Multi-Agency Coordination Group

MAC Presentation Slides
Presenter - Mike Chard

Presented by Mike Chard, City and County of Boulder Emergency Manager, started by asking participants what they anticipated to learn during the Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group Process. Listening to the responses, Chard reminded that while you may not call it a MAC system, you have one in place even though you might not realize it. Chard's goal is to show how this applies, noting that while Boulder's model might not be the right answer for every community, the basic systems are already present on your community it is just a metter of recognizing and codifying it.

If you are engaged in any community grant planning process, you probably already have the right people in place. Command, resource coordination centers, emergency operations center, disperse local agency coordination entities, communications centers all are parts of the MAC. These elements may take the form of emergency managers, mutual aid agreements, red cross, county commissioners each can fill the positions and serve on these committees. The difference is the extent to which these elements are brought into the process. It needs to be inviting and all-inclusive to work. It also must be a creative system.

The Emergency Operations Center is the core of this process and doesn't have to be complex. The system is important, not the technology. A functioning system can still be rooted in radios, telephones and simple forms provided that the training and familiarity of participants is strong. Boulder's EOC is a support and coordination concept. Must be able to sell the business plan of the EOC.

In the Boulder approach, MAC groups must own logistics and planning, and the EOC manager coordinates with the policy group. The time to set up representation from across the community spectrum, like the involvement of a school district, is not at the point that a disaster is underway. The Boulder approach is a contingency system rather than a plan. Plans fail.

The MAC group is responsible for establishing priorities, locating and obtaining resources, deconflicting policy and procedural conflicts between partner agencies and maintaining relationship with the policy group. The emergency manager who coordinates the MAC group is responsible for feeding the policy group with the common operating picture. The MAC group is the horsepower that enables decision makers to act. The MAC group is also the place where department heads from across the community can be updated, bound together, informed and kept up to speed.

Example of how a policy issue is handled by a MAC is volunteer and donations management associated with Fourmile Canyon Fire. Once the decision to engage was made by policy officials towards donations management to assist those affected, the MAC was necessary to coordinate logistics and planning to obtain support from nonprofit, private and public agencies from building to legal to communications to public information pointed in the right direction to achieve the general objectives set by the policy group.

Building this system at the local level starts with the policy group. Inventory your environs from both a MAC system (how the elements link) and the MAC Group (who make up the elements). An important consideration to set up a system is who comprises this and do not rely on regular incident command system/first responders who, in the event of an incident, will be at the incident.

NOTE: you also have to write it down. The words and thoughts mean nothing unless we write it down. Brief, concise and to the point is the only way to begin to craft a MAC group and system. You have to start recruiting, forming policy groups, and for participation you have to make assessment on local infrastructure and be able to communicate support. You also have to remember that the model must rely on behavioral relationships and are not static efforts. You must be able to understand people and how they are motivated to act to maintain group cohesion.

Chard then presented a case study on a fictitious Lindsey County that walked participants through the complexities of seeking the right people to formulate a MAC (slides will be posted on COEmergency at the conclusion of today's activities).

It is important to remember, too, that this cannot be a control-based group management activity. It is going to be flexible and built on trust. You have to also be able to manage expectations of members who may not be finely-honed and fully-trained members of your team.