It's been a very busy year for the Illinois grant recipients!
Things rolled out largely as planned, starting with our stakeholder call on February 15th. We took that opportunity to make sure everyone was on the same page with regards to deliverables for our workshop, as well as to share institutional knowledge and procedures and establish a common base from which to operate. Our contacts at IEMA were present on the call so they could take all our perspectives and custom tailor the workshop experience for us. Our request to them was that the workshop include a disaster scenario that would test our organizations and highlight areas where we were collaborating well and areas in need of improvement.
On March 6th, IEMA conducted a State Level Exercise (SLE) organized around a weather-related event that included tornadoes and straight-line winds affecting 3 specific geographical locations in Illinois. The impacted areas were a) Metro-East, b) Greater Springfield and c) Manteno, IL. In their capacity as representatives of the Building Sector in the state's Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC), David Bradley, AIA and Mike Waldinger, Hon. AIA participated in the event remotely through IEMA's web-based tool, monitoring developments on the ground. Our role as members of the BEOC Building Sector is to respond to requests for assistance from the state's public agencies and coordinate the efforts of architects statewide to mobilize in the event of a disaster. As in past SLE events, we were relatively hampered in our effectiveness due to the lack of institutional knowledge at the state and municipal level that our services were even available. This recurring theme has become more apparent throughout this year.
On the heels of our call and the SLE, IEMA hosted our disaster response workshop on March 14th at their facilities in Springfield, Illinois. The event followed our AIA Illinois Prairie Grassroots advocacy day in the state capital, so we realized some cost savings by already having several workshop participants in town.
Key leaders from both AFH Chicago and AIA Illinois attended the workshop. We began the morning with introductions by Ashley Knuppel of IEMA and a brief overview by David Bradley, AIA of the purpose for the meeting and desired outcomes. Katherine Darnstadt, AIA then introduced the group to the resources and activities of AFH and specifically AFH Chicago, and Mike Waldinger, Hon. AIA spoke to the efforts of AIA Illinois to get architects integrated into the State’s response structure. The intent here was to share resources and information not only between our respective organizations but also to inform IEMA of the capabilities of each.
Paul Rasch, Manager of the IEMA State Incident Response Center (SIRC) gave the group an overview of the State’s Emergency Management structure and operations. For a few of our participants this was new information and it helped greatly to establish a common base of knowledge for us to build from as a group. Several participants commented that this information was particularly valuable to them. Jennifer Johnson, also from IEMA, spoke to many of the legal aspects faced by groups like ours that seek to get involved in disaster response. She highlighted issues of certification, Good Samaritan laws and credentialing and their importance to the process. IEMA Director Jonathan Moncken addressed the group and expressed his enthusiastic support for what we were working to do. We wrapped up the morning session with a presentation by Mike Waldinger of our efforts to date, including our collaboration with the Capital Development Board and our success in securing a seat at the table (literally) in the recently formed Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC), a private sector partner organization to the SIRC. In the event of a disaster, architects in Illinois are represented in the Buildings Sector of the BEOC and liaise with our colleagues on the Capital Development Board who have a seat in the SIRC. This was an initiative started by Director Moncken to better coordinate resources between the public and private sector during emergencies. Lisa Mattingly of the CDB was supposed to attend the workshop, but was unable to at the last minute.
After a lunch break, which included a tour of the state-of-the-art IEMA SIRC facilities, the group settled in to tackle a disaster scenario created for us by IEMA staff. The scenario was loosely based on the State Level Exercise held earlier in the spring and included an outbreak of tornados in three regions of the state. As we worked through the scenario, several things became apparent:
- There is a need for clear and consistent communication protocols, both with IEMA and between AIA and AFH. As things stand right now, requests for assistance from affected municipalities are fielded by the CDB through its SIRC liaison. The SIRC representative then passes requests to the BEOC Building Sector (currently staffed by Mike Waldinger and David Bradley, both AIA Illinois architects). The Building Sector organizes trained architects and other building professionals near the affected areas to respond as quickly as possible. The way this process is currently set up, there is no integration of or communication with AFH Chicago colleagues and they are left largely out of the loop. Access to information is also largely restricted to a couple people. If the BEOC Building Sector representatives aren’t available to respond immediately, there’s no backup plan to ensure a quick response.
- The unique missions and capabilities of AFH Chicago and AIA Illinois lend themselves to participation in the emergency management and disaster assistance response at different times and with different impacts. The efforts of AFH are focused heavily on long-term recovery whereas those of AIA Illinois are more tuned to immediate response and building safety assessment. There is, of course, a need for both approaches, but by its nature the approach taken by AFH makes it harder to integrate into a state response structure geared towards addressing the immediate aftermath of a disaster. This difference in emphasis has made it more difficult for AIA and AFH to collaborate immediately post-disaster as the goals of the two organizations are more complementary than synchronous.
- There is a need for AFH Chicago architects to be trained and certified in ATC-20 and ATC-40 protocols. AIA Illinois has more than 300 trained professionals on its roster. Inclusion of AFH Chicago architects in the response structure is hampered by the fact that, to date, only a small handful of AFH Chicago members have the certification and credentials necessary to be able to participate in state-led efforts.
- Even when the system is working perfectly, we face the hurdle that most municipal officials and communities around the state are unaware that we are available to provide rapid building safety assessments post-disaster.
As a result of the workshop, the findings of our team were as follows:
- Clear and consistent protocols need to be established that outline exactly what the “chain of command” is and how communication is shared between our organizations. We need to implement procedures that aren’t dependent on any single person and they must be created independent of peer or personal relationships.
- There is a need to train additional architects and building professionals, both within AFH Chicago as well as within AIA Illinois. Our current cadre of 300+ professionals, while impressive, is still not wide broad enough to serve us in times of need. Training needs to include the procedures for mobilization notification.
- An internal “tool-kit” should be developed as a way of informing architects statewide how the IEMA structure works and how they can become active, trained, certified and credentialed. There should be an emphasis on both immediate post-disaster resp
The Illinois team was engaged this fall in preliminary organizational activities. We identified key leaders from both AIA Illinois and AFH Chicago to participate in the workshop and approached our contacts at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to discuss plans for staging the workshop. Various dates were discussed, but scheduling in the fall between key participants proved to be rather difficult.
The decision was made to postpone activities until after the holiday season.
As it turns out, postponing our planning actually worked in our favor on a number of fronts. Everyone's schedules loosened up a bit and allowed for full participation by all invitees. And the proposed deliverables of the grant dovetailed nicely with activities planned at the state level.
The current plan is to have an organization call between the key leadership of AIA Illinois and AFH Chicago on Friday, February 15th. The purpose of the call is to share resources, discuss common goals and strategies, and look for areas of institutional overlap or areas where each organization can leverage its particular strengths. After the call, which will last about 1-1/2 hours, the information gleaned will be shared with our contact at IEMA, Ashley Knuppel, so that she and her team can best prepare the workshop to meet our needs and expectations.
Also to our benefit, IEMA has scheduled a State Level Exercise (SLE) for March 6th. This year’s functional exercise is a weather-related event to include tornadoes and straight-line winds affecting 3 specific geographical locations in Illinois. The impacted areas are a) Metro-East, b) Greater Springfield and c) Manteno, IL. In their capacity as representatives of the Building Sector in the state's Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC), David Bradley, AIA and Mike Waldinger, Hon. AIA will be participating in the event remotely through a web-based tool monitoring developments on the ground. Their role as members of the BEOC Building Sector is to respond to requests for assistance from the state's public agencies and coordinate the efforts of architects statewide to mobilize in the event of a disaster. Team members will assess our effectiveness in providing the necessary disaster relief and look for both successes and areas that need improvement. IEMA personnel will also be observing this dynamic.
Using what we will have learned from the February 15th coordination call and the results of our participation in the SLE, team members and IEMA staff will then finalize the program for our disaster response workshop. This workshop is being sponsored by IEMA, held at their facilities in Springfield, Illinois, and will focus on improving the integration of architects into the state's disaster response structure.
The scheduled date for the workshop is March 14th, 2013. This date coincided perfectly to follow AIA Illinois' Prairie Grassroots advocacy day. Several of our members will already be in Springfield for that event, so we will realize some cost savings by simply having them stay in town for the IEMA workshop.
We have included in the workshop not only AIA Illinois and AFH Chicago members, but also municipal officials, IEMA staff, members of the State Incident Response Center (SIRC), and representatives from the Illinois Capital Development Board. These are all parties who would interface in a real-life situation and their participation was seen as key to the program's long-term success.
It bears mentioning that the support from IEMA has been critical to our grant activities. Staff have been very constructive, engaged in dialog, and graciously offered their time and facilities at no cost. We couldn't do it without them.