Training

12-Step Program for Emergency Managers

It is only natural that we look for ways to escape our addiction to homeland security grants and gain control over our individual programs.

by / February 4, 2015

There are 12-step programs for many personal issues, so I figured there should be a 12-Step Program for Emergency Managers. I’ve written about our addiction to Department of Homeland Security grants that are administered by FEMA. Therefore it is only natural that we look for ways to escape our addiction and gain control over our individual programs. Getting out of addictive behavior can be difficult. 

Generally the concept of 12-step programs is to acknowledge a higher power and give everything over to its control. The only “higher power” that emergency managers have is FEMA, so we are in a bit of a Catch-22 in that we are trying to escape its grant clutches while at the same time giving our lives over to its control. We should at least try this 12-step program that I’ve adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous.


The 12 Steps


We admit that we are powerless over disasters and that our lives, calendar and email have become unmanageable.

We have come to believe that a power greater than ourselves (FEMA) can restore our sanity. (I am a bit suspect of this step, but what choice do we have? Civilian contractors?)

Collectively we have made the decision to turn our program over to the care of FEMA and the grant processes it administers.

We have made a searching and fearless inventory of all our natural and human-caused disasters, especially those that are currently hot buttons with FEMA and the DHS.

We admitted to FEMA, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our program gaps, knowing that in doing so we will never obtain accreditation by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

We are entirely ready to have the federal government change all our emergency management doctrine with every switch in presidential administrations and FEMA administrators.

We humbly asked FEMA to remove any and all grant restrictions that will limit our ability to get federal funds and allow us to decrease the percentage of funding that our program gets from our parent organization. We do this knowing that it might be called supplanting, but also knowing that it has never been a finding from the FEMA or DHS Inspector General.

We have made a list of all persons we need to know and became willing to meet with them in order to build a relationship. This includes people from other states, counties, cities, fire districts, water districts, sewer districts, school districts, nonprofits, large businesses, medium and small businesses, international organizations, hospitals, clinics, public health, fire and police departments, emergency medical services, neighborhood and community groups, and the paperboy, should we still get a paper.

We have made direct amends to agencies we don’t really like, whenever possible, except when to do so would cause them to gloat.

We continue to take a self-assessment, and when we are wrong about something, promptly document it as a lesson learned, avoid taking any remedial action and seek training via an online FEMA course on the Incident Command System.

Through the Internet, email, phone calls and personal meetings, we sought to improve our conscious contact with FEMA as we understand it. We do so only for knowledge of FEMA’s will for us and the funding to carry out that will.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to other emergency managers and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Therefore, we do so perpetuating the rut in which we and our discipline is mired.

Eric Holdeman Contributing Writer

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.

He can be reached by emailTwitter and Google+.