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


USGS Updates Earthquake Hazard Maps

State Heritage Emergency Partnership

The U.S. Geological Survey released their updated National Seismic Hazard Maps, showing 42 of the lower 48 states have a reasonable chance of facing damage from ground shaking in the next 50 years. Last updated 6 years ago, these new maps were developed with new ground motion models and compare changes between the 2008 maps and the 2014 ones.

The highest risk is on the west coast, intermountain west, and several clusters in the central and eastern United States. That really hasn’t changed since the 2008 map; instead, the potential severity and strength of earthquakes was upgraded for those areas based on new data. For example, risk was upgraded in the eastern United States and the New Madrid Zone based in part on recent earthquakes there.

The Pacific Northwest’s risk was upgraded due to similarities between its seismic hazards and those of Japan and Chile, both of which experienced…

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Planning for a Mass Fatality Incident

Planning for a mass fatality incident can be almost as complex as responding to such an incident.  Mass fatalities can arise from transportation incidents, pandemics, mud slides, mass shooting, or other sudden incidents.  Thankfully mass fatality incidents do not occur often, but due to the impacts and complexity of managing such incidents every jurisdiction should have a plan in place to address them.

A mass fatality incident management plan should be an annex to a comprehensive emergency management plan.  Just as with any deliberate emergency planning effort (ref CPG 101), we start by assembling a planning team.  This planning team should represent all relevant stakeholders from across the community.  Beyond your usual public safety agencies, the team should also include the coroner or medical examiner, public health, public works, hospitals, social services agencies, the American Red Cross, funeral directors, and cemetarians.  It is also important to consider the cultural and/or spiritual requirements of how the deceased are handled so community leaders from these groups should also be included in your planning process.

Your plan should acknowledge the hazards in your community which can lead to a mass fatality incident.  These should already have been identified through your hazard analysis/THIRA.  If you have not conducted a THIRA, your planning team should discuss the impacts of such an event through a briefly outlined credible worst-case scenario then identify what capabilities are needed to address these impacts.

Assisting agencies may have some slightly different roles in the management of a mass fatality incident than they would in other incident responses.  These differences should be identified in the mass fatality incident response plan.  It should also be recognized that the causal nature of the incident is most likely to drive who will be in charge of such an incident.  Typically there are other matters which must be mitigated to save lives, protect property, and stabilize the incident which will determine who is in charge.  Because it is a mass fatality incident the coroner or medical examiner will be managing a significant portion of the incident and may also be driving policy based upon their legal responsibilities, but they may not be in command, although they may be likely to be part of a unified command.

While the coroner or medical examiner will be handling the deceased, it must absolutely be remembered that the living must also be cared for.  First and foremost are the immediate survivors, if any, of the incident who will require emergency medical care.  Depending on the nature of the incident, others may need to be treated for exposure.  Mental health care is a much more prominent issue in a mass fatality than perhaps any other incident – and the need for mental health care applies to everyone working the incident, families and friends of victims and survivors, and the community at large.

A common venue in mass fatality incidents for providing mental health assistance to families and friends of victims and survivors is a Family Assistance Center (FAC).  The Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 requires family assistance centers to be established for major transportation incidents (the joint responsibility of the NTSB and the American Red Cross) but these centers have been used for other mass fatality incidents as well.  In additional to crisis mental health counseling, a variety of other services can also be provided at a FAC.  A FAC should be established very quickly and it should be recognized that surviving victims may be stranded in the area and that family and friends will flock to the area – many of which may have little support structure or plans for essentials such as lodging.  A FAC is also an ideal location for authorities to obtain information from survivors about the missing or deceased which will help with future identification.  FACs are often located in hotels where large conference facilities, lodging, food, and other services can be obtained.

Another facility common to a mass fatality incident is a temporary morgue.  Temporary morgues are established either as a matter of operational convenience (rather than having to transport remains to the jurisdiction’s usual morgue site) or because the usual morgue site is too small to accommodate a larger operation.  Usually in conjunction with a temporary morgue is the need for cold storage for remains.  This is most often accomplished via refrigerated trucks/containers.  The incident morgue is obviously a secure location, with only authorized personnel being allowed access.

The amount of logistical planning required to establish and support facilities such as a family assistance center and temporary morgue lend themselves greatly to pre-planning efforts, including MOUs, site-specific standard operating procedures, mobile caches of disaster supplies, and exercises to test the standard operating procedures for setting up and running such facilities.  There are a variety of resources available to assist you with assembling your mass fatality incident response plan from LLIS, the federal Disaster Mortuary Response Team (DMoRT), state health departments, state emergency management agencies, and funeral home director’s associations.  The National Association of County and City Health Officials also has information which can assist you.

Take the time to create a mass fatality incident management plan, train personnel on the plan, and exercise it regularly.  Mass fatalities represent some of the most complex incidents I’ve ever been involved in and are very multifaceted.  As always, if your jurisdiction needs assistance in any preparedness efforts, Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC is here to help!

© 2014 Timothy Riecker