3 min read

Hot Showers or Paperwork? Modernizing Your Cost-recovery Process

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After reading this you will know:

  • FEMA funding drives emergency response
  • Accurate and complete reporting is the key to funding
  • Digital ICS 214 experiences support FEMA grant applications
  • Two “Next Actions” to modernize your grant process

Every emergency manager's dream

If you could have one wish as an emergency manager, besides, of course eliminating all disasters, it would likely be never to have to ask exhausted crews to fill out ICS 214 forms again. Unfortunately, without completed, accurate response data, there is no FEMA cost recovery. As Merit's largest-ever digital event audience learned in November, FEMA funding is critical for all phases of the disaster cycle, now more than ever.

Merit's digital event, Disaster Preparedness: Never Too Soon or Too Late to Plan, featured a panel of national emergency management experts, including Rich Serino, former FEMA Director and fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Jared Moskowitz, former Director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management, Karen Baker, Architect and Co-Chair of Listos California and Senior Advisor to the Governor, and Stan Ledbetter, SLS Response Division President. They discussed FEMA funding at length:

"The lifeblood of our industry"

"And (FEMA funding) is the lifeblood, honestly, of our entire industry, you know, how FEMA goes or pays is where the response and the recovery happens." 

Stan Ledbetter, SLS Division President, Response

"You know, local budgets have been impacted so greatly because of the pandemic. There's not the sales tax revenue going into the local economies that help to work their way out of situations. I think FEMA is important in the funding world and is going to be greater than it has been in the past, even though it was everything in the past."

Karen Baker, Former Senior Advisor to the Governor of California’s Office of Emergency Services

“Now. I'm convinced the only reason that that happened (COVID-19 responder collaboration) was because FEMA loaded checkbooks with folks upfront and allowed them not to worry about getting paid. The money drives the process now."

Stan Ledbetter, SLS Division President, Response

Will the money run out?

With all possible aspects of Preparedness to consider, the future of FEMA funding even dominated the Question and Answer session. Our attendees wanted to know:

  • Will FEMA eventually run out?
  • Is 100% funding here to stay, or will it revert to 75%?
  • Should "rainy day funds" be required, so states don't rely on FEMA?
  • Are resiliency officers needed to ensure proper use of funding?

ICS 214s: Back to the basics

The key to FEMA cost reimbursement is the ICS 214 form. Without accurate and complete documentation of resource use, local and state agencies cannot satisfy the requirements to offset their expenses. During a previous Merit event dedicated entirely to reimbursement documentation, Craig Fugate, President Barack Obama's FEMA Administrator and Florida Governor Jeb Bush's Emergency Management Director, shared the following:

"It may not seem like a lot, but in cities, rural communities, and counties, 25% of the cost of response recovery is a budget breaker."

Keeping the cost of disaster response at or below 25% through gapless, reportable data may make the difference between a community surviving and thriving in the wake of a disaster or collapse.

Tomorrow’s experience

Watching crews return from back-breaking (and often heart-breaking!) shifts is already hard enough without managers having to ask their people to fill in a clipboard before going home to their families.

This situation would be greatly improved with digital Incident Command System (ICS) 214 submissions. Beyond just tracking responses, modern ICS technology must capture reliable data to increase the likelihood of response-cost recovery for those devastated by disaster.

Managers need tools that empower them to:

  • Issue digital and physical credentialed badges
  • Digitally check-in and out of shifts at on-site kiosks
  • File ICS logs with one click
  • Review Pre-populated forms are quickly for accuracy
  • Monitor real-time headcount, hours and costs on a burn-rate custom dashboard

Experts point to audit-proof submissions as a key step to dollars coming back to where they are most needed - our recovering neighborhoods.

Your two cost-recovery "Next Actions" 

Karen Baker wrapped up her thoughts about the future of funding:

"You know, now that we've all gone through a pandemic, there's no doubt in my mind at least that there'll be a permanent mark on disaster response infrastructure in the United States, whether that's the federal government having more resources, states investing local governments as well. "

The response to COVID-19 will likely, as Baker stated, influence the future of funding. Our experts spoke at length of the increased frequency of disasters. This will drive the need for management tools that support successful grant applications.

You can modernize your agency’s ICS experience by: 

FEMA funding shared the Merit webinar's center stage with one other issue, community. Keeping families, schools, local businesses, and organizations alive and thriving is the ultimate goal of all emergency Preparedness. If our panelists seemed to encourage best practices for obtaining grants, it was ultimately so disasters have the least impact on whole communities. A digital ICS experience streamlines the process and turnaround for community-saving funds and needs to be in every manager’s toolbox.

You can listen to the entire digital event here.

You may also enjoy 3 Preparedness Templates Emergency Managers Need Now, for more advice from our Preparedness expert panel.

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