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April 2011 Archives
April 10, 2011

"Washington D.C. 101: When unable to resolve an issue just rename it." Dan Grayson HSPD-8 Preparedness was just replaced this past week with a new PPD-8 on Preparedness. When I read the quote above it gives me pause to think about what real change will happen with the new document. In this case the name change is slight, going from HSPD-8 to PPD-8, both topics being on preparedness in the nation. Will the change make a difference in how our nation prepares or more significantly, how the Federal Government agencies interact with one another?

There seems to be a bit of a disclaimer at the end of the Presidential Policy Directive where the big dogs of Defense, Justice and the FBI are mentioned. Like, don't worry guys, this won't interfere with how you do business today. Should it not make a difference for them too?

Unfortunately we have gotten accustomed to the smoke and mirrors method of operating. Make change look like it is happening, e.g. election reform, but know there will be plenty of workarounds to make the current game playable, just with a few tweaks added.

I fear all of this will continue until the house of cards comes falling down. At which time we'll try to fix it once again with a name change.


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April 10, 2011

A local emergency manager sent me the guts of this blog posting on the Bottom Up Review (BUR) of FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) Program.  He was a little ticked off that the request for input did not go down to local emergency managers--directly from FEMA. 


Having hung around some state emergency management agencies I know that some can be "touchy" about FEMA bypassing them and going directly to locals.  I expect that is the issue, along with the fact that all the states have to administer the PA program.


Having said that, would you not want input from the widest possible audience?  Good ideas can come from anywhere--even the local level.  Hopefully some states are sending this down to their local jurisdictions to have them take a look at it and make recommendations.  Lord knows that the word "streamlined" does not fit the PA program today!


If you have comments you could try several paths to get your ideas heard.  One is send them to your Public Assistance office at your state department of emergency management.  Another would be to send your thoughts to IAEM.  While they are directly mentioned in the text below, coming from an association that represents "you" would be a good thing.  Since NEMA represents the State Directors I don't think your comments would be processed without them sending them back to your state EM office.


See text below:

Recently FEMA has provided to NEMA an advisory about the Bottom Up Review initiative and detailed information regarding the review process. This has been submitted to ALL State Directors and is provided below:

FEMA has initiated a bottom up review (BUR) of the Public Assistance Program, which NEMA has been suggesting for years. The advisory below and the attached document provide detailed information regarding the review and the process. FEMA is inviting stakeholder input and NEMA wants to take full advantage of the opportunity to provide the State perspective. The word from FEMA is to "think out of the box". Everything is on the table. The Administrator is wide open to a total redesign of the PA Program. This is a golden opportunity for innovative thinking.

Specifically, FEMA is seeking input on the following:

1. How should FEMA redesign and streamline the PA Program to provide applicants the greatest flexibility possible in the recovery process while ensuring accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars and compliance with federal statutory requirements?

2. What are the appropriate/optimum roles and responsibilities of FEMA and other Federal agencies, as well as States, Tribes and local communities in a new PA program?

3. If given greater flexibility for the use of PA funding, would States and Tribes be willing to take on more responsibility for program administration; and if so, what would that role be, and what resources would be required to perform that role and meet the responsibilities effectively?

4. If FEMA were to advance funds earlier in the disaster process, what mechanisms would you suggest to do this within FEMA's current statutory authority?

5. If FEMA revamps the PA Program, would grantees and subgrantees prefer to have a fixed budget based on an estimate developed early in the disaster, or the actual cost reimbursement process that currently exists?

6. Can PA be better linked with other FEMA programs? If so, how?

7. What does FEMA need to do to ensure that the program is scalable to small, large and catastrophic disasters?

8. Are there aspects of the existing program that should remain unchanged?

The state review should be based on what is codified in law through the Stafford Act and not be limited to FEMA policy or regulation which may, in some cases, be a more narrow or rigid interpretation of the law than originally intended by Congress. This has been one of NEMA's complaints for the past 10 years is that FEMA unnecessarily limits assistance based on interpretation rather than legislative intent. We know that the Stafford Act was written very broadly so as to allow Presidential discretion.

We are asking each state to submit input to NEMA by April 27. Again, we're looking for innovative thinking and specific suggestions for ways to overhaul the PA Program so that it reflects the intent of the Stafford Act and most importantly, meets the needs of communities when recovering from disasters. We will compile and analyze all the state comments, develop a national response, vet it back through all the states, then submit to FEMA from NEMA. Feel free to share this with your state PA staff who can assist with your state response. Also, you are welcome to submit your comments directly to FEMA. Again, please submit comments to NEMA by April 27. Thank you!!


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April 10, 2011

The title of this blog post is also the title of a Natural Hazards Observer article of the same name, Revenge of the Nukes (page 8).


This article was of course written long before the nuclear power plant issues that are still ongoing in Japan following their earthquake and tsunami.  There is some interesting poll data contained in the article and how public opinion has changed about nuclear power over the years.  I'm guessing it has gone down from the 60% mentioned in a 2010 national survey because of the Japan disasters.


I found the really interesting part is this quote:  "Multivariate analyses with controls for arange of demographic and other attitudes also show that how people feel about government decision makers, as well as the other actors involved, predicts whether they support nuclear expansion and whether they support the legitimacy of government decision making in this area. Views about government are, in fact, better predictors of support of nuclear energy than any other measure, including self-reported nuclear knowledge and attention to nuclear debates."


What's being said here is never mind the science, it is how I feel about government and do I think it is fair and do I trust them.  There is more in the article on this aspect of their survey. 


As I've written before, trust is what makes us function as a society.  Without it, how will we function in the future?

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April 11, 2011

I know this information is anecdotal in nature, but I've found stories to like this to be true before.  I was talking to a disaster supplies vendor last week and he shared that in his experience the tribes in Western Washington are the only organizations that have purchased and set aside containers of disaster supplies for their tribal members.


I asked if they also had done the same at their casino locations and he did not know if that was true or not.  When you think about it, casinos would be great shelter locations.  Larger facilities, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.  Many, if not most probably have emergency power available at these sites.  This would be a good point of coordination between tribes and local emergency managers.


Ever since the Homeland Security Grant funds required state and local emergency managers to coordinate with tribal nations the level of interaction has increased significantly over time.  It is too bad it took 9/11 to get us to talking and collaborating.  Not to say that in some jurisdictions they may have been working closely together for years before that event.

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April 11, 2011

The National Association of Counties (NACo) surveyed counties and got 500 responses back about where the people cuts have been taken by department or service area during this current recession.  Emergency management wasn't spared, yet they are the lowest percentage on the list below.  That is probably because there aren't that many of us to begin with.


Here's the list:


18% Animal Control

12% Administration/Budget/HR

11% Planning/Code Enforcement

10% Public Works

 8% Human Services

 7% Jails and Corrections/Information Technology

 6%Sheriff/Police/Fire and Rescue

 4% Courts

 3% Emergency Management


This information came via Government Technology Magazine

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April 12, 2011

If you haven't done so yet, invite your GIS manager to lunch and then pick up the bill. He or she is one of the best friends you can have on your mission of improving your disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. 


The recent article GIS Data Helps Miami-Dade County Prepare for Disasters is a good example of what one community is doing.  Maps can permeate just about every segment of the public safety and emergency management community.  Maps grab people's attention and imagination, they allow for the "aha" moment as data is propagated and appears digitally before your eyes.  As a planning tool the map is central to how your plan your response and recovery activities.  I just can't express how much I see the importance of the map to what we do before, during and after a disaster.


One problem I've run into before is how do you pay for it all.  Unfortunately many governments have gone to a model of charging for services and billing one another's department for their services.  My budget for GIS in King County was $50K which doesn't go very far.  We also had to have a "prayer meeting" about when there is a disaster--those are not billable hours, it is just part of what we do. 


Check out the article and note at the very end they still have work to do in Miami.  Adding the social media component so that citizens are automatically posting data to your situation map via their Twitter account and other applications.

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April 12, 2011

You can say I'm hooked on technology, even though I'm not that good at it.  One place to get your fill of Tech is at the Microsoft Worldwide Public Safety Symposium that was held recently in Redmond, Washington.


In this case it really was a "worldwide" event with 33 nations being represented.  You can check out all the 2011 Presentations at his link.  There might be something there for you.  Mostly law enforcement oriented, but there are some other tracks there to check out.

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April 12, 2011

They really know how to make a UASI Program Manager's position sound exciting when it starts out as:


"Performs audits of the UASI grant which involves the examination and evaluation of grant activities to help ensure the reliability and integrity of information; assures grant guidelines compliance, as well as policies, plans, procedures, laws and regulations"


Yikes!  The only thing they left off the job description was cleaning the bathrooms at the EOC.

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April 14, 2011

I guess there are actual tsunami waves that strike land.  More likely they are a surge of water that just keeps coming and coming, building and building.  Putting pressure on anything in the water's way until it collapses and is swept away.


Watch this Wrath of Japan Tsunami video in which the city of Kesennuma, in the northeastern part of the country is hit by the wave.


We don't know what the photographer was standing on, but watch the water keep getting higher at his feet.  Then too there are the people standing on a porch of a multi-story building across the way.  What was going through their minds as they saw other buildings be swept away, one warehouse crashing into their building?  Will they live or die?   This was a significant emotional event!



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April 14, 2011

The following comes from a Homeland Security Subcommittee.  It is a very quick summary about the level of terrorist activity here in the United States.


"In the State of the Union, the President stated that Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. He stressed that extremists are trying to inspire acts of violence by those within our borders. According to the Attorney General, in the last two years, 126 individuals have been indicted for terrorist-related activities, including 50 United States citizens. The Homeland Security Secretary has said that the threat of a terrorist attack is as high as it has been since 9/11."


To those who would seek to minimize the threat or who think that "we have a handle on it" I think that is not a realistic picture of what is going on in our nation today.  Eventually someone will be successful, like the Fort Hood shooter, in taking lives and creating terror here in our homeland.  More than likely, they will be an American citizen.

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