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August 2010 Archives
August 01, 2010

"Emergency management offices are typically short staffed or no staff at all -just someone with the responsibility but insufficient resources." Wayne Blanchard

I just finished doing a blog posting on a pretty comprehensive list of the capabilities of an effective emergency manager and emergency management program. The quote above comes from the same document, but does not explore the issue in detail.

The reality is we have all these requirements, but no resources to accomplish them. The one person emergency management shop dominates the landscape and anyone can quickly be overwhelmed with all the things that are supposed to be done. So, here are the basics if you are one of those people:

• Learn through reading
• Have a disaster response plan
• Do some training with the people who are going to show up when disaster strikes
• Do one or two disaster exercises a yearâ€"at a minimum
• Build capability through the capacities and resources of others, since you don't have any yourself
• Network, network, network, make friends and not enemies because you will need them
• Ask for help from othersâ€"don't suffer in silence

Like all lists, the one above isn't the be all, end all. But it is a start and if your program fits the quote above, then you are starting with almost nothing to begin with.

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August 01, 2010

Ken Blanchard who is with FEMA and heads up their Higher Education Project at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), has put together a list of the Top Ten Competencies for Professional Emergency Management It is a fairly comprehensive listing of knowledge and those key traits that make for an effective emergency manager. But wait, there is more. Behind that document, if you print it out, is an outline for competencies to develop successful 21st Century hazard or disaster or emergency or hazard risk managers. If you are looking to build a job description or post a job advertisement, this would be a good document to use.

The documents are five and seven years old respectfully. In my opinion little has changed that would modify these drastically. The key principles are there. The one document was updated after Katrina.

There is a "Quote of the Week" phrase in the first document that I will elaborate on in my next blog posting.

What I'd like to highlight here is, "Does anyone measure up to all of these qualifications and standards?" It would be a rare individual who is an emergency manager that does. We are all wired differently with unique skills and abilities, not to mention personalities. This is one of the reasons I say emergency management is a team sport. Super Woman or Super Man does not exist in emergency management land. We need one another desperately. We must have internal teams built, and external teams functioning for us to be successful when disaster strikes. If you are a loner, there is a place for you in the system, but you can't be the leader. The leader has to build the coalition that is needed for success. Generally it is the Type A people who become emergency managers. Boundless energy and optimism that keeps them going every day of the week--weekends included.

Having said that, don't let the daunting lists of what makes for a professional emergency manager deter you. Much of it is knowledge that can be learned and the experience part of it comes from being in the game, getting your nose bloodied and learning from the mistakes that you make.

August 02, 2010

The legislative process is not geared to emergencies. It has taken more than a year for the federal government to pass legislation to provide funding to fix the Howard Hanson dam. It was only last summer that the public and private sectors were scrambling to protect their assets in the Green River Vally. A valley now full of business warehouses and critical infrastructure. There is still danger present because the fix that is needed won't come until 2012 so folks will need to be on their guard for some time to come. Let's hope one of those record flood events doesn't strike King County in the foreseeable future. See the Puget Sound Business Journal article below:

Army Corps Fixing Hanson Dam by 2012

A series of wells and drains should make the Howard Hanson Dam operate at design capacity for many years, removing the danger of flooding in the Green River Valley, but those repairs won't be completed until the rainy season of 2011-2012.

Local and federal government officials and the Army Corps of Engineers, at a press conference Friday in Seattle, discussed the work that will be undertaken starting this fall.

The delay was a bittersweet pill for people in the Green River Valley, who must live through one more season of flooding without repairs to the damaged dam, which holds back water in the valley and helps protect communities such as Auburn, Renton and Kent from flooding.

With backing from Sen. Patty Murray, the U.S. Senate on July 22 approved a bill that included the $44 million in emergency funds needed to make critical repairs. The wells and drains will prevent the seepage through the earth dam that has threatened its collapse.

The funding was part of a supplemental appropriations bill approved by the House, and signed Thursday by President Barrack Obama.

At the press conference, local government officials praised Murray for her efforts to secure the funding.

"Today is great news for Green River Valley," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "You've shown yourself to be a true friend of the homes and businesses of the Green River Valley."

The Army Corps discovered damage to the Howard Hanson Dam after heavy rains in early 2009. Communities stocked up on sandbags; the damaged dam prompted a flurry of evacuation plans and prompted more residents and businesses to purchase flood insurance.

Figures released by the City of Auburn estimate that 12 percent of the state's gross state product is generated in the Green River Valley, and that area businesses employ 95,000 people. Flooding with levee failure would cause $3.7 billion in building related-damage.

The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), for instance, in 2009 built berms around two Kent Valley facilities to guard against flooding. Those won't be removed until the new installation is complete, said a spokesman.

In November 2009, the Army Corps installed a temporary grouted seepage barrier and closely monitored the dam. In March 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers identified interim repairs that would cost $44 million.

So far, the dam has kept flooding in check during the rainy season. But the Corps has warned that it may have to release water to avoid a catastrophic collapse that could send floodwaters as far south as Pierce County.

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August 02, 2010

Disasters and suffering are never easy to watch. There have been several significant international events this year so far. The most recent is in Pakistan where the death toll expected to rise because of record floods.

China has also seen record flooding in recent weeks. I keep thinking about the circumstantial aspects of the adverse weather around the world with record heat in Europe being another example.

It is said that America cannot be the world's policeman, but should we be the world's disaster relief organization? While there are repeated calls from portions of the political spectrum for us to eliminate all foreign aid, I wonder what or who will fill the gap when disaster strikes and we don't show up?

Budgets and resources are finite--alas as the world's only superpower (for the moment) there is an expectation that we will lead. Are we up to the task?

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August 02, 2010

I've seen many different versions of disaster preparedness campaigns that are centered around doing different activities in each month. If this is something you want to use, or just update your materials on the topic see the Citizen Corps 2010 Monthly Themes page.

There might be a new item that you can use to "juice up" your materials.

Peter Grandgeorge shared the link.

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August 03, 2010

One of the things that really energized the consulting and vendor industry was the 9/11 Terrorist attacks and the federal funding that followed.

A great deal of money has been spent (or appropriated) in the intervening years--at least $21B for state and local systems by my estimate.

Today I got an email for one of those vendors, in this case it was VeriCor Medical Systems This is the type of vendor and supplies that we could never have imagined being possible only a decade ago. The challenge is sustaining this effort over time. Most state and local governments, even before the recession, could not afford the operations and maintenance cost for a system like this or many others that have been funded by federal largess.

I recall taking apart many a civil defense shelter supply kit that was stored in basements back in the early 1990s. Will we be doing the same after more time has passed with all the "stuff" that has been purchased in the last few years? One thing I don't think we'll find is morphine in among the supplies this time around.

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August 04, 2010

Snoop Dogg doesn't have anything to worry about concerning three firefighters from The City of Midland replacing him on the music charts.

Do however check out their Fireworks Video that covered safety issues for the 4th of July. So, it is not the smoothest presentation on the planet, but it does show creativity and people trying to use the social medium to get the word out to a generation of people who can be reached with social media.

If more of us try this we'll get better at it and what harm can be done by trying?

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August 05, 2010

I suppose that every state has its own lingo on how to title positions. In this case I'll translate the above job title to Oregon State Emergency Management Director aka Principal Executive Manager (Plans and Training Branch Chief)

If you recall, Ken Murphy left that position recently to assume the role of FEMA Region X Administrator.

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August 05, 2010

While it is not the "Grand Prize" Emergency Management Magazine was selected as one of the nation's top three business publications in their revenue category. Congratulations to everyone there! See announcement below:

Emergency Management magazine was named by the American Society of Business
Publication Editors (ASBPE) as one of the top three magazines in the under
$2 million revenue category in its annual Magazine of the Year competition.

A panel of judges from the B2B magazine-editing world evaluated three
consecutive issues from each entrant, examining their writing, reporting,
and editing; their usefulness to and interactivity with readers; editorial
organization; and layout and design. Out of these, 10 finalists were
selected by the judges, who then chose a winner and two Honorable Mentions.

EM Magazine was awarded Honorable Mention, placing it in the top three magazines in its category. To Editor, Jim McKay, and Associate Editor, Elaine Pittman, well done on your
outstanding work as is evidenced by this award.

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August 05, 2010

See the blog posting in the NY Times In Fire Country

Timothy Egan is evidently a good writer. He paints the picture of what it is to live in the forest and wake up one morning smelling smoke from fires started by lightning the night before. There is this thought of fires being in the distance and the observer being at a safe distance. Two thoughts on what is "safe."

Wildfires can move very fast. They can outrun a bear, which can outrun a man. With high winds the danger that looks at some distance is in reality closer than you think.

He describes the mossy environment of Western Washington. A place deemed safe from wildfire by most people. This again--is not a safe distance. The fire danger in Western Washington comes late in the summer and into September and October. We wait and pray that the rains come before a dry wind from the east turns everything crisp, and there are fuels in the West side of the mountains that dwarf anything seen on the East side. Given that and the fact that there is an "Urban Forest" of homes moving into the interface zone it is a very dangerous place to live. What makes it even more dangerous is that people don't sense the danger. I equate it to the three year old walking along a cliff's edge unaware of the hazard that is close by.

Lastly, I did see the setting sun on the West side of the mountains earlier this week and it was a dramatic and eerie orange color not like anything I've seen before.

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