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Getting The Right Resources to A Disaster Event


By Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

Disaster response is comprised of understanding the problems created by a disaster and getting resources to the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. On the surface, it seems simple. However, those of us who have been to disasters know that is not the case.

One of the biggest tasks is finding and mobilizing the resources to get to the event. While local fire, police and other government agencies carry out their normal response roles, they are often quickly overwhelmed.

Daily staffing at any government response agency is, at best, designed for routine incidents. If you look at EMS services around the country, you’ll see that they include Uber and Lyft in their transport options. Obviously, the staffing of ambulances doesn’t meet current daily demands.

Why The Resource Typing Library Tool Is Important to First Responders

After recognizing the need for additional resources, the next step is to determine what those resources are and what the sender of those resources thinks is necessary. For example, I might ask for a ladder truck to supplement the fire protection needs of the community. However, the dispatcher might send me a Ford F-250 4x4 Command Unit with an assortment of ladders, thinking that I will climb onto a roof to assess damage.

Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created the Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT), which categorizes and explains the capabilities of certain types of resources. The Resource Typing Library Tool has two forms, FEMA 508 and FEMA 509. The 508s are to requisition assets or teams and the 509s are for personnel.

“Resource users at all levels use these codes and definitions as a consistent basis when identifying and inventorying their resources for capability estimation, planning, and for mobilization during mutual aid efforts,” the Library Tool explains.

Determining What Assets Are Needed

The key to utilizing the RTLT is to first understand what you need. Once you know what assets you need, the next step is filling out the form that meets those needs. You could always say, “Send me the best or biggest team available,” but there are two problems with that approach.

The first problem is that you or someone must pay for the requested asset. If you have limited funds and you order too large a search and rescue team, you might not be able to afford a damage assessment team afterward.

The second problem is that you must house, feed and sometimes transport the assets you requested. You could be paying  to feed, house and maintain two or three times as many personnel and equipment than you actually need.

Differences between FEMA 508 and 509 Forms

So which form should you use? The 508 form is for requesting a team or physical asset. This asset could be an aerial fire apparatus or an Ancillary Support Team (Laboratory, Pharmacy or Radiological Services). Many teams that are specified in the 508 form require personnel who have certain qualifications described in the 509 form.

The 509 form shows some of the basic identifying information that is on the 508 form, such as the equipment category, ID number and status. But the 509 form focuses on the individual and his or her duties, such as a firefighter or emergency medical technician. Other categories include education, training, experience, professional certifications and licenses.

The RTLT is one of the best assets we have in the emergency management field. It allows us to get the correct resources to disaster events in a timely fashion and to complete necessary work.

Glynn Cosker Glynn Cosker is the Managing Editor of EDM Digest. Glynn has more than 20 years of writing experience, and he’s the Managing Editor of EDM Digest's sister blog site: In Homeland Security. Born and raised in the U.K., he began his career in government and spent 12 years working in the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Washington – attaining the rank of Vice Consul in the late 1990s. Glynn and his family live in New England.