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October 2011 Archives
October 17, 2011

There is a move to make our lives more effective by capturing the possibilities of mobile technology.  We see this everywhere in the consumer world.  How many ads do you see these days for laptop or desktop computers?  None on TV that I recall and it is only in print publications that I'm seeing them targeted at government organizations.


FEMA has caught the tail of this revolution and has launched Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER) "automates two de facto international standard paper-based seismic safety screening procedures: FEMA P-154, Rapid Visual Screening (RVS) of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards, and ATC-20, Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings. ROVER’s pre-earthquake module is used by field inspectors to quickly compile an electronic inventory of buildings, record important seismic features of a building, and generate an automatic estimate of the need for detailed seismic evaluation. ROVER’s post-earthquake module is used to quickly perform and manage the safety tagging (red, yellow, and green tags) almost universally applied to buildings after earthquakes."


Here's the best part, "The ROVER Server is capable of operating as an online service for the ROVER smartphone client and also a web site for direct access by any web browser. The web site service has also been optimized for the small screens found on a smartphone or on any Internet-connected tablet."  That's right--mobile application!



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October 19, 2011

Whatcom County borders on Canada in Western Washington State and emergency management is part of the Sheriff's Department.  They just posted the Deputy Director - Division of Emergency Management position.  


Note that the first review of applications is October 31st, so don't be dilly dallying around!


Neil Clement shared the above information.

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October 19, 2011

As emergency managers we count on the American Red Cross to be there for us, before, during and after disasters.  They provide an invaluable amount of support to us and to the nation.  


Like every other nonprofit they are going through challenging times.  In recent years they had some major fundraising campaigns to pay off debt and change their operations to fit their operational capabilities.  Significant hanges have been made with chapter consolidations and realignment of resources and services.


To keep them functioning requires an ongoing stream of funding.  One of the things they have undertaken is raising funds via gifts.  Check out their 2011 Holiday Giving Catalog   You select the type of gift you'd like to give and the amount of money you can donate.  There is a range of gifts to select from.  And, there are "thank you" gifts you can get for making your donation.


Many people like to know where their donation is going, and this is an easy way to target your donation to a specific need.  I've found that some people don't want you to give them a gift when the Christmas rolls around.  This is a way to do a good deed, let people you love know you are thinking of them and what your generosity has done in their name.






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October 19, 2011

There are thousands of miles of pipelines in the United States.  Many of them were once built in in rural areas that now have homes beside them.  I even have a high pressure natural gas line about a quarter of mile from my home.  I didn't discover it until I noticed the "wider than normal" distance between homes and then saw a marker on a street curb identifying the pipeline.  


You take aging infrastructure and place it in proximity to where people live and work and you have a dangerous situation waiting to "literally" explode when the circumstances go terribly wrong.  This was the situation in California about a year ago when a PG&E pipeline exploded in a residential area of San Bruno.  The NTSB Report identifies a bunch of failures on the part of the pipeline operator.  


Then there is finally action being taken Senate approves pipeline safety bill to provide additional safety measures in the way of automatic safety shut-off valves.  Thus once again we observe what it takes for us to address a safety issue.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  "Every line in the fire code is written in blood."  We close the barn door after the horses are out.  This is one aspect of our human nature that I don't think is ever going to change.


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October 20, 2011

Crisis response can be complicated for any number of reasons.  For governmental organizations at the state and local level it can be much simpler than for an international corporation with a world-wide organization across many time zones and cultures.  


I was sent a White Paper titled Crisis Preparedness Ins and Outs which provides a simplified approach to disaster response.  The focus in the paper is on internal organizational readiness to respond and to have a communications strategy for any event.  The author Jonathan Bernstein rightly identifies the holes that organizations dig for themselves when they have huge plans, multiple response plans and a "Varied Response" organization that changes with every type of disaster.


He lists four items called "Arrogance and Denial"

  • It won't happen to us.
  • It may happen to us, but we'll be able to wing it.
  • I think I see a warning sign that there might be a crisis brewing, but I don't need to bother the "brass" back at company HQ.
  • I think I can get away with ______ just this once.
The above has a familiar ring to the four stages of denial I've shared previously with you.  
The white paper is eleven pages long.  Maybe there is something there that will help you escape your own state of denial about some aspect of disaster response.

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October 20, 2011

I'm amazed at what people come up with for titles for jobs in emergency management.  I suppose that in HR Land it seems "normal" but for those people searching for jobs in a specific profession it has to be frustrating to know that there are more jobs out there, but they can't find them because of the title being used.


Once such instance (in my mind anyway) is the Administrator Justice Services  It is the first one on the list of jobs for Cuyahoga County (Cleveland).  When you read the job description you will see that it is in the field of emergency management.


Hey, you could go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whenever you want!

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October 23, 2011

Hail storms are not unusual in America's heartland.  Given the right climatic conditions in spring and summer they can be a farmer's worst nightmare.  


I've seen hail the size of peas, but that is about it.  Sometimes on the news they show pieces of hail and now on social media you can quickly determine what is going on with people snapping pictures and posting them on their Facebook page.


But then there is this "mother of all hail storms."  Check out the video UNREAL Hail Storm Oklahoma City  The video lasts for a bit and it is someone focusing their camera on the backyard pool.  Don't end the video after just a few seconds.  Hang in there and you can see for yourself what a real hail storm can be like.


I'm reminded of the water shots I've tried in golf that didn't quite make it to the other side of the pond.  The kerplops shown on this video are much bigger than my golf balls made in the water.


Lastly, think of the cars parked outside.  Dent city!

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October 23, 2011

Doing more with less can lead to burnout and we all have seen the volunteer who flames out and collapses when they have done too much over too long a time period.  For those providing care to others this is called Compassion Fatigue


The first group of people that comes to mind when it involves disasters are Red Cross Volunteers.  They can go from calamity to calamity helping individuals and families displaced from their homes and suffering losses of property and perhaps loved ones.  All of this will take a toll on the serving individuals.  


Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we forget that compassion has its limits.  People need some rotation in job duties and continual deployment to disaster locations is not the best thing for them, their families or the people being served.  Just because someone has an outward appearance of being OK it would be appropriate to dig a little bit deeper.  We all have responded positively when people have asked us "How's it going?"  When in fact inside we maybe hurting, but keeping it to ourselves.  


Leadership requires us to be cognizant of many aspects of our jobs.  The human element is what makes or breaks an organization, so let's be sure and pay close attention to the people aspect of what we do.

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October 23, 2011

The Christchurch Earthquake will undoubtedly leave one lesson in its wake, that being the ATC-20 Post Earthquake Building Inspection system needs to be modified or at lease executed properly with an eye to aftershocks.  


See Post-quake inspections can mislead which gives a bit of detail on the Canterbury Television building that collapsed killing 115 when a second major quake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch five months after the first quake hit the region.  


Unfortunately it takes disasters to refine our response procedures.  My concern is not so much what ATC-20 says, but how the inspections are carried out.  When there are hundreds or even thousands of buildings to be inspected the push to complete an inspection quickly will be tremendous.  This emphasis on speed is not going to change with a change in the procedures.  It will be up to governments and organizations to resist the push to move faster than their teams can effectively work.  


To counter this will require the ability to augment your internal resources with those coming from outside the impacted area.  Having a system to grow your inspection team capability and support their needs will be one factor to avoiding mistakes that can cost people their lives.  


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October 24, 2011

The sentiment in the quote "Social media is for parties. We ain't givin' no parties." is what many senior officials think.  They of course they are the same people who don't know anything about social media and do not personally use it.  


I'm reminded of the story I read about the launch of the first steamboat.  Fulton was about to set forth and there was a crowd on the banks chanting, "It will never go!"  Once it got underway they switched to, "It will never stop!"  Reasoning with these types of people is, dare I say, "difficult."


Pete Piringer sounds like the type of guy I'd like to work with.  His sin was doing things, like using social media and being responsive, that made other organizations look bad.  I say, "Good for him!"  He will certainly land on his feet and his reputation as being an effective communicator will carry him along the way.  


As for the quote above I'll use one of mine in reply, "Death and retirement solves many issues with a lack of progress."

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