Gauging Return on Investment in Preparedness: Equipping

I’ve written previous posts on our preparedness investments and how we can gauge our return on those investments.  Following the POETE model (planning, organizing, equipping, training, and exercises), I’ve so far covered some considerations for Planning and Organizing.  This piece will focus on identifying our return on investment for Equipping.  Equipment can be anything from a new fire engine, to a generator, a UAV/drone, a radiological detection device, or incident management software.

Equipping is generally a preparedness activity in which we can more easily identify what our actual investment is.  Unlike Planning, which requires varying amounts of time from a number of people, or Organizational efforts which sometimes have rather esoteric costs, when we purchase or maintain equipment, we usually have a receipt in hand.

Functioning in the bureaucracies we do, however, we tend to add complexities.  We form committees to find the best equipment we can, we leverage our own staff time to keep it maintained, and we often have other associated costs, which reflect back on the other POETE elements… at least we should.  In addition to the cost of the equipment itself, let’s look at what the associated costs could be.

Every significant equipment purchase, first of all, should stem from an identified need.  Maybe it’s a critical element of a process, it’s called for in a plan, or the need was identified in an after action report.  Perhaps you are upgrading or expanding application of a certain piece of equipment?  Regardless, your organization must invest some time to ensure the equipment will meet your needs and how it will impact your operations.  This activity, generally referred to as Assessment, if often rolled into the Planning element.  Once we do obtain the equipment, we also need to plan.  We need to ensure the use of the equipment is accounted for in our plans.  Perhaps it’s as simple as adding it to a resource inventory, or as complex as creating processes or procedures that address its use.

Organizationally, you may need to task an individual or even assemble a team which will be responsible for the care and operation of the equipment.  This, logically, leads to Training.  People need to be properly trained in not only the use of the standard use of the equipment, but also the circumstances which it will be used as well as any processes or procedures for use which are unique to your organization.  Consider what degree of proficiency these individuals may need in the operation of the equipment.  Is it just basic operation, or is there a need for something more advanced?  Will recurring training be needed to maintain proficiency or to train additional people in the future?  Will anyone be trained in higher level maintenance of the equipment?

Exercising the equipment, its effectiveness, and the ability of your resources to use the equipment is essential.  Lastly, we often don’t consider the costs of maintaining and storing the equipment.  It may need replacement parts or regular servicing, which even done in-house, has an associated cost.  It may have certain storage requirements to ensure the safety and readiness of the equipment.

Now that we’ve outlined potential costs or investments, how do we know those investments have made a difference for your organization?  To determine this, we must first look at the original need.  What actually defined the need for the equipment?  Was it to replace something older and less reliable?  Was it to enhance response time?  Was it because of safety?  Did the need identify inefficiencies in previous practices and systems?  Did the new equipment meet that need?

To dig further, what was the value of that need?  To identify this, we should look at the metrics associated with that need.  If the new equipment replaced something aging, we can look at the maintenance costs and down time over a certain period of time for the older equipment.  If it was to shorten response time to get a certain capability on-scene, we should be able to identify the time metrics as well as the difference that equipment makes once it is on scene (eg. a fire department which previously had to call mutual aid to get jaws of life on scene, vs purchasing a set of jaws and having them on scene much faster).  We can associate a dollar-value cost to many of these metrics.

Was there any additional value which the equipment brought your organization?  Perhaps the added capability decreased your insurance rates or made you eligible for a particular industry certification?  Are there any indirect cost savings because of the new equipment?  Does the new equipment somehow aid in generating income?

There are many considerations when it comes to any of our investments to ensure that they are sound, responsible, and reasonable.  Often we need to identify the value of an investment before it is made, but we should certainly keep track of that value after the investment as well.

Need help with planning?  Gap analysis?  Resource inventories?  Maybe with the training or exercising associated with new equipment or other preparedness needs? Contact EPS!

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC 

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