Public Works Working Group: Working to benefit the profession

Diane Linderman, P.E.
Director, Urban Infrastructure and Development
VHB, Inc.
Richmond, Virginia
Board Liaison, APWA Emergency Management Committee

As public works agencies react to the challenges of response and recovery, one of the initial questions is whether you have the resources to handle the magnitude of the effort. In the event of a major disaster, the local labor and equipment resources are overwhelmed and it is necessary for the recovery of the community to reach out and ask for help. Many of us are familiar with the caravans of the power utility vehicles driving to assist their peer power company in the event of a major power outage. This utility has created a system that can quickly react to the needs of geographic area through inter-utility mutual aid.

Mutual aid is the key to success for all municipalities that need additional resources to help them recover in the event of a disaster. Often that aid can be from within the state and the state emergency management office can assist the locality in finding the resources it needs. In the unfortunate event that the disaster drains all the in-state resources, mutual aid among the states is critical. EMAC, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, is a congressionally-ratified organization that provides form and structure to interstate mutual aid. Since being ratified by Congress and signed into law in 1996, 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands have enacted legislation to become members of EMAC. Through EMAC, a disaster-impacted state can request and receive assistance and resources from other member states quickly and efficiently, resolving two important issues upfront: liability and reimbursement.

There is a system in place to help all municipal agencies seek the resources necessary to address their recovery needs. And yet we hear about problems of people showing up to help that do not have the necessary skills. Or equipment is delivered that is unsuitable to be effective addressing the needs. How can you be clear about your particular resource need so you can be assured that you get what you ask for?

Resource typing is designed to enhance emergency response through a comprehensive system that allows municipalities to augment their response resources during an incident. Resource typing definitions provide emergency managers with the information they need to request and receive the resources they need during an emergency or disaster. Typed definitions for 120 response resources have been completed. The resources that have been typed are those commonly exchanged in disasters through mutual aid agreements. The original 120 resources were developed by subject matter experts, including public works professionals.

Resources are classified by "Category" which refers to function, such as Public Works, Fire, Health and Medical, and "Kind" to include teams, personnel, equipment and supplies. Information about level of capability is referred to as "Type" which is a measure of minimum capabilities to perform the function. Type I implies a higher capability than Type II. As an example, if you need a tub grinder for the disposal of vegetative debris, there are four types listed ranging in output capability of less than 100 to greater than 400 cy/hr. You would want the type of tub grinder that fits your specific need. You can imagine that if you just asked for a tub grinder, you might not get something that you can use.

In addition to equipment and teams, FEMA has been leading an effort to identify credentials for individuals that could be requested to assist a municipality in the event of significant disaster. In 2005, FEMA sponsored nine working groups: Incident Management, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Fighting and Hazardous Materials Response, Law Enforcement, Health Care, Public Health, Public Works, Search & Rescue, and Animal Control/Veterinary. These groups were challenged to identify "requisite" and "recommended" baseline criteria for education, training, experience, physical/medical fitness, certification, and licensing for positions that would be called upon by a municipality when its own personnel were overwhelmed.

The Public Works Working Group is made up of public works professionals from across the country with expertise in public works and emergency management. Many of the members are APWA members (see sidebar on page 38) and all are practitioners with operational experience that covers all the facets of public works. The Working Group's first accomplishment was the development of 19 job descriptions in the areas of debris management, water and wastewater utility systems, and public works leadership positions. Unlike many of our sister agencies, public works professionals are placed into positions to respond to disaster recovery, depending on the recovery needs. These jobs are not the normal daily job. The job positions created are intended to be the type of resource that a community would need when facing the daunting task of disaster response and recovery.

The 19 jobs created are to be called for when the resource is needed and, as the requesting agency, you will know what skills and attributes the individual should have (see sidebar on page 38). As a municipality, you do not need to have employees that have these specific credentials in order to handle disaster response and recovery. The job credentials are only required when an individual volunteers to assist another jurisdiction so that there is no confusion over what skill level the public works professional can be of assistance.

The Public Works Working Group continues to work for the benefit of the profession. An additional set of positions is being developed. These positions, and maybe more, will continue to clarify the resources you might need to respond. Teams will be created that will support infrastructure rebuilding and cleanup efforts and will include self-sufficient resources to minimize the drain on the local resources. Like the existing resources, they could be developed with multiple effectiveness levels (Type I being minimal and Type III being higher capability level).

The Working Group is also tackling the updating of the original public works typed resources as well as reviewing resources that have been typed by states to determine if they should be added to the federal resource list.

All these efforts are being made to make it easier for you to ask for help and to get the exact resource you need. It is absolutely not a requirement for your local public works staff to be credentialed. It continues to be the expectation that the local governments will take the lead on response and recovery, and only when they are overwhelmed are they encouraged to ask for assistance. The continuing effort to clearly identify resources and determine the minimum qualifications for public works positions that bring value to assist communities in their disaster response and recovery efforts can only help in the effectiveness and quickness of that community to get back on its feet.

It is all about helping each other and bringing the right people and the right tools to successfully complete the job.

Diane Linderman is a member of the Finance Committee and a former member of the Government Affairs Committee. She can be reached at (804) 343-7100 or

Public Works Working Group Roster

Mark H. McCain, MEP, Public Works Emergency Management Services, LLC, South Carolina

Larry J. Benz, P.E., Director of Public Works, Cole County, Missouri

Randy Bartlett, Director of Stormwater Management, Fairfax County, Virginia

Perry Hopkins, ORCEMS, Emergency Operations Manager, City of Portland Water Bureau, Oregon

Richard Coates, P.E., Assistant Director of Public Works, Fulton County, Georgia

Larry Nadeau, Project Manager, Public Works, City of Port St. Lucie, Florida

Brian Usher, Director of Public Works, City of Largo, Florida

James David Himes, Assistant Director of Public Works, Metro Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee

John Scharffbillig, Mn/DOT Fleet Manager, Office of Maintenance and Security, St. Paul, Minnesota

Marjorie DeBrot, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Scott Conners, City Engineer, City of Walker, Michigan

Ed Thomas (former Working Group member), National Rural Water Association

Bob Fields (former Working Group member), Chief, Emergency and Anti-Terrorism Operations, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California

Public Works Job Titles

PW Job Title 1: Assistant Public Works Director - Logistics
PW Job Title 2: Assistant Public Works Director - Operations
PW Job Title 3: Civil/Field Engineer
PW Job Title 4: Debris Collection Supervisor
PW Job Title 5: Debris Removal Manager
PW Job Title 6: Debris Site Manager
PW Job Title 7: Engineering Branch Manager
PW Job Title 8: Engineering Division Manager
PW Job Title 9: Equipment Operator
PW Job Title 10: Public Works Director
PW Job Title 11: Quality Assurance Personnel
PW Job Title 12: Structural Engineer
PW Job Title 13: Utility Systems Reconstruction Manager
PW Job Title 14: Wastewater Collection Manager
PW Job Title 15: Wastewater System Manager
PW Job Title 16: Wastewater Treatment Manager
PW Job Title 17: Water Distribution Manager
PW Job Title 18: Water System Manager
PW Job Title 19: Water Treatment Manager