3 min read

Time Tracking for Emergency Management: How to Make the Most of Your Time and Budget

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Let’s be honest – in all facets of life, evidence is important. Receipts, timestamps, and budgets are all supporting numbers that well, pretty much show that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. In emergency situations, time tracking is even more relevant, as situations are dire and budget reimbursements affect the resilience of organizations.

We’ve pulled together a list of helpful tips and information to help emergency managers navigate time tracking during times of disaster more effectively.

Time tracking for emergency management


In today’s day and age, almost everything is virtual, we send money through apps, we plan events on websites, and we even send invites through social media channels. However, emergency managers know that the presence of paper and pen is historically embedded in time tracking processes.

The traditional approach to track time for emergency responders involves completing ICS 214 forms, but the legacy process brings about challenges:

  • Recording on paper brings a likeliness to errors because responders are exhausted after shifts
  • Time tracking fraud may occur due to human error, whether intentional or not.
 “47% of responders surveyed shared that they witnessed time-tracking fraud at some point in their career.”
  • Registering as a responder to access the form alone takes 26 minutes, to complete the form, it can take another 30 minutes to an hour
  • Processing paper and disconnected time sheets cost back-office time
  • Supervisors chase down responders to fix errors to avoid lost FEMA reimbursements


Time tracking also gives organizations benefits, like a share in FEMA Public Assistance, giving more autonomy to state budgeting.

“FEMA contributes at least 75% of the cost for Emergency Protective Measures conducted before, during, and after an incident.” — FEMA

Currently, FEMA is currently set to contribute $20,314,462,002.00 to states, tribal and local governments for hurricane-related Public Assistance projects. The funding allows agencies to better allocate resources to necessary areas, making communities more prepared for the next time a disaster strikes.

What can happen if time tracking is not done correctly?

We’ve discussed the many challenges associated with time-tracking, but the main consequence is delayed FEMA reimbursements. Only complete ICS 214s can be submitted for reimbursements, and if any required fields are left blank or incomplete, it results in delayed or no FEMA reimbursements.

Former FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate commented on the ramifications of FEMA time tracking in our recent webinar:

“I always come back to the basics. I've dealt with a lot of funding denial appeals from states where the Inspector General finds that documentation is a huge issue. It always comes back, not to malfeasance on the part of the applicant, but that they couldn't produce the documentation to satisfy the IGP. I dealt with numerous findings from my end and it always came back not having the documents.”

Other occurrences that may happen if time tracking is not done correctly:

  • Agencies may have to pay for the costly response, there have been instances where FEMA has denied huge funding streams due to poor documentation. For example, there have been agencies that have faced up to $635,324,20 in costs related to debris removal for improper tracking
  • FEMA can "deobligate funding", essentially meaning that even years after the response is over, they can audit your response documents and request your state agency return the money they gave you

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We’ve mentioned all of the ramifications of not time-tracking correctly, but the good news is there are best practices agencies are following to make sure that time-tracking is effective and streamlined.

Best practices for time tracking

Hurricane Ian was a stunning example of emergency responders using their expertise and tools to simplify time tracking processes, with digitized forms and integrated, automated workflows. The state used solutions to empower time tracking through:

  • Registration and timestamps for state response and recovery partners
  • Check-in and time tracking for National Guard and first responders
  • EOC technical support for totaling initial declaration costs.
  • Receipts for ICS 214s


By using best practices for time tracking and purpose-built solutions, Hurricane Ian registered 7,000 responders and tracked 1.1. million hours, making for faster FEMA reimbursement and speeding up the historically lengthy paper process.

How technology can fill gaps for time tracking

Emergency responders and managers must use flexible, secure, and compliant digital solutions that empower them to:

  • Utilize resources more effectively
  • Improve safety and accountability
  • Recover more in FEMA reimbursements faster
  • Check-in and out of locations without pen and paper
  • Track time automatically 

    artwork - check-in kiosk-1


With technology, emergency responders can expedite time tracking processes and mitigate the risk of not capturing hours correctly. Time tracking is complex by nature, and when organizations have the toolkit to support emergencies, there are better outcomes universally.

Ready to learn more about time tracking and accountability?



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