One only has to read the discussion boards and blog postings to see that after all we have learned from Hurricane Katrina, and all we have implemented in the National Recovery Framework, we still have problems getting equipment out to those who desperately need it. There is an excellent discussion going on in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Professionals LinkedIn group entitled “Anyone has ideas on why the discrepancy in the number of generators sent by FEMA and deployed by local agencies.” This thread is based on the recent Wall Street Journal article “Few Big FEMA Generators Humming.”
What is clear from this discussion, and a blog posting “What are the Challenges In Resource Management” is that there is a major difference between the discipline of equipment management as I always write about in this blog, and resource management as implemented by the majority of incident command systems in use by state and local level emergency management agencies. Fortunately, I am not the only one that saw this coming.
One of the participants in the Linked in Group noted that "90% of what occurs in an Emergency Operations Center is about moving people and things". What we are seeing in many different instances in the Post-Sandy Response and Recovery efforts are logistical challenges. It is never just a Generator. Instead it is a Generator, the right cabling, the right adapters, and how it is being shipped to where it needs to be. If the Generator is a large one, then it is also a licensed installer, a fork lift to move it, a fork lift operator, a truck, and a truck driver. Had a logistics "system of record" been in place prior to this event (there are several examples of this kind of technology used by Gulf Coast states), then the "reach-back" to Suppliers of all types (private contractors, mutual aid partners, NGOs, FEMA) could have been pre-planned, coordinated, and managed in a timely fashion and in a way that insures that all the critical logistical details are met.
So what is the difference between resource management and equipment management? The answer lies in who is using the equipment, and who is maintaining the equipment, and the communication between the two. Resource management, in an incident command system is knowing what kind of resource and type of resource is required for a given emergency, and knowing how to deploy that resource and track the deployment. Most incident command systems have resource editors and/or resource modules that work according to the NIMS standard to categorize the resource, link it to people, and note the discipline and reimbursement policy. These resource management modules will list the equipment required by the resource, the home location of the equipment, and the contact individual who is responsible for deploying that equipment. It is here, in this resource management module, that equipment management and resource management share some similarities. Many incident commanders and emergency personnel are lulled into a false sense of security by this intersection of disciplines thinking that this is all the equipment management that is needed. That is until the mega emergency occurs that rapidly outstrips the resource module requiring different information that is just not available, or has not been entered into the system.
Nothing like reaching for some hardware and finding out that it is not just the hardware you need. In fact the one thing that resource modules don’t include are the links to other parts that is absolutely required to operate the equipment. Or the equipment shown in the resource list is now out of service because it is not working, or has been classified wrong, and really is not appropriate. Or, as the case of the deployment of generators, the parts, people, or cables are not listed, and have to be acquired. Meanwhile the generator sits idle.
This is where the discipline of equipment management differs from the discipline of resource management. The resource manager counts on the fact that the list of equipment is accurate, that the required parts are there, the equipment has been maintained properly, and will work during the incident response. The discipline of equipment management makes sure that the above happens.
As we are seeing the post-Sandy response, the discipline of resource management breaks when there is no equipment management behind it. We are getting a lot of things right in the response to Sandy. We are seeing the effectiveness of the recovery framework in connecting communities to resources, and our ability to mobilize volunteers, emergency workers and first responders makes me very proud to live in this country. We have learned a lot from Katrina, and we are seeing that the hard lessons learned from the ninth ward have been effective in the North East. What we are now seeing is the stress on the system, and where that system is stressed, we see further room for improvement. We are good at managing resources. We need to become better at managing equipment.
As usual, I appreciate hearing from you and your comments. I can be reached through my email or linked in.
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