Who’s Going to Pay for It? Exercising Finance and Administration Functions is Critical

As responders, most of us have a certain mix of disregard, and disdain even, for record keeping. We want to charge into disaster and fight the problem, not the rules. And this is good. This attitude saves lives and property. It puts “the wet stuff on the red stuff.” It captures bad guys, slays dragons, and rescues damsels in distress. But, at what cost to our constituents?
 
If we don’t keep good records of time spent, materials consumed, or equipment repaired, then we’re really just creating another disaster once the dragons are slain and the fire is out. This second disaster is financial, and we’ll pay for it later.
 
Finance and Administration are probably the least exercised General Staff Section within the Incident Command System (ICS). And it needs to be exercised as often as any other, for its benefit, and for ours.
 
  • Since Finance and Admin Staff are often “not like us,” they need more exposure to disaster operations than we do in order for them to be comfortable with the process. It’s just not fair to them, or smart for us, to ignore them during the exercise cycle and expect them to swing into action once we ramp up ICS for “the big one.
  • ”If we exercise Planning, Operations, and Logistics Sections without Finance and Admin, and fail to include them in our planning meetings throughout the exercise, then we will fail to take into account their needs. If we don’t take them into account when we exercise, we won’t do it during the real incident, either. Do you remember the first year you filed your tax return as an adult? On the afternoon of April 14, you opened the IRS forms booklet and realized you didn’t have half the receipts you needed to claim deductions that might have saved you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. You promised yourself then that you’d use an envelope to store them for the current year (now 40% complete already). Over the years, you’ve improved your record-keeping process, and even refined your spending patterns, to make the annual tax process easier and less financially painful.
 
So, invite your Finance and Admin counterparts to the exercise planning meetings. Ask them what they need to get their job done. Offer some of your training budgets for them to learn Incident Command. Include them in your tabletop and functional exercises. Bring them in at the beginning of the next special event planning cycle. Invite their input into the Incident Action Plans you’re drafting for winter weather emergencies. Teach your response people to turn in the receipts, and keep the right records, so that Finance and Admin can do a good job of accounting for the costs of your exercises, events, and incidents, and secure the fullest reimbursement possible.
 
Your heroes deserve the overtime pay they earned; your equipment deserves the maintenance it needs. Your constituents deserve full reimbursement from FEMA or other third parties for disaster-related expenses. And your Finance and Admin experts deserve a fair chance of getting that done.
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