Facilities Management and ICS

Earlier in the year I posted a video (something I need to get back into doing) on the positioning of care facilities within the ICS structure (Operations, not Logistics).  I’m currently reviewing some standard operating guidelines created by a county government on the management of such a facility and have made some critical observations….

The biggest observation is that the management of the facility does not have to mirror the ICS organization.  What I mean here is that it really shouldn’t have its own Operations Section, Logistics Section, Planning Section, Finance/Admin Section, PIO, Safety Office, and Liaison Officer.  While I commend the folks who developed this SOG for trying to stick with ICS, I think they are trying too hard.  While the application of this type of organization CAN assist with management of a facility, it’s typically too much.  Yes, ICS is flexible and allows us to activate only the elements needed, but often people feel compelled to utilize the organization to its fullest extent – which in this case can mean the creation of positions which are not needed.  The application of ICS elements to the management of a facility can also be redundant and confusing.  Besides, most jurisdictions don’t have access to multiple Planning Section Chiefs (or persons qualified in other positions) to staff all these areas.

Let’s start at the top… Facilities, per ICS definition, are overseen by Managers.  Not directors or other such titles.  Most facilities have very specific functional activities which should drive their organization.  Yes, most of these would be considered ‘Operations’, and the support of these can be considered ‘Logistics’.  But we really need to look at the responsibilities of the facility and the relationship to the rest of the incident organization to help guide us in the development of how we organize our facility management.  Managers, in ICS, can have assistants, which may be all that’s needed to help address management-level issues that people may be associating with ICS positions.

Does a facility need a Public Information Office (PIO)?  Probably not.  ICS guidelines prescribe one PIO per incident to help ensure coordination and integrity of public information.  If the facility has a need to communicate information to the pubic, they should be working through THE incident PIO.  If the scope of the facilities operations are complicated enough, perhaps that function may have a designated assistant PIO to ensure proper handling of the information, but they are not the incident PIO.

Certainly facilities can have safety issues.  Does they mean they should have a Safety Officer?  Again, ICS prescribes that we have one incident Safety Officer.  Typically the facility manager (or perhaps an assistant facility manager) will have safety included as an additional duty, in coordination with the incident Safety Officer to ensure adherence to all applicable safety standards.  As with the PIO matter, if the facility for some reason has some serious safety concerns, it may warrant the placement of an assistant safety officer by the incident Safety Officer.

The function of a Liaison Officer is fairly high level, with the primary intent of supporting the Incident Commander with the coordination of various organizations involved in the response.  Of course many facilities are likely to be supported by several organizations, but the participation of these organizations has already been addressed by Command, likely with the assistance of the Liaison Officer.  An added Liaison Officer is simply redundant and confusing.

Logistics – while there are certainly support matters that need to be tended to in facilities – such as security, parking, sanitation, etc., this doesn’t warrant a position in the capacity of a Logistics Section Chief.  Yes, they do require some oversight which may be beyond the span of control of the Facility Manager to provide.  This is a good opportunity to assign a Support Services Leader or some other similarly titled position who reports to the Facility Manager.  Additionally, most facilities should not be the ordering point for resources.  If they need resources, the request should be sent up to the incident Logistics Section.  Similarly, there is no need for a facility to have its own Finance/Admin section.

Having an incident action plan is always a critical element of organization.  A care facility should certainly be included in the Incident Action Plan; reflected in objectives and organization, and tasked in a form ICS 204.  That said, I certainly acknowledge that some facilities can be rather complex, with a multitude of personnel and activities and thus can benefit from having more than just an ICS 204 to run by.  Select elements of an IAP can be very helpful, but a full blown IAP is generally not needed.  The development of such a document for a facility generally won’t require a full time position, much less an actual Planning Section Chief.  This is another opportunity to use an assistant facility manager.  The check in function should be coordinated with the incident Planning Section who will either assign someone or the task will be addressed internally by the Facility Manager.

As with most things, there are always exceptions to the rule.  Very large facilities with extensive operations can certainly benefit from having an overhead team.  I’ve seen ‘short teams’ (these are compact versions of Incident Management Teams) assigned to manage everything from staging areas to family assistance centers in very large (Type 1) incidents.  As such this is not something I would generally plan for since it would be an exception to the rule.  Organizationally, a short team/overhead team would become a layer between the facility manager and the task leads/unit leaders to better allow them to focus on their functional jobs while the overhead team addressed the broader management and coordination matters.  If introduced to the organization of the facility, the overhead team must have a carefully defined scope of operations to ensure they were not redundant to functions of the incident’s actual management team.  Also, an overhead team such as this would likely not have a PIO or Liaison Officer.

While we try to introduce ‘hard and fast’ rules to incident management, the reality is that these things are quite fluid and determined by need.  While our general preparedness should support a credible worst-case scenario, we also need to be careful with our planning assumptions.  Otherwise a full-blown plan for a small community could call for a need for a dozen Liaison Officers, which we aren’t likely to get under most any circumstance.  Yes, ICS is flexible, but we need to have a realistic approach.  Similarly, we can use that flexibility of ICS to introduce elements into our organization that might not have been addressed in the plan with a fair amount of ease.  We’re looking at the difference between a shelter in an average high school vs a shelter in a large sports stadium.  All that said, if your catastrophic plan identifies the use of the large sports stadium as a shelter, you should certainly include the provision in that plan for an overhead team to assist in the management of that shelter.

Of course I’m interested in your thoughts on this.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


Gauging Return on Investment in Preparedness: Planning

Inspired a bit by my previous post Measuring Return on Investment in Emergency Management and Homeland Security: Improving State Preparedness Reports, I’ve decided upon writing a series of posts picking apart our primary activities in emergency management and homeland security preparedness to identify ways to gauge our Return on Investment (ROI).  To encapsulate our primary activities, I’m using the five POETE capability elements:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Equipping
  • Training
  • Exercises

Most preparedness activities within emergency management and homeland security fall within one or more of the POETE capability elements.  The capability element of Planning is the foundational activity on which all preparedness is built and will be the topic of this post.  Here’s what I’m covering:

  • What is Return on Investment?
  • What planning efforts are involved in preparedness?
  • What organizational investments are involved in Planning?
  • Does the planning effort comply with applicable standards?
  • Can the plan be implemented?
  • What will exercises tell you?
  • Is there a need to maintain plans?

Return on Investment, or ROI, is a business term used to identify the profitability of certain investments or actions.  While preparedness is certainly done to protect against losses, for public and private sector alike, we generally don’t see preparedness activities as generating revenue.  However, when most entities INVEST time, money, and other resources into preparedness activities, they often want a reasonable assurance that their investment has paid off.  How do we gauge ROI for planning efforts?

First off, what planning efforts might we see in public or private organizations?  Obviously emergency and disaster plans are the big ones.  These plans are designed to identify key processes, such as alert and notification, response organization and incident management, and others which are intended to save lives and protect property.  These plans are likely to have annexes and appendices which address uniqueness of certain hazards, response circumstances, and support activities.  Continuity plans – usually business continuity or government continuity – identify how the organization will survive as an entity in the face of disaster.  Planning activities also involve the creation, review, and maintenance of policies and procedures.  We also create plans for hazard mitigation, long term recovery, specific events, and other needs.

What investments are involved in planning activities?  Organizations can and should allocate staff time and physical space and infrastructure to planning efforts.  The dedication of staff (full or part time) and/or consultants is often required, especially when planning efforts are viewed as a continual process and a critical part of preparedness.  The organization itself must make a commitment to the planning effort.  This commitment isn’t just in concept, but also practical involvement of staff throughout the organization, access to information, and even an involvement of third parties.

Certainly a first step in assessing return on investment of planning is to evaluate compliance with applicable rules, regulations, and guidelines.  These requirements can be hard (legally binding) or soft (general guidance) and can differ from industry to industry, nation to nation, and state to state.  Here in the US, FEMA provides guidance on emergency planning through Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101.  Some states may have requirements for emergency planning, such as New York State’s Executive Law Article 2-bNFPA 1600: The Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs is often referenced by public and private entities alike, while the International Standards Organization (ISO), has many industry-specific requirements for emergency planning.  If grant funding is being used for the planning effort, the grant may also have specific requirements.  Regardless of what the requirements are, planning efforts, plans, and associated documents should be audited to ensure that requirements are met.

Compliance, however, isn’t necessarily indicative of a good planning effort.  I’ve seen many plans which may meet requirements but the content itself was severely lacking.  Far too often planners get caught up in the world of checking boxes and fail to consider implementation.  If a plan cannot be implemented, it is useless to the organization.  Many plans exist now that meet applicable requirements but are still yet vacant of any meaningful direction or guidance in the event of an emergency.  These types of ‘plans’ are really better seen as policy documents.  A plan should identify what will be done, when, how, and by who.  If your ‘plan’ simply contains a statement on the requirement to use NIMS/ICS, but doesn’t provide detail on who will be in charge of what, when, and how; it is a policy document, not a plan.  Plans and their associated documents (i.e. procedures, guidelines, and job aids) need to chase down the lifespan of each critical step, especially early in a response.  They must identify who is responsible to make key decisions, who will be notified (how and by who), and who will take what actions.  A logical review of planning documents by the planning committee or perhaps even a third party is another good means of assessing your return on investment.

Does the plan work?  This is, perhaps, the ultimate factor in determining return on investment.  Usually our best means for identifying if a plan works is to exercise it.  Exercises provide a controlled and focused environment for testing plans or components of plans.  They will also help us in identifying if the plan can truly be implemented.  I’ve written a lot on exercises: articles can be found here.  (I also anticipate writing about assessing ROI for exercises as part of this series).  Generally, an incremental exercise program is usually recommended, beginning with discussion-based exercises – such as table tops and workshops – and progressing to operations-based (hands on) exercises.  A well written and honestly evaluated exercise will go a long way toward identifying the return on investment of your planning efforts.

Are we there yet?  Nope.  Planning, like all other preparedness efforts, requires maintenance.  If you create a plan then walk away, even if it’s a good plan, your plan’s value will diminish over time – and we’re talking months, not decades.  Think about how often something changes in your organization.  Staffing.  Equipment.  Technology.  Procedures.  Insurance policies.  All of these things, and more, influence your plans in some way.  Over time these changes not only occur, but also compound and move the present reality of your organization further from the assumptions of your planning efforts.  This is why plans must be maintained and updated on a regular basis.

Is there some mathematical formula for identifying the return on investment of preparedness efforts?  Given all the factors involved and their fluidity, I don’t think so.  It’s not cut and dry like a traditional business investment.  As you can see, though, there are a number of steps we can take to assess the utility of our investment.  I’ve seen organizations pay a lot for bad plans, and others pay much less for great plans.  Not only do organizations need to ensure that their planners know what they are doing, but the organization itself needs to have a commitment to success.  Without it, the planning effort is doomed to fail.

As always, feedback is appreciated.  What are your thoughts on assessing the return on investment of planning efforts?  What do you think is a good measure?

Does your organization need a new plan or need to update a plan?  Do you need help with the planning process or evaluating your organization’s preparedness?  How about exercises?  Emergency Preparedness Solutions can help!  Email to consultants@epsllc.biz or visit www.epsllc.biz.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


Measuring Return on Investment in Emergency Management and Homeland Security: Improving State Preparedness Reports

A lot of money is spent within the emergency management and homeland security enterprise.  Looking just at the last couple of years of annual Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) (this is the annual grant provided by the US Federal government to states and urban areas), $1.044 billion was allocated in FFY 2015 and $1.043 billion allocated in FFY 2014.  These billions of dollars only account for a portion of spending within EM/HS.  There are other federal initiatives as well as state, tribal, territorial, and locally funded efforts.  Businesses and NGOs also invest significantly in emergency management, homeland security, and business continuity activities.  But where does it all get us?

Through the past decade or so there have been a few efforts by DHS/FEMA to try to measure preparedness, ideally to identify improvements in our preparedness as the result of the billions of dollars invested.  None of these efforts have really provided obvious and tangible results.  The current measure is through annual State Preparedness Reports (SPRs), which utilize the THIRA process (Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) outlined in Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 201 as a foundation, but with the POETE analysis (Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising) for each of the 31 Core Capabilities.  (You can find articles I’ve written on the utility and application of POETE here.) The SPR is a good methodology for identifying the current condition of preparedness for each state as viewed through the 31 Core Capabilities.  The POETE analysis helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses within each Core Capability.

The SPR, however, still falls short.  How can we improve it?

1. Include historical data for trend analysis. The SPR largely provides only a snapshot of current conditions.  The format of the SPR does not provide for any analysis of historical data to identify trends (i.e. improvements or otherwise) in the state’s assessed condition of its 31 Core Capabilities.  FEMA regional offices, upon receipt of an SPR, do provide a brief feedback report of the current SPR with a passing mention of the previous year’s submission, but the report provides so little information it could hardly be called an analysis.

A rudimentary table identifying trends for a selected Core Capability is below.  For those not familiar, higher scores rate a higher measure of capability.  In this table, I’ve identified POETE elements which have trended lower from year to year with a RED highlight, and those which have trended higher with a GREEN highlight.  A simple analysis such as this give an at-a-glance comparison.  To make this analysis more comprehensive, I would suggest the addition of narrative for each trend (higher or lower) which explains what has changed to warrant the new ranking.

Historical Comparison of a Core Capability

2. Include a financial analysis for the current year to identify return on investment. An identification and summary of key program area investments for the year will lay the groundwork for a return on investment (ROI) analysis.  ROI will help identify how much bang for the buck you are getting in certain areas.  It’s easy to lose sight through the year from a program management perspective on how much money was spent on certain programs and activities – especially for larger agencies with a layered bureaucracy.  Incorporating this analysis into an SPR is not only good financial and program management, but provides an opportunity to identify where money was spent and to measure, at least on a broader scale, what the results were.  Certainly we have to fund continued operations to simply sustain our capabilities, but we should also be funding, where possible, programs to enhance our high priority capabilities and those needing the most improvement.

Again, as a rudimentary example, we can build on the table provided earlier to identify where funds were spent to see if they made a difference in our level of preparedness.  As with the earlier example, a narrative should be provided for each investment to identify what it was and assess the impact.  This also provides an excellent opportunity to review the investment justification written for grants to determine if the investment met the intended objectives (which should have been to maintain or enhance some aspect of the capability).  Historic investment data can also be included for each year.  This all leads directly to identifying the return on investment – did the investment make a difference and to what extent?

Historical Analysis of a Core Capability with Identified Investments

Ultimately this added data and analysis requires more work, potentially the involvement of more people, and likely more time to complete the SPR.  However, this new process will also result in a positive return on investment itself by helping to identify trends and outcomes.  Financial information is regularly reported to DHS (for those grants that originate with them) in the form of progress reports, but that information is stovepiped and usually not associated with a more comprehensive assessment such as the THIRA/SPR.  Bringing this data together paints a much more accurate picture.

The concept of preparedness is difficult to put in a box.  It’s amorphic and challenging to identify, yet people often ask the question ‘Are we prepared?’  States, locals, DHS, and Congress often have difficulties measuring preparedness and advances in preparedness, especially relative to the dollars spent on it.  The GAO has regularly recommended efforts to better identify return on investment, yet we haven’t gotten there.  The recommendations identified here can bring us much closer to nailing down where we are and where we need to be.  Armed with this knowledge, we can make better decisions for future investments and activities.

Moving forward, I expect to write a bit on each POETE element, with my thoughts on how we can identify return on investment for each.  As always, I’m very much interested in your thoughts on the approach I identified above and how we can better identify return on investment in the realm of emergency management and homeland security.

If you are interested in utilizing this approach to better identify your return on investment for local, state, tribal, territorial, or organizational preparedness efforts (whether or not you do a State Preparedness Report), Emergency Preparedness Solutions is here to help!  Check out our website at www.epsllc.biz or contact me directly to discuss what we can do for you.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


FEMA Seeking Comment on Preliminary Damage Assessment Manual

Released last week, FEMA is seeking comment from emergency managers on the draft FEMA Damage Assessment Operating Manual.  The manual establishes (much needed!) national damage assessment standards developed from historic lessons learned and best practices already in use by local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal emergency management agencies.

The draft manual and comment matrix are posted in the FEMA Library.  FEMA asks that comments be submitted no later than November 14, 2015 to Mr. Ryan Buras, Senior Program Advisor at PDAmanual@fema.dhs.gov.

Emergency managers – Be Heard!


On the Refugee Crisis

I’m certainly no expert on the refugee crisis transpiring in the Middle East and Europe, but it’s plain to see that it is, indeed, a crisis.  While some nations in the EU, and elsewhere around the globe, are committing to taking in hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers, others are refusing.  Even more frustrating are the nations that simply aren’t allowing passage through their borders.

I’m from a small town outside the City of Utica in Central NY.  Utica, for decades, has been one of many areas selected by the US State Department as a relocation area for refugees.  It started with families from Italy, Germany, Poland, and Ireland; and through the years has expanded to refugees from countless nations around the world including Vietnam, Burma, Somalia, and Bosnia.  A true melting pot which has given people a second chance at life, away from the oppression and death they faced in their home countries.  Some info on Utica’s history with refugees can be found here.

There are some tough issues, though, with equally difficult solutions.  Many of these are considerations that intersect in the world of emergency management and homeland security, as humanitarian matters often do.  The issue of providing essential needs – food, water, and shelter – can be difficult.  Obviously, just as in disasters we face at home, temporary solutions are implemented first as a lifesaving matter, with longer term solutions devised to attain some measure of normalcy.  Things like jobs and school seem to be quite a ways off for people who left behind everything and look forward into the unknown.

There are also security concerns.  As with any large number of people of any race, religion, or culture; the law of averages combined with opportunists and a measure of desperation will result in some number of bad people being in the mix.  Some, like this Bosnian who moved to Utica as a supposed refugee, are even war criminals.  There are concerns with the current refugee crisis that followers of ISIS may be amongst the refugee population, lying in wait to do harm.  This is very likely true, and it will be difficult to identify them within the masses.

We have colleagues around the globe who are very actively engaged in this crisis, and will be for some time to come.  Perhaps you have some personal or professional connections through which you can render support.  If not, there are ways you can provide assistance.

UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency provides relief supplies to refugee families including food, water, and blankets.  They also provide necessary healthcare and other assistance.  You can donate to them online.

The Independent wrote a great piece on 5 Practical Ways You Can Help Refugees Trying to Find Safety in Europe.  Some involve financial donations or donations of goods and some provide volunteer opportunities.


ICS Training Sucks… So Let’s Fix It

A great many of you are familiar with the piece I wrote in June called Incident Command System Training Sucks.  In it, I identify that the foundational ICS courses (ICS-100 through ICS-400 – but especially ICS-300 and ICS-400) simply do not provide the skills training that emergency managers across all disciplines require to utilize the system efficiently, effectively, and comfortably.  ICS Training Sucks turned out to be a popular piece which had a great deal of support from the first responder and emergency management community – which I am very grateful for.  The amount of comments and feedback was indicative to me that I was on the right track and that I need to revisit the topic and explore more.

At the center of my argument stands Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Bloom’s is a learning hierarchy which helps to identify the depth of instruction and learning.  Here is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.  We’ll be referencing it a bit in the examples I provide.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Take a moment to read through the descriptions of each of the ‘orders of thinking’ in Bloom’s.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Done?  Good.  Most would agree that courses such as ICS-300 and ICS-400 should attempt to convey learning at the Apply level, correct?  Unfortunately, that perception, while wildly popular, is wrong.  Most of the learning objectives of the two courses (objectives are our reference points for this) are at the Understand and Remember levels.  Yeah, I was a bit surprised, too.

In ICS Training Sucks, I provided a greater detail of the background analysis (it summarized the narrative of a Master’s research paper I wrote), so if you want more, simply go back and check it out.  While I make a few broad recommendations in that piece, there has been a need to examine our path to fixing this more closely.

In the development of curriculum, there exist several models.  The most commonly used model is the ADDIE model, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  The first step, Analysis, is really the most important, although often the most ignored or cut short.  People think they know what the need is, but often don’t really understand it.  If you are interested, I’ve written a piece on the topic of Analysis for Training Magazine last year.

Even though we are suggesting a re-write of the ICS curriculum, or parts thereof, Analysis is extremely important.  The roots of the current curriculum we use goes back to circa 1970s wildfire ICS courses.  These are good courses, and while I’m not sure if they fully met the need then (although they did advance us quite a bit), their evolved versions certainly DO NOT now.  There is no sense in repackaging the same product, so let’s first figure out what people need to know to do their jobs effectively.  Essentially, this leads us to identifying a list of key core competencies in ICS.  Core competencies will define the level of competence needed in a particular job or activity.  We can easily use the levels of Bloom’s as our reference point to establish common definitions for the levels of competence.  What am I talking about?

Let’s pick one key activity in ICS to examine.  Resource Management is a great example as it shows the disparity between what exists and where we need to be.  Resource Management is discussed in Unit 6 of the ICS-300 course.  I think most would agree that we expect most every jurisdiction to be able to implement sound resource management practices.  Implement is the key word.  Implementation is indicative of the Apply level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  When looking at unit objectives in the ICS-300 course for unit 6, the key words are identify and describe.  Identify is indicative of the Remember level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, while describe is indicative of the Understand level.  Both fall short of application.  While we aren’t looking for this curriculum to create incident management teams, we still expect most jurisdictions to be able to manage resources, which is certainly a core competency of incident management.

I think the NIMS doctrine provides a good starting point for identifying core competencies.  In an effective study, there may be other competencies identified – perhaps topics such as leadership, that may not necessarily be found in a revised ICS curricula, but can be obtained through other training courses.  This could lead to an important differentiation between core competencies (those that MUST be included in ICS training) and associated competencies which can be sourced elsewhere.

Further, we can capitalize on what we have learned through implementation of the current ICS curriculum and previous iterations.  We know that multidisciplinary training is most effective since larger incidents are multidisciplinary.  We also know that training must be interactive and maximize hands-on time.  The past few updates to the ICS courses have done a great job of encouraging this, but we need more.

Making more detailed recommendations on fixing ICS training will take time and effort, as a solid Analysis must first be done.  Once core competencies can be identified and defined, then a strategy for revamping ICS training can be developed.  As mentioned in ICS Training Sucks, this approach should be multi-faceted, using both new and (good) existing courses to support it. Let’s not be bound by what currently exists.  We don’t necessarily have to create a ‘new’ ICS-300 or ICS-400 course.  Let’s create courses within a broader program that meets the needs of the emergency management community.  They may no longer be called ICS-300 and ICS-400.  Perhaps these two will be replaced by four smaller courses?  Who knows where this path will take us? The bottom line is that we need to be responsive to the needs of the learners, not bound by “the way we’ve always done it.”

As always, feedback is appreciated.  Perhaps there exists an institution that has the desire and funding to pursue this further?  I’m fully onboard!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


Community-driven Preparedness

As many of you know, September is National Preparedness Month.  The website offers a number of resources, mostly for governments, to engage citizens and community groups in preparedness.  Higher level engagement of citizens is extremely important to better enable to them to care for themselves for a period of time so they are less dependent upon government and emergency services in the event of a disaster, freeing up these services to address matters of high impact and high importance.

National Preparedness Month is a great opportunity to get information out to everyone!  Consider every facet of your community.

  • Schools and day cares
  • colleges and universities
  • nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes
  • business and industry
  • community organizations, service organizations, labor unions
  • religious organizations
  • government offices
  • travel and tourism offices and entertainment venues

What will you do to get the word out?  I’d suggest a multi-pronged approach… static information on your website is a good central point to direct people to.  Pamphlets and handouts are great to get information into people’s hands, especially at gatherings.  Social media is a great outreach tool that should be used often.  (and if you think you are OK just having a Facebook account, you really need to take a social media class!).  With organized groups, invest time to meet with them and present to them.

One of my biggest tips is to actually give people something to do, give them a mission.  Don’t just direct them to preparedness information and count on them to do something with it.  Busy people (and even non-busy ones) aren’t wired that way.  ENGAGE them!  Don’t just speak at them.  Challenge them to be prepared and give them benchmarks.  Tell them how important it is for them to be prepared, not just for themselves, but for their families, their neighbors, and their communities.

Target your message to the specific groups you are speaking to.  A senior citizens organization should be getting a vastly different message than the Chamber of Commerce.  Organizations at all levels can be encouraged to join a VOAD (if you don’t have one – form one!) or other coalition to provide services before and after disasters.  There is no longer any mission for the community that is just for one organization any more.  The demands are too high for that.  Sheltering can’t be handled by the Red Cross alone and the local humane society or ASPCA can’t handle all pets in a disaster on their own.  I’m betting even your health department could use a hand with points of distribution.

Businesses can help, too.  Along with becoming a community partner, they also need to be prepared.  The SBA, through Agility Recovery, is offering a number of webinars this month which can be found here.

Yes, all this campaigning takes some serious time and effort.  Engage others to help you, establish a strategy and a message, and get out there.  Community preparedness pays dividends.

As with most things I write about, Emergency Preparedness Solutions can help you with community messaging and engagement – any time of year!  Info below.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


A book of worst-case scenarios

I came across this article yesterday about US Rep Michael McCaul from Texas (who happens to chair the House Homeland Security committee) penning a book titled “Failures of Imagination: The Deadliest Threats to Our Homeland — and How to Thwart Them”.  The book, set to be published in January, will apparently outline a variety of terrorist attack scenarios against the US and how they can be stopped.

I’ve written in the past about the necessity to consider credible worst-case scenarios (natural and human-caused) which can impact your jurisdiction or organization.  Following the model outlined by Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 201 for the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) process, it’s not just enough to say you are vulnerable to flood or wild fire.  To identify what your specific vulnerabilities are (location, duration, severity), it is necessary to flesh these out into scenarios.  Identification of these vulnerabilities will then help identify impacts, such as those to infrastructure, resources, and populations.  Plans should then be based upon these impacts.

I’m doubtful that Rep McCaul’s book will provide any foundation for planning (although I don’t think it’s intended to), however the scenarios contained may be eye opening to EMHS professionals and even citizens.  Regular readers of this blog know I feel that we are on borrowed time regarding terrorist attacks.  Yes we have experienced some on US soil (and the UK, Canada, Australia, France, India, and many other nations), and they have been devastating, but we have to know that with organizations such as ISIS thriving on our planet, more will come.  Mumbai-type scenarios, with multiple coordinated simultaneous attacks can be crippling and certainly demonstrate what a credible worst-case scenario could look like.

I’m interested to see what Rep McCaul’s book contains.  I’ll be sure to publish a review once it comes out and I’ve had an opportunity to read it.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC



As this blog approaches its three year anniversary, I’m feeling that it’s time for a face lift.  Over the last three years I’ve posted a total of 235 blog posts which have received over 31,000 views from nearly 19,000 visitors from 110 nations around the world (these are the WordPress stats and don’t reflect numbers of views on LinkedIn or other sites).  I’m very thankful for my followers and all viewers and especially thankful for those who have taken the time to comment on posts.

The blog has become a great platform for me to learn and grow as a professional.  It has also turned into a great communication platform for my company, Emergency Preparedness Solutions. As such, the name of blog has been changed from ‘Tim’s Thoughts’ to ‘On Emergency Management and Homeland Security’.  We wanted to make the content more obvious from the title.  The content isn’t going to change – we will continue publishing topical articles, news, and opinion pieces on emergency management and homeland security topics.  We also hope to have some guest posts from colleagues in the EM/HS field.

We hope you like the new name and the new look.  Thank you, as always, for reading.  If you like what you read, follow us and pass the site on to colleagues.