Establishing identity during a disaster: The Emergency Management Assistance Compact and the First Responder Authentication Credential
As emergencies consistently overwhelm the resources of the jurisdictions they affect, the emergency management community responds with legislation enacting programs to send aid more efficiently, including the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). Correspondingly, emergency management technology develops to meet the field’s evolving needs. The Office of the National Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC) finds that the technology behind First Responder Authentication Credentials, or FRAC cards, will supplement the EMAC program by providing the trust framework that will enable identity and typing to be electronically verified to one individual issued from an authoritative source. It puts into practice “trust but verify” with verification being enabled electronically and provides a trust framework that assures the incident scene commander that a visiting first responder is who he says he is and is certified to perform the tasks that he has been assigned. In the chaos that accompanies such disasters, there is a latent threat of doing more harm by admitting unauthenticated people to an already vulnerable asset or scene; in an effort to protect against further harm, capable and available assisting responders are often prevented from actually helping. The FRAC program is the next stage in the emergency management field’s development of more efficient response mechanisms. In essence, FRAC picks up where EMAC left off: it provides a credential with photo and biometric identification that accesses computer data confirming the visiting first responder’s attributes and skill sets. It allows on-scene security to confirm a visiting first responder’s identity and credentials. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the FRAC program meets the current need for electronic verification of identity and skills, while simultaneously allowing for greater accountability on the scene of a disaster. The FRAC technology will be a critical element in reaching the next level of success in emergency response. It should fit seamlessly into the programs that have already yielded positive results and should help first responders to be more effective and efficient.
This article was published in the November/December 2008 issue of the Journal of Emergency Management.