Challenges to Emergency Management Caused by Lack of Efficient Equipment Management Practices in Local Government Organizations – An Interview with Tom Heseltine Part 2

In the final segment of this two-part series, Jackie Luo continues her conversation with Tom Heseltine about the challenges in equipment management facing emergency management organizations. Today they are discussing the failures that occur within government agencies and what can be done, through both regulatory efforts as well as through implementation of best practices, to improve emergency management.

Jackie Luo: From your experience working with state and local government agencies, what are the most common failures in business processes when it comes to efficient management of assets and properties in emergency management organizations?

Tom Heseltine: I think the biggest problem with emergency management in state and local governments is that there is that a chain of custody is lacking throughout the asset management process. Once an asset is purchased, it goes into this black hole, and nobody seems to know who is responsible for the asset or what maintenance it may need. The other failure is the silo problem we discussed last week. One department may have an asset, and even though that asset is only utilized 20-30 percent of the time, there is no visibility and no way of letting other departments know that the asset is available for use. Instead, other departments buy their own asset, likewise using it only 20-30 percent of the time. The cost of these practices is enormous.

Do you see government agencies taking steps to address these failures in equipment management for emergency managers?

Increasingly, people are recognizing these issues, and they are also under pressure, because of the recession, to look for new equipment management solutions. Since government officials are being held accountable for the delivery of the same services with fewer personnel, less equipment and a smaller budget, they seem to be more open to changing how they manage assets and address equipment management practices. Officials have told me that they want to gain better control over their assets and make better use of assets across departments and agencies.

What are the key rules and regulations that hold these agencies accountable for managing equipment, and how are they doing with asset management compliance in general?

There are best practices related to custody of assets and equipment management for emergency managers, but they are not required by law. There are obligatory state laws, local laws and federal requirements if you are receiving federal funding, but those requirements don’t seem to be enforced. Only a small percentage of local and state governments are meeting these requirements, and there are a few governments trying to adopt better equipment management requirements, but generally, most government agencies just aren’t close to meeting any asset management requirements.

In government, the election cycle has great influence over priorities. What will it take for a state or local agencies to focus on improving the business processes for equipment management for emergency managers?

I think the challenge is that a lot of government officials think short-term and not long-term. So once equipment is procured, the money is gone and a short-term need has been met. There is no long-term thought about how to better utilize the equipment or how to make an investment to drive tangible operational changes. It’s an ever-present struggle because of the way our system works with short-term elected officials. The administrations that listen to the day-to-day managers who are there for 10, 20, or 30 years and who understand the long-term impact of their decisions, tend to be the administrations that are doing much better in today’s environment.

Poorly-managed assets result in lost revenues and poor service delivery, particularly during moments of crisis. Government agencies that have made asset management a priority and listen to their day-to-day managers about long-term impacts of implementing solid asset management protocols have fared better during the recession than other agencies. In this tough economic climate, better asset management may be the innovative idea that government is looking for to make tax dollars stretch a little further.

Tom Heseltine is currently the President of Neuberger & Company Ventures. Previously, he was a partner at the CPA firm Clifton Gunderson LLP, and he has in-depth financial management leadership experience. Tom now focuses on helping early-stage companies grow by providing support in sales, marketing and financial management. Tom holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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