Resource management is one of the most complex aspects of emergency management. The resource management cycle could be seen as a microcosm of the emergency management cycle with a number of steps operating in sequence and some simultaneously before, during, and after a disaster. We need to properly establish our resource management systems, procedures, and policies and keep them, as well as our inventories, up to date.
Referencing the Core Capabilities, the capabilities of Public and Private Services and Resources, Planning, Critical Transportation, and Operational Coordination all have bearing on resource management. Resource management is also one of the key components of NIMS. The following graphic on the resource management cycle comes from NIMS doctrine. While this is largely a logistics issue, the importance of it all cuts across all levels of all organizations.
Consider each of the steps identified in the resource management cycle. There is quite a bit of complexity to each. An additional challenge is that they are always in motion as requirements regularly change, new resources are obtained, and obsolete resources are retired from service. Often one change in a step of the cycle requires changes cascading to other steps. Also consider the variety of people involved in each step. No one agency or department has all the resources, therefore we are relying on information from others to create a common operating picture of resource management. Additionally, the regularity of changes in this information require us to have establish and maintain a system which allows for real-time tracking of this information.
Any information can be viewed in a variety of manners. A fairly simple web-based tool can allow for multiple stakeholders to input data and change resource status, but the display of that information the reporting available from such as system allows for better utility. The integration of GIS can help us identify not only where our resources are, but what their status is (NIMS provides us with three resources status indicators: Assigned, Available, and Out of Service), as well as detailed information on the resource such as the kind and type (again, these are NIMS-driven definitions that describe the capability of a resource), the owner of the resource along with contact information, and other information including technical, operational, and maintenance information.
In a pre-incident condition we should know what we have, what capability of those resources, and the conditions for deployment. Operating under ICS, once an incident occurs, Logistics obtains resources for the incident where tracking becomes the responsibility of the Resource Unit in the Planning Section. After an incident, these resources return to their owners where they are maintained and re-inventoried. Depending on the incident, owners may be reimbursed for their use which requires reporting on a variety of metrics.
Wildfire incident management practices brought us the T-Card system – a great low-tech way of tracking incident resources. A T-Card system is easy to learn and deploy and does a great job of tracking resources but can be very labor intensive and certainly has a delay in reporting. I’ve also used spreadsheets and stand alone databases, which allow for more flexibility and automated reporting, but still suffer from a delay with a single point of data input and management. Networked systems allow for immediate inclusion of staging areas, bases, and other mobilization or stockpile areas and are suited for simple and complex incidents. Consider leveraging technology to maximize your resource management common operating picture on both a daily basis and for incident management. Of course it’s always good to have a low-tech back up (and the know-how to use it!).
What systems do you have in place for resource management? What best practices have you identified?
© 2014 Timothy Riecker