Who's On Your FEMA Crew?

July 26, 2018 - Featured in PRIMA RiskWatch

As the saying goes, you can’t plan for a crisis while you’re having a crisis.  We all can agree that “winging it” is not a successful disaster recovery plan, but you may be surprised to find out that reliance upon your organizational chart to fill out the needed roles on your internal FEMA claims recovery team may be just as unsuccessful. Identifying the necessary traits/skills/abilities and the people that possess such qualities ahead of a disaster will put your team in the best position to optimize your recovery efforts.

Much like on a rowing team, each of the ‘seats’ or roles is as important as all the others and it takes a synchronized ‘crew’ (recovery team) to achieve success. It may become a necessity to break away from your org chart as you fill out your crew positions. 

Some of the key roles you’ll need to fill are as follows:

  • Overall Claim Lead (internal)

This role functions much like the coxswain position on a rowing team.  Whereas the role of the coxswain is to steer the boat, provide motivation and encouragement to the crew, and inform the crew of where they are in relation to the finish line, the point person/claim lead on the FEMA claims recovery team should be able to fulfill these same leadership functions during the recovery process. Don’t simply assume that the Risk Manager or the CFO is the best fit for this role.  There may be someone else on your internal team that is better suited to keep the big picture in mind and keep the rest of team encouraged, informed, and on course. 

  • Financial Contact (internal)

Balance and technical accuracy are the responsibility of the bowman of a rowing crew.  The financial contact on the FEMA claims recovery team must be a person who is not only involved in the technical financial and procurement details, but also understands the balance required to remain in compliance with federal procurement rules, keep payment flowing to vendors/contractors, while focusing on the future to inform the proper decision makers in the organization concerning cash flow concerns.  The CFO may not have the ability to be immersed in the day to day of the recovery process, but the budget director, general ledger accountant, accounts payable supervisor or procurement professional may possess the information and skill set to provide leadership in this area.

  • Physical Repairs Contact (internal)

The middle crew of the rowing team is often referred to as the ‘engine room’ of the boat.  The physical repairs contact acts as the middle crew in the disaster recovery process.  This person understands the various ‘strokes’ required for the actual physical restoration work to occur. While the logical choice from review of your org chart might be the director of maintenance or operations, a better choice might be an internal team member that knows the affected building(s) infrastructure, mechanical rooms, and building layout, and is better positioned to provide the needed information to contractors and professional service providers such as architects and engineers.

  • Onsite Project Coordinator (internal or external)

The last two positions at the back of the boat are referred to as the ‘stern pair’.  The ‘stroke’ position of the pair acts as a human metronome to the rest of the crew.  This individual sets the pace for the recovery project and knows what pace the rest of the crew can reasonably keep up to finish the race.  The onsite project coordinator serves this function. Because the daily work of your organization has to continue during the recovery process, you may need to consider outsourcing this role to a person that understands the technical aspects of construction and can provide answers to contractors, architects, engineers, insurance professionals, and FEMA representatives in a timely manner so that forward progress can continue.

  • Claims Consultant (external)

While not in the boat on race day, the coach of the rowing team provides the technical advice and problem-solving guidance needed to prepare for a successful finish.  A claims consultant that understands the interplay between all insurance coverages and available public assistance funding is key to rounding out the team. The consultant can be the extension of the physical onsite team working to provide checks and balance along the way, working to help the team move forward smoothly at a more rapid pace, while optimizing recovery.

For a list of other external team members that you should consider for support, read our article:
Your FEMA Claims Recovery Crew – Who’s Outside the Boat?