What are Emergency Support Functions?


An Emergency Support Function (ESF) is a Disaster Management Unit That is grouped according to a theme and purpose to facilitate effective disaster management within The National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC). Each ESF is made up of multiple Government, Quasi-Government, Non-Government Organizations (NGO), and private agencies that all work together to achieve a specific purpose which is identified according to the theme of the ESF. The Bahamas is unique in the sense that we are one of the few countries within the Caribbean That fully employ an ESF based Disaster Management System. The use of an ESF based Disaster Management system is typically specific to The United States of America and other large countries but since The Bahamas is an archipelago, it is appropriate for us to adopt this method as well while also ensuring that each inhabited island also has its own ESF system. This means that each island replicates the ESF structure and EOC system that the NEOC uses so that we remain in communication and are therefore able to deliver life saving services as soon as possible.

There are 14 Emergency Support Functions. Each ESF has one lead agency and any number of support agencies. The purpose, roles and responsibilities of the ESF as a whole as well as each agency that makes up the ESF are carefully outlined in the National Disaster Plan. The liaison officers from each government agency, quasi government agency, Private Agency and NGO identified in Phase Three of the NEOC Activation Process are all representatives of the agencies that make up the ESF's.

With so many components of the Disaster Response Cycle it can be very easy to lose track of all these acronyms and definitions. To make this easier, here is where the Liaison Officers, The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the NEOC connect.

In a previous post, we discussed what an NEOC is and its role in Disaster Management. You can find more information on both of those topics here: https://www.nema-bahamas.info/post/what-is-the-national-emergency-operations-center and here https://www.nema-bahamas.info/post/when-and-how-does-nema-activate.


During Phase three (3) of the NEOC Activation Process, The Director of NEMA Partially or Fully Activates the NEOC by reaching out to the various Government, Quasi-Government and Private agencies along with our local, regional and international partners and Non-Governmental Organizations to inform them of the situation and request that each agency deploys a liaison officer to assemble at NEMA to begin coordinating a unified disaster response. Each Liaison Officer is a Technical Specialist in their own field and operates as a representative of their agency. Each agency that is represented is a member of one or multiple Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). During a disaster, each of the fourteen (14) ESFs work side by side to deliver life saving supplies and services to the impacted population by communicating with the ESFs on the impacted island to assess their needs and receive reports and requests for assistance, rescue services, food and supplies requirements and more. This collaboration continues until the hazard is no longer life threatening, all of the needs that were reported are met, the “All Clear '' is given and the Director of NEMA officially Deactivates the NEOC.

This Means that as soon as the NEOC Activates, the Liaison officers from the organizations that comprise the the Emergency Support Functions converge on the NEOC and remain in house until after the “All Clear” is given to make sure that everyone impacted by the hazard is safe and accounted for.