Last year we had 45 ‘Major Disaster Declarations’ in the U.S. according to FEMA. Sure the number fluctuates each year, but the reality is you can’t predict when or where an emergency is going to hit a community. And it doesn’t matter which part of the country you live in. Maybe you don’t live in a region where you’ll ever experience a hurricane or a tornado, but flooding is the #1 natural disaster in the U.S and all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods according to Floodsmart.gov.
With this information alone, it makes sense for states, cities, and counties to have a plan should a disaster strike, right? Many government organizations do have a plan that includes addressing the safety of the public and responding to the immediate need. All things that are extremely important when confronted with an emergency. But what about the after-math? What about the months or years of recovering and rebuilding? Or the resources and manpower to make all this happen? And the budget; how do you allocate funds to cover costs? Being prepared isn’t just about the initial response to an emergency, but should include what it takes to track the recovery efforts and maximize reimbursements from funding agencies.
Labor costs are a large operational expense for any government budget, but throw in an emergency and now these costs grow exponentially. Once an emergency moves to a FEMA declared disaster, now the pressure is on to track every penny of what is spent on clean-up and recovery efforts. FEMA has some pretty strict requirements for labor costs associated with emergency work under Recover Policy 9525.7. What if government agencies accounted for this level of tracking ahead of a disaster by identifying efficient labor tracking methods in their emergency preparedness documents?
Take what the City of Houston did for example. The city put together a Finance Disaster Recover Manual back in 2013. So when the floods hit Houston back in May and Harris County was FEMA approved for Federal Disaster relief funding, you can bet they pulled up their recovery manual and began tracking according to their pre-laid plans. All duties associated with recovery will be coded and tracked to get as much funding from various agencies as possible.
Although a municipality may never recoup all money spent, there is no excuse for leaving money “on the table”. Tracking with paper or spreadsheets leaves governments open to a loss of funds due to inadequate tracking, miscalculations, and delays in report gathering. Prepare your organization to not only recover safely through an emergency, but also financially.
Last week I had the fortune of being in Tampa for the American Corrections Association 2014 Winter Conference. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m from New England so Tampa in February is not a hardship. Still, regardless of the location, it’s a great conference. We (Kronos) participated in a workshop session on workforce management in this particular industry. What struck me the most was how often safety and morale are impacted when labor tracking and schedules are mismanaged. Sometimes it goes unnoticed until an issue arises, or sometimes it’s in plain view, but no one wants to address it. This can be a ticking time bomb and one that several other correctional facilities have faced. Here are some of the stories heard at the workshop…
Several years ago, the Douglas County Dept of Corrections had an interesting way of issuing overtime. Each week a sheet was tacked on the wall giving the employees an opportunity to request overtime shifts. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. What about the employees who weren’t around when the sheet went up? What happens when the sheet disappears (this was often the case)? How does the Sergeant in charge of schedules really know who is most senior (seniority is how they issued overtime)? Will all posts be covered? This is where issues of morale and safety come in. Now, fast-forward to today and they have a much simpler and effective approach. Employees log-in to a system, find out what overtime is available, and request what they want. They can even do it from home. And the system automatically schedules based on seniority. Employees are happier and posts get filled with the right level of staff.
The Omaha Correctional Center – OCC (part of the Nebraska Dept of Correctional Services – NDCS) is a medium/minimum security facility with over 100 employees. As with many facilities, not all posts are created equal. Some require specific certifications. For example, prisoner transport officers require additional skills that not all Correctional Officers have. A few years back, the supervisors had little visibility into who was certified for what. This created all kinds of issues and they were uncertain, particularly when they had a call-out or no-show, if everyone was qualified for their posts. Since then, things have improved. The supervisors have a system that tracks all certifications and can quickly identify only those who have the right qualifications to cover a shift. It’s as simple as clicking a button and for added comfort alarms are set in place to avoid mistakes.
Safety will always remain as a #1 priority in correctional facilities. Employees who are treated fairly will have a lot more respect for this priority and initiative. So, will more facilities begin to realize now rather than later the correlation between good human capital management and supporting goals like safety and morale? Only time will tell.