Emergency Management Blogs

Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone
Disaster Zone

by Eric Holdeman: Emergency management in the blogosphere

Subscribe via RSS | About this Blog | Contact Eric Holdeman | Ericpedia

April 12, 2014

When I first heard of Al Jazeera I never believed it would be a credible news source. It sounded much more like a propaganda tool. Now over time I’ve read a number of stories about their Al Jazeera America reporting and those are uniformly positive.

See this article in the Nation, Can Al Jazeera America Save Cable News?

As noted in the article they have hired a ton of news people from around the United States and set up a number of news bureaus. I have now met with and know several Pacific Northwest Al Jazeera America news staff and these are very reliable people doing upfront news work. Most other stories about news departments is how they are cutting staff.

In thinking about this more, when you see other news networks like Fox and MSNBC, which is more of a propaganda tool for the left or the right?

Tune in to your local cable network and decide for yourself about the credibility of the various news networks. And please, don’t decide based on your personal “world view” try being unbiased and how they present the news.

Al Jazeera America is looking more authentic to me every day!

1 comment
April 11, 2014

U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has issued a revised product guide that assesses and summarizes commercially available hand-portable biodetection technologies for use by first responders in the field. The first edition of the guide, funded by Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology, was made available at no cost and was downloaded more than 5,500 times by professional safety personnel.

This year they have revised the Biodetection Technologies for First Responders product guide and are again providing it at no charge. First responders responsible for purchasing equipment and supplies needed to rapidly assess biological threats will find it very useful.

Like last year, it doesn’t promote any particular product, but rather provides a non-bias assessment of biodetection technologies on the market to help first responders choose what is right for their circumstances.

This year’s version has been updated and enhanced. It provides web links, equipment specifications and pricing on 31 detection technologies and 25 sampling products from nearly two dozen companies.

The report is available at no cost at this PNNL webpage.  Look on the right side of the page for the Download First Responder Biodetection Technology Report link which is in PDF form.

The above information was shared by Geoff Harvey.

Leave a comment
April 11, 2014

Drones are moving way beyond the simple quad-copter that started the movement and that hobbyists enjoy. Read this article on Recent Drone Developments to get a flavor for where their usage and capabilities are headed.

I am particularly impressed with the idea that a plane could detect and land on a power line like a bird and recharge its batteries.

As the plane approaches the wire, it raises its nose to allow it to 'perch' on the wire with clamps where wheels would usually be.


Recharging Drone Batteries from a Power Line

Think also of the urban search and rescue capabilities that would come from very small spider like drones described in the article that could crawl into very small openings and search for people who are trapped. Knowing where to search and rescue is one of the biggest challenges, so this technology would be terrific.

It is an example of a military application being adapted to civilian use.

Leave a comment
April 11, 2014

The Republic of Korea (ROK) has a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) not to be confused with our NEMA, which is an association of state emergency management directors.

They have developed a nifty 119 App (their version of 911) in English. Besides being able to call 119 to request assistance they also have a shelter location function on the App. This is probably more associated with civil defense and the fact that North Korea is unpredictable and they are technically still at war.

In addition, I see they have CPR instructions also as part of the App. While ROK is not a huge country it is a great example of a national system.

Do you think we could pull something like this off in our own United States of America?

Pascal Schuback shared the link to the US Embassy feature on the App.

Leave a comment
April 11, 2014

I believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. Leadership is important in government, business, nonprofits and in a crisis.

Gisli Olafsson is the author of The Crisis Leader that speaks to the special challenges of leading teams of people before, during and after emergencies and disasters. He speaks from personal experience in multiple disaster settings from around the world. I first met him when he worked for Microsoft and was a volunteer on our Emergency Operations Support Team (EOCST).

Gisli is also writing about leadership in shorter formats. See Too Proud to Ask for Help, which is right on the money. My personal advice on the matter is that when you know you are going to have more than one operational period you should start thinking 24 operations and getting other people involved. Incidents don’t always resolve themselves that quickly and once you are into it “neck deep” it is hard to extricate yourself and pass the baton to someone else who can help you.

April 10, 2014

Next-Generation 911 will come with a new host of improvements—if and when it is ever implemented.

Read Next-Generation 911: What You Need to Know, which is a great summary of the technology behind Next-Gen 911.

The big problems with implementation include:

• Balkanization of the existing 911 system with every small town and county having their own 911.
• Economies of scale and information sharing and links cannot be achieved with everyone keeping local control. Regional 911 systems are needed
• Adopting the technology and adapting to a new way of regionally operating will be hard and expensive.
• Personally, I believe that there are those resisting upgrading the systems so that they can retire and not have to deal with the new technology and the challenges it will bring.

What citizens don’t understand is that all 911 systems are not alike in their capabilities. When they travel out of their home area they may not have any of the technically advanced methods of contacting 911 that they will soon become used to. 911 is a national number, but not a national system. There is little influence or leverage on smaller 911 entities that want to just poke along answering calls like they always have.

Eventually it will take a consumer-taxpayer revolt to get these foot draggers to update their technology. At that point they will cry that they don’t have the funding to do the upgrades because they spent the money on staffing small inefficient offices.

It will take several high profile deaths to make the point about how broke the system will soon be as the difference between modern 911 centers and those antiquated ones becomes known.

Leave a comment
April 10, 2014

Claire Rubin once again pointed me to another news item.  This one is an Op-ed by a New Jersey State Republican Legislator, Senator Robert Singer.  See Hurricane Sandy shows NJ needs a new way to pay for disaster relief

His major points include:

  • The increasing cost of disasters is not sustainable
  • The existing funding system functions at the whims of Congress
  • A new dedicated fund and new taxes may be required to

And, this from a Republican--one who's district was hit hard by Super Storm Sandy.  Although I'd add that many a dedicated fund has been raided by legislatures before.


Leave a comment
April 10, 2014

Just last week Washington State Homeland Security Region 6 hosted a two day Cybersecurity event called Emerald Down, which is part of a multi-year effort by the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR).  The consensus from our time spent together was that risks are increasing faster than cyber-preparedness measures.

Just yesterday the news was all about the Heartbleed a security breach in the open SSL protocol that is impacting a wide variety of systems and passwords connected to the Internet.

If you have not read anything on this latest risk see What You Need to Know About Heartbleed, the New Security Bug Scaring the Internet


Updated 4-10-14, 18:30Hrs EDT 

1 comment
April 09, 2014

Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) provides a report card on the status of the United States’ infrastructure. This report card is a tad better than the last few reports, but still not what you’d want to bring home to your parents saying, “Look what I got!”

You can focus in on particular types of infrastructure or you can get a flavor for all parts by reading the Executive Summary.

All parts of the critical infrastructure system are important to emergency managers. In our modern society it only takes a small hiccup to throw things out of balance and have significant impacts due to critical infrastructure interdependencies. Electrical power systems for example are key to so many functions that it is the Achilles Heel of most of our other systems and functions.

Infrastructure systems don’t fail as systems. Instead they fail one piece at a time. That then is how we fix or repair them. It is a “fix on failure” process and mentality. The problem with that is that you can’t depend on the fact that these structures won’t fail catastrophically and impact people and the economy. This is particularly true with dams and levees. When they fail, people get hurt physically and economically.

One small bit of better news in the report is on the status of the railroad systems. There is a resurgence of rail traffic and the movement of commodities to market. In fact there are some areas of North America where they can’t move the shipments they need to make money. With that type of demand, railroads have reinvested some of their profits back in to their rail systems, improving roadbeds and other system functionalities.

Watch for more system failures as climate impacts start to take their toll on outdated infrastructure.

And, legislators take note. For every delay in repairing or replacing infrastructure you are digging your jurisdiction deeper into a hole that will be difficult to climb out of. Here in Washington state we have not passed a comprehensive transportation bill for two years. That is 24 months of lost progress—eventually the Piper will need to be paid, but at what cost?


Claire Rubin pointed me towards the report.

April 09, 2014

I’ve written about the cost of lost institutional knowledge as people retire and move out of the profession of emergency management. Additionally, over the years we’ve discussed where best to have the emergency management function placed on the organizational chart. When I was seven I decided that I wanted to be an emergency manager—not! We all seem to fall into it at some later time in our life as we became exposed in one way or another to the profession.

All of the above issues and more are discussed in this article/interview with an experienced private sector Business Continuity Management (BCM) professional. I think you will find the similarities striking if you have spent any time at all in trying to build and maintain an emergency management program.

Counting the cost of lost BCM experience…and passion

Phil Lambert shared this link and immediately saw the transferrable nature of experiences between the public and private sectors.

When you happen to meet a brother or sister BCM professional, give them a hug—we are in the same business and face similar challenges personally and professionally.

Leave a comment

Latest Emergency Management News

Los Angeles Police Department
Industry Perspective: A CJIS Success Story

A new security policy from the FBI makes cloud computing a viable option for criminal justice information.
Teen Stowaway Raises Alarms about Airport Security

Authorities say security video shows the teen hopping a fence at the San Jose airport and climbing into the wheel well of a jetliner.
Oklahoma Bridge
Facing an Uptick in Earthquakes, Oklahoma Consults California

After a dramatic increase in earthquakes that puts it behind only the Golden State, the Sooner State is worried about its bridges.

Latest Blog Posts RSS

August Vernon: Incident Management Blog Joint-Agency Mass Violence Expo - SAVE THE DATE
Apr 23 Joint-Agency Mass Violence Expo - SAVE THE DATE…
Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone Crowd Control Infograph
Apr 22 Crowd control can be part of every large gathering of people.…
Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone Crowdfunding Disaster Relief
Apr 20 This is the latest spin on how social media is transforming emergency management.…

4 Ways to Get EM

Subscribe to Emergency Management MagazineFollow Emergency Management on TwitterSubscribe to Emergency Management HeadlinesSubscribe to Emergency Management Newsletters

Featured Papers

Blog Archives