Too much snow leads to too much water. It is a given that with warming temperatures the significant snow pack on the ground across the northern tier of states is going to lead to flooding.
The first story I've seen on this is Watchful eye being kept on ice jam north of Meadville on French Creek which is in Pennsylvania. Ice jams like this are big causes of flooding along rivers and streams.
I think flooding is a given because of the temperature extremes we've seen during this winter. When it starts to warm up I don't see it being a gradual spring melt, rather we should expect rapid warming and flooding on rivers and surface water flooding in those areas with only good to poor drainage.
Getting those storm drains cleared should be a major priority!
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There is an article in Emergency Management Magazine's website on the new Federal Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity This is a new document that joins other frameworks that have been published in the last five years.
The actual document, Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity provides some critical definitions that I think will be very helpful in talking about cybersecurity and sharing what level of threat you want to defend against and how much risk you are comfortable with. The Executive Summary for the document puts it this way:
In enacting this policy, the Executive Order calls for the development of a voluntary risk-based Cybersecurity
Framework – a set of industry standards and best practices to help organizations manage cybersecurity risks.
The resulting Framework, created through collaboration between government and the private sector, uses
a common language to address and manage cybersecurity risk in a cost - effective way based on business
needs without placing additional regulatory requirements on businesses.
Note that there is a new ICS associated with cybersecurity. It is called Industrial Control Systems (ICS), not to
confused with the Incident Command System (ICS).
Yes, new terms to go with a new hazard that we have not had much experience with in the past. Read-up, so
you have the tools and communications skills to be effective before an incident occurs.
Winter weather has taken its toll on both sides the US and Canadian border. One utility that has taken it in the chops from all the ice and snow has been electric companies that provide services to businesses and individuals. Now this wasn't the only time that there have been electrical outages due to severe weather. Power outages have become rather routine when severe weather hits. The question is, "How much mitigation do you want to invest in to reduce the impact of outages?"
The above is the theme from a Toronto Glob editorial, see The ice storm: Why you want the lights to go out, sometimes In the piece they call attention to the fact that you can't mitigate every risk. The costs to do so would be too high. Thus, the focus on risk management:
"What is risk? It is the odds of suffering a loss in the future. It is a cost.
And what about the reduction or elimination of that risk? Also a cost.
In deciding whether to pay the price, utilities – and all of us – end up
having to weigh three factors: the size of the possible damage, the likelihood
of its occurrence, and the price of mitigation."
Risk management will become a greater part of the discussion as we move forward and the warming climate starts to impact
our communities in varying ways. This will be a good discussion for communities to have. One way to reduce risk
is to disperse it in the entire community (whole community). If individuals are better prepared then the costs for
organizations can be lessened, and costs of single entity preparedness reduced.
Bruce Booker shared the link to the op-ed.
I picked the quote below up from a National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) update. While this announcement doesn't bring any "real funding" to the table it is at least in the discussion phase. When it comes to climate impacts, disasters are going to be high on the priority list to address because of the escalating costs of these events. Last year there were over 40 billion dollar events world-wide.
PRESIDENT TO UNVEIL CLIMATE RESILIENCE FUND
The recent droughts in California and much of the Western United States, has drawn the attention from
leaders here in Washington. President Obama is traveling to California today to discuss the crippling
droughts and to announce his administration’s plan of action. While in California the Presidents plans
to unveil a proposed billion-dollar climate fund. The White House said that the “Climate Resilience Fund”
would go to research on the projected impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for climate
change’s effects and fund “breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure.” The administration
will stress the scientific understanding of how climate change makes events like the drought more extreme.
The White House spokesman said, “President Obama is going to continue to make the case that climate change
is already hurting Americans around the country and that it will only get worse for our children and
grandchildren if we leave it for future generations to deal with. ”Just last week the Agriculture Department
announced it would set up a series of climate hubs across the United States to study climate change’s
impacts on agriculture and rural activities and develop mitigation and adaptation measures. It remains
to be seen whether the administration can secure such a high figure from Congress for a climate fund not
likely to attract widespread Republican backing.
Like the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's comment on porn, "You'll know it when you see it" I think we have to acknowledge that the term Disaster Porn is an appropriate one for the treatment of disasters in the media, especially those sources that use video, and they all do at this point.
The article in Politico The Day We Pretended to Care About Ukraine is what brought my attention to this topic. Insert other images from big disasters; the dead lying in the streets of New Orleans; the Superdome and people with listless children in their arms; large swaths of a city decimated by a tornado; huge waves of water rushing into the streets of New York. All these pictures feed our need for images of disaster porn.
These pictures feed our desire for the visual image of what is happening. Reading news stories is not that popular any more. You can see a headline, investigate a picture or video and get the gist of what is happening or has happened by reading the caption. It is how many get their news everyday.
It is the stuff of water cooler talk for those of us not telecommuting. As emergency managers we can have the same addiction. We are expected to be up-to-date on all disasters and have a working knowledge of what is happening where and some background on the "why." Therefore, we pay attention to disasters.
Let's remember that behind every disaster picture and video there are people. These are victims and survivors who need to be treated with respect for what they have endured. They should not be objects of curiosity or subjects to be studied. They are just people who need help and let's concentrate on that part of our job when we look at pictures and study videos.
We know that we are working to keep these images from being at some point--in our community. When disasters do strike home in our jurisdiction, at that point, the images of death and destruction will be someone else's disaster porn.
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“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” Karen Lamb Isn’t this quote a truism for all of us? What is it that you have been putting off and not working on?
For me it is a book about how to work with others. It should not be complicated, but it seems to be. Another quote from a Governing Magazine article puts it this way, “It may seem like no big deal that people from different entities and sectors try to pull together, but it’s surprisingly rare. In many parts of the country, people from separate agencies or jurisdictions can’t even name their counterparts, let alone maintain ongoing working relationships with them.”
Self-motivation is probably our biggest challenge in life. When the hurdle looks very high we tend to do the easier things in life and work. Enough self-talk, I should just start! And, starting is always the hardest part, isn’t it.
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David Maack, a long serving local Emergency Manager in Wisconsin, was asked to write a section on emergency management for a Wisconsin Counties Association Public Officials Handbook. I had the opportunity to review his submission today and found it to be a nice "job aid" for a local elected official.
No, it doesn't cover everything, but if you make it too long it won't get read and this is only one section in a book with many other topics. As emergency managers we like copying what others do that is transferable and I think this is great information you could take and reformat how you like, make it applicable to your jurisdiction, and give it to your elected officials.
See text below:
Emergency Management For Elected Officials
David L. Maack, CEM, CPM, WCEM
Racine County Emergency Management Coordinator
There is a phrase amongst emergency managers-it is not a matter of if but when disaster happens…are you prepared?
No one wakes up and says, "Today is going to be a disaster." In fact, disasters are unexpected; they overwhelm first responders; and lives, health and the environment are often endangered. At a very minimum, emergencies and disasters are disruptive and often occur at the most inopportune times. Therefore, we need to foster an attitude of both personal and community preparedness.
Each county in Wisconsin is required to have an emergency management program. The structure of these programs may vary by county but all counties have the same responsibilities. These responsibilities are outlined in 323.14 Wis. Stats., which requires that each county board “shall develop and adopt an emergency management plan and program that is compatible with the state plan of emergency management.”
A good emergency management program is built on relationships that have been developed over time. While most emergency management programs are small and have limited budgets, a good emergency manager brings a wealth of experience to the table, as well as a broad network of contacts. They also have the ability to bring together a broad and diverse group of people to focus on the emergency.
Emergency Management is on the frontlines of developing disaster plans; coordinating training, drills and exercises; and educating the public about disasters. Most emergency management offices in Wisconsin are small; and, because disasters are not a daily or even a monthly occurrence, they often go unnoticed--that is, until something happens. Simply designating an emergency manager does not absolve an elected official from responsibility during a disaster.
All disasters are local. State and federal agencies support local operations when local resources are exhausted. The public expects elected officials to be at the forefront of response and recovery efforts. They look to elected officials for direction and reassurance.
Elected officials ‘set the tone’ and direction in the community for prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities. They do so by providing policy, mission, direction and authority. Actions taken during an incident can either help or hinder the desired outcome. Therefore, it is important that elected officials understand what their role is prior to a disaster.
Not only do elected and appointed officials need to be ready to respond to disasters, they should also take preemptive measures to mitigate or lessen the effects of disasters on their communities. While you may not be able to prevent floods or tornadoes from hitting your community, you can lessen the damages of disasters by utilizing tools such as flood plain management and land use planning policies, and enforcing standards that keep people from putting their lives and economic welfare in danger due to unperceived disasters.
Sadly, many communities do not address mitigation until they are in the recovery phase of a disaster. However, it has been proven that mitigation saves money. A 2005 study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council documented how every $1 spent on mitigation saves society an average of $4. That is a pretty good return on investment.
When disaster strikes, response activities are critical and everyone should know their role. The county Emergency Operations Plan and supporting annexes or Emergency Support Functions outline those responsibilities.
In larger disasters, an emergency operations center (EOC) is often established. An EOC is a multi-agency coordination system in which elected and senior officials from various agencies gather to coordinate the overall response to an event. While the field commander manages the incident at the scene and makes tactical decisions, the role of the EOC is to look at the big picture, anticipate needs, coordinate resources and make policy decisions. This frees up the field incident commander to focus on tactical operations.
One of the tools that County Executives and County Board Chairs have is the ability to declare a County State of Emergency. Depending on your local ordinances, doing so not only provides additional powers during the declaration, but also positions the county to request additional state and federal assistance.
It is also important that counties submit damage assessment reports to Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) within 12, 24 and 72 hours. While initial damage assessment estimates may be rough, it is imperative that a plan is in place to accurately document and assess both public and private sector damage. This will help WEM determine if there is sufficient damage to request the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a preliminary damage assessment or if the local municipality could be eligible for reimbursement through the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.
Depending on the incident, recovery may be long term. Clean-up and debris removal could take weeks, if not months. If a community is devastated, the rebuilding process could take years.
In the midst of disasters, typical functions like garbage pick-up, street repairs, etc., are often delayed because those workers are reassigned to disaster response. Depending on the size and type of the disaster, departments such as Human Services, Register of Deeds, Planning and Development, Purchasing and Finance could also be involved, in addition to Law Enforcement, Fire, Public Works, Medical Examiner/Coroner and Emergency Management.
While the public will be extremely patient during the initial few days of an emergency, if they are not directly affected, they expect that government will also provide the same general services that it did prior to the disaster. This poses challenges because staff is usually stretched thin responding to and then recovering from the disaster.
Learning to balance long-term recovery with the day to day expectations of a community is essential.
County Official Responsibilities
Each disaster will be unique, but common threads will run through each. Knowing the types of hazards that could impact your community will, however, aid you in preparing for those emergencies or disasters.
Steps elected and senior officials should take prior to a disaster include:
1. Familiarize yourself with Wis. Stats. Chapter 323. This not only outlines your responsibilities, but it also outlines additional powers that you will have during a disaster.
2. Review emergency ordinances to ensure they are adequate. Define emergency powers and add a provision for declaring a local/county state of emergency.
3. Integrate emergency management into all departments that may be called upon to respond to provide support during a disaster.
4. Ensure that your community’s comprehensive emergency management/operations plan is current and compliant with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
5. Know what your responsibilities are and participate in disaster drills/exercises.
6. Develop and support the establishment of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
7. Develop or maintain a Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government Plan (COOP/COG). In the private sector, this would be similar to a Business Continuity Plan.
8. As a part of your COOP/COG plan, identify alternate facilities in which to operate out of in the event that your primary facilities are damaged or in an evacuation zone. These alternate facilities may be in another jurisdiction if necessary.
9. Develop a community-based mitigation process to implement a hazard mitigation plan. This is critical for receiving hazard mitigation funds after a disaster occurs.
10. Develop mutual aid agreements with other agencies and jurisdictions.
11. Foster the creation of a Long Term Recovery Committee to plan and guide local recovery issues.
Steps elected and senior officials should take during a disaster include:
1. Maintain a presence in the EOC.
2. Consider the need for issuing an emergency declaration or proclamation. This can help position your community to receive additional state and federal assistance.
3. Understand the incident objectives, provide visible leadership and set policy.
4. Exercise sound reasonable judgment and make decisions with appreciation of legal considerations. Follow your unique standard of care.
5. Prioritize resources.
6. Communicate to the public the nature of event, status of community response, and what individuals should do.
7. Utilize mutual aid with neighboring jurisdictions.
8. Promote the timely completion of Preliminary Damage Assessments by individuals and businesses.
9. Document, Document, Document!
Steps elected and senior officials should take after a disaster include:
1. Tour damaged areas and meet with impacted residents.
2. Develop a recovery plan and work with state and federal agencies to secure recovery funds.
3. During the recovery process, consider mitigation projects which could lessen or prevent future damage.
4. Work with the Long Term Recovery Committee to address long term needs for survivors.
5. Participate in ‘after action’ reviews/critiques.
Emergency management is like an insurance policy. You hope that you will never have to use but when you do, you want the assurance that it will be there. If elected and senior officials do not put the time in on the front end, they will spend ten times more on the back end trying to understand and deal with the ramifications of not being prepared.
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My old jurisdiction, King County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has the number two position now open for applications. See link to Deputy Director, King County OEM
In reviewing the job announcement I think they pretty accurately captured the requirements of the position. While the Director is the face of the program the Deputy needs to keep the home fires burning and keeping the administration of what can be a very complex organization humming along. Administrative and budget skills are critical in this position!
Then of course, when the Director is away or "on the day shift" this position will be acting in his or her place and leading the effort in an activated Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) which is what they have in King County.
Read up on the county and check out the region. 39 cities, 126 special purpose districts, 500 locally elected officials...you get the drift! Complicated with lots of moving parts.
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In my interactions with emergency managers there are many who do not personally use social media and are therefore not familiar with the tools and how they might benefit their emergency management program.
There are two opportunities for you to learn more about the use of social media. One is free and targeted at the use of social media in emergency management. The video is a bit "rough" in that there are some interruptions in the program that I'll call "distractions" but the content is still very good. Did I say this is free!
The above Social Media Monitoring Webinar with Patrice Cloutier provides you with some step-by-step instructions on how to monitor social media using free tools.
He starts out the session by providing the five reasons to use social media:
- Validate how your crisis public information is being received and acted upon, e.g. warnings
- Rumor control--know what is being said about the situation, e.g., safe or not safe to drink the water
- Identify calls for assistance from people using social media. I know the purists will say, "Tell them to call 911" but the point is made that "guess what" folks are already using social media to ask for help. You'd better have an answer that is different than, "We don't respond to requests for assistance via social media."
- For businesses in particular, identify threats to your reputation
- Lastly, and for me very importantly, obtain better situational awareness.
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I suppose that if we knew what the next big thing (cloud computing, apps, mobile technology like tablets) was going to be, we'd all be millionaires based on our investments.
Looking at the future there are some that look absolutely fascinating to contemplate. Consider the ones highlighted in the Government Technology article The Next Big Thing
Products and systems highlighted include:
- Electronic Skin--Reading data via contact points on your skin
- Crossbar Memory--a terabyte of data in the size of a postage stamp
- Graphene--"semi metal" conductive to electricity, thin and flexible
- Laser Networks--last mile telecommunications
- Smartphone co-processors--they are always on and not draining the battery
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