The POETE Analysis – Emergency Planning and Beyond

POETE stands for Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising. These are the five elements that each jurisdiction should be examining their own capabilities by. By examining their capabilities through each of these elements, a jurisdiction can better define their strengths and areas for improvement.

The POETE analysis, often completed as part of a THIRA (Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) is actually a component of the State Preparedness Report (SPR), which incorporates THIRA data into this annual submission. When properly conducted, a POETE analysis will examine a jurisdiction’s capability targets. These capability targets, through the THIRA process, are individually defined by each jurisdiction, based upon the capability definitions of each of the 31 Core Capabilities. The Core Capabilities were identified in the National Preparedness Goal and are an evolution of the legacy Target Capabilities. Gone are the days when many jurisdictions struggled with the definitions of the Target Capabilities and trying to determine how they applied to jurisdictions large and small across the nation. The new Core Capabilities are divided amongst five mission areas – Prevention, Protection, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation. By referencing Core Capabilities in our preparedness efforts, we have a consistent definition of each area of practice.

When a jurisdiction’s stakeholders conduct a POETE analysis, each element is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 – a rating of 5 indicating that the jurisdiction has all the resources needed and has accomplished all activities necessary for that element within that capability area. Using the Core Capability of Fatality Management as an example the jurisdiction will identify a desired outcome and from that a capability target. CPG-201, the guidance published by DHS/FEMA for conducting a THIRA, outlines this process in detail and provides the following capability target for illustrative purposes:

“During the first 72 hours of an incident, conduct operations to recover 375 fatalities.”

The jurisdiction will examine their efforts and resources for each POETE element for this capability target. Below are thoughts on what could be considered for each element:

Planning: What is the state of their plans for mass fatality management? Do they have a plan? Is it up to date? Does it address best practices?

Organizing: Are all stakeholders on board with mass fatality preparedness efforts? Is there a member of the community yet to be engaged? Are lines of authority during a mass fatality incident clear?

Equipping: Does the jurisdiction have the equipment and supplies available to handle the needs of a mass fatality incident? Are MOUs and contracts in place?

Training: Do responders and stakeholders train regularly on the tasks associated with managing a mass fatality incident? Is training up to date? Is training conducted at the appropriate level?

Exercising: Have exercises been conducted recently to test the plans and familiarize stakeholders with plans and equipment? Has the jurisdiction conducted discussion-based and operations-based exercises? Have identified areas for improvement been addressed?

The jurisdiction’s responses to these questions and the subsequent ratings provided for each POETE element will help them identify areas for improvement which will contribute to the overall capability. From personal experience, I can tell you that the discussions that take place amongst stakeholders which reveal both the efforts applied for each element as well as the frustrations and barriers to progress for each are generally quite productive and great information sharing sessions. It is important to capture as many of the factual elements of this discussion as possible as they add context to the numerical value assigned. Having the right people participating in the effort is critical to ensuring that inputs are accurate and relevant.

Once the POETE analysis is completed, what’s next? As mentioned earlier, the POETE analysis is actually a required component of the annual State Preparedness Report, which must be submitted to FEMA/DHS by each state and territory. Ideally, the results of the POETE analysis should be translated from raw data (numbers) to a narrative, explaining the progress and accomplishments as well as future efforts and barriers; in other words, the ratings should be factually explained and these explanations should feed an actionable strategic plan. The priority rating inherent in the THIRA process will help establish relative priority for each Core Capability within the strategic plan. While this is a requirement for states and territories, a comprehensive strategic plan for any emergency management and homeland security program at any jurisdictional level is obviously beneficial and would reflect positively in an EMAP accreditation.

POETE elements should be incorporated into other emergency management activities as well. When needs are identified and defined based upon Core Capabilities, these should be outlined in the jurisdiction’s multi-year Training and Exercise Plan, which should serve as a guiding document for many preparedness activities. The focus that a POETE analysis provides for each Core Capability can help identify training objectives which can help maintain and improve capability

Consider integrating them into your evaluation of exercises. While the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) doctrine makes no mention of POETE, much of HSEEP is based upon capabilities. With a POETE analysis being an integral component of measuring our progress toward a capability, I would suggest including it into exercise evaluations. POETE elements can be included in Exercise Evaluation Guides (EEGs) to capture evaluator observations and should be outlined in the After Action Report (AAR) itself for each observation – giving suggestions for improvements based upon each POETE element. Consider how you could incorporate the POETE elements into an AAR as an outline identifying areas for improvement for the EOC management activities of the Operational Coordination Core Capability. As an example:

Planning: The jurisdiction should update the EOC management plan to incorporate all critical processes. Job aids should be created to assist EOC staff in their duties.

Organizing: Lines of authority were not clear to exercise participants in the EOC. Tasks were assigned to agencies but status of tasks was not effectively monitored.

Equipping: There were not enough computers for participating agencies. EOC management software did not facilitate tracking of resources.

Training: EOC agency representatives were not all trained in the use of EOC management software, creating delays in action and missed assignments. The EOC Manager and Planning Section Chief were well versed in the Planning Process and used it well to facilitate the Planning Process.

Exercising: Isolated drills should be conducted to test notification systems on a regular basis. Discussion based exercises will assist in identifying policy issues associated with suspension of laws and their impact on EOC operations.

The POETE analysis is a process which can help us identify strengths and areas for improvement within our emergency management and homeland security programs. While the POETE analysis can be time consuming, the information gathered for each Core Capability is valuable to any preparedness effort. With such a variety of federally-driven programs and requirements extended throughout emergency management and homeland security, we can find the greatest benefit from those which have the ability to cross multiple program areas – such as the Core Capabilities – allowing us to consolidate the evaluation of these programs into one system, providing maximum benefit and minimizing efforts.

Have you conducted a POETE analysis for your jurisdiction?  Did you find it a worthwhile process?

Looking for help with a POETE analysis?  Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC can help!  www.epsllc.biz 

© 2014 Timothy Riecker

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