In January of 2021, the New York Office of Field Policy and Management (FPM) in partnership with the Housing Continuity of Operations (COOP) Leadership Development Program (HCLD) convened the Rising Storm Tabletop Exercise 2021. The event was a “first of its kind” COOP discussion-based tabletop exercise held virtually on a Microsoft Teams platform. It showcased the ability of HUD staff to connect and conduct mission-critical functions during a disaster in a telework or socially-distanced environment.
HCLD was developed to examine key functions of COOP within housing and the various ways those functions affect management decisions. It identified 6 fellows who worked in pairs on individual projects. HCLD sponsored the exercise with the purpose of creating a learning environment that allowed fellows to talk through an integrated response to a disaster, focusing on mission essential functions, essential records management, and devolution planning.
Region II FPM coordinated the exercise activities responsible for planning, managing, and directing the pace of the exercise protocols and procedures. The exercise scenario was based on a Category 4 hurricane making landfall near Washington, D.C., causing severe damage to residences, businesses, and critical infrastructure. The exercise was also coordinated with FEMA Region II ensuring it was compliant with their Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) standards. The exercise discussions provided the fellows with an opportunity to exchange potential solutions to challenges, identify gaps, and isolate weaknesses.
Rising Storm was a success in addressing the scenario, providing teamwork, communication, and use of plans and procedures while pointing out areas in need of improvement and additional training. Fellows were able to evaluate their plans against the scenario and find areas to improve their roles and responsibilities in a disaster. As an overarching takeaway, the exercise illustrated that program areas need to engage more with each other to discuss HUD disaster policies and procedures.
“HUD staff plays a critical role in preserving lives, protecting property, and providing essential services," said Henry Comas, Region II Disaster/COOP Coordinator. "We must establish more disaster preparedness partner ships between our program areas to be fully engaged in strengthening our disaster readiness and building a culture of resilience."
Participating HUD program areas included the Office of Housing, Office of Housing Counseling, Office of Single Family Housing, Office of Multifamily Housing, Office of Finance and Budget, Office of Risk Management and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Housing Operations, Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, Region II FEMA, Region II FPM, and the Federal Housing Administration.