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September 2011 Archives
September 18, 2011

It has been clear to me for quite some time that social media has an immense value in supporting the missions of emergency management before, during and after a disaster.  The early adopters are well on their way to institutionalizing the use of social media in their organizations.  Sorting out the issues of who does what, when and how it is to be done.


Kim Stephens at idisaster 2.0 has another thoughtful piece Social Media and Irene, one NJ Police Chief's experience  The bottom line is that it works!  She calls out the success of fewer calls to 911 for information as one example from another jurisdiction.


Instead of spending all of our time in trying to show the value of social media in disasters we should start figuring out how we will use it ourselves.  There are plenty of issues that come up when you think about what is necessary to implement a social media program.  Such as:


  • Which organization will disseminate information?
  • Who will staff this effort?
  • What social media platforms will be used and and for what purpose?
  • How will the effort be coordinated?
  • What role will ICS and incident command play in social media?
  • What is the interplay between operations and the Joint Information Center (JIC) in using social media?
  • What equipment and connectivity is needed?
  • Can personal devices be used for "official" social media purposes?
The above are the ones that just rolled off the top of my head.  There are many more to be worked through.  Let's get started!

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September 18, 2011

California is a high-hazard state and Southern California has had its share of emergencies and disasters.  There were the fires from several years ago and then lately they had the power outage that impacted the region for days. 


Check out the San Diego Director, Office of Emergency Services position that is currently advertised.  There isn't a specific closing date, but I'd think that the applications are being screened as they come in and they will be interviewing sooner than later.  This particular program is only one of two that I know of on the West Coast that has achieved an Emergency Management Accreditation from (EMAP).

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September 18, 2011

Many emergency managers can relate to Rodney Dangerfield's catch phrase, "I don't get no respect."  We labor in the courthouse basement, try to get people to come to training and talk to the media when we get a chance and the topic of disasters comes up.  Most of the time we live in the shadows of government and the private sector.  Generally we are not sitting at the table with decision makers when there aren't any disasters to be addressed.  We can feel "pigeon holed" as to our function and basically put in a box with the sign that says, "In case of emergency, break glass."


I came across Raising Your Profile article in Public CIO which speaks to the issue of visibility for the Chief Technology Officer (CIO).  Many of the issues and the suggestions for communicating value for the CIO fits well with emergency managers.  The steps include:

  • Share information
  • Don't just tell, show
  • Justify investments
  • Make your contributions clear to executives
  • Find out what people really need
  • Communicate what your agency can contribute
The article is written with the CIO in mind, but read it and translate your own talents, abilities, missions into the suggestions and see if the suggestions can't help you better communicate your value.


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September 18, 2011

“You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.”  Author Unknown  I have been writing and speaking quite a bit about social media which is an example of the rapidly changing world we live in.  If you had been in emergency management ten years ago and then came back without staying in touch with the profession I think you’d be totally lost today. 


There have been organizational changes, terminology changes, and huge technology changes.  The pace of change is not slowing, but heating up to light speed.  It is increasingly difficult for a one person shop to stay abreast of everything there is to know. 


I don’t have any easy answers for you.  The thought to “peddle faster” comes to mind.  

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September 19, 2011

Congressional Research Services (CRS) has put together a nice short (10 page) document, Congressional Primer on Major Disasters and Emergencies in which it explains the disaster declaration process, types of declarations and generally how the system works.


The target audience is Congress and the staff who work there, but the information is applicable across the board.  It appropriately addresses the "fuzziness" of the declaration process and the latitude given to Governors and the President when it comes to declaring a disaster.  


One bit of information I had not realized is that Individual Assistance (IA) grants are now capped at $30K.  I remember when before Katrina they were $13K per household.  


I also like the fact that the "Who is in charge?" question is answered with a short explanation of the principal of Federalism in emergency management.  There is also a section on what a congressman or woman can do to help their constituents when disasters strike their districts.  


I'd tuck this document away and dust it off when a disaster looms, or has impacted your region.  It is an excellent primer for those elected and appointed officials who will be engaged in the disaster process.


Also, see FEMA's list of 2011 Disaster Declarations


Bill Cumming shared the link to the CRA document.

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September 19, 2011

The trend was an easy one to spot.  I've been there myself--wanting to use my personal iPhone for work purposes.  The Blackberry I lug around now for work is little more than a paperweight when compared to the power of a "real" smart phone.  Then there is my iPad.  I'd love to use it at work for work related tasks.


See Gadgets vs. Networks for an article on this topic of the consumerization of the workplace.  Just today I had lunch with a CIO for a county who had just come from a meeting on the topic of letting staff use their personal phones and other "smart" devices in a work setting on the secure network.  An attorney was there at the meeting along with others who are charged with managing the risks associated with blending work and home.  


This mixing of work and "off-duty" is common place now and having the devices that support the productivity gains that can be made from allowing the flexibility of how people do their jobs is making a real difference in people's lives.  


It sounds as though Apple devices, iPhone and iPad, allow for a remote wipe of the device.  Which is deemed critical when someone reports their personal device being lost or stolen.  


This is not an easy issue to undertake and the road ahead is rocky.  But as I say, "If it was easy, it would already have been done."  This trend is going to continue and really heat up in the coming years as younger workers put pressures on the workplace.

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September 20, 2011

The most recent edition of Emergency Management Magazine is now available on their website. See September-October Emergency Management Magazine.


This issue is heavy on September 11th Anniversary and "Are we Safer?"

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September 20, 2011

Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is a tremendous resource to communities impacted by disasters.  The faith based community is also been on the front lines of helping communities hit hard by recent large scale disasters.  They help individuals with all the tough tasks of cleaning up and getting their lives back on track.  There are still church groups going to New Orleans and helping people with their homes.


Another similar resource is Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief organization that focuses on helping people.  While I read extensively on the topic of emergency management I had not come across them.  They are evidently active around the world.  See their USA activities


I'd recommend working to establish a relationship with any local elements of the organization.  I would think if you have an Asian population you probably have the Buddhist followers in your community.  As our population becomes more diverse we need to remain open to tapping all the resources that are available to us.  


Amy Romanas shared this information and the links above.

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September 24, 2011

“If you don’t want to believe what Al Gore is telling you, maybe you’ll believe what Mother Earth is telling you…We’re seeing more extremes in nature.” David Mallory  As we look back on 2011 it has been a year of significant weather events that have preoccupied emergency managers with responding to snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms, and plain old rain.  Many of the above led to significant flooding that stretched from Vermont down to Louisiana and then up to North Dakota and over to Colorado. 


Texas remains in the grip of a very serious drought that fed wildland fires.  I’m sure they would not mind a tropical storm coming up out of the Gulf and dumping a foot of rain on them right about now.


More people are being impacted by weather events based on where they chose to live and then the increase in population density.  This trend is probably not going to end.  Call it the “full employment act” from Mother Nature if you will for emergency managers. 


And, 2011 is not over.  We still have hurricane season to content with and major flood events typically come in the late fall here in Western Washington.  I don’t have any specific insights as to weather prediction, but I believe the trends we’ve seen this year will continue into the foreseeable future.

September 25, 2011

In my mind Twitter was the last BIG thing in social media.  There are plenty of other smaller evolutions since then of new programs, but nothing really big and game changing.  


Google has tried to get into the game with Google+ as an alternative to Facebook.  So far it has not taken off in any significant way.  


The one thing I know is that the social media landscape is ever changing and it will change again.  Something new, different will appear and take off like a rocket as measured by the number of people using it.


Even though we have YouTube, I'm going to guess that the next evolution will be in some way related to video.  More content is being created everyday and I'm think it will be a new and unique way of sharing the video across a spectrum of devices.  


I keep waiting for this something "new" to appear.  It looks like my wait for my new iPhone is just about over.  I'm hoping that the predictions that October is the month for the Version 5 to hit the streets is correct.  I plan on being in line!


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