Emergency Management Blogs

Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone
Disaster Zone

by Eric Holdeman: Emergency management in the blogosphere

Subscribe via RSS | About this Blog | Contact Eric Holdeman | Ericpedia

September 2009 Archives
September 01, 2009

There aren't many letters sent these days via snail mail. I do send my 93 year old mother a handwritten note every week since she is not "wired" as it is to the Internet.

Craig Fugate must have been thrilled to get a letter from Senators Lieberman and Collins. In it they posed a number of questions, kind of the "How's it coming down there?" I'm assuming that Craig is just now knowing how to get around the building, negotiate all the elements of what he is in charge of, etc.

Check out Questions of FEMA's Unfinished Work on Katrina Anniversary and review how you might respond. Are you completely honest with the senators? Are there things about personal responsibility of the citizenry that you would like to highlight? Might you bring up that disaster housing is a shared responsibility with HUD and ...

Bill Cummings shared the article.


Leave a comment
September 01, 2009

What is your state doing for National Disaster Preparedness Month? See list of activities for Washington State below:

Today kicks off the 2009 National Disaster Preparedness month in Washington. Special events and promotions are scheduled across Washington to focus individuals and businesses on the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies. Events include:

• Governor's Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) Summit live webcast - September 8
• State Capitol Campus Safety and Preparedness Fair, September 11
• A state-wide Drop, Cover and Hold earthquake drill at 10:15 a.m. - September 16
• Business Resiliency webinar to highlighting business preparedness steps - September 23
• Green River Valley Flooding Emergency Preparedness Symposium - September 23
• Wal-Mart and independent retail sponsored multi-county weather radio promotion - September 26


Leave a comment
September 02, 2009

Stacy Cohen Shared the following:

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? To help encourage Americans to prepare for emergencies, both man-made and natural disasters, the Ad Council has launched the Ready Campaign

The goal of the Ready Campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. Ready is nationwide effort to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools.
The campaign asks individuals to:

(1) get an emergency supply kit
(2) make a family emergency plan
(3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses

Your readers also might be interested in using this interactive emergency family plan tool

Check out the interactive map to find out local preparedness contacts for your state.


Leave a comment
September 03, 2009

If you want to know where the most complicated place on earth exists to achieve regional coordination: It is the National Capital Region (NCR) (note that I didn't say collaboration--which is a bridge too far in my mind for such a complex geopolitical area).

The news release below shows some acknowledgement of the complexity. It reflects the interests of senior elected and appointed officials. What it doesn't speak to is the nitty gritty of federal, state and local everyday emergency management and first responder personnel putting aside their internal agency needs to serve the greater regional good. I'm sure progress has been made, but it is a daunting task for the place called D.C.

Secretary Napolitano Discusses Emergency Preparedness with National Capital Region Leaders
Release Date: September 1, 2009

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today met with Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine to discuss coordination on emergency preparedness and response efforts in the National Capital Region (NCR).

"The National Capital Region poses unique security challenges that require close coordination between the federal government and our state and local partners," said Secretary Napolitano. "Mayor Fenty, Governor O'Malley, Governor Kaine and I are working together to build on the substantial progress that has been made since 9/11 to integrate our emergency response plans and capabilities to keep our Nation's capital safe."

"The District and its federal and state partners have made great strides in developing collaborative emergency response plans," said Mayor Fenty. "Today's meeting brings us closer to ensuring a timely, coordinated response to security threats in the National Capital Region."
"The most solemn obligation we have as public officials is to maintain the safety and security of our citizens. That's why we've come together in partnership todayâ€"so that we can more effectively serve and protect our citizens," said Governor O'Malley. "In times when we face an array of new threats to our security not only are our goals interconnected, so too are our most effective strategies for reaching them."

"We've made great strides in the National Capital Region in both improving coordination and creating shared strategies to address potential security threats," said Governor Kaine. "Together with our counterparts in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and the Department of Homeland Security, we're building on the progress we've made in the last few years and taking the appropriate measures to keep our citizens safe and secure."

The meeting, held on the first day of National Preparedness Month, focused on situations that require a coordinated response, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism and public health crisesâ€"expanding on an already strong record of cross-jurisdictional cooperation to ensure that a NCR-wide strategy is in place for the potential impact of H1N1 flu during this fall's flu season.
The NCR includes Washington, D.C., and eleven other local jurisdictions with a large federal presence and a population that moves across the region frequently.

Since 2003, the NCR has received $335 million in DHS Urban Area Security Initiative grants for evacuation; shelter and decontamination; medical surge and mass care; exercise and training; information sharing; communications; and critical infrastructure protection.

Every year, the principal leaders of the NCR meet to discuss collaboration on preventing, preparing for, and responding to incidents in the area.

Tom Antush shared this news release.


1 comment
September 04, 2009

The title of this blog posting will be one of my "Quotes of the Week" in the future.

Gerald Baron's Twitter and Government Communications White Paper is what got me all cranked up this morning. Since Gerald also blogs at Emergency Management Magazine I'm sure he will have a thoughtful blog posting on his findings from the survey he did and the background information that he provided. This is great reading and I highly recommend the 12 page document to you.

I'll add my thoughts here:

  • Some of the responses show a distinct "fear" of the future and new technology. What bold venture would have ever been accomplished without some risk is my question? You can sit back and let others innovate and go home and watch TV safe and secure in your home, or you can change government and emergency management by trying something new. there are explorers, pioneers and settlers. Decide which one you want to be. Personally, I don't mind a few arrows being aimed my way because I'm in front of the pack.
  • The world is changing rapidly. We need to keep pace with the change or we are not only not going to win the race, we won't even be in it. Learning to communicate as emergency managers and drawing information from social media is critical in the 21st century -- that's now people!
Perhaps I've shared this personal story with you before. A reporter once complemented me on my blog and MySpace page. I told him, "I don't have a MySpace page!" I found out that someone had cloned me. Taken pictures off the web, etc. There was a nice layout. I had some "Friends" who were not always complimentary. In the end I was able via Jaime Quick, my faithful PIO at the time to get the site taken down.

This experience has not kept me from being involved in social media. Because it can happen doesn't mean it will, and even if it does, "so what!" Get over it, mount up the social media horse and ride hard for the future!

Thus ends my rant for the day.


Leave a comment
September 05, 2009

Perhaps you saw this one on the national news yesterday--2 Radio Towers in Washington State Toppled As noted in the story, the ELF is claiming it did the dirty deed and the FBI is investigating.

This is an attack on America's critical infrastructure by domestic terrorists. When actions move from spraying graffiti to damaging property there is no other way to call a spade a spade. These actions call into question many different issues in my mind.

  • This attack was on one of our emergency management partners--the media in general, and more specifically KRKO in particular. The media, especially radio is one of our last lines of defense in sharing information with the public before, during and after a disaster. Public warnings are disseminated via radio and the Emergency Alert System (EAS). While I love computers, Twitter, the Internet, television, etc. It is the battery operated radio that we tell people to have in their disaster kits so that they can stay informed.
  • While this action can be taken in isolation and dismissed--I didn't even find it on the Seattle Times main page this morning, we must remember that other players are watching incidents like this and how we react, what we do to protect other critical infrastructure is not going unnoticed.
  • There is more to the story behind KRKO. The key player there is the President and General Manager, Andy Skotdal a personal acquaintance of mine and one of the public-private partners who I value greatly. I'll do a separate profile on him in my next blog posting. He was the key supporter in getting media involved in the King County Regional Disaster Plan.
  • I love my cell phone and can see that with people moving to cell phones as their primary mode of communications that without the use of a land line phone there could be interference with the radio waves. The actions taken do not justify the outcome. I was pleased to see that at least the average Joe Citizen opposing the towers has not been radicalized to that line of thinking.
  • How do you protect "everything" is another good question this incident raises? I can't imagine trying to take down a 300' tower with a backhoe, even a big one.
  • 911 the first line of defense and they are "First Responders" in every way. People know to call 911 and this is an example of how the system should work. Not a successful preventive one, but someone--an alert citizen did take action. We need more people like that who will get involved.
  • In the story you will note that KRKO did not go off the air after the towers went down. They didn't miss a beat because of the business continuity planning they had done to survive any disaster. A lesson for every business to learn. I'm know that they did not envision finding the towers laying on their side due to domestic terrorism. All-hazards planning works!
I'm not the type to see a boogieman behind every door or action. However, it is wise to assess what is going on around your locale and make your own assessment of what your risks are and who might do harm to your property and operations.


Leave a comment
September 05, 2009

It was my birthday, October 26, 2005 when I first met Andy Skotdal, the President, Owner and General Manager of KRKO--AM Radio. We met a a Puget Sound Radio Broadcasters Association (PSRBA) Meeting that I attended to brief the areas radio Managers on the King County Regional Disaster Plan. The plan allows for private companies, including the media to become part of the planning process and participate in any way they deem fit in the planning. It also allows them to help one another when disaster strikes or for the public-private support to occur more smoothly than it might without an agreement in place before the disaster.

Andy introduced himself, and I liked him right away. What's not to like, balding and a guy who wears a coat and tie--he sounds like me. He expressed interest in what we were trying to do and offered to help however he could. He is a soft spoken person, but one who gets things done.

By December 7th of that same year he had lined me up to speak to the Washington Association of Broadcasters Meeting being held at the WAC in Seattle. This was again an opportunity for me to make my pitch about the Regional Disaster Plan and how media were needed to be partners in this effort. How we can respect one anothers "turf" and they don't need to feel that they will be co-opted by partnering in order to make our communities and regions stronger when it comes to building disaster resiliency. Andy was going to be the Vice Chair for the association the next year.

It was shortly after that in 2006 that KRKO became the first media partner to sign on to the plan. As Andy said at the time, "I think this will help you in getting other media companies to come around and sign onto the plan." He was right. I used his "KRKO" has joined in this effort when I had individual meetings with other radio stations. The key news stations in the area became members in no small part do to Andy's advocacy for the effort and the concept of working together before the disaster to make us stronger as a community when disaster does strike.

During this period, Andy was working hard to get his new towers permitted. As a "partner" to him, I provided a letter of support outlining the importance of radio communications when disaster strikes. While KRKO is in Snohomish County, the radio waves don't stop at the county line and neither should our efforts at promoting a more collaborative region--that is why I did it.

It took longer for the television media in the region to come around. By being persistent and with the success from the introductions Andy Skotdal had made on the radio side I was able to finally get the TV GMs all (not a small accomplishment) in a room and have them agree to sign onto the plan. This was in the immediate post Katrina aftermath, but you use incidents like that to motivate people to take action!

Through Andy I built a strong relationship with the Washington State Broadcasters Association. Attending the National Broadcasters Association Meeting in Vegas one year to talk about this idea of having a stronger public-private partnership between emergency management and our private media companies. My last connection was an opportunity to testify to the full FCC when they were in town several years ago taking testimony. It was a pretty hostile crowd at the Seattle Town Hall meeting. I was one of the few people with positive words who spoke about how the media in the region had stepped up to the plate and become full fledged partners in disaster preparedness.

As noted in my earlier blog posting on his new towers being taken down by domestic terrorism, I was at least pleased to note that KRKO stayed on the air due to their business continuity planning. It shows that Andy Skotdal not only "talks the talk" but "walks the walk" as well in his own internal business dealings.

Besides needing to rebuild his towers Andy will need to put together a presentation on how he "stayed in business" because of his planning. He will be in demand at future media conferences, and he would be a good speaker at emergency management conferences too. But first...He has to get those tower rebuilt!

If we had more Andy Skotdals we'd be a better prepared nation, some of the tension between media and government would be abated, and our future would be just a bit brighter. Thanks Andy for being a great private partner and I'm sorry for your troubles.


Leave a comment
September 06, 2009

"The only thing Bill Gates and I have in common is that we both only get 24 hours in a day." Eric Holdeman Time is the only non-renewable resource we have. How you use it is important. You can't buy more time in a day, so Bill Gates and I are even on that account. Time must be allocated to work, family, sleeping and pleasure. I've always had a problem with the priority of these elements in my own life. I was able for years to get by on six hours of sleep, but now I'm trying to get seven. So, I lost 365 hours of productive time a year right there! Squeezing in one more "thing" to get done, bet it prune a bush or post a Tweet seems to be my style, rushing from one task to the next.

The hours of our lives and the duration are known only to God, and so we live in the present. My wife is always saying, "You need to stop to smell the roses once in a while." Good advice on a late summer morning!


1 comment
September 06, 2009

In February of this year I met Sandi Fowler at a National Academies meeting on Cascading Disasters held in California. She serves as the Assistant City Manager for the city of Cedar Rapids and had lived through their disaster--and now still the recovery process.

I encouraged her to write an article for Emergency Management Magazine on their experiences and she followed through. You can read Riverside Resiliency in the current edition, page 14.

The recovery efforts are still continuing and property buyouts are really just now starting to get into full swing. From the sounds of it, they are doing some good things for the city to make it more disaster resilient for the future. Hopefully they will get much of it done before the next storm of the century hits them again.


Leave a comment
September 06, 2009

Who should be EOC Representatives? This is a follow-on posting to last week's EOC Tip of the Week. The question of who should be in the EOC comes up often in most organizations. It certainly might be dependent on the role the EOC performs for the organization. In this blog posting I'll address that role of the EOC as being the traditional hub for disaster response "where things are made to happen."

The answer to the above question is decision makers need to be EOC Representatives. It does not matter what level of authority they have in the organization, they just need to be empowered to make decisions for their department, agency or organization. If the person in the EOC has to always be checking with someone else to commit resources, you have the wrong person present. Get whoever it is on the other end of the phone line and have their butt sitting in the EOC. Yesâ€"easier said than done, I know.

This then is the issue. For people to be effective in an EOC they need to have some orientation to the facility and how it works. This includes NIMS/ICS, but goes beyond that to how you have put your EOC together functionally. How they interact with the other players at the EOC. Being present for trainings and exercises so that some relationships can be established that will survive the heat of an EOC activation.

For the "really big event" you will have to fight people off who want to be present and have never been there before. That then is a topic for another week.


Leave a comment

Latest Emergency Management News

FirstNet Is Seeking a New General Manager

The First Responder Network Authority is looking for a new general manager to take Bill D’Agostino's place and lead the nationwide communications project.
Connecticut Plans to Protect Utilities from Cyberthreats

The plan aims to protect lives and commercial activities against a “mounting threat” from nation states and individuals trying to hack into utility companies.
Storm shelter used by residents in Moore, Okla.
Homeowners Beef Up Preparedness with Storm Shelters

Association estimates that as many as 200,000 safe rooms have been added in Texas and Oklahoma in the last year.

Latest Blog Posts RSS

Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone Global Warming, Getting Better or Getting Worse?
Apr 14 Please leave a note on my grave and tell me what happened.…
Emergency Management Blog - Eric Holdeman: Disaster Zone Quote: On Continuous Learning
Apr 14 Never stop learning. Today that means keeping up with technology.…
Should Emergency Managers Be Change Agents?
Apr 11 Professor Tom Drabek argues that it is time for emergency managers to expand their vision.…


4 Ways to Get EM

Subscribe to Emergency Management MagazineFollow Emergency Management on TwitterSubscribe to Emergency Management HeadlinesSubscribe to Emergency Management Newsletters

Featured Papers

Blog Archives