EP 54 Behind the Scenes of the JTF Civil Support
[TODD DEVOE] What do you do if you’re inside the house when an earthquake happens?
[LITTLE GIRL] You go under the tables.
[TODD DEVOE] Aha, and what else do you do?
[LITTLE GIRL] Hold on to the table. And if you hear– if there is an earthquake and a thunderstorm, you would have to leave the whole country.
[TODD DEVOE] EM Weekly starting right now.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] There’s a lot of capability across our officer core. We have some officers who have a lot of science background in the pure sciences, such as Chemistry, Biology. Most have a minimum of a master’s degree, and we do have some doctorate level officers in those hard sciences fields. So, we start talking, you know, like you mentioned, a dirty bomb, and getting down to the science, to the chemistry and the biology of it. Folks that can kind of immediately talk that language and understand the effects.
[TODD DEVOE] Welcome to EM Weekly, in the last week of March. And moving into– hopefully, everybody is going to have a great Easter holiday or a Passover. And for those of you who don’t celebrate anything, I just hope that you guys have a wonderful spring, and I’m really excited for you guys to be here. Today, we’re interviewing US Army’s Joint Task Force Civil Support group. And if you don’t know what exactly they do, some of you guys may have run into the CST’s, the Civil Support Team, I guess. And they’re out of the National Guard, mostly. But they’re supported by this Civil Support Group out of Virginia.
So, it’s kind of cool. The CST, I’ve worked with them. They’re out in Los Alamitos, in various different projects over the years, some training, things like that. They’re a really great, dedicated group of people. I think that you’re going to be– if you haven’t worked with them, you should really reach out to them and see what you could do. For those of you that are students, that are looking to get into emergency management, this might be an opportunity for you to check out what they do and maybe join the reserves, or the National Guard, try to do the Civil Support Teams. So hopefully, you can take a look at what they’re doing, it’s a kind of exciting program.
So, we’re also a week away– maybe a few days away from this huge announcement that we’re going to do. It’s a new program that we’re putting together here, and I’m really excited about it. I really, really, really want to tell you guys what we’re doing, but we’re just not ready for the announcement yet. I think you guys are going to be really excited about it, it’s going to be another way for emergency managers to really kind of get together and talk about what things are going on, ask questions, be involved, and really develop that EM community that we’re really talking about here at EM Weekly. And I really– I’m excited about it, I can’t quite announce it yet. I know if I did I would get in trouble with my buddy, so I don’t want to do that.
We’re also a few weeks away from announcing a new partner, and I think you’re going to be excited about this partnership program that we’re doing. Look forward to that, stay tuned, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Facebook Live. We’ve been doing Facebook Lives here for the last few weeks. I go live at 12 o’clock p.m. Pacific Time, or there about noon. (inaudible) Some lunch time. If you guys can’t get there on Facebook at lunch time, at 12, of course, we always have it posted, so you guys can be one of our replay people, and I always say hello to the replay people, because I know that you guys are out there, and I do really appreciate it when you guys do listen to us on the Facebook Live. Ask questions there, make comments on there. It’s just more of an open discussion. We’re looking forward to having you guys there on Facebook Live.
And speaking of social media, you know, we have Facebook. Obviously, I just talked about that. A Facebook group, which is really kind of exciting; LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, we’re out there. So please, look us up and join to take a look at what we’re doing. I spread a lot of good information out there on Twitter. I know a couple of other organizations that are following us and retweeting, and we’re retweeting their stuff. And again, it’s all about growing that community of emergency management; we’re doing it on the social media aspect of it.
One of the things we are going to be talking about here shortly, we have another of the shows coming up, and I was talking really about creating a social capital in your neighborhood and how to develop that. And I think social media can be a really empowering tool for doing this and getting information out. Not just about emergency management on a big scale, but the day to day stuff as well. And a really great place for you guys, as emergency managers, to engage with the community around and grow that community– I keep saying community, but I think it’s really well-used. Create that program and go out there, and meet the people who you’re serving, and have them know a little bit about what you guys are doing as well.
And so, that’s what we’re trying to do here with EM Weekly as well. Is create that community of emergency managers who can talk across the country and across the world. Guys, what are you guys doing up in Canada? And what are they doing in Mexico? And what’s going on in Australia, and New Zealand, and Europe? And what’s going on over there in the countries that are over in Europe that are listening, like the UK, and Norway, France, and Spain. What are you guys doing? New Zealand, you guys are awesome with some of the stuff you guys are doing down there. Share this information with us here at EM Weekly, I’d love to talk about it, and I’d really love to grow that community down there.
Speaking about growing communities, at Ask Todd, Sam, from New York, asked me if I think using templates for plans is a good idea. And it’s a double-edged sword. So, I think templates are a really good way to have a starting point. I like calling them primers, more than templates. Take a look at what people are doing and learn that we’re not reinventing the wheel, necessarily, and have a flow. Especially if you’re trying to do a brand-new emergency operations plan from the ground up. So you can see that flow of what information needs to go where, and I think that’s a really good way to start.
But the pitfall on using templates, obviously, is if you just took control H and replace, you know, this city with that city, or this school with that school, yeah, that’s not going to really work for you, because that plan is not meant, necessarily, for you, right? So, if you understand like, this is the part where you talk about your organization, and who is in your organization, what’s the (inaudible) of your organization, it should go here. And this is where you should address, you know, “x” issue that’s going on, that should go here. I think that’s a good way to use a template. You use it as a primer. Not necessarily erase all the words in there, that’s not what I’m saying, but I would use it gradually, right? You don’t want to plagiarize, necessarily, what’s going on there, but you definitely want to take a look at it, make sure you’re making it your own and own that plan, and make it work for you. So yes, templates can work, just don’t fall to the pitfall of the control H and you should be fine.
If you guys disagree with me, let me know down in the comments, let’s talk about that as well. Meet us over at the Facebook group, and we’ll talk about templates over there as well if you want to really weigh in on this. So, if you have any questions or a topic that you would like to talk about or discuss, or you’d like me to look into, just go to www.emweekly.com, and click on the “Ask Todd” button and put your information down there, and I’ll be happy to address it either here on the EM Weekly show, or we can address it also in the group. I’m really excited about that.
Ok, this clip– the clip at the start of the show, that was my daughter, and she was talking about her view on earthquake preparedness and thunderstorms. So, no, we are not advocating that you have to leave the entire country is there is an earthquake and a thunderstorm at the same time, but I hope that you enjoyed that little safety lesson from my little one. So, let’s get to the interview.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Hey, this is Army Lieutenant Colonel Norwood, from Joint Task Force Civil Support here in Virginia, America’s (inaudible) Response Force. How are you doing
[TODD DEVOE] I’m doing well, how are you doing today?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Doing well. Glad to have the opportunity to talk to you. I understand you’re an instructor of emergency management out there in California, and you’ve done other various stuff in the emergency management community. I’m staying here in Virginia, on the front lines of (inaudible), particularly (inaudible) emergency response for chemical, biological, red, and any kind of nuclear events that occur in the United States. My organization stands and responds within a rapid response timeline.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great. I know that you guys have a few– for lack of a better term, teams (inaudible). And they’re associated with the National Guard, am I correct on that?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] I would say we’re strategically positioned across the US, to mainly integrate with the capability of our national guard brothers and sisters.
[TODD DEVOE] I got to work a little bit with the guys at the 9th Civil Support Team of Los Alamitos, and they’re a really great group of professional and dedicated soldiers. So, I do appreciate everything that they do.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Right, and we rely heavily on the CST’s should an event be called where national-level assets are called to respond. We’re heavily relied on our CST’s that are there locally to maintain until we can get on the ground. So we definitely rely on those CST’s across the United States.
[TODD DEVOE] So, what capabilities do you all have?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] So, as far as capability, looking at it holistically, from the headquarters’ perspective, we have the ability to do what we call command and control and communications from a strategy and strategic point of view. But more importantly, what the American people are looking for is that search and extraction, the medical triage piece. The logistics leg, and sort of the communications piece that supports or can fall into the infrastructure in that local area. So, that’s kind of the core capability, surrounded by command and control communication, medical piece, logistics, and coms. And really, when it comes down (inaudible) being able to save lives and mitigate suffering and get that area back to where there’s a sense of normalcy.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. And that’s everybody’s kind of goal over there, the whole sense of normalcy. You know, of course, obviously, that we teach disaster recovery, so (inaudible). So, I know with the CST, that we are able to call you guys out before a disaster. And so, we use some assets from the CST when we have large events, such as the (inaudible), our (inaudible) when they go to national championships like the (inaudible) or the Angels were in the playoffs. Tell me a little bit about what you see that role is for that organization.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Ok, that’s very important. That’s what we call our national security events, or those high-interest events when we think there’s going to be large numbers of the population, essentially located in the area. We get visibility on that. Also, with that, being able to get those teams on the ground early to do an area assessment, to ensure that we are looking at all avenues to keep that local area, or that venue, safe. So, those are for our known events, and that’s something we do regularly, and the community is very aware of those events, such as the Superbowl, college national championships, sporting events, and also some other events that are known throughout the community.
[TODD DEVOE] So, based upon that, what kind of skill set does a member of your organization have?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Well, on our organization, you have an (inaudible) specialty skill sets. Our folks that are on the ground, doing the work in the local communities, for example, are search and extraction. They go through a rigorous training program that teaches them first-aid safety, how to use search and extraction equipment, the SEBA equipment, air tanks and what not, that say, the local fire departments use in any local area we’ve been responding to.
And it goes all the way up to strategic planners who are planning for the next scenario, or next event, that’s outside the norm. So, it ranges from actionable events on the ground, all the way up to our management that’s doing the planning for our plans.
[TODD DEVOE] How does somebody join your organization, from the military?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] From a military perspective, we are the (inaudible) community, which is the (inaudible) response enterprise. How most folks get in is you serve a certain amount of time in the military, as a generalist, and usually, you want someone who has been in the military a certain amount of years. And normally, you get selected to be part of (inaudible) Enterprise. Or if you’re someone who is in a certain specialty, for example, I’ll use hazardous material.
Some of our service members come in as hazardous material specialists, or (inaudible) specialists. And that’s actually part of their training and skill set, is responding to civil authorities. And typically, what that means is, in our response framework, we always work the lead federal agency, which would be FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, or Department of Health and Human Services, depending on what the event is.
[TODD DEVOE] So basically, the men and women of your organization are season veterans of the military? They’re not necessarily the guys that just graduated from (inaudible)?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Absolutely. Usually, looking across the (inaudible) Enterprise, pretty seasonal personal take on this mission.
[TODD DEVOE] Now, are you guys just army only, or is there any cross-service–?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] We are definitely cross-service, we are a joint organization. So, we are comprised of not only army, but air force, marines, navy, coast guard. It’s a full spectrum operation.
[TODD DEVOE] On a timeline, for say, a (inaudible) event occurs. So, we have– I’ll just use this example, the one that we’re always concerned about. Say we have a dirty bomb go off, you know, in an area. What’s the timeline to getting you guys wrapped up and deployed?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] The timeline for an organization like Joint Task Force Civil Support, we are able to move to the incident site within 24 hours, we’re moving to the incident site.
[TODD DEVOE] And then at that point you’re able to set your gear up and stuff and start doing what you do, right?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Absolutely. And the slogan we have here is we want to remain fast, light, interoperable, capable, and connected. And that’s mainly with the local area. And again, for us to be able to respond, we have to be requested by that state governor. So we actually have to have that partnership capacity beforehand. And we do that now, in our (inaudible) state operations, or we build partnerships across the United States regionally, along with states. So, if there is an event, that smooth transition to that location, we’ll be allowed for it, and accounted for.
[TODD DEVOE] And just to say, you know, on our end, when I was working with the local government, we had done some drills with the CST here in California, and they are an amazing group of people who come out, and are really knowledgeable, and (inaudible) on their expertise, for sure. One of the things that you guys don’t do is, when you guys roll up, you’re not saying, “Hey, we’re here, we’re large, now we’re in charge.” It’s still a local event, correct?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Yes. The local government and the state, along with FEMA, are the ones in charge. And basically, it is our goal to fill any gaps or any requirements that they had that we can assist with. So, they’re in charge, we realize that, and we understand that we offer a lot of capability, but we take all the (inaudible) from that local area and the state.
[TODD DEVOE] So, you have both enlisted and officers, obviously, in the organization. And a lot of the officers– I don’t want to say all, because I know it’s not all, are all doctors of some sort. Tell me what capabilities your officers have.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] There’s a lot of capability across our officer core. We have some officers who have a lot of science background in the pure sciences, such as Chemistry, Biology. Most have a minimum of a master’s degree, and we do have some doctorate level officers in those hard sciences fields. So, we start talking, you know, like you mentioned, a dirty bomb, and getting down to the science, to the chemistry and the biology of it. Folks that can kind of immediately talk that language and understand the effects. And that’s kind of where we’re getting at, it’s what effects does that device have on the environment and being able to talk through that.
[TODD DEVOE] I know that when we’re doing a drill, we do the dirty bomb drills, and a couple of your officers, they’re PhD in Chemistry, I believe, and Engineering, one of them was. And you can definitely tell, for sure, that they were the smartest men in the room, and I was really impressed with their ability to give us, guys that are not PhD in Chemistry and Engineering, to be able to talk to us in a level that we really understood.
So, you don’t have to be afraid of being overwhelmed by their knowledge, because– at least the guys I dealt with, and girls too. I’m from back East, guys, so when I say “guys,” I mean everybody. When they come in and talk, they’re not talking down to you by any means, they’re really, really, super helpful and knowledgeable about a lot of stuff. So, I do appreciate it when you all come to our event.
How does somebody– we talked a little bit about the enlisted side. How does somebody, as an officer, get involved in your organization? Is it something that they– when they get their Ph.D. and they want to join, and they automatically get put into your group, or is there a selection process for that as well?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] There is a selection process, typically, the way it works is you do a certain amount of years in your general branch. So, whatever you come in as an early officer, which would be a lieutenant. You come into a basic branch; you do a certain amount of years, where you have to learn the army organization, the structure, the basics. And then after, say, a period of five years, there’s an opportunity where you go before the Board, and they look at your profile and what you’ve done, and your aptitude and they make a selection of the folks that they want to be introduced into this field.
So you go through that selection process, and with that, comes the opportunity to do the events that you are talking about. The Master’s level, or the Ph.D. levels. So, that comes with it, once you are selected– pretty much as a Junior Leader or Junior Officer. You’re selected pretty early, and then for the rest of your career, you’re part of the (inaudible) Enterprise.
[TODD DEVOE] So, I mean, and that is why I wanted to clarify that question for everybody, is that the men and women of (inaudible) Enterprise, the CST programs, these guys– these are all really educated, experienced people that you can really lean on right there, and it’s an asset that you really have in your backyard, for most people.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] And (inaudible) with the CST’s. These are usually folks that they know the local area, they know the environment, and most of the civilian jobs they have is a direct correlation to what they’re doing on the CST. They’re called upon to do that work. So they’re actually– they’re doing their job and their mission almost every day. So, they really have a good grasp of the environment and what it takes to get things done.
[TODD DEVOE] That is exciting stuff right there. I mean, like I said, I got to work with the guys down here, they’re an amazing group of people, a talented group of people, and dedicated too. And for them to come out, it’s really important. So, where do you see the future of your organization? I mean, obviously, things are not getting easier in the world. How do you see you guys being actors in this new response matrix that we have?
[TODD DEVOE] So, where do you see the future of your organization? I mean, obviously, things are not getting easier in the world. How do you see you guys being actors in this new response matrix that we have?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Well, in the (inaudible) Enterprise, we continue to expand, and we want to expand not only for the continental United States but the opportunity to expand on a global capacity. I kind of see that as being the way of the future. Being able to expand this capability, not just for the United States, but allowing other nations to see our model and adopt, maybe, the same capability. Because again, the war in terrorism is a global fight, and the more partners we can have globally, whether they use our model or develop their own, is the best way to go forward, with where we’re at right now in the globe.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s for sure. And do you guys, right now, work with foreign governments? Do you bring in cross-training– like, I know that when I was in service, we did a lot of cross-training with all the other branches of foreign nations that we were involved with. Do you guys do the same thing?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] We do have partners across the globe. I’m not going to mention names, but we do have global partners.
[TODD DEVOE] Sure.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] And we are in constant communication, and keeping us all on the same level, the same path, as we move the enterprise forward.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, that’s important. And I’m glad to hear that because that’s important. In the civilian side, we talked about not changing your business cards over the trunk of the car, you know? So, that’s the same concept that you guys have right there, so that’s really important. If somebody is an emergency manager student, how would they go about, say, after they graduate, go about becoming involved in something like what you do?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Well, I would recommend– you might want to start at the local level. You can always volunteer at the local fire department. I think that’s kind of the best way to kind of get with the guys and girls who are doing it day to day. Because for example, when we start talking about the emergency response framework, it’s going to be that fire chief or that police department in that local area, that may be in charge of that incident for a certain period of time before national assets are able to come in and assist.
So, I would stay start off at the local level. Look into your fire departments and police departments, and organizations like that. And then maybe expand out from there to look at– looking at (inaudible) level, looking at your emergency response functions. And maybe getting in there as well.
[TODD DEVOE] Here comes the hardest question of the day. What book or publication would you recommend for somebody who wants to get involved in something like what you do?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] I always like to talk about emergency management, it’s all about framing the environment. And whenever you get into doing this kind of work, you have to have a good understanding of the environment you may be operating in. So I would recommend, for someone who is interested in the field, go ahead and grab the book “One Second After.” And it kind of gives you the almost worst-case scenario if there’s some type of nuclear event that calls– what we call an EMP.
And what that is, is an electronic pulse. And what that would do, is that would shut down all electronics and communications, transportation networks, social networks. It would really affect the Internet, radio, and TV. So, looking at it from a worst-case scenario perspective, again, this is a novel, it’s kind of sci-fi. But it really gives you some insight into what could happen. It’s a possibility. So, I would say framing the worst-case scenario and painting that picture in your head, because if you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario, any event under that, you can frame it in your mind. You can frame it in your mind better. So that would be my recommendation. And again, it’s called “One Second After,” by William Forstchen.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s a really good book. I actually had the opportunity to interview William Forstchen, so yeah, I agree with you there. Great recommendation. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the people here over at the emergency management world?
[COLONEL NORWOOD] I will leave you with one thing. Is that there are challenges in a response, from the alert process to the turnover, because this is a high-demand, high-stress field. But we always have to keep in mind that our response in the event has to be sequential. The local and state government, and potentially, FEMA are going to be the ones in charge. It’s all about people. Getting the right people with the right capability, at the right place, at the right time, and managing expectations. And that’s what I will leave you with.
[TODD DEVOE] Well, sir, thank you so much for being here with us this morning. I do appreciate your time. And thank you for doing what you guys are doing out there. Keep it up, and tell the men and women of your organization that we do really appreciate everything that they do.
[COLONEL NORWOOD] Great. I want to thank you too for giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit about Joint Task Force Civil Support, America’s response force. And I appreciate it. Have a good day.