Property Management Challenges for Emergency Management Agencies

A stopwatch lay on a white table. Papers are strewn about, with one large paper that says "Audit" in the middle

Managing physical and IT assets is a common challenge to many businesses, non profit organizations, and government entities. For emergency management agencies, there are some unique challenges in managing their equipment, mostly procured from FEMA grants.

As a matter of fact, most agencies struggle to keep accurate account of the equipment inventory, or up to date information of their locations or condition. Most recently, the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security found that the state of Ohio was deficient in managing FEMA grants from FY 2010 to FY 2012. Specifically, the report recommended “better monitoring, reconciling accounts, documenting expenditures and budget changes, and tracking inventory.”

FEMA grant guidelines for FY 2011 and FY 2012 awards added inventory requirements, which were absent in the guidelines for previous years. These requirements are based on 44 CFR 13.32. Specifically,

“The state and its subgrantees must maintain property records for equipment acquired with grant funds; the property records must include certain elements, such as a description of the property and cost. In addition, subgrantees must take a physical inventory of grant funded equipment every 2 years and reconcile the results with property records.”

These requirements present two unique challenges to emergency management agencies.

  • First of all, the entity for a specific award is often consisted of multiple jurisdictions. They are used to different ways of tracking inventory. Some use excel sheets, some use home grown Access database, and some use paper and pen. Politically, it can be difficult to institute one single process of tracking equipment.
  • Second, the procurement of the equipment has its own process. Additionally, the procurement process may differ based on the requirements from the fiduciary body of each award. Consequently, maintaining property records for equipment acquired with grant funds based on 44 CFR 13.32 can be labor intensive, time consuming, and confusing.

Despite the challenges, some states have established practical policies and procedures to manage the equipment. I found that the state of Pennsylvania is a good example. FEMA’s grant management website cited the Pittsburg UASI region’s practices as examples for equipment tracking and inventory control.

In the guidelines FEMA established for FY 2011 and FY2012 grants, grantees are allowed to invest in staff and tools to support equipment management. This is deemed critical for managing the logistics for emergency management agencies. FEMA wants to improve the accountability for billions of grant dollars it has invested over the years in building the infrastructure through the SHGP (State Homeland Security Program) and UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) programs.

In the wake of the latest OIG report on the deficiency in property management in the state of Ohio, all emergency management agencies should consider making such investment.

At E-ISG Asset Intelligence, we provide the eQuip! software solution for emergency management agencies to manage equipment. If you would like to receive a software demonstration, you can call us at 1-866-845-2416.

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