Lessons observed or lessons learned? I once again think it is the latter. The bottom line for the Pacific Northwest is this summary:
"Rebuilding has barely started in some of Japan’s hardest-hit communities, and one expert warns that the Pacific Northwest isn’t learning the lessons that would help this region recover from the next Cascadia megaquake and tsunami."
This is a quote from a front page story from the Seattle Times Recovery isn’t in sight 3 years after Japan’s tsunami The article details how the three year anniversary of 3/11 shows little progress in people getting their lives put back together.
More importantly for us on the West Coast of the United States there is little attention being paid to the disaster that will strike the northern tier of states in a similar fashion--at some point in the future.
Instead we have miscellaneous stories about the possibility of radiation being in our ocean waters. A detailed look at our preparations shows that little attention is being paid in dollars and cents to the issue.
There will be plenty of finger pointing when the disaster eventually does strike, “Why more wasn’t done to protect people?” As one wise sage once pointed out to me, “Sir, when you point your finger, there are three of them pointing back at you.”
What our leaders want us to say is, “We are ready!” To that issue I point you back to one of my recent Eric’s Corner Columns, Never Say You’re Ready
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“No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. In order to get what you want in life, you simply need to do what you’re good at.” Dr. Richard R. Reichel I think this is good for us to remember as individuals and for those who are leaders. We need to accent and work in those areas of our life where we are most proficient and adept. Minimize the weaknesses, but work in areas where our strengths reside.
For leaders, look for the strengths in others and get them slotted and working in the areas that they are good at. Don’t keep trying to shove a square peg in a round hole.
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This comes from a BioPrep Watch item:
Baltimore OEM seeks emergency management specialist
Baltimore Mayor's Office of Emergency ManagementThe city of Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Baltimore Urban Area Workgroup is seeking a regional program management specialist, according to a hiring notice posted on Wednesday on iaem.com.
The full-time position is emergency-essential and represents a Department of Homeland Security-funded contractual position.
The individual hired will support the development of emergency preparedness and homeland security programs for the Baltimore Urban Area Security Initiative region. The management specialist will analyze grant data, develop resource documents and create reports for operational policy. The person hired will also work closely with UASI committees and facilitate working group priorities.
The specialist will be responsible for staffing the Emergency Operations Center during significant incidents.
You will need to find the job listing on the City of Baltimore's website.
Minimum qualifications for the position include a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, public administration or a related field and at least two years of experience in emergency management, public safety or related fields. Candidates must also possess excellent communication, organizational, analytical and problem solving skills.
Desired qualifications for the position include advanced degrees in public administration, emergency management or a similar field, two or more years of professional experience and experience working in an emergency management agency in a major U.S. city.
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Emergency management students of different persuasions have the requirement to do papers or for advanced degrees a thesis of one type or another.
One of the big issues is that younger people are not staying in positions very long. Other departments poach them for their functions and I’m sure the lack of job loyalty is something at play too.
In the emergency management world the previous source of personnel came from second career individuals who once they came to emergency management had a tendency to stay in the career field and in many cases individual jobs for the rest of their work life. This is not so much the case, or at least to the degree it was previously
I think it would be a great study to look at the departures from jobs and why they left, who backfilled their positions and their backgrounds. And, then because of the trickledown effect of jobs opening and people moving around—who backfilled the opening caused by the next vacancy.
I believe it could be done pretty easily for a state given the cooperation from people and organizations. People would be interested in the report that is generated. Doing a paper or thesis that has value would be terrific.
If you Google meta-scenario you won't find much information on the topic, so let's start with what it might look like. First, it is a scenario for a really big disaster. This is not your garden variety hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, etc.
Think catastrophic and you will be getting close to what a meta-scenario might include for damages, deaths, injuries, recovery timeline, etc. During Craig Fugate’s tenure the term “maximum of maximums” event is the type of disaster we are talking about. He specifically has said, “For that reason, in planning exercises, we create a realistic catastrophic disaster scenario that takes us past the point of failure, rather than create a manageable scenario that we know will allow us to succeed.”
This last part is what I have found that some emergency managers, maybe almost everyone stumbles on. I have hear two different people say something like the following in just the past month, “We can’t make the disaster so bad that everyone just throws up their hands and says there is nothing we can do.” This then sounds like the type of mega disaster the meta-scenario is designed to challenge us with.
Picture this, your response structure, fire and police, public works, are in shambles. Your Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is inoperable due to damages, you communications systems are in shambles, staff are victims themselves having lost loved ones and their homes. Equipment is destroyed or damaged, help is not coming from your typical mutual aid buddies because it is a regional disaster and they too are in the same poor shape you are in. Help is not hours away, it is five, seven, ten days away from arriving. Will you throw your hands up and say, “There is nothing we can do!”
No you don’t, you are still in charge. Even in large scale disasters only about 2% of the population actually dies so there will be plenty of survivors. Given these circumstances what you have to work with is what the “whole community” concept is based on. For me I’d have an Incident Action Plan (IAP) that has three priorities. 1) Rescue people 2) Provide medical treatment as best you can 3) Work to provide people care, shelter and food, wherever and however you can find it.
The above is not some centralized command and control event. It is dispersed and neighbor helping neighbor and strangers.
Shifting gears a bit. We have a Cascadia Earthquake Exercise coming up in 2016 that will simulate a subduction earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Washington and Oregon States. In this scenario I see the beach communities that are on our coasts decimated. In some cases it will be like the Hand of God swept the earth clean. Little to nothing will be left in place. Access to these coastal areas will be totally cut off due to damages to roadways. I’m thinking the only real access will be from the air or sea.
Given you are the “surviving” emergency manager you need to finds ways to “hang on” until help arrives. Making do with whatever is left. There will be survivors who need help. Help will not be coming anytime soon.
The above meta-scenario takes a community beyond local common practice—how we normally do disaster exercises. Every exercise doesn't need to be a meta-scenario one, but we do need these realistic exercises to educate our responders and residents as to how bad, bad can be.
The State of Washington has a DRAFT document on Meta-Scenario that I borrowed from for this blog post. It is not officially published yet, so I don't have a copy to link to. It is not specific to one type of disaster, it addresses the types of issues I raised above.
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I know most of you are just like me in that when you are given new software to use that replaces what you have been using for five years--"You are thrilled!"
This new blogging tool is supposed to be more stable and therefore improved, so here goes:
The end date for applications is coming up soon, so don't delay in applying. Note that the requirement for education, experience and certifications are the type you will be seeing more of.
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Riding the train to work in the morning gives one time to think and blog. So as we cross a swollen river right now I'll ignore the thought of flooding and go right to the crux of two issues.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you know that I've been a proponent of drone technology and all that it can do for emergency management and for that matter emergency services. More and more agencies and departments are deploying the technology to help them with a variety of situations.
With any new technology there is bound to be a downside to the potential that it brings. Which got me thinking about how even smaller drones with a limited payload could be used as weapons of mass destruction. Stadiums of all types are checking bags and even installing metal detectors to inspect people as they enter their facilities. I'm wondering what can be done to thwart someone from loading up a pipe bomb or other device onto a small drone and just flying it over the stadium walls and into the crowd and remotely detonating a device? Hmm, it seems to me that it is not that easy a threat to counter. Perhaps in this case your response system is the best mitigation tool you have to care for people impacted by such an event.
Then there is the TSA inspection theater that happens at all the airports here in the United States. Shoes, belts, laptops, liquids, knives of course, pen knives included, are all screened and appropriately inspected or accounted for. So, here I am riding the train and they keep having this announcement that there are emergency tools located near the bathroom on each car. I just checked, and yes they have an axe there neatly strapped in for any emergency situation. I suppose the difference between being in an airplane and on a train is thought to be enough different that we take away pen knives for one and furnish an axe for another mode of transportation.
If it was a logical world, it would be so boring!
Bill Cumming shared a recent CRS report Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding
The report does not draw any radical conclusions to support the causes of drought and linking current conditions to the impacts of climate change. Two things I did pick up from reading portions of the document is that on average 7% of the United States is typically in a drought condition from year to year. The other new term to me is megadrought, one that I had not heard of before. Evidently you can document earthquakes on the coast with tree rings and also document droughts from eons ago. Some megadroughts in the ancient past have lasted for decades.
The radical change that I see for our modern world, carbon aside, is the extensive use of water for supporting all facets of our 21st Century community. It is not just about drinking and supporting wildlife anymore. As we extract more water from the ground and don't replenish it we'll eventually run out of it, especially in those arid places that everyone seems to want to move to and have green lawns and golf courses.
Perhaps the rain storms that hit California over the weekend will begin to reverse the multi-year drought cycle that they are currently in--or not! It will take a significant change in climatic conditions for that reversal to happen. The one good thing that will come from this is the water conservation measures that are being put in place. As Las Vegas has shown, these types of conservation efforts can make a huge difference over time. It is the power of mitigation!
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This isn't about commercial spaceflight, but if you can get a drone into suborbital orbit and dwell there for long periods of time, say five years, there is a great deal that can be done with that technology. See Facebook may buy maker of drones that fly for 5 years They even call out the benefits for disaster recovery in this short article.
For more information on the company and the aircraft see Titan Solara 60
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Eight days and counting until this position closes Colorado Springs Utilities seeks emergency management specialist
As per normal these days--they are looking for people with experience, a degree and certifications. Not a "walk-on" position.
Here is the actual link to the job announcement
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Latest Emergency Management News
After years of running emergency operations out of a training classroom in the 911 building, city officials now have a stand-alone facility.
The troubled rollout of the alert system in the Northwest prompted state and federal agencies to make changes to the system in the hope that cellphone users won't opt out en masse.
The slow pace of recovery in the world's most disaster-ready nation is sobering for the Pacific Northwest, where geologists warn that the same type of megaquake and tsunami could strike any day.