The best place to collaborate with other Emergency Management colleagues is the annual IAEM conference and this years 60th annual IAEM conference opens tomorrow in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, there are a lot of colleagues from the northeast who can’t attend because of Hurricane Sandy and some of the stories demonstrate their commitment and professionalism.
For example, my fellow blogger: Adam Crowe, who writes the Disaster 2.0 blog. At one time, Adam was safe from hurricanes in Johnson County, Kansas, then he accepted the position of Emergency Manager at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He was scheduled to make two presentations during this IAEM conference but had to bow out on Saturday. When I finally talked to him, he said VCU has been preparing for the past week, just in case. “While in the end, this area may be mostly missed, it reminds us all what our profession is all about.”
On the other hand, Brandon Greenberg wasn’t planning on attending the IAEM conference because he is a full-time MPA student at Wagner College in NYC, an independent consultant and self-described technophile. He is, though, collating and curating a lot of pertinent data, warnings, advice and other information at Disaster.net because “most of the EM’s up here are in operations mode.” It is a great site – go take a look.
Then there is Marcia Nickle from the University of Delaware. She never got out of town, but she did respond briefly to say: “Currently at work! Closing campus, prepping for power outage, evacing on-campus students who can go home (some can't), major messaging campaign, feeding, generators, activating EOC Mon morning at 0800.
Finally, Brendan McClusky from New Jersey. Brendan came to Orlando on Friday and Sunday morning, when many flights to the northeast were being cancelled, Brendan and a colleague decided to rent a car and drive the 18 hours back home. When I tracked him via email, this is what he responded:
We started off around 8:30a this morning, and are currently in South Carolina. I've been on three conference calls (state OEM, NWS, our hospital), sent a bunch of emails, and updated our incident management system using a mobile hotspot plus iPad, my cell phone, and email from my BB. I have 3 more conference calls this afternoon (Federal, University, hospital).
This level of commitment isn’t unusual for emergency managers – the same thing happens with earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, civil demonstrations, winter storms, et.al.. It’s just something we do when we take on this kind of responsibility. I suspect, when the conference officially starts tomorrow, there will be a lot more stories.
Meanwhile, the official keynote speaker tomorrow morning is Craig Fugate, Administrator of FEMA. He is supposed to be flying in from DC. We’ll see if he makes it.
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I freely admit to being a Disaster Diva – a coin termed by Claire Rubin. I’ve been glued to the media coverage about Hurricane Sandy. The 60th Annual IAEM conference begins tomorrow morning, and I expect there will be a lot of discussion about it – updates, stories, predictions, opinions. There were a few bits that I found particularly interesting.
The first was a nice article earlier today in The Atlantic summarizing why Sandy has meteorologists scared in 4 images. My favorite line was the mention of an earlier tweet from a reporter with the Wall Street Journal about one of those images: "Oh my.... I have never seen so much purple on this graphic. By far. Never."
CNN did a live interview with Nicholas Coch, a Coastal Geologist at Queens College talking about the potential effects on New York City. He talked about the wind tunnel effect through the downtown high rise buildings that is likely to break windows and scatter glass on the sidewalks. The storm surge on top of the high tides (full moon) is likely to cause flooding into the subway system and extensive damage. “Salt water and electrical equipment don’t mix well,” he noted sagely.
One channel showed the Flightradar24 map that tracks live air traffic. Everything was flying out of the northeast, and there were only a couple incoming flights. (BTW: this is an awesome site and one you should bookmark.)
Again on CNN, a couple took a video of the last night of a 7-day cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy as it encountered rough seas from Hurricane Sandy as they were passing Miami, Florida. One of his comments: “There was a moment in the night where the ship tilted so far to the right that the furniture moved across our room. If you think about how far a thirteen story ship has to tilt for furniture to move, it says a lot.”
The most satisfying part of the evening was a call from my daughter, who is in the medical school at UMass Worcester. She told me about everything in her emergency kit and what she had done to prepare herself and her roommates. She had thought of everything – from $20 in small change to an evacuation kit for Mr. Henry (her cat). She even signed up with the Worcester emergency alert system. The only thing I could suggest was a car charger for her cell phone.
From the maps tonight, it doesn't look like Worcester will get as much weather as New York City or Washington DC, but it is gratifying to know she is taking it seriously. Makes a mother proud.
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