On September 10, 2017 Hurricane IRMA struck the Florida Keys as a category four storm packing winds up to 130 mph. Beginning on September 27, 2017 through December 3, 2107, Florida’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) operated 50 different D-SNAP sites and served over three million individuals who had suffered loss due to Hurricane Irma. At the end of IRMA D-SNAP operations in February 2018 the DCF Secretary convened a daylong facilitated meeting in Panama City, Florida. While recognizing the heroic efforts of DCF personnel under the most difficult circumstances, the Secretary wanted a no holds barred after action review.
Key lessons were as follows:
- Leadership, operational, logistical, planning, administrative and financial requirements were at times overwhelming.
- Existing DCF D-SNAP organizational chart did not meet the all-encompassing mission requirements.
- Existing span of control and division of labor did not facilitate effective command and staff decision making and coordination.
- Stakeholder involvement was not maximized throughout the planning/execution continuum.
- Due to the table top format of previous mock exercises with the primary focus on applicant processing, D-SNAP distribution’s greatest real-world challenges: line management, security, parking, social media, traffic control, stakeholder interaction, technical integration, contracted support and fiscal control were not exercised.
To address these observations, the DCF Secretary directed that the Department examine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Incident Management System (NIMS) including the Incident Command System (ICS) for the Department’s use in responding to the D-SNAP mission. DCF designated its Central Region to pilot the effort based on its mixture of large, medium and small distribution sites. DCF chose now-members of Readiness2Lead, LLC to lead the pilot. The consultant’s primary objectives were:
- To appropriately customize ICS for D-SNAP without sacrificing the system’s organizational structure, terminology and core guiding principles.
- In close collaboration with DCF HQ and the pilot region staff, to develop an ICS based organizational chart for D-SNAP operations.
- Following ICS 100 and 700 online instruction, to conduct face to face ICS 200 training made relevant via Irma based situations.
- To conduct a scenario based, multi-day, operational, functional exercise involving selected Regional staff, key stakeholders, an Exercise Director, Controllers and a Simulation Cell utilizing ICS.
- To develop Master Scenario Events List (MSEL) injects based on Irma D-SNAP experience to exercise staff and stakeholder coordination and decision making in Finance, Logistics, Operations, Planning and Information Technology
A post exercise After Action Review (AAR) determined that all objectives were met and recommended that the operational functional exercise replace the table top for future mock exercises.