Gauging Return on Investment in Preparedness: Organizing

As a continuation of the Gauging Return on Investment in Preparedness series (read the first one on Planning here), this post’s focus is on the POETE element of Organizing.  There are a number of ‘organizing’ efforts we engage in through our preparedness endeavors.  Some are temporary, like establishing working groups to solve a certain problem; while some are intended to be long-term, like forming an incident response team.

Why organize?  Most organizational efforts are fueled by the need to capitalize on the power of many.  What one person can do, more people can do better.  Problem solving, responding, etc.  Often our organizational efforts are internal, but, particularly in public safety, we coordinate with other agencies.  We might be building a professional response organization, such as an Incident Management Team (IMT), or perhaps we are building a community organization, such as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

What costs are associated with organizational activities?  Foundationally, it’s simply the staff time needed to prepare for, attend, and perform follow up work from meetings and other organizational efforts.  Depending on how complex our efforts are, however, and the intent of our organizational efforts, this can take on full time duties.  You also have to consider who is being drawn into these efforts and what the ‘replacement cost’ is of their time – meaning, what is the cost of someone else performing their work while they are involved in the meetings, etc.?  We also need to identify what costs might be associated with organizing?  The remaining POETE elements (Planning, Equipping, Training, and Exercising) can probably lead you to identifying these.

What are the benefits (value) of organizing?In order to identify the return on our investment, we need to be able to ascertain the benefits our organizational efforts bring – some may be tangible and relatable in dollar figures, others may be more intangible and amorphic.

As with many preparedness efforts, we find ourselves needing to make reasonable assumptions to identify cost savings or value.  We need to follow the bouncing ball of our efforts.  As an example… If we create a CERT team, citizens will be better able to tend to their own needs in the event of a disaster.  This leads to less immediate need of limited resources (first responders), allowing them to focus on more critical needs (i.e. saving lives and protecting infrastructure).   In this example we can make some assumptions about the types of infrastructure to be impacted by a certain incident and the costs associated with it becoming incapacitated.

In regard to saving lives, it’s difficult for us to attach a dollar value to that.  We often say that lives are priceless, and while that may be true, we sometimes need to make an educated guess.  Depending on who you are reporting figures to, they may be satisfied with a reasonable number of lives being saved… others may want to actually compare apples to apples (that is, dollars to dollars).  If you engage the use of your favorite internet search engine and search ‘what is the value of a life’, or something similar, you will find a number of results.  In perusing some of these results myself, I found that the dollar figure assigned to a life is obviously subjective and very much related to the industry in which the question is being asked.  This particular article makes for an interesting read on the subject.  Spoiler alert: they peg the value of a human life at $5M USD (2011).

In the end, organizational efforts need to have a purpose providing a net value.  Even in routine matters and daily business, we should examine the cost of organizational efforts – particularly meetings.  Meetings are one of my biggest bugaboos, as they are often too long, have little purpose, and the objectives can be met in a much more efficient manner.

What ideas do you have on determining the return on investment for organizational activities?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC 

National Preparedness Goal: Second Edition Just Released

Today FEMA released the second edition of the National Preparedness Goal.  This document, which only has a few substantive changes from the original, provides a vision for preparedness across the nation.  It is best known for identifying the five mission areas of Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery; along with the Core Capabilities.  Many thanks to my colleague Jon who brought this release to my attention.  The updated National Preparedness Goal and associated documents can be found here.

There are not many changes in this update, and the changes that are included should be of little surprise if you reviewed the draft released for public comment several months back.  Up front, the update provides some editorial clarification on the definitions and relationships between the federal government and tribes as well as US territories.  It also provides more emphasis on the concept of whole community and the special populations within the whole community which may require additional protections and actions.

Perhaps the most significant changes are reflected in the Core Capabilities, of which there are now 32.  In the preamble to the Core Capabilities which discusses the concept of Risk, it is interesting to note that the Core Capability of Cybersecurity was specifically highlighted as having applicability across all Mission Areas – a concept which I fully agree with.  I’m left wondering, then, why it was not re-defined as a common Core Capability.

NPG 32 Core Capabilities

NPG 32 Core Capabilities

Other changes to the Core Capabilities include the renaming of the On-Scene Security and Protection Core Capability to On-Scene Security, Protection, and Law Enforcement; and the Public Health and Medical Services Core Capability to Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Medical Services.  Additionally, the Public and Private Services and Resources Core Capability was renamed to Logistics and Supply Chain Management, which seems to provide better recognition of the intent of that Core Capability.  Finally, a new Core Capability was added – Fire Management and Suppression.

Three of these changes seems to revolve around a stronger recognition and inclusion of the traditional first responder services of Law Enforcement, Fire Service, and Emergency Medical Services; all of which seemed to get lost in the bigger picture of the earlier capability discussions.  I’m hopeful these changes will help bring these services to the table in more communities when capabilities are discussed.  I’m a firm believer that the Core Capabilities provide a consistent, scalable, foundation for discussion of preparedness for every community.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


LLIS is Back!

Great news from FEMA early this morning – the Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) resource is back.  Quite a while ago they pulled down the LLIS site and have (very slowly) worked to transition the data and management responsibilities to the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library.  Information from the FEMA release below.



We are pleased to announce that Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) program has completed the consolidation of content previously available on with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). As part of the consolidation effort, nearly 23,000 documents were transferred to the HSDL document library. We believe this consolidation will improve the whole community’s access to valuable information. Some of our most recent LLIS products, including Threat/Hazard and Core Capability Trend Analyses, Grant Case Studies, and Lessons Learned and Innovative Practices can be found on or by visiting

The content transferred to HSDL will maintain a similar level of accessibility as Documents that required a username and password to view on will also require a username and password on While your log-in credentials do not transfer, you can easily create a new HSDL account by visiting the HSDL login page. Please note that some content is available without a password. To search for publicly available documents visit and use the search bar function on the homepage.

If you have additional questions, we encourage you to review our Frequently Asked Questions document. You can also email us at

Thank you for your patience during this transition. Stay updated on all LLIS program news by signing up for the LLIS newsletter.