Public Works Emergency Management

Karen Bloodworth
Technical Services Program Manager
APWA Kansas City Office

With so much focus on homeland security and related issues these days, public works departments and their involvement with emergency management issues are beginning to receive much-needed visibility and recognition. This year, more than ever, public works has been invited to participate in, provide written comment about, or assist in the development of new resources in the areas of homeland security and emergency management. We were very excited to see APWA Past President Judith Mueller appointed to a Presidential advisory committee on homeland security. These issues have been the focus of your Emergency Management Technical Committee for the past year.

Last April the committee provided a written response on behalf of public works to then-Governor Ridge on the development of the new homeland security advisory system. We responded to two additional “requests for comment” from FEMA, one the proposed First Responder Grant Process, and the second, the proposed Competitive Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Process.

If you ask other departments, agencies, or your own colleagues about the role of public works in emergencies, the response is likely to be murky at best. It is true that the role of public works varies greatly with the size, organizational structure, and location of the community. In an effort to help the non-public works community, elected and appointed officials, and other departments understand this important role, the committee developed a one-page “fact sheet” entitled, “The Essential Role of Public Works in Emergency Management.” To review the fact sheet or print a copy, visit

The development of a Memorandum of Understanding with FEMA is regarded by committee members as some of the most valuable work they have completed on behalf of APWA members. The committee participated in an implementation meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 2003. Members had the opportunity to meet with the various divisions within FEMA and learn about programs and initiatives that directly impact public works, including response and recovery, training, and preparedness and mitigation programs.

One new FEMA effort is the development of a comprehensive web portal that will focus on several important goals: interoperability among First Responders; the capability of supporting more than four million members of the First Responder community; and collaboration applications to assist in disaster prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. You can visit this new resource at

In early February, APWA joined the FEMA Resource Typing Initiative. This 6-10 month project was initiated to establish definitions, compatibility and protocols for national resources. Larry Thacker, Director of Public Works at Port St. Lucie, Florida, serves as the APWA representative. We will keep you informed as this project moves forward.

This year the committee undertook an effort to rewrite the publication Guidelines for Action, Public Works Role in Emergency Management. The text is in final review and the publication is expected to be released at the APWA Congress in San Diego this August. The rewrite task force includes task force chair Mark McCain and members Larry Thacker, Larry Lux, MaryAnn Marrocolo, and David Pullen.

Public works is more involved and better represented in the emergency management community than ever before. Through educational products, publications, policy statements, the Internet, and representing public works with other groups and organizations, the Emergency Management Committee works to enhance the quality and efficiency of public works emergency management professionals.

Committee members include Chairman Larry Nadeau, Project Manager, City of Port St. Lucie, FL; Brian Usher, Director of Public Works & Engineering, Zion, IL; Robert Fields, Emergency Operations Coordinator, Santa Clara Valley Water District, San José, CA; Paul H. Brum, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Oklahoma City, OK; and MaryAnn Marrocolo, Director, Recovery and Mitigation, City of New York, NY. Larry Lux, President of Lux Advisors in Plainfield, IL, serves as the Board Liaison. Karen Bloodworth is the APWA Staff Liaison.