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August 2009 Archives
August 01, 2009

A collaborator of mine, Jeannette Sutton recently spoke at the World Conference of Disaster Management in Toronto. Her topic was social media. If you were not in attendance--then the next best thing would be reading this article The Public Uses Social Networking During Disasters to Verify Facts, Coordinate Information

It is the current lead article in the newly minted Emergency Management Magazine web site.

In the article it says, "wisdom can rise up through the crowd." That got me thinking. My idea is, "Wisdom is a byproduct of information, commonly referred to as knowledge, combined with experience." If you apply my definition to how people use social media in a disaster, they are using the information they gather and applying it based on their experiences.

Sounds like "wisdom of crowds" to me! Are you tapping into it?


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August 02, 2009

Redundancy, Redundancy, Redundancy: Am I being "redundant?" I hope so. If there is a weakness in our government plans and procedures it is in the area of business continuity planning (BCP), otherwise known as COOP (Continuity of Operations Planning). A huge weakness is the unwillingness of governments to pay for backup IT facilities and services. Yes, it does cost money. No, I don't recall when we last needed it.

I can tell you that when you do need it, you will be glad you have it in place. With more e-government on the way it will be absolutely vital that you have backup systems in functioning. Making a backup copy and putting it on a disk, then storing it in the same building the main computer is in--is not what I'm talking about. It might not have to be real-time backup, but you need equipment and people in place that kick in when your primary system fails.

The above all applies to the EOC which becoming more electronically wired and vulnerable as we continue to move into the 21st century.


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August 02, 2009

I tell people I'm "on" 24/7/365 except for leap years when it is 366 days. Government Technology Magazine has a good article entitled Blurring the Lines

It talks to social media and how people are mixing social media and work--which I think is the future. Our policies and procedures just can't keep up with the innovation. Then there are the types who only see social media as demon to be prevented, ostracizing it from the workplace.

I'm not advocating that everyone should be allowed on Facebook , MySpace , YouTube and the like. Where would productivity go then? However, I have seen the power of social media to answer questions. Just type a question to those following you on Twitter and you are likely to get a response that can ease you on your way to being more productive.

This convergence of work life and private life is the future. So, if you thought your Blackberry was an intrusion into your personal life--think again. The future is more wired than you ever thought possible. I read recently where 50% of "wired workers" check their work-related email on weekends, 46% check email when they take a sick day, and 34% check email at least occasionally while on vacation.

The above article ends with the quote, "By the time the world is on the same page, everyone will be reading the next chapter." Don't wait to be prompted to do something with social media in your work. Plunge in--even if it is on your own personal time at home.


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August 02, 2009

"Those who ignore the future are doomed to live in the past." Eric Holdeman This quote is a take-off on the opposite, meaning to pay attention to the past. However, I find many people can only see the future by what was, not what can be. Inventors (my father was one) see possibilities, perhaps only adaptations. Every once in a while something revolutionary comes along. The Internet was used when it first started for ordering pizzas. Think of the possibilities unleashed by it so far.

With a mind to the pastâ€"think of the future and what new things can be done. Sometimes it is only persistence that makes things possible.


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August 04, 2009

As is my routine, when offered to install a software upgrade on my computer I did so--then the blogging nightmare began. The software was Internet Explorer 8, and the functionality I had previously had in blogging disappeared. I could not click, copy or paste. I was dead in the water.

Fortunately I had a friend who "uninstalled IE8" as it is called and hooked me up with Firefox as a browser. I was back in business.

This Government Technology (a sister publication of Emergency Management Magazine--and also available in print edition for free) had a good article on the issues with Internet Explorer 8 and why I had issues, and why you and your web site might also have issues. See Get Ready for IE8

As noted, there are other browsers out there. Firefox, Safari, and the new Google Chrome are options that you have.

As emergency managers become more dependent on using their own web sites for distributing and sharing information we will need to become more tech savvy in order to have the most robust capability possible.

Based on reading the article, your current situation/functionality will be dependent on how much foresight the web developer who designed your site had.

Good luck!


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August 05, 2009

If you follow the Disaster-Zone blog at all, then you know I love quotes. I was poking around in some of my old files and found the info below. What would be some good "dead horses" that we emergency mangers "ride" on a regular basis? Think of those and then apply the following dead horse strategies, or ... you could just dismount. I've added 16 to the list below. Anyone else want to contribute to the list?

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. In this day and age, however, we often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buy a stronger whip

2. Change riders

3. Say things like, "This is the way we have always ridden this horse."

4. Appoint a committee to study the horse.

5. Arrange to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

6. Expand the standards to include riding dead horses.

7. Create training sessions to improve dead horse riding ability.

8. Change the requirements, declaring "This horse is not dead."

9. Hire contractors to ride the dead horse.

10. Harness several dead horses together for increased performance.

11. Provide additional funding to increase the horse's performance.

12. Purchase a product guaranteed to make dead horses run faster.

13. Declare the horse "better, cheaper, faster" dead.

14. Revisit the requirements for horses.

15. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

I"ll add:

16. Declare the horse not dead, only tired.


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August 05, 2009

I believe I've stumbled across an important issue in why many governments, organizations and people can't seem to fathom what is so darned important about social media as a new phenomenon.

It has been labeled incorrectly. We need to re-brand the term. If you think about the term life insurance. It really is not about "if you live" it is really about "if you die" or "when you die." Some smart marketing person decades ago said, "Hmm, who is going to buy "death" insurance? Instead, let's call it "life" insurance!" Thus a great marketing campaign was launched.

Now to social media. Organizations see the word "social" in social media and mentally substitute "party" media. Having some of social media being born out of the college world does little to dispel this notion that work must not be associated with something that is only associated with party media.

Quoting from the Puget Sound Business Journal (the only real newspaper I read), "Some traditional business and service organizations across the nation are just starting to dabble in social networking. Still others are content with relatively old-school tools [9-14 years old] such as email and traditional websites." It goes on to quote one organization that I'm very familiar with, "We are not a social network we are a service [organization]." This then is what I call "stinkin thinkin."

I've been toying with new names for social media. Better would be, Mass Media via people to people communications (MMVPTPC)." Catchy, I know--but much more descriptive of what is going on. It is not just people to people communications, it is about individuals being able to influence masses of people in a very singular way, bypassing the traditional means of disseminating information.

Amazon.com just purchased the online shoe supplier Zappos for $800M. One Amazon employee posted a note on Twitter, "Tony [founder of Zappos] please teach us about Twitter." $800M for a company, do you think that social media has anything to do with Amazon's investment--you bet!

Social media is transformational to how people obtain, learn and disseminate information. Perhaps a simple "Social Communications" might be better. In German we might call it VolkCommunications. Call it what you may--check it out, follow the trends, you are already behind the power curve if you are not dabbling in social media.

There are social media applications to be put to good use in emergency management!


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August 05, 2009

NOAA) will move its marine operations center-Pacific operations on Lake Union in Seattle â€" and its 175 jobs â€" to Newport, Ore., beginning in 2011.

On Tuesday, NOAA officials said the Port of Newport will be the operation's new home pending the signing of a 20-year lease. NOAA's current lease expires on June 30, 2011.


The center provides management of 10 NOAA vessels and serves as the home port for NOAA ships including the Rainier, Miller Freeman and McArthur II. The Bell M. Shimada is expected to join the fleet there next year.

The center also provides field support to NOAA ships Ka'Imimoana, Hi'Ialakai and Oscar Elton Sette out of Honolulu; David Star Jordan out of San Diego; Fairweather out of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Oscar Dyson out of Kodiak, Alaska.

NOAA officials said they selected the Oregon port "following a rigorous process involving an extensive review of proposals submitted by sites in Washington and Oregon," said Rear Adm. Jonathan Bailey, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Corps., in a statement.

According to NOAA, services to all of the ships include technical support and management of marine and electronic engineering for maintenance and repairs, operational and program liaison for vessel operations, as well as administrative and logistical support for vessel operations.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said she'll oppose NOAA's plan to move from Lake Union, using her position as chair of the Senate subcommittee that oversees NOAA.

"I am extremely disappointed by NOAA's announcement today that it intends to relocate its marine operations center to Newport, Ore., and intend to fight it ... I seriously question whether relocating NOAA's ships outside of the Puget Sound is really the right move for NOAA ... I'm not confident that all options have been thoroughly reviewed through this process," Cantwell said in a statement.


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August 06, 2009

Eileen Sullivan may be a vanishing breed of reporter. She writes for AP and has had the Emergency Management and Homeland Security beat for a number of years. She has done a nice job about learning and covering our profession. It is a bit questionable as to how much longer that can be sustained with the pressure on major media organizations to cut costs. Fewer beats, more generalists--is my expectation.

With that side commentary, see FEMA to focus on children's needs during disasters which talks to Craig Fugate's emphasis on children in disasters. This is the second item I've seen on the topic in recent weeks.

Watch for an interview I'm doing with one of the commissioners from the Commission on Children and Disasters that will be coming soon (I think) to the on-line pages of Emergency Management Magazine.

Tom Antush shared the AP link with us!


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August 07, 2009

Gerald Baron, a fellow blogger at Emergency Management Magazine is seeking to find out what emergency management organizations are doing with social media tools in their work today. This will be great to find out just how people are creating the new future in disaster communications.

You can participate by completing a social media survey that that will aggregate the responses from everyone, and then he will share his findings back with everyone who participated.

If you are doing something new and innovative--please fill out the survey. I'm looking forward to learning what people are doing.


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