Once again, there was a successful International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Conference in Orlando, Florida last week, although there were some unexpected challenges. Like … Hurricane Sandy. Attendance was great, but many of the folks from the northeast couldn’t attend unless they got there early. and then they couldn’t get home.
Some great new features this year that can only going to make the IAEM conference better in the future. One was the Leadership Symposium, a pilot program designed to fill a gap common to many conferences – how to add value for those professional, experienced leaders who have seen it all. My personal favorite was the IAEM2Go 2012 app for the smartphone. No big, glossy, printed, multi-page program! Loved it! I used it the whole time to find locations, updates, maps, biographies, tweets. The links to the surveys were there, too. How many trees did that save?
The BEST feature, and the one that will make the most difference in the long run was the Crisis Technology Center. It was staffed by 12 “Techsperts” who were primarily members of the IAEM Student Region. They volunteered and then came to the conference early to attend the 8-hour NDPTC (National Disaster Preparedness Training Center) course on social media.
The Techsperts were there to help emergency managers transition into the world of emergency technology by setting up their Twitter accounts, building their Facebook page, or show them how to start a blog. They also took the time to explain cloud computing, crowdsourcing, virtual EOC’s, and radios (digital, analog and HAM).
“This isn’t just social media; it’s about all kinds of emerging technology,” said Alisha Griswold, who is with the Port of Seattle and the Chair of the IAEM Emerging Technology Committee (ETC).
Alisha said some of their visitors compared them to the characters on the CBS series The Big Bang Theory, while the Techsports were trying to avoid the stereotype and show them anyone can use this technology.
“There were lots of skeptics,” Alisha said. “It was really fun to get them up and running with a new Twitter account. They would get all excited.”
There were also attendees who really were already technically proficient and wanted more in-depth information. One of the popular topics was ‘image authenticity’ – how to verify whether or not images on twitter are real. Another was how to sift through the data that comes from using crowdsourcing to find that nugget of information that is really needed.
Finally, the conference this year was the exciting scene of an attempted coup. More about that tomorrow.
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I don’t often re-use other blogs, but I am making an exception to summarize today’s post in “The New Forty.”
My good friend, Dr. Carol Cwiak, is an Assistant Professor at North Dakota State University, teaching Emergency Management. She is truly dedicated to this field and educating her students to understand what it takes to be an emergency management professional. Her blog today “What we should take away from Sandy”, shows how deeply she gets it.
Lesson One: Mother Nature sets her own agenda and she appears to be becoming more volatile every year. “Is this a function of global warming, a normal cycle of activity that ebbs and flows, or just bad luck? Who knows…all you need to acknowledge at this juncture is that it is a reality.
Lesson Two: As population and complexity in society has increased over the centuries, so too has vulnerability increased. “We want to live where we want to live, but often we give little thought to the additional risk we incur with such choices. Add to that our increasing reliance on complex systems to not only fuel our day to day services, but for communicating with others.”
Lesson Three: Even if a disaster does not hit where you live and do business it can still profoundly affect you. “When it (the East Coast) takes a hit such as the one Sandy delivered, businesses around the world feel the pain and the whole tourism industry – to include everything from A to Z associated with tourism – holds its breath wondering what that will mean for their own economic situation.”
Lesson Four: If the government says get out – then GET OUT! “If you do not listen to these folks, you do so at your own peril and you should not expect help. And on a personal note allow me to add, if you do so and you have children – your children should be removed from your care as it is tantamount to child endangerment.”
Lesson Five: Turn around, don’t drown. “Never underestimate water or the force of water’s current. It has reshaped and moved mountains – your vehicle and your family are a party trick.”
Lesson Six: Expect that an emergency or disaster could affect your community on any given day and have a plan for what you will do. “Own your own risk, because truth be told, the government in all its vastness does not have the necessary resources to come to the aid of all the folks who will need help.”
Sometimes practitioners squint their eyes at academians. The truth is that those in the academic community are just as passionate and committed - and knowledgeable - about this profession as practitioners.
Besides which - knowing her - I seriously doubt Carol is going to let anyone squint at her.
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THANK YOU FOR READING THIS! When I wrote this blog, I was reacting to the National Geographic Channel show “Doomsday Preppers”. The message created quite a storm among the general prepper community and an opportunity for me to get educated on what preppers actually do.
In addition to reading this one, check out the followup blogs:
Doomsday Preppers vs Disaster Preppers (posted 12/2)
Doomsday Preppers: Mea Culpa (posted 12/4)
The Case for the Lifestyle Prepper (posted 12/8)
Merging Preppers with Emergency Management (posted 12/11)
A Short Note From A New Prepper (posted 12/13
First, an admission: I have ignored National Geographic’s The Doomsday Preppers since it debuted in February. There are lots of ‘reality’ shows out there (I am personally fond of Top Chef and Project Runway), but being in the business of dealing with disasters on a regular basis, watching it seemed like a busman’s holiday – and a ‘way-over-the-top’ one at that.
What drew it to my attention was my friend David Burns, CEM. David has lots of experience in emergency management and response and my respect forever, even if there have been times we disagree on the details. For example, I passed on an offer from the producers of the History Channel documentary “After Armageddon” in early 2010 and recommended they talk to David. David had the best line in the final cut: he said “We’re gonna die and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it.” Blunt, but brilliant.
Doomsday Preppers took the concept and made it a reality show, with real people talking about how they are preparing for their own personal vision of a catastrophe. It is the highest rated show EVER on the National Geographic channel – beating such offerings as Border Wars and Dog Whisperer.
The official NGC description for Doomsday Preppers says this:
Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.
For example – one couple was preparing for the day the North and South poles swap places and cause major climate changes. There are individuals, families and small groups preparing for nuclear war, the upcoming economic collapse when China takes over the world, or the inevitable electromagnetic pulse attack on America that will wipe out radios and cell phones. If these folks weren’t so earnest in their beliefs, it would make a great science fiction series.
After the Preppers detail their plans, they get graded: And with our expert’s assessment, they will find out their chances of survival if their worst fears become a reality.
And guess what! You can get your very own Prepper score! The survey asks how much food and water you have stored away, AND whether you have a renewable food or water supply. Do you have a bunker, can you generate your own electricity, how many firearms do you own, do you have items for bartering – they recommend silver as the more tradable commodity. (Based on their criteria, I could only survive 1-2 weeks on my own with no outside help – and without helping anyone else.) Doomsday Preppers has an official Facebook page, with 179,061 ‘likes’ as of this morning.
David’s comment about the series: “Not sure if this is good or crazy good? A little prep is good, too much prep, maybe not so good, some of those Texan's can be quite scary," he said. "Good grief; just reinforced that there can be too much of a good thing ..."
This was from my personal ‘GO-TO’ person on catastrophic disaster planning!
You might wonder why someone like me, who has been in the business of encouraging disaster preparedness for a very long time, is so critical of people who are doing just that. It’s because they are being socially selfish – preparing themselves and the hell with everyone else. Instead of spending time and energy making changes that would benefit the larger community, in their very narrow focus of loyalty they are more concerned about themselves.
Emergency Managers can’t afford that kind of attitude. It is diametrically opposed to everything we do. Our job is to prepare individuals and communities and jurisdictions and regions and – ultimately – the globe for disasters, knowing we won’t always succeed. I could find statistics about how unprepared some citizens are, and then show you hundreds of active and volunteer CERT teams preparing whole communities. In major disasters (think 9-11 or the Christ Church earthquake or Superstorm Sandy), survivors for the most part WANT to help each other.
Sure, I’m optimistic. Think about historical disasters and the societies and cultures that collapsed: the Roman Empire is always a good example. The cultural and political system that was the Roman Empire was brought down by natural disasters, barbarian invasions and social instability; yet there were still established pockets of civilization that remained to become the seeds of the Renaissance.
The only catastrophe I can think of that might cause the type of destruction these folks are preparing for is a comet hitting the earth, aka: Lucifer’s Hammer. That is a great science fiction story - scared the bejesus out of me - but the world still survived.
There are those who think the Doomsday Preppers is an extreme model of self-preparedness; I just see them as an extreme model of selfishness.
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