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  4. Written testimony of FEMA for a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations hearing titled “Transparency and Training: Preparing our First Responders for Emerging Threats and Hazards”

Written testimony of FEMA Superintendent for the Center for Domestic Preparedness Charles King for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia hearing titled “Transparency and Training: Preparing our First Responders for Emerging Threats and Hazards”

Release Date: March 25, 2014

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building


Chairman Begich, Ranking Member Paul, and members of the Subcommittee: Good Afternoon. I am Mike King, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Acting Director of National Training and Education and Superintendent of FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness. On behalf of Secretary Johnson and Administrator Fugate, thank you for the opportunity to appear today.

As you know, FEMA’s preparedness grant programs have contributed significantly to the overall security and preparedness of the Nation. We are more secure and better prepared to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the full range of threats and hazards the Nation faces than we have been at any time in our history. This enhanced national preparedness is a direct reflection of our ability to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise better at all levels of government.

Much of this progress has come from leadership at the State, local, and tribal levels, fueled by FEMA’s grant programs. Over the past ten years, Congress, through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has provided State, territorial, local, and tribal governments with more than $37.6 billion. In March 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8 on National Preparedness, directing the development of a National Preparedness Goal. Plainly stated, the National Preparedness Goal envisions a secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk. The National Preparedness System (NPS) is the instrument that the Nation employs to build, sustain, and deliver the core capabilities in order to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.

We have built and enhanced these capabilities by acquiring needed equipment, funding training opportunities, developing preparedness and response plans, exercising, and building relationships across city, county, reservation, and State lines. Although federal funds represent just a fraction of what has been spent on homeland security across the Nation overall, these funds have changed the culture of preparedness in the United States.

Congress has recognized that training and education is a critical component of the preparedness cycle and has helped FEMA build a word class training and education system. FEMA has a long history of working closely with State, territorial, local, and tribal partners to formalize training and education partnerships based on mutual understanding, clearly defined roles, and targeted outcomes that will directly support the emergency management and response professionals of this Nation. This collaborative approach aids in the validation of doctrine; the establishment of universal planning practices; the promotion of nationally recognized techniques and tactics; and the introduction and application of cutting edge technology directly related to emergency management and response operations. More importantly, FEMA’s training and education programs supplement the training capabilities of the States.

Regarding Hazardous Materials (HazMat) training, FEMA has 290 instructor-led, and 14 web-based training programs that educate State, territorial, local and tribal emergency management and response professionals on HazMat response operations, incident management and planning, healthcare, public health, environmental health, and emergency medical response to mass casualty incidents. This training is aimed at local responders, and is intended to provide greater depth to response capability across all levels of government. The federally-led response capability carried out under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) is led by Federal On-Scene Coordinators, typically from the Coast Guard or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those personnel are trained by their respective agencies.

The United States Department of Transportation defines HazMat as, “Any substance which may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety of operating or emergency personnel, the public, and/or the environment if not properly controlled during handling, storage, manufacture, processing, packaging, use, disposal, or transportation.” With all these factors in mind, FEMA training is designed and delivered to help prepare the State, territorial, local, and tribal governments to carry out their responsibilities across the full range of potential hazardous materials incidents.

Role of Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness Timothy Manning provided written testimony to this Subcommittee on June 25, 2013 that outlined FEMA’s 2012 release of a consistent methodology for determining risks through its Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 201: Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) guide. This guide described a standard process for identifying community-specific threats and hazards and setting capability targets for each core capability identified in the National Preparedness Goal (NPG). In August 2013, FEMA refined the THIRA methodology through the release of a Second Edition of the guide. This Second Edition expands the THIRA process to include an estimation of resources needed to meet the capability targets. The THIRA process now assists communities to answer questions such as, “What are my current and future risks?” and, “What level of service do I need to address my risks?”, and addresses what specific capabilities are needed, such as teams of specialized resources. For the first time, this guidance has allowed a jurisdiction to establish its own capability targets based on the risks it faces. Once each jurisdiction has determined capability targets through the THIRA process, the jurisdiction assesses its current capability levels in its State Preparedness Report (SPR).

Taken together, the THIRA and SPR results highlight jurisdictions’ capability gaps, which gives grantees and FEMA information to evaluate progress in closing those gaps over time. The summary results are published in the National Preparedness Report, which addresses training gaps by core capability. FEMA prioritizes training efforts to address these gaps in order to increase jurisdictional training capabilities and reduce risk.

FEMA Training

FEMA’s training and education portfolio includes HazMat training programs that range from basic to advanced and incorporates an all-hazards approach to terrorist acts, and natural disasters. Over the past five years (FY 09 – FY 13) FEMA all-hazards HazMat training has been delivered to more than 725,000 emergency management and response professionals from all 50 States, the six territories, and the District of Columbia. An additional six million students have taken web-based training through FEMA’s Independent Study programs.

FEMA’s HazMat training and education programs are delivered by the National Fire Academy; the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland; the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama; and the National Training and Education Division (NTED) in Washington, D.C. The NTED manages the provision of funding to a coalition of over 30 training providers that includes the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, the Naval Postgraduate School, and FEMA’s Continuing Training Grant program.

In addition to the annual reoccurring programmed training conducted by the FEMA enterprise, the fiscal year (FY) 13 Continuing Training Grants included a $1 million grant directly related to HazMat training for first responders and anticipates funding an additional $2 million through the same competitive process in FY 14. FEMA’s training enterprise incorporates an all-hazards approach to incident response, which includes a Weapons of Mass Destruction approach to HazMat that significantly broadens the potential impact and the number of emergency responders that require training.

FEMA’s training and education programs include response competencies at the awareness, operations, technician, incident command, and specialist levels. These competencies cover the actions taken by the first arriving emergency responder and those required of the more advanced technicians and specialists.

The learning objectives of these FEMA programs include:

  • Pre-incident planning activities
  • Effective communications
  • Individual and team tasks
  • Scene size-up, security, and safety
  • Patient treatment, transport, and care
  • Incident management.

In addition to hazardous materials personnel, these programs are available to a host of disciplines who may respond, including: agricultural safety, animal emergency services, citizens/community volunteers, education, emergency management, emergency medical services, fire service, government administrative, healthcare, information technology, law enforcement, private sector security and safety, hazard identification; decontamination protocols; public health, public safety communications, public works, transportation security, search and rescue, and volunteer agencies.

FEMA’s HazMat training programs are designed to complement the programs within the State, local, tribal, and private sector, while maximizing training resources and facilities owned by FEMA or operated by FEMA’s partners, ultimately yielding synergy in national training. These programs maximize the use of world class training facilities capable of recreating simulated tanker car incidents; detection, monitoring and sampling of toxic chemical agents, biological materials, radiation sources, and explosive materials; medical treatment and patient management in a fully operational hospital; and functional emergency operations centers supported by state-of-the-art simulations and robust communications platforms. These institutions include faculty from the emergency response community that serve as nationally recognized subject matter experts who hail from the community of practice at the State, tribal, local, and territorial levels of government.

Each of FEMA’s training and education institutions works closely with industry to keep pace with the advancement of technological solutions and offer the most current state-of-the-art equipment to include: hazardous materials detection equipment, personal protective equipment, plume modeling software, and human patient simulators; all of which are critical to all-hazards HazMat preparedness training and are not uniformly available through State, local, and tribal resources.

Access to FEMA Training

Federal, state, territorial, local and tribal emergency management and response professionals are eligible to participate in the full range of training opportunities offered by the FEMA training and education enterprise. Direct application to FEMA’s resident training programs or requests for FEMA’s mobile training delivery teams are facilitated by the States. Each State, territory, or tribe appoints a training point of contact through the State Administrative Agency, State Emergency Management Agency, or appropriate tribal agency. This representative is responsible for prioritizing their requests for training, and ensuring those requests align with the State strategy and the capability gaps identified in their Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) and State Preparedness Report (SPR). Once the application is approved by the State or tribal training point of contact, the application is submitted to the training provider who schedules the resident seat or mobile training team. Training provided at resident facilities or through mobile training teams are fully or partially funded by FEMA.

Private citizens and the private sector are able to take full advantage of FEMA’s Independent Study programs which are provided through web-based learning solutions. Private sector and federal emergency response providers are permitted to attend resident and mobile training programs based on the authorizing language of the individual providers. In certain circumstances, these response professionals are required to pay tuition or other training costs through formal programs like NTED’s Excess Delivery Acquisition Program.

Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plans

As part of the DHS grant process States are required to develop a Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan. This process is accomplished by the States, territories, and urban areas during an annual Training and Exercise Plan Workshop. The participants in this workshop are familiar with the State’s Homeland Security Strategy and typically represent the emergency management and response community, the private sector, and supporting non-governmental organizations. Each State or tribe may take a slightly different approach, but the core of the process is supported by documentation from prior exercises or real world events to include formal after-action reports and improvement plans. Considerations are given to the core capabilities and the outcomes of the State’s most recent THIRA. The identification of training and exercises to validate desired capabilities is the ultimate end State, which includes the selection of training programs designed to meet gaps in planning, response, management, mitigation, and recovery to incidents which may include hazardous materials.


FEMA works to complement State, territorial, local and tribal efforts to be prepared for HazMat incidents by providing world-class, state-of-the-art, doctrinally sound training and education. Ultimately, these efforts help our partners identify and address their capability gaps before an incident occurs – making them better prepared for potential hazards such as hazardous materials incidents.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these important programs.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Last Updated: 10/06/2022
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