JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., -- On Feb. 16, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Army Community Service stood up an Emergency Family Assistance Center to practice and coordinate with base tenant organizations in the event there is a real-life occurrence on the base. Kathy Feehan, the JBM-HH ACS director, said in a real-world incident, ACS would stand up an EFAC, which would pro-vide ACS and tenant partners to practice those skills in advance.
“We learned some les-sons, practicing (with) our service providing in real time with role players,” said Feehan. “The purpose of the EFAC is to promote short-and long-term recovery and to return to a stable environment and mission-ready status for the joint base, for personnel and their Families following any large-scale hazardous incident. It’s really in-tended to be a consolidated location or one-stop shop as we like to call them for information and for services for members of the joint base community. “While ACS facilitates (an) EFAC, stands up the EFAC and has the responsibility and proponent for the EFAC, we cannot meet that mission without all of our service partners, which is why it was so great that we had such great participation.”
Feehan added that while it’s important to make sure service members and Families are taken care of during an emergency, it’s also important to remember what needs to be done to other Family members —the family pets. “It’s something that we do want to look at (and) be able to provide those type of information and referral services for the community,” she said. “That’s why it was important to staff other directorates because we are just doing what we always do each and every day. We are providing services to service members and their Families. In an EFAC, we might (do that) in a more expedited fashion.”
She pointed out that there is going to be more stress on the community if a hazardous event were to occur. During the exercise, Feehan said it was important to remind partner organizations the importance of making sure there were alternate locations because the primary location might not be the best location due to unforeseen circumstances.
For example, it’s possible the primary location is gone and a secondary location will have to be used. “Even if you plan you are going to stand up an EFAC (at a certain location), there is no guarantee that is going to be where you can stand up the EFAC,” she said, “because there could be situations where other agencies have to come onto the installation and they take over that space. We al-ways have to have those alternate plans in place. “That’s what I always try to impart to the staff (that) we can-not be singularly focused if we have an EFAC and we stand up at Spates because that might not be an option as a result of whatever incident has just occurred. It’s critical we look at other locations. “Locations aren’t the only concern during the standing up of an EFAC.
Feehan said partner organizations such as the chapel, behavioral health, military and Family life counselors are vital. After an event, the community will need those services and provide information for those who will probably be emotionally distraught. “One of those immediate needs people are going to have when they come in is going to be counseling or some spiritual guidance and support,” Feehan said. “They are some of the most critical players and partners in the EFAC stand up. That goes for our community and the staff as well, taking care of each other. We will not be able to provide those services to the com-munity if we are not able to take care of ourselves.” Feehan added that manpower is also an important part of standing up an EFAC because she said the commander has the discretion to elevate the level of the EFAC starting at a call center all the way up to 24-hour operations.
Feehan said having partner organizations participating in the exercise was beneficial because there were some who didn’t know the focus of the EFAC and they were provided opportunities to see how the execution was done in real time. She was also thankful that the partners participated in the exercise. “That education piece for our partner agencies was really great,” said Feehan. “The education piece on how an EFAC would operate is important. That’s something we will continue to do because the last time you want me to be educating somebody on what an EFAC is when that incident occurs. You need to have that knowledge beforehand.
“An EFAC is definitely some-thing that is stood up in the recovery period. It’s not intended to be medical aid or first aid —it’s truly information, service (and) re-sources in that recovery period. (An) EFAC is one of those missions we hope we are never going to have to execute, but the reality is that one day we very may well have to execute an EFAC. It’s one of our most critical missions at ACS.”