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by Eric Holdeman: Emergency management in the blogosphere

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March 2010 Archives
March 01, 2010

While we watch television and see crumpled buildings in near and far off lands you should not be too comfortable about the status of our own buildings here in the United States.

See my opinion piece Killer Buildings Here at Home are a "Predictable Surprise"

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March 01, 2010

What is the biggest challenge of pulling together regional approaches to emergency management here in the USA? The answer is the same as it is in Haiti People and organizations want to go their own way and do their own thing, even if means they are less efficient and duplicate services.

Looking for lessons in Haiti's epic tragedy summerizes some of the coordination hurdles that have been experienced to date in the disaster response. Finally, maybe some better coordination is being experienced. The trouble is we keep repeating these same mistakes over and over.

Having been a military officer I understand how the duty rotation puts new faces in jobs all the time. Generally an officer might spend 18 months, or at most three years in one position before rotating to another assignment. The institutional knowledge, when it is for circumstances outside their training, goes with them when they rotate. The only solution I've personally experienced is having a cadre of civilians working within the military to provide the continuity for senior military headquarters.

Claire Rubin shared the link.

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March 02, 2010

This is an excellent article on what is happening now in the print world as it transitions to online journalism. A World without Newspapers (I hope this link works for you since it comes from a subscribed site for me) encapsulates many of the issues going on in the media world.

Emergency managers need to understand the changing dynamics in order to better interact within the changed environment.

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March 02, 2010

Tsunami warnings are like every other warning. They require three elements to all be in place.

  1. The hazard must be detected
  2. A timely warning must be issued
  3. People warned must take protective actions
The Chili Navy is taking some heat for not issuing a warning at some locations on the coast of Chili. This AP Story recounts some success stories and then also the misses.

Unfortunately there isn't such a thing as a perfect response. The Miracle on the Hudson is the closest "almost disaster" that I can think of. It is unlikely that this type of "close call disaster" will be repeated often. Instead we will typically read of heroic efforts, sacrifices and also bungled efforts.

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March 02, 2010

While the news that a mega quake is possible in the Pacific Northwest might be "news" to some, it is what emergency managers have known for decades now. Seismologists have given us plenty of warning about the hazards from multiple fault zones.

And, still people want to live on the coast. Near the water! They want to be on a steep hillside, they want to live in the valley where there is soil liquefaction and amplified shaking.

Sometimes I wonder why I even write about this stuff. The facts don't seem to matter. People feel invincible and willing to risk lives and property to have their dream fulfilled. I figure people like this should be required to sign a statement that they will make no claim for government assistance based on the fact that they are intentionally putting their property, themselves and their "loved ones" at an increased risk for injury or death. We should also stop subsidizing insurance and creating an artificial lowering of premiums that enable people to live where they shouldn't.

I'm feeling less "positive" tonight!

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March 03, 2010

Just recently I wrote about how you need to use disaster events around the world as the "Teachable Moment." This is a phrase that Barb Graff, Director of the Seattle's Office of Emergency Management often uses at times like these when disasters are in the news. Sure enough it ends up as a quote and is the title of the news item.

See Chile Quake a "teachable moment for Western WA This applies not only to places with a subduction earthquake fault off their coast, but just about anywhere. Even if people are living in places that they "perceive" to not have a significant earthquake fault the one-two punch of Haiti and now Chile will have made an impression on people.

Now is the time to write that Op-ed on preparedness for your local paper. Do a news release on what the actual earthquake hazards are for your region of the world--they exist almost everywhere. Get out and do a speaking engagement or two.

These disasters will fade in people's memories, so you must strike when the iron is hot! Many legislatures are in session now. Is there a bill pertaining to emergency management you have not been able to get traction on? Now is the time to push!

Dennis Mileti once said that legislator's attention span to issues like what I describe above is about six months--so don't delay.

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March 03, 2010

This is an interesting idea on an old concept--that has not been used much. Bringing the full capabilities of the business sector to bear during a disaster response.

See Business EOC concept that has been established in Louisiana. I had always sought business representation in the King County EOC. Our biggest success with that was for the transition during Y2K when businesses were concerned with what might happen as the nation/world changed dates to the new millennium.

There were other events that showed the need. The WTO Riots in Seattle caused businesses in the aftermath of that to seek better connections with government EOCs to have improved situational awareness so that they could plan their activities.

Having our regional power company present in the county EOC/ECC when we had a system wide outage that lasted more than two weeks was a huge success for them and for us.

Establishing the facility, staffing and training people who come to the facility would be a challenge. Hopefully they have licked those issues in the short term. With the frequency of hurricanes they may be able to sustain the effort over time.

Post Note: Someone just emailed me and reminded me of how we had planned an expansion area immediately adjacent to the King County Regional Emergency Coordination Center (ECC). One of the concepts was to use it as business recovery center to help with the region's resiliency efforts by promoting a faster business recovery effort. This consisted of a concrete patio (3,600 square feet) that had power and telecommunications connections pre-wired outside for quick implementation.

Tom Antush shared the link.

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March 03, 2010

One of the great events that I've never been able to attend, but that I hear is very good is the FEMA: Emergency Management Higher Education Conference

I think this is a great nexus for bringing experienced practitioners together with the future "hot shots" who are matriculating from emergency management programs that are present now in colleges and universities.

If I was looking to recruit new talent for my program this is one place I'd go and fish for resumes and get to observe these young folks up close and personal.

If you were a football coach and wanted the best talent--isn't that what you would do?

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March 03, 2010

Early in the Chile disaster the damage did not look to be that significant--in the capitol of the country. Now that reporters and others are out along the coastal areas the devastation from the tsunami has become very evident.

The difference from Haiti is significant:

  • There is a functioning government
  • The military and others have had training for these types of events
  • There were seismic codes in place and modern structures fared much better
  • The economic prosperity of the nation as a whole allows the nation to help itself
  • There has been a modern history of quakes that caused government and the people to be better prepared
Many more differences could be listed--but these pop out as being the more significant ones. Interestingly the looting that came in Chile seemed to come much earlier in the disaster.

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March 04, 2010

I don't know if speaking at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Australia will get you a free (one way?) ticket to the conference or not, but they are calling for presentations for the event.

This might be your opportunity to find out how another English speaking country handles disasters. Certainly if you have a wildland fire topic that might be of interest to professionals working there.

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