of the facility
  • Demobilizing and recovering FEMA property upon order
  • Remediating (restoring) property and/or facilities following FEMA use, if necessary


The Disaster Recovery Center Support Unit Leader (DRUL)

The DRC Logistics Unit Leader is responsible for establishing facilities and coordinating ground support, equipment, telecommunications, and associated services for DRC and Mobile Communications Office Vehicles (MCOV).

Coordination with DRC Officials – This individual works closely with the DRC Group Supervisor within the Individual Assistance Branch of the Operations Section in determining and providing needed facilities and services in support of the Incident Action Plan (IA). The DRUL coordinates with the Safety Officer and Security Manager for safety and security inspections and assessments of DRC facilities.

Primary duties – Primary duties also include:

  • Participating in planning activities.
  • Placing necessary orders through the Ordering Unit to set up and support DRC/MCOV.
  • Determining the suitability of the DRC/MCOV location.
  • Performing on-site suitability inspections with IT/Safety/Security/General Services Administration (GSA) as applicable.
  • Determining, assembling, delivering, and installing necessary DRC/MCOV equipment and telecommunications in support of the IAP.
  • Monitoring ongoing DRC/MCOV operations and providing logistical support as necessary.
  • Coordinating with the Facility Unit Leader on all leases and agreements (Memorandum of Understanding).
  • Monitoring progress, performance, and compliance of vendors.
  • Providing facility maintenance services (e.g., sanitation, lighting, and janitorial).
  • Planning, scheduling and demobilizing DRC/MCOV equipment and telecommunications as required.
  • Verifying and/or confirming vendor requests for payment.
  • Developing, with the Safety Officer, a safety plan to include an evacuation plan.


External Support Branch

In addition to supporting the disaster survivors themselves, providing resources, FEMA also supports all the other responders, the other federal agencies, we provide them with equipment, we provide them with services, we provide them with the resources they need to fulfill that mission assignment that we give them to support the disaster.

In larger events we’ll normally have an External Support Branch. The focus of the External Support Branch is fulfilling logistical requirements that are outside of the Joint Field Office. For example, the Disaster Recovery Centers. We’ll stand up a Disaster Recovery Center Support Unit which will work hand in hand with the Individual Assistance Program to provide assistance to those Disaster Recovery Centers. Also they may stand up Incident Support Bases outside of the Joint Field office so we’ll stand up an Incident Support Base Unit within the External Support Branch that focuses on maintaining operations at those Incident Support Bases.

That’s going to be stood up anytime you’ve got what I would consider a medium to large event where you have a bunch of external moving pieces. Some of the times you may want an External Support Branch fully established is when you have a large number of DRCs, when you have responder support camps, things external to the JFO that require a lot of support.

The External Support Branch is something that is unique I think to the FEMA agency. Again, when you see an ICS structure you won’t normally see that third branch under logistics. But we have such a broad scope in our mission that in order for us to be successful, in order to maintain the span of control and in order for us to meet all the requirements that are put upon us, FEMA will oftentimes stand up the External Support Branch and we handle, just as its name says, it’s the external support we provide outside of the general logistics environment that’s there to support the federal family.


The Mass Care Mission

Under the National Response Framework, Mass Care is a responsibility of Emergency Support Function (ESF) 6. ESF-6’s mission includes the following:

  • Provide shelter for survivors.
  • Assess state and local government shelter shortfalls.
  • Assist with sheltering operations.

Upon request, FEMA Logistics, as a support provider to all other program areas, has a responsibility to support the Mass Care mission. Typical requests can include cots and blankets, power generation, coordination for food service, or even commodities from our ISBs.


The External Support Branch Mass Care Unit Support

FEMA Logistics handles support to ESF-6 in the External Support Branch by establishing the Mass Care Support Unit.

The primary function of the unit is to provide augmentation to the state and local Mass Care, feeding, and sheltering operations. The Mass Care Support Unit performs a number of activities to help accomplish its function of providing support to Mass Care for disaster survivors. It supports the Mass Care function by:

  • Sourcing requirements.
  • Ordering required supplies through the Ordering Unit.
  • Documenting the transfer of property.
  • Recovering accountable property.
  • Warehousing, supplying, and delivering supplies.


The External Support Branch Mass Care Unit Support, continued

Voluntary Agencies (VOLAG) may not be able to provide all items necessary (e.g., cots, blankets, generators, care, or feeding). So FEMA Logistics helps provide for the shortfalls in assisting evacuees. The ARF process is used to fill requirements of the Mass Care mission.


External Support Branch Mass Care Unit Leader

The primary duties of the Unit Leader for mass care include:

  • Determining unit personnel needs.
  • Participating in planning activities.
  • Providing logistics support to Operations/ESF-6 as requested.
  • Obtaining necessary equipment, maintenance, and service through the Ordering Unit.
  • Ensuring facilities and equipment are set up and functioning properly.
  • Supervising the setup of kitchens, shelters, and sanitation support equipment.
  • Monitoring the use of equipment on a daily basis.
  • Demobilizing equipment or services when no longer needed.


Mass Care Support

Video Transcript:

Mass Care Support is a difficult thing to support because there are so many different moving pieces to it. The non profits do provide a lot of support to the sheltering operations. However, they are operating with donated dollar and limited resources. There are occasions where there are certain types of resources they just cannot provide or that they run short of. In that situation FEMA logistics does get involved. Contracts to provide food so that these voluntary kitchens can prepare and feed the people. There’s also contracts for durable medical equipment for the shelters. In some situations you have persons with disabilities in the shelters and they require special types of equipment or support to be comfortable in these shelters.

The Mass Care mission is a very big piece of the overall response mission in the early stages of a disaster. Although it’s primarily led by the American Red Cross traditionally, FEMA is a co-partner with the American Red Cross for that mission. Between the Red Cross and the VOLAGs the Voluntary Agencies that support that mass care feeding and sheltering mission. FEMA Logistics as a partner to ESF 6 that emergency support function we are oftentimes asked to provide the support necessary to help ensure that that mission goes successfully. There’s sheltering plans all across the country, there’s feeding plans across the country all done under the voluntary agencies and the Red Cross. But when that shortfall occurs or when the unique special circumstances arise where there’s a requirement that goes beyond their capability that’s where FEMA Logistics plays a huge role and can be expected to provide anything from medical beds and medical equipment up to building special facilities that will accommodate whatever the need might be from a normal shelter to medical care.

We support the Mass Care mission in the line of evacuations we may be tasked with providing transportation to assist Red Cross or other agencies with performing evacuations, in line of shelters we are often tasked with providing resources such as cots, blankets, possibly even feeding to support shelter operations.


Responder Support Camps

The Responder Support Camps are established for federal, state and local responders who need a place that provides shelter, food, and additional basic needs when conventional lodging is not available.


The External Support Branch’s Camp Unit Leader

The Camp Unit Leader is responsible for determining, managing, delivering, and supporting facilities, ground support, equipment, and associated services for response worker billeting, feeding, and hygiene support in support of the Incident Action Plan (IAP). LMD maintains national contracts for camp establishment and support. These contracts can be activated upon request from the field.

Primary duties include:

  • Determining the number of staff to be housed and support requirements.
  • Determining a suitable camp site(s) through site visits.
  • Working with a GSA Leasing Agent to procure site(s) in coordination with the Facilities Unit Leader.
  • Providing necessary facilities for supporting the response workforce.
  • Providing oversight over the national camp contracts.
  • Monitoring camp operations for compliance with contract.
  • Coordinating demobilization of equipment/services when no longer needed.
  • Ensuring that site remediation is accomplished as identified in plans, leases, contracts, etc.


The Temporary Housing Unit

The mission of the Individual Assistance (IA) Branch of the Operations Section includes assisting disaster survivors with locating temporary housing after their homes have been damaged by the disaster. These temporary housing solutions may include the use of travel trailers or mobile homes by the survivors. In such instances, The External Support Branch activates the Temporary Housing Unit to provide temporary housing for disaster survivors through the Individual Assistance (IA) program.


The External Support Branch Temporary Housing Unit

The function of the External Support Branch Temporary Housing Unit (THU) is to operate a temporary housing incident support base. In other words, to manage the base where THUs are pre-positioned before being transferred to a location or an individual disaster survivor.

Temporary housing – Temporary Housing provides disaster survivors with a place to live for a limited period of time. When rental properties are not available, a government-provided housing unit may be the solution.

Temporary Housing Support Unit Leader (THUL) – The Temporary Housing Support Unit Leader is responsible for determining, delivering, and supporting facilities, ground support, equipment, and associated services for direct housing missions in support of the Incident Action Plan (IAP).

The Primary duties of this position include:

  • Participating in planning activities.
  • Reviewing requests from and working closely with Operations/IA-Housing Group Supervisor for logistical support.
  • Receiving and accounting for Temporary Housing Units ordered through the Ordering Unit.
  • Coordinating and monitoring commercial park and emergency housing site preparations.
  • Verifying and/or confirming vendor requests for payment.


The External Support Branch’s Temporary Housing Support Unit

The Temporary Housing Support Unit provides temporary housing support to the mission. To complete this function, the External Support Branch establishes and operates a temporary housing incident support base when the housing mission is activated. The unit also:

  • Manages inventory of Temporary Housing Units.
  • Ensures they are delivered in sufficient quantity to the customer.
  • Stores housing units.
  • Coordinates the pickup and delivery of housing units.


Incident Support Base Overview

An Incident Support Base (ISB) is a temporary location where response personnel and commodities are received and pre-positioned for deployment as required. ISBs are set up outside of the incident area and are established and managed by the Regional Logistics staff.

ISB operations may be viewed as an extension of the FEMA National Supply Chain Management strategy. An ISB is a storage and property processing location established to support a specific disaster operation. From this location, FEMA will send out resources and national disaster assets to pre-determined locations, such as State staging areas. Other federal departments and agencies may stage tactical teams here or send items that they have recently acquired in support of the disaster operation.


Incident Support Base Operations

For us to run a successful ISB you are talking material handling equipment, forklifts, ramps, whatever it takes to make sure the operation runs. We don’t always send out a full truck load. We require personnel. And we’ve run ISB with very little personnel and successfully and that’s because that’s the way logistics is. We’re going to get the job done.


When is an ISB Required?

The function of an ISB is to ensure rapid response to a disaster by pre-positioning resources in safe proximity to a disaster impacted area.

When is an ISB required? – ISBs are typically established if there is an anticipated or actual need for commodities to support disaster survivors. For large incidents they can be established before an incident in anticipation of a Presidential Disaster Declaration, for example, before a major hurricane makes landfall.

ISBs are initiated by the Logistics Management Directorate in coordination with a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) and either the regional or Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) Log Chief in anticipation of or in direct support of a Presidential Disaster Declaration.

Note: ISB’s are designed to stage resources that may be provided to state and local governments. Once a requirement for commodities arises, the ISB commodities become committed to the disaster-affected state and will be under the operational control of FEMA Operations. The ISB may then be redesignated as a staging area or the commodities shipped to a staging area. Upon filling all state requirements the remaining commodities will then revert to Logistics for retrograde. An ISB and a staging area are functionally identical; the distinction is one of command and control only.

Incident Support Base Unit Leader (IBUL) – The Incident Support Base Unit Leader (IBUL) is responsible for managing the ISBs needed to receive Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers, storing logistics supplies, and readying resources requiring significant preparation prior to demobilizing for transport. Generators are one example of resources that require preparation prior to demobilizing.

The primary duties of the ISB Unit Leader include:

  • Determining unit personnel needs.
  • Participating in planning activities.
  • Ordering resources, equipment, and supplies needed to operate ISBs through the Ordering Unit.
  • Working with the GSA Leasing Agent in coordination with the Facilities Unit Leader to procure a site(s).
  • Coordinating with the Facilities Unit Leader to ensure that agreements and leases issued are being addressed by the Finance/Admin Section.
  • Coordinating with the Security Manager to provide security for ISBs.
  • Coordinating with the Safety Officer to ensure that all ISBs are in compliance with all safety regulations.

Incident Support Base Manager (IBMG) – The Incident Support Base Manager (IBMG) is responsible for supporting and managing an ISB.

The primary duties of this position include:

  • Establishing an ISB layout.
  • Determining any support needs for equipment, feeding, sanitation, and supplies to operate the ISB.
  • Ordering supplies through the ISB Leader or directly through the Ordering Unit if authorized.
  • Establishing a check-in and check-out function.
  • Maintaining and providing status information to the Resource Unit of all the resources in the ISB.
  • Developing a site Traffic Control Plan.
  • Posting appropriate signage for traffic control and identification of support services.
  • Providing for maintenance of equipment.
  • Dispatching resources assigned to the ISB in support of the IAP.
  • Ensuring that receipts are obtained and issued for equipment and supplies distributed and received at ISB.
  • Establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with the property owner or host.
  • Keeping the ISB Leader apprised of any agreement and lease issues that need to be addressed by the Finance/Admin Section.
  • Maintaining the ISB in an orderly and safe condition.
  • Keeping appropriate records of ISB operations.
  • Providing the ISB Leader with security needs.
  • Developing an ISB Safety Plan and ensuring compliance with all safety regulations.
  • Demobilizing the ISB in accordance with a demobilization plan.


Incident Support Base Unit Support of ISBs

The Incident Support Base Unit is the final unit in the External Support Branch. The function of this unit is to establish or execute an ISB. Upon order by higher authority, an Incident Support Base Unit will deploy, occupy, establish, and manage the incident support base until the disaster is declared by the President. After that, the ISB becomes the staging area under the direction of FEMA Operations.

The presentation provides information regarding how the Incident Support Base Unit provides support for ISBs.


Incident Support Base Unit Support of ISBs, continued

The ISB Unit assesses, selects, and establishes a site for the ISB. (In many instances, these sites are pre-identified.) Once the site is selected, a unit will deploy to set up the site. This involves ordering supplies, coordinating transportation and ground support, planning, and appointing an accountable property manager to set up the site.

The Incident Support Base Unit will then bring in required services, supplies, and personnel; receive resources at the support base; and receive inventory and barcode supplies to prepare them for transport. Once the effort is complete, the unit will demobilize and remediate the site and disposition accountable property.


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you reviewed the following key points:

  • The role and function of the External Support Branch
  • The five units that make up the External Support Branch
  • The function of the Disaster Recovery Center Unit and how it supports DRC efforts
  • The function of the Mass Care Unit and how it supports Mass Care efforts
  • The function of the Camp Unit and how it supports responder camp efforts
  • The function of the Temporary Housing Unit and how it supports temporary housing efforts
  • The function of the Incident Support Base Unit and how it supports ISB efforts


Lesson 6: Service Branch

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides an orientation to the roles and responsibilities of the Service Branch, one of three branches that constitute the FEMA Logistics Section.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify:

  • The purpose and role of the Service Branch within the organizational structure.
  • The roles and responsibilities of each of the three units within the Service Branch.
  • Key personnel with whom Service Branch personnel must interact to be successful.


FEMA Logistics Review

FEMA Logistics provides support needs for an incident, such as ordering resources and providing facilities, transportation, supplies, equipment maintenance, fuel, food service, communications, and medical services for personnel responding to the incident. As mentioned early in the program, the Logistics Section is composed of three branches in order to maintain functional areas, as well as span of control: the Service Branch, Support Branch, and the External Support Branch.


Service Branch

The Service Branch utilizes three units to support the response and recovery mission. The branch provides the communications (information technology and telecommunication), medical, and food services for federal response teams during a disaster. The Service Branch is responsible for the management of all service-related activities during an incident.

Typically, the Service Branch does not directly support the survivors of the disaster. The Service Branch supports the federal workers who are supporting the disaster survivors.


Service Branch, continued

Video Transcript:

The Service Branch is really responsible for providing, just that, services. Primarily network and IT telecom services throughout the JFO. They are responsible for providing the internal communications in the Joint Field Office. Also the Service Branch includes a medical unit and a feeding unit that may be stood up if you have a large enough disaster and you have a need to provide meals for all the responder population that’s a function of the Services Branch as well as providing medical service to our internal FEMA staff.

The Service Branch is where we really do all of our communications piece. That is the initial primary function. Most of the time when the service branch is established and stood up it is because we’re establishing connectivity inside of an office facility, we’re building a joint field office or interim operating facility or disaster recovery center, someplace that’s going to require phone and network capability, both voice and data, so that we can get information to the disaster survivors and so that our folks will be able to work and communicate with anybody they need to reach out to. The second piece of the branch is less used but just as important. We have a medical piece of that which is to support the federal family, not the disaster survivors.

And the third piece of the branch is the food service branch which is kind of part of the whole billeting piece and providing and making sure that our folks are fed and cared for.


The Three Units in the Service Branch

The Service Branch is composed of the Communications Unit, the Medical Unit, and the Food Unit. The Information Technology and telecom duties compose 90 percent of the Service Branch’s job. Though food and medical services are also provided by this branch, these services are less frequently utilized during an incident.


The Service Branch Director

The Service Branch Director is responsible for the management of all service activities associated with the build out and operation of the facilities being used by the federal response and recovery program areas.


The Three Units in the Service Branch, continued

The Food Unit, Communications Unit, and the Medical Unit leaders report directly to the Service Branch Director. These unit leaders head up each of the three units of the Service Branch, and they are responsible for identifying and handling all aspects and duties of their appropriate branch during an incident or event. For example, the Communications Unit Leader is responsible for identifying telecommunications and radio communication needs for all federal field personnel and facilities. The Medical Unit Leader is responsible for the development of the medical plan, obtaining medical aid, transportation of injured and ill incident personnel, and preparation of records and reports.



Video Transcript:

Communications is always a difficult obstacle to overcome, especially in a catastrophic event when all the cell towers are down, all the central offices have gone underwater and the infrastructure in general is just not there to support the operation. We have several options to support communications down range. Some of those options go back to mission assigning the Corps of Engineers, ESF2 – there’s lots of different government entities out there that have communication capabilities and we can tap into that with the use of a Mission Assignment. FEMA has also got MERS, the mobile emergency support detachments spread throughout the U.S. They are heavy on communications. They have a lot of communication resources available to bring into the field and set up that temporary infrastructure to allow us to set up the command and control net so we can reach back and have the communication.

Historically communications is probably, not only is it the most important function that we have but it’s also usually the first one that fails and causes problems for us. If we can’t communicate what the requirements are whether they are coming from the states and locals or it’s coming from internal from our own counterparts, it’s very difficult for you to accomplish and meet the mission. So we use whatever techniques are available to us. We have done everything from utilizing ham operators, two-way radio communications, establishing satellite capability and we work with whatever federal agencies or even private industry that we have to meet that mission.


Purpose of the Communication Unit

The Communication Unit is responsible for effective incident communications planning, especially during a multiagency incident. Planning is critical for determining required radio nets, establishing interagency frequency assignments, and ensuring the inter-operability and the optimal use of all assigned communications capabilities. In addition, the Communications Unit is responsible for a number of other duties, such as developing the facilities Communications Plan (ICS 205) to make the most effective use of the communications equipment and facilities assigned to the incident, installing and testing all communications equipment, and supervising and operating the incident communications center. This unit plays an important role in assisting the Accountable Property Managers with the distribution and recovery of communications equipment assigned to incident personnel and maintaining and repairing communications equipment on-site.


Additional Responsibilities of the Communication Unit

Network Manager (NEMG) – The Network Manager provides Automated Data Processing (ADP)/IT services for all facilities, to include a Local Area Network (LAN) with electronic mail and the Agency Standard Office Suite Software. Other duties include the setup, testing, and maintenance of required communications equipment and supervision of the ADP/IT daily system operations.

Telecom Manager (TEMG) – The Telecom Manager provides telecommunications services for all federal support facilities. This includes coordination with the Accountable Property Manager to establish a supply of cellular and associated wireless devises required which will be connected to FEMA and public access telecommunications systems. Maintaining frequency management services, establishing a message center with facsimile machines, determining materials needed and availability for installation, establishing adequate telephone service at incident facilities and ensuring routine and emergency maintenance of equipment and systems is completed.

Internal Communications Manager – The Internal Communications Manager manages the internal communications functions of the branch, to include the Help Desk, switchboard/message center, and receptionist desk. Additional duties of the manager include ensuring the establishment of a Help Desk for personnel to request logistical support, providing training for switchboard operators, establishing and maintaining an emergency contact system for employees, and developing and providing a phone directory list.

Help Desk – The Help Desk serves as a “one stop” contact for anyone in the Joint Field Office who needs assistance. The primary duties of the Help Desk include receiving and referring customer requests for assistance to the appropriate Logistics Section element and logging and tracking dispositions of resulting actions.

Message Center, Switchboard, and Receptionist – The primary duties of the message center, switchboard, and receptionist are receiving and transferring messages between personnel, as well as greeting and directing visitors.


How the Communication Unit Supports the Service Branch at an Incident

There are many functions and responsibilities the Communications Unit must perform in order to support the Service Branch at an incident.

Representatives of the Communications Unit will participate with a select team to conduct a joint site survey. This is in conjunction with a logistics facility specialist and safety and security managers. The specialists in this unit are looking at the communications infrastructure—basically, the data and voice lines coming into a building. They usually reach out to a local service provider to find out the service capability to a facility. Based on what they find out, these representatives from the Communications Unit will make a recommendation to accept or reject the site.


How the Communication Unit Supports the Service Branch at an Incident

Once a decision on a facility is made, the technicians within the Communications Unit ensure that a network is built that can meet the expected capacity of the facility. This will include installation of all necessary components from the servers, routers, and switches to the end user workstations, printers, scanners, and fax capability. They will also ensure that:

  • Ordering connectivity (IT service) through the Telecommunication Inventory Management and Control System (TIMACS) is accomplished
  • Adequate network systems are operational at all times.
  • Appropriate software is installed and operational, and geographic limitations are known to all who would be impacted.
  • A record of all activities performed within the unit is provided.
  • All maintenance and repairs are expedited with minimal impact on the end users.

They must also anticipate potential problems and be vigilant in resolving problems with the systems.


Medical Unit

The Medical Unit is responsible for the effective and efficient provision of medical services to incident personnel.

The Medical Unit develops procedures for handling any major medical emergency involving incident personnel and developing the Incident Medical Plan (for incident personnel). This Medical Plan becomes part of the Incident Action Plan. The Medical Plan should provide:

  • Specific information on medical assistance capabilities at incident locations.
  • Potential hazardous areas or conditions.
  • Off-incident medical assistance facilities and procedures for handling complex medical emergencies.
  • In-processing of all paperwork related to injuries or deaths of incident assigned personnel.

Coordination of personnel and mortuary affairs for incident personnel fatalities.


The Medical Plan

The Medical Plan includes providing continuity of medical care such as vaccinations, vector control, occupational health, prophylaxis, mental health services, and transportation for injured personnel—when appropriate to do so without endangering the worker.

The Medical Unit also coordinates, establishes, and staffs the rest and rehabilitation routines of incident responders.

It is The Medical Unit’s responsibility to track incident personnel as they move from their origin to a health care facility and from there to final disposition. In addition to the transportation provisions, the Medical Unit provides assistance.


The Functions of the Food Unit

The Food Unit is responsible for determining food and hydration requirements, planning menus, ordering food, providing cooking facilities, cooking and serving food, maintaining food service areas, and managing food security and safety concerns.

It is not very often that the Food Unit is activated to support relief efforts; however, when it is necessary, it becomes a very important part of the operations within the Logistics Section.


The Food Unit, continued

In addition to the responsibilities you’ve just reviewed, the Food Unit must also anticipate incident needs. This includes the number of people who will need to be fed and whether, based on type, location, and complexity of incident, there are special food requirements.


The Food Unit, continued

The Food Unit supplies food to isolated groups or the entire field group supporting the incident. This responsibility includes supplying food for remote locations such as camps and staging areas, in addition to supplying food service to operations personnel who are unable to leave operational assignments.


The Food Unit, continued

The Food Unit must interact closely with other units and organizations. Some of the coordination you may expect to take place includes working with the Planning Section to determine the number of personnel who must be fed, the Facilities unit to arrange food service areas, the Ordering Unit to order food when not provided under contract or agreement, the Ground Support Unit to obtain ground transportation, and the Air Operations Branch Director to deliver food to remote locations.


The Food Unit, continued

Careful planning and monitoring is required to ensure food safety before and during food service operations, including the assignment of public health professionals with expertise in environmental health and food safety.


The Food Unit, continued

Feeding affected non-response persons, such as survivors, evacuees, and persons at shelters is a critical operational activity that will normally be incorporated into the Incident Action Plan (IAP). Ordinarily, these activities are conducted by members of appropriate nongovernmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross or similar entities. The Food Unit within Logistics is not usually expected to provide for disaster survivors.


Service Branch Common Challenges and Suggested Best Practices

It is important that you recognize the challenges associated with any disaster response effort so that you can identify and implement resolutions in advance. If you can anticipate issues, you’ll be better able to address them and perhaps prevent them from becoming problems at all!

Review the most common challenges associated with the deployment and functionality of the Service Branch during a disaster. In addition, a best practice resolution is provided for each challenge.


Challenge 1

CHALLENGE – A lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities. On occasion, a person(s) will assume a leadership role – instead of following the formal chain of command – and begin giving orders and assigning responsibilities. This causes confusion.

BEST PRACTICE – The Help Desk can answer queries and help with prioritization. Another solution is to go directly to the Branch Director for prioritization of responsibilities.


Challenge 2

CHALLENGE – Everyone wants a telephone/blackberry/walkie-talkie etc.

BEST PRACTICE – Naturally, communication is a major concern for everyone. To avoid confusion and/or duplication of efforts, all IT or communication requirements should go through the Help Desk.


Challenge 3

CHALLENGE – Priorities are difficult to establish because each disaster is unique and everyone must adapt to changing circumstances. Too much adaptability or flexibility causes interoperability problems. The mission can be impaired when a leader assigns a task to an individual that diverts them from their original or primary task.

BEST PRACTICE – Review and prioritize tickets (work orders). In addition, a remedy report card can be used to show valuable response information, such as the average time to respond and technicians who completed the work. A basic understanding of past performance can help leaders gauge the requirements for future efforts and help identify the most important tasks to be completed.


Challenge 4

CHALLENGE – Failure to research and plan causes understaffing or overstaffing.

BEST PRACTICE – Conduct pre-deployment conference calls (using a pre-established checklist) to coordinate activities. Ensure services that are ordered have specific delivery dates. Equipment requirements should also be discussed. Here’s an example: A specific disaster location will need a T1 in place, which requires staff to pre-wire the building, 100 laptops, a server, a switch for telecommunications, and appropriate facilities.

Requirements differ from disaster to disaster; all of these requirements should be identified and addressed prior to deployment.


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you reviewed the following key points:

  • The function of the Service Branch
  • The three units that make up the Service Branch
  • The purpose and function of the Communications Unit
  • How the Communications Unit accomplishes its function
  • The purpose and function of the Medical Unit
  • How and when the Medical Unit accomplishes its function
  • The purpose and function of the Food Unit
  • How and when the Food Unit accomplishes its function
  • Common challenges and suggestions for avoiding these challenges


Lesson 7: Support Branch

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides an orientation to the roles and responsibilities of the Support Branch, one of three branches that constitute the FEMA Logistics Section.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify:

  • The purpose and role of the Support Branch within the organizational structure.
  • The Support Branch Units, and the roles and responsibilities carried out by those units.
  • The Support Branch’s best practices.


The Function of the Support Branch

While the External Support Branch focuses on supporting elements outside of the regional office or Joint Field Office (JFO), The Logistics Support Branch focuses its attention inward on the JFO or disaster office itself. The Support Branch is responsible for management of facilities, supplies, and transportation during an incident.


The Support Branch Units

The Support Branch is overseen by the Support Branch Director who is responsible for the management of all support activities during an incident. This position will be activated only when required to support incident objectives.

The Support Branch is composed of the following four units:

  • Facilities Unit – establishes and supports facilities
  • Ordering Unit – orders resources
  • Supply Unit – receives and delivers supplies
  • Ground Support Unit – transports personnel, supplies, food, and equipment using fleet vehicles

You will learn more about the roles and responsibilities of each unit in this lesson.


Support Branch

Video Transcript:

The Support Branch supports internal operations there at the Joint Field Office. It’s composed of a Supply Unit which includes both accountable property and consumable supplies. Ordering Unit which orders all resources ideally through a single-point ordering and tracking system. Also a Facilities Unit that’s just responsible for the layout, diagramming, and of set-up and support of the basic facilities itself.

The Support Branch is primarily, under our structure, is utilized to support the Joint Field Office operation and by definition anything from ground transportations to office supplies property accountability and just the day to day function of maintaining a field operation.

The Support Branch has a major requirement to be one of the backbones of the critical infrastructure that will be utilized for the response with a main focus on facilities and support associated with those facilities to include transportation, external assets which would be directed at a location to include security, transportation between locations, and trucking.

They have a major responsibility to make sure that those requirements are maintained and sustained to enable the response to continue without having to focus on those things so that the responders and those with operational requirements can focus on responding to the needs of the state and not have to focus on the facilities.


Facilities Unit

The Facilities Unit sets up, maintains, and demobilizes all facilities used in support of incident operations. This unit also coordinates facility maintenance and janitorial services, as required.

The following individuals make up the Facilities Unit. On the next page, select each role to learn more about its responsibilities.

  • Facilities Unit Leader
  • Facility Manager
  • Billeting Manager


Facilities Unit Roles and Responsibilities

Facilities Unit Leader (FACL) – The Facilities Unit Leader is responsible for the procurement, furnishing, and management of all facilities activated by the incident. This individual also provides sleeping and sanitation facilities when needed for incident personnel. Primary duties also include:

  • Participating in Support Branch planning activities.
  • Determining initial and recurring requirements for each incident facility.
  • Locating and evaluating potential incident facilities.
  • Preparing the layout of incident facilities.
  • Procuring sites for facilities.
  • Providing facility maintenance services.
  • Coordinating with the Security Manager for security services.

Facility Manager (FLMG) – The Facility Manager is responsible for establishing a JFO and providing the facility management services for the assigned facility during its life cycle. This includes completing or overseeing the following activities:

  • Determining personnel support requirements
  • Obtaining necessary equipment and supplies
  • Working with General Services Administration (GSA) to acquire lease space
  • Developing a site plan for the facility
  • Supervising the setup of office facilities
  • Ensuring all facilities are set up and functioning properly
  • Demobilizing equipment/services when no longer needed
  • Providing facility maintenance services

Billeting Manager (BIMG) – The Billeting Manager assists responder personnel with obtaining billeting. This may include hotels, motels, corporate apartments, and camps. This includes:

  • Indentifying billeting options available to the responders in the area.
  • Reserving blocks of rooms at hotels/motels.
  • Providing addresses and phone numbers of facilities to personnel.
  • Working with FEMA contracting personnel to procure corporate apartments in the area.
  • Maintaining apartment keys and assigning to individuals in need.
  • Conducting periodic lodging surveys to ensure continued availability and suitability of lodging.
  • Working with the affected community for alternate housing when commercial lodging is not available or is inadequate.


Facilities Unit and Incident Operations

The Facilities Unit of the Support Branch sets up, maintains, and demobilizes all facilities used in support of incident operations. The following pages provide additional information on the activities the Facilities Unit conducts in order to accomplish its function.


Facilities Unit Facility Surveys

There are many activities that the Facilities Unit conducts in order to provide support to the Joint Field Office (JFO), Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), Incident Support Bases (ISBs), and other temporary disaster facilities.

The Facilities Unit participates in a joint site survey of each perspective facility. This survey team consists of personnel from the Facilities Unit, FEMA network and telecommunications specialists, a FEMA Security specialist, and a FEMA Safety specialist. This survey team ensures that facilities meet required federal, state, and local building codes. The facility must provide a safe and effective place for the disaster responders to operate.


MOUs and GSAs

If a prospective facility is owned by another federal entity or a state or local government and FEMA can use it at no cost, the Facilities Unit will draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between FEMA and the facility owner specifying the terms of use. If owned by a private source or from anyone wishing to be paid for its use, the Facilities Unit will work with the General Services Administration (GSA) to obtain a lease for the facility.


Facilities Unit, JFO, and DRCs

For facilities such as the Joint Field Office (JFO) or Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), the Facilities Unit will develop a facility layout, diagramming who is to be assigned to each area within. The unit will then coordinate the delivery of basic furniture (tables, chairs, room dividers, filing cabinets, etc.) and will perform the facility setup.


Facilities Unit, ISBs, and Responder Support Camps

Facilities including Incident Support Bases (ISBs) and Responder Support Camps may be established in areas having existing structures, which may be used in whole or in part. The Facilities Unit will also survey and coordinate the use of structures.

Once established, the Facilities Unit also coordinates the provision of other required services. For office-type facilities this includes the leasing of copiers, providing document shredding and recycling services, and arranging for janitorial services in each facility. Incident Support Base (ISB) and camp services may include portable toilets, trash dumpsters, shower facilities, and lighting units.



Most Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and leases specify that FEMA will return the property to the owner in its original condition. Once the incident activities are complete, the Facilities Unit performs an inspection of the site/facility before incident operations are completed. If FEMA has made improvements to the site/facility during its operations there, the Facilities Unit will coordinate with the owner to see if he/she wishes those improvements to be left in place. In the event of damages occurring during response operations or if the property owner does not want the improvements made, the Facilities Unit coordinates the remediation of the site to return it to the same condition as it was when FEMA first received it.


Ordering Unit

Resources are defined as supplies, equipment, services, personnel, and teams. During a disaster, resources flow into the impacted area from a wide array of sources. The Logistics Section can obtain resources from the stockpiles in the national distribution centers, purchase resources from local vendors, and work with the FEMA Regional or the Procurement Unit for large scale purchases. Additionally, the Operations Section can issue a Mission Assignment (MA) to another federal agency. This Mission Assignment (MA) initiates funding and direction for the other agency to provide specific resources or services in support of response and recovery operations. “Resources” can include FEMA’s own response personnel that are requested through FEMA administrative/human resources systems.


Ordering Unit, continued

The Support Branch’s Ordering Unit is responsible for establishing a single-point ordering system that provides visibility and status of all orders. In large disasters, resources become scarce quickly, and single-point order helps to minimize duplication orders and eliminate unnecessary costs. Additionally, the Ordering Unit serves as the focal point for all local purchases. In conjunction with the Logistics Chief, the Ordering Unit screens all material and service purchase requests to determine if the request can be filled from existing resources that are already on-hand or are available through the Logistics Supply Chain Management System.


Ordering Unit Organization

The following roles are established within the Ordering Unit.

  • Ordering Unit Leader
  • Ordering Manager, Equipment
  • Ordering Manager, Supplies
  • Ordering Manager, Personnel

Ordering Unit Leader (ORDL) – The Ordering Unit Leader is responsible for establishing a single-point ordering system for ordering all resources (personnel, teams, equipment, and Initial Response Resources) and supplies for the incident. The unit is also responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the standards order tracking system or database. This includes the following duties:

  • Reconciling orders made prior to arrival
  • Identifying and resolving duplicate orders
  • Ensuring ordering procedures are known to all incident personnel
  • Establishing and maintaining names and telephone numbers of personnel receiving orders
  • Determining best acquisition methods and providers for resources
  • Placing orders
  • Identifying times and locations for delivery of supplies and equipment
  • Keeping personnel placing orders informed of order status
  • Maintaining contact with the Finance/Admin Section Chief to request, manage, execute contracting authority, and pay for items or services procured

Ordering Manager, Equipment (EOMG) – Orders equipment available from FEMA through the Logistics Management Center through the Logistics Supply Chain Management System. Processes requests for the purchase or lease of equipment through the Procurement Unit in the Finance/Admin Section. For equipment that must be leased or purchased, the Ordering Manager for Equipment works with the requesting entity to ensure that requirements are detailed. This helps ensure that the requester gets the precise equipment to fill the need.

Ordering Manager, Supplies (SOMG) – Orders supplies. These supplies normally consist of consumable administrative supplies, including paper, printer cartridges, pens, and pencils. The Ordering Manager for Supplies processes orders and Initial Response Resources (IRR) through the Logistics Management Center through the Logistics Supply Chain Management System. Large scale purchases are coordinated through the local Contracting Unit. The Ordering Unit often includes one or more government purchase credit card holders. These cardholders normally fulfill routine supply orders from local vendors.

Ordering Manager, Personnel (POMG) – Orders personnel through the FEMA Automated Deployment Database (ADD) system in coordination with the Human Resources Unit Leader.


Supply Unit

While the Ordering Unit is responsible for requesting/procuring all equipment, supplies, and resources, all material and equipment is received, stored and distributed by the Support Branch’s Supply Unit. This separation of ordering and receiving duties serves as a “checks and balances” system to ensure accountability and fiscal responsibility. The Supply Unit documents the receipt of all goods and services obtained at the disaster. The unit stores and maintains all equipment in the local inventory and distributes it to the disaster responders as required. This includes both consumable administrative supplies as well as FEMA accountable property. Accountable property is

  • Durable (non-consumable) equipment that is maintained in FEMA distribution centers.
  • Any item that can be returned at the end of a disaster and re-used on a subsequent disaster.
  • High-dollar assets that require close monitoring and tracking.

To perform its disaster duties, the Supply Unit creates and maintains separate areas in the JFO for the consumable supplies and the FEMA accountable property. In large disasters, these may actually be warehouse-type operations. In such operations, the Supply Unit also maintains responsibility for identifying requirements for warehouse support equipment and personnel. In smaller incidents, these areas may be nothing more than a secure closet where assets are maintained and from where they are distributed.


Supply Unit, continued

There are several key roles identified in the organizational chart for the Supply Unit. Each of these roles will be discussed briefly on this page.

Learn more about its responsibilities.

  • Supply Unit Leader (SPUL)
  • Receiving and Distribution Manager (RCDM)
  • Supply Room Manager (SRMG)
  • Mail Room Manager (MRMG)
  • Accountable Property Manager (APMG)

Supply Unit Leader (SPUL) – Maintains overall responsibility over the Supply Unit. The SPUL is responsible for receiving, storing, and distributing supplies for the incident. This individual also maintains adequate inventories of supplies, material, and equipment.

Receiving and Distribution Manager (RCDM) – Maintains responsibility for the establishment and operation of the Receiving and Distribution area. The RCDM will set up a filing system and document the receipt of all new material into the facility. This receipt documentation will be shared with the Ordering Unit so that the corresponding orders can be marked complete in the single point ordering and tracking system. Any accountable property being received is turned over to the Accountable Property Manager after receiving documentation is completed.

Supply Room Manager (SRMG) – Maintains the supply area within the facility where the office supplies are maintained and distributed. This individual will monitor inventory levels and consumption rates and submit requirements for additional material as required to the Ordering Unit.

Mail Room Manager (MRMG) – Manages the receiving, handling, and distribution of incoming mail. For packages containing new materials, the Mail Room manager ensures that all mail is secured and delivered as designated. This is performed by establishing a centralized mail distribution and pickup center (a local “mail room”). The Mail Room manager also coordinates commercial parcel/package services for response personnel and the facility.

Accountable Property Manager (APMG) – Responsible for all accountable property including the accountability, protection, transfer, and ultimate disposition of personal property. All FEMA accountable property is recorded in a national property management database. Upon receipt of any accountable property at the disaster, the Accountable Property Manager (APMG) will update the item’s record in this database. If newly purchased, accountable property is being received; the APMG will create a new record in the system. The item will be assigned a unique identification by the system, and the APMG will print and place a barcode sticker on the item to facilitate its tracking throughout the remainder of its life cycle in FEMA inventory.


Supply Unit, continued

Upon arrival at a disaster, FEMA response personnel will visit the APMG to get any required equipment, including a laptop computer, portable printer, cellular telephone, digital camera, etc. Following strict chain of custody procedures, the APMG will issue such items and meticulously record each transaction in the property management database as well as keeping hand-receipt paper records for transactions. Upon checkout from the disaster, personnel will return all of their accountable property to the APMG. The APMG takes statements and completes paperwork to document any items that were lost, stolen, or damaged while checked out.


Supply Unit, continued

At the end of the disaster, the APMG will coordinate the return of all accountable property to the FEMA distribution centers. If new property has been purchased that is unique to the disaster, the APMG will seek guidance from FEMA Headquarters. If the item is unique and has a low likelihood of being used in a subsequent disaster, then FEMA Headquarters may provide guidance for disposing of the item instead of sending it back to the distribution centers. Sometimes HQ says FEMA doesn’t need the item(s) so it may be advertised and offered up to other federal agencies. If no other federal entities express a desire for the item(s), the General Services Administration (GSA) will assist by offering the item(s) to state or local governments. If still no interest is expressed in the item, GSA will award the item(s) to the highest bidder after posting of auction on the GSA excess property auction web site.


Ground Support Unit

While the Supply Unit handles the inventory management and warehousing aspects of logistics, | the transportation and equipment maintenance side of logistics is a function of the Ground Support Unit.

This unit is responsible for the following functions:

  • Providing fleet services for personnel as appropriate to support the JFO
  • Maintaining and repairing assigned vehicles and mobile ground support equipment
  • Recording usage time for all ground equipment (including contract equipment) assigned to the incident
  • Supplying fuel for all mobile equipment
  • Providing transportation in support of incident operations (except aircraft)
  • Developing and implementing the Incident Traffic Plan


Ground Support Unit, continued

Along with its primary functions of maintaining and servicing vehicles and mobile equipment, the Ground Support Unit also maintains a transportation pool for major incidents. This pool consists of vehicles (e.g., staff cars, buses, or pickups) that are suitable for transporting personnel. The unit is responsible for managing fleet vehicle reservations and assignments. The unit also provides for fueling of vehicles, which normally includes the management of fleet fuel credit cards.

The Ground Support Unit ensures the performance of basic operator-level preventive maintenance checks and services for transportation assets. This includes keeping maintenance records on assets and performing services such as filling fluids, replacing bulbs, and checking filters on assigned equipment. They also maintain logs for equipment such as generators, forklifts, and light sets to document the amount of usage hours accumulated for each item in order to ensure that preventive maintenance is performed at prescribed intervals.

In addition to providing JFO support, Ground Support Unit personnel will be present at the ISB and will coordinate and supervise many of the “yard” support and services. These include the coordination for portable toilets, trash dumpsters, parking plan and traffic control function, maintaining and fueling generators and light sets, and the coordination of support for teams and drivers (i.e., feeding and billeting).


Ground Support Functions

The Ground Support Unit is responsible for maintaining and servicing vehicles and mobile equipment, and providing a transportation pool for major incidents. These are important services needed during a disaster.

The Ground Support Unit accomplishes its function three ways:

  • Evaluating the need for ground support as it pertains to that particular incident.
  • Identifying the best solution to meet the identified need.
  • Providing the required vehicles to meet that need.


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you reviewed the following key points:

  • The role and function of the Support Branch
  • The four units that make up the Support Branch
  • The purpose and function of the Facilities Unit and how that unit accomplishes its function
  • The purpose and function of the Ordering Unit and how that unit accomplishes its function
  • The purpose and function of the Supply Unit and how that unit accomplishes its function
  • The purpose and function of the GSU and how that unit accomplishes its function



Congratulations! You have completed the Orientation to FEMA Logistics.