One of the searches that has most often brought people to my blog over the last couple of years has been POETE. In case you forgot, POETE stands for Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising. If you conduct an internet search for POETE, there are very few relevant results. Along with a few of my blog posts, there are a couple of articles published by others, and a few FEMA documents that include obscure references to POETE. Sadly, there is nothing available that provides (official) guidance, much less doctrine.
Why is it that such a great tool has so few tangible references? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that. I hope that will soon change.
POETE was most widely indoctrinated several years ago as an analysis step within the State Preparedness Reports (SPRs), which are annual submissions completed by every state, UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative-funded program), and territory. Note: The SPR templates and guidance are generally not publicly posted, as they are sent directly to the points of contact for each jurisdiction – thus they generally don’t come up in internet search results.
The SPR is a step beyond the THIRA (Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis), which is a very in-depth hazard analysis. The SPR examines each jurisdiction’s level of preparedness for hazards, referencing the 32 Core Capabilities. Each Core Capability is then analyzed through the lens of POETE.
As a conceptual example, let’s use the Operational Communications Core Capability. The POETE analysis will examine the jurisdiction’s preparedness by examining:
- Planning (are plans adequate? Have they been tested? What improvements need to be made?);
- Organizing (are there organizational barriers to success? What human operational communications resources are available? Are there gaps? Have teams been exercised? What improvements need to be made?);
- Equipment (does the jurisdiction have equipment necessary for operational communications? What needs are there relative to the resource management cycle?);
- Training (what training has been provided? What training gaps exist? When/how will they be addressed?);
- Exercises (what exercises have been conducted that include the operational communications Core Capability? What were the findings of the AAR/IPs? What future exercises are scheduled that include this Core Capability?).
Along with answering a few questions on each element, jurisdictions are asked to rate their status for each POETE element for each Core Capability. If they look at their reports submitted historically, they can see the measure of progress (or lack thereof) with each. They also have a tracking of identified action items to help them improve their measure of preparedness.
While this analysis can be quite tedious, it’s extremely insightful and informative. Often, stakeholders have conceptual ideas about the state of preparedness for each Core Capability, but absent conducting this type of in-depth analysis, they rarely see the details, much less have them written down. Documenting these helps with recognition, awareness, tasking, tracking, and accountability. It’s a valuable activity that I would encourage all jurisdictions and organizations to conduct.
What else can POETE be applied to? In the past few years, POETE is being included in DHS preparedness grants. They often want applicants to identify key tasks within the POETE structure, and awardees to chart progress along the same lines.
I’ve advocated in the past to use the POETE structure in improvement plans, which are a step beyond after action reports from exercises, events, and even incidents. Having key activities identified across each POETE element for the Core Capabilities analyzed is extremely helpful, and ensures that issues are being identified comprehensively.
Using the POETE concept across all preparedness efforts helps to tie them together. By documenting each element for each Core Capability, you will have full visibility and reference to your current status and what needs to be improved upon. It helps drive accountability, a comprehensive approach, and reduces duplication of efforts – especially in larger organizations. While implementing such a program will take some investment up front to begin to identify, organize, and chart progress and establish an organizational system to do so, I feel it’s an investment that will pay off.
I’m hopeful that the use of POETE continues to see adoption across all of emergency management and homeland security, and that it is further reinforced as a standard through DHS, FEMA, NFPA, and other organizations which hold sway for settings standards and/or requirements.
How does your organization, agency, or jurisdiction use POETE?
© 2017 – Timothy M Riecker, CEDP