PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (Jan. 2, 2014) -- Pittsburgh District upped its emergency management ante as it underwent an Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) assessment at the district office Dec. 9 - 13.

EMAP is "an independent non-profit organization," and "a standard-based voluntary assessment and peer review accreditation process for government programs responsible for coordinating prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities for natural and human-caused disasters," according to the EMAP web site (www.emaponline.org).

The standards were developed in the 1990s by state and local government emergency management professionals who saw a need for standardization of best practices after analyzing responses to major disasters.

"It's basically the QMS (Quality Management System) for emergency management," said Scott Gauvin, EMAP project specialist-in-charge for Corps assessments, who is on hand as the assessment team leader here. His team includes six other assessors who hail from other Corps districts, state agencies and EMAP staff.

Due to its mission of providing power teams for FEMA during disasters throughout the nation and U.S. territories, Gauvin said, it is especially beneficial for the Pittsburgh District to become EMAP certified.

Nationally, the Corps has 23 of its emergency management (EM) offices or programs engaged in the process, he said. State partners in Pittsburgh's footprint who are accredited include the EM offices of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio, along with many other local EM offices.

Acting District EM Chief C.J. Infantino led the charge to get the district accredited, as well as putting in the work to get the Corps' approval. In 2009, he attended an EM Certification Program at George Washington University, where the class research project predicted EMAP would be a good fit for the Corps. Following a pitch to headquarters, he was assigned to participate in the USACE EMAP pilot program. As part of the pilot program, three USACE organizations were selected to complete the accreditation process: Huntington District (LRH), Los Angeles District (SPL) and Lakes and Rivers Division (LRD). As a participant of this pilot program, Infantino was an observer at LRH, an assessor in SPL, and the accreditation manager at LRD. After this successful pilot program, EMAP was added to the Corps' campaign plan.

The Pittsburgh District will be the third Corps district to become accredited by EMAP (the first was LRH in 2012, followed by Wilmington District in May of 2013).

"I initiated the district's self assessment in February with planning over several months, and giving offices a detailed outline of what policies/procedures needed to be documented and how to do that," said Infantino. "For some offices, policies for day-to-day tasks had to be created and documented so that if the whole section were unavailable, a new person could come in and perform that office's procedures."

By October, most divisions had come to Infantino with draft plans and procedures, which were worked and reworked until plans and procedures met the standards listed in the EMAP guidebook. Some also contacted other districts in their community of practice for guidance, Infantino said.

"And we're still reworking sections and adding them to our documentation as I speak," he said.

After the EMAP out briefing Dec. 13, the district will have 30 business days to submit any further documentation or demonstrations. In 60 days, they will receive a report back from the EMAP assessors and have a review with the EMAP Committee in May of 2014. All 64 standards must be met in order for the district to be accredited. If all standards are not met at that time, a "conditional" accreditation can be granted for nine months, but a detailed scheduled of how it plans to meet standards is required.

Accreditation is good for five years, and every year there is maintenance to keep current with EMAP standards, which by charter, are updated every three years.

"The Corps was the first federal agency as a whole to commit to accreditation for its EM mission. We see this as a great investment for the people within our district and the nation, as well as being a great model for other federal agencies with emergency management responsibilities," Infantino said.

Currently, the only other federal agency to pursue accreditation is the Centers for Disease Control, where Infantino was assigned duties as a team assessor. They too have earned accreditation under the EMAP program.