In 2004, Florida suffered through four major hurricanes within six weeks. Thousands of residents were left homeless. To deal with this situation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed localized rapid response teams (Strike Teams) to respond with speed and agility to residents’ housing needs. However, there was no centralized set of procedures to follow and each Strike Team acted independently, causing inefficiencies and myriad communication problems. Frustrations with the program increased and serious consideration was given to phasing it out if the problems were not sorted out…soon.
Hagerty was asked to facilitate a meeting with all thirty Strike Team leaders and get them to ‘buy in’ to conducting housing operations in a consistent way. The team leaders also needed to communicate better with each other and with the central field office.
Three Hagerty professionals, all experienced facilitators familiar with disaster recovery operations, led the thirty team leaders in a robust discussion about what worked and what did not work. Two key revelations emerged. First, the team leaders did not fully understand the housing process and where their work fit in to the overall ‘big picture.’ Second, they also did not realize the importance of tracking each step and communicating with the involved parties. After six hours of intense and candid talking, sharing, and charting, the group produced a general agreement of broad steps to take to standardize and improve key housing processes.
The meeting was a big success. The new, standardized processes proved to be effective. The team leaders established a weekly conference call to discuss and address emerging issues. Each team leader was given access to the tracking database so they could enter information and view progress overall. Housing was delivered more efficiently to hurricane victims. Most importantly, 16,000 trailers were delivered within a few months, which at the time was a FEMA record.