Having a Resource Management Common Operating Picture

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.

NIMS Resource Management Cycle

NIMS Resource Management Cycle

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


2 thoughts on “Having a Resource Management Common Operating Picture

  1. I think the relationship of core capabilities to resources is tightly coupled. In essence, core capabilities cannot be maintained without resources. Core capability degradation is sometimes stealthy because resource devolution is not closely tracked by practitioners. The result is that suddenly resource gaps go nonlinear and core capabilities fail. For example, you suddenly cannot respond or communications go from overloaded to zero. I would like to see a new matrix where specific resources are aligned with the appropriate core capability.
    Hank Christen

    1. Hi Hank. Great thoughts. I was actually speaking more to those core capabilities which have a direct correlation to the resource management process, but you are absolutely right that every core capability must have resources to be executed.

      I think we can look at a given set of resources (the NIMS-typed resources, for example) and make some correlations to which capabilities they assist, but to examine each capability deeper the best tool we have for that is the THIRA process. The last step in the THIRA process asks jurisdictions to identify those resources needed to support each capability as defined by that jurisdiction.

      I completely agree with you regarding resource devolution. Not only is it rarely tracked, but in government it’s often times difficult to procure replacements. There is also the circumstance where the resource may be operable to it’s original design but has become obsolete – another case in which government is not good at keeping up with the Joneses.

      BTW – I’m quite honored to have you commenting on my blog. I’ve been a fan of your books for quite some time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s