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November 2009 Archives
November 01, 2009

"In the Movie the Matrix people were not people, only codeâ€"numbers to be manipulated. Leaders who have financial backgrounds have a tendency, like in the movie the Matrix, to only see people as numbers. These "Matrix Leaders" lead by managing the numbers, which isn't leadership to begin with." Eric Holdeman Earlier this week I watched the first Matrix movie again. Leaders need to focus on people and not the numbers. When people realize that they are "just numbers" to be manipulated they will shut down. You can get the minimum from them, but their hearts and minds will not be won for the mission at hand. I suppose there are budget crunchers who can be more than bean counters, but they seem to be a rare breed indeed.


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November 02, 2009

Friday I had the opportunity to sit in on a conversation about the public-private interface. The new DHS Director for the Office of Private Sector Initiatives, Bridger McGaw was in attendance.

He shared that DHS wants to take the public-private partner beyond discussions and what I would call preparedness to "operationalize" it. What that means was not explained, perhaps become involved in the actual disaster operations and recovery. He acknowledged the progress that the Puget Sound Region has made in knowing one another and sharing information. It seems we are still way ahead of many areas of the nation.

Here's my thoughts for DHS and anyone else looking to bring business and government together:

  • Generally if they want to concentrate their efforts it should be in the larger urban areas where companies have a significant headquarters presence.
  • Note that I did not say large cities. Urban areas are more than the big name city itself. Many times the area surrounding the city will double or even triple the size of the city. Large cities are not used to partnering (in general) and want to have things go their way. It is the same with big counties and big business.
  • You need a neutral party, or an entity that functions as a neutral party to convene people and organizations. There will be suspicions for sure, but over time you can build trust by being trustworthy and not having hidden agendas. The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) and King County when I was there tried to do this work.
  • You cannot take a cookie cutter approach to this in order to establish a national effort. Each "region" of the nation is different and it will take a bit of detective work to find out who is interested and who might be that neutral party.
  • Most organizations don't have the staff that can be devoted to a regional effort. That means that people who have full time jobs already will have to do this "regional work" on top of what they get paid to do by their organization.
  • Keeping the effort going will take a lot of work. There must be something meaningful accomplished in order to keep people engaged in the effort.
  • Since DHS does not have regional offices, I propose that FEMA Regions be tapped to help with this bridging the gap between the public and private sectors.
  • To clarify: A region is one that shares a common population and resources. Therefore, I'm not typically talking about multi-state efforts--unless the geography dictates otherwise.
You should not enter into the regional effort without a total commitment to following through. The road will not be easy, and once on it there is no end to the work that needs to be done.


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November 02, 2009

I guess I should say, "one definition of resiliency. Found this one in the current edition of the Natural Hazards Observer.

"Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic structure and function."

It goes on to say, "We all live within linked social and ecological systems...[that] these ecological systems are complex adaptive systems. "

Resilency also came up in the discussions with DHS from last Friday (see the posting from earlier this morning). It is not going away anytime soon. Expect more on the topic from DHS. They want it to be more than just talk. There are larger interdependency issues that include "Smart Growth and Smart Grid."

For me, I'm still looking for the administration to make the connection between resiliency, climate adaptation and mitigation.



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November 02, 2009

One of the areas in which the "new FEMA" excels is in adapting social media tools for getting the message out via this fairly new technology.

There is a nice summary of what they are doing with links at Use of Social Media Tools at FEMA

I think they are poised to take it to the next level and really engage in two way communications with the general public. Craig Fugate as the Administrator is very supportive of using social media and he has staff like John Shea ready to commit to even more to the concepts that open up the agency to an outside audience.

There are still foot-draggers in the agency like any other bureaucracy who "don't get it" but with the top boss pushing the agenda I recommend they get on board or get off the train. Retire, or find another job somewhere to finish your career sending out news releases that don't get used or even read.

Claire Rubin shared the link above.


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November 02, 2009

Hey, if you are at the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Conference, stop in and see the Emergency Management Magazine folks in the vendor area. Marty Pastula, VP for the Magazine and Jim McKay the Editor are both attending the event. Tell them Eric says Hi!

Sounds like they have already given out most of the magazine copies that they brought with them, but you can sign-up for your own subscription on-line at Emergency Management Magazine

You can also subscribe separately to their E-News items

The price is right for both of the above. Free!!


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November 03, 2009

Homeland Security Panel Approves FEMA, Preparedness Bills

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response approved the following bills in separate voice votes:

• HR 3980, which would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify and eliminate unnecessary reporting requirements; to develop a strategy for establishing performance metrics for its grants; and to complete a program assessment for each homeland security grant program.

• HR 3978, which would permit the Center for Domestic Preparedness to receive donations of goods and services that are related to preparedness for and response to acts of terrorism.

• HR 3837, which would prohibit FEMA from imposing limits on how state and local governments use preparedness grant funding to cover the costs of maintaining homeland security equipment.

It is a long way from a single committee bill to adoption and passage as a law but all three of the above have interesting aspects to them.

The words "Performance Metrics" might strike fear into your heart. Performance metrics = accountability for how you are using the funds and what is being accomplished--in a measurable way. Which is not an easy thing to do in emergency management. Remember we are not talking about numbers of people trained (what I like to call butts in seats), but how their training made a significant difference in their performance.

The last bill has been a bugaboo for everyone who has received grant money and purchased equipment. The operations and maintenance (calibration for instance) can be costly to keep up with.

Bill Cumming shared the information on the bills.


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November 03, 2009

This Seattle Times article on the potential for Green River Flooding highlights for me the quandary that people put themselves in--even on purpose in better times.

I recommend that you don't live in the forest, on a hillside with a view, near a stream, river or ocean. I don't want to be a party pooper, but if you choose to live with the hazard--you own the risk and it should not be other people's problems to bail you out.

Perhaps you will get away with it (did I forget to mention volcano) and live for 80 years in the shadow of the hazard (remember Harry Truman of Mt. Saint Helens fame.) He died with his convictions.

We are an optimistic lot--my son and family still want to live in the valley, flood, earthquake and volcanic lahar threats be damned.


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November 04, 2009

This was just shared by Brian Worthy, Public Information Officer
Fairfax County (VA) Office of Public Affairs

I appreciated your Sept. 3 post about regional coordination in the National Capital Region. As someone who works on NCR homeland security, it's true that it's a challenge with three different levels of government, two states and the District.

However, I wanted to point out an example of a nitty gritty success story -- Capitalalert This is a regional Web site that jointly created in the NCR to promote the text alert systems offered by 17 different governments.

It's also example of how locals are using new and social media tools. We're feeding alerts regionally via Twitter@capitalalert, and we're offering Web and desktop widgets.

It's a challenge to provide timely, accurate and consistent information when you've got so many jurisdictions sharing a single media market, but we work together regularly. Capitalert.gov is just one example.

Great example of social media usage and how we can work together regionally. Any one else have a good example of regional planning, training, exercises, social media usage?


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November 04, 2009

There are all different types of face masks available to choose from. Actually it can be pretty confusing for the average citizen to decide what is appropriate for the H1N1 and other types of hazards.

The N95 mask has been touted by many people as being appropriate for medical personnel--but they are not cheap.

Then along comes the Bra Mask. I'm thinking that it might make the DHS list of approved equipment, all-hazard and it is "dual use" so that is an added benefit for everyday applications.

There are always issues to be addressed. Some with this new mask include:

  • Fit testing
  • What about beards?
  • Is pink the only color?
Can the jock mask be far behind? I hope so!!

Steve Quigley found this item and shared it. Note the source is the Chicago Tribune and not Victoria's Secret.


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November 04, 2009

Back "in the day" we know our disaster had "arrived" when we heard it covered in the national news. So the fact that Time Magazine has a story on the Howard Hanson dam is big news and it comes--before the flooding!

Just a few comments on what was written. The odds have gotten better with only a 1:4 chance now being projected for flooding by the Corps of Engineers (I wonder what the Vegas odds are?).

While the flood insurance rates quoted might seem high, they are perhaps the lowest in the nation due to the excellent work done on flood mitigation by King County over the years. The better your county's flood rating the lower the cost of flood insurance purchased by residents of the county.

While they say flooding can happen as late as March, the real danger zone for flooding is the latter part of November and early December. Most floods have occurred during that time period. Typically if you can get through February you are good to go. Snow melt in the spring will not in itself cause flooding.


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