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September 2010 Archives
September 01, 2010

Who do you trust more, the National Weather Service, or the Farmers' Almanac? The winter forecast is out from the Farmers' Almanac and it looks to be a pretty typical winter to me. While we've had some warm Midwest winters, this one looks to be colder.

I'm happy to see "average" precipitation in the Pacific Northwest (which translates into a constant drizzle until the day after the Fourth of July 2011.

As the East Coast gets ready for the impacts of Hurricane Earl, it is our turn to be prepared for our own versions of severe weather in the coming six months.

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September 02, 2010

Generally you see Microsoft running to catch-up with smaller software companies that have "out innovated" them. This time I think that it is Microsoft with their SharePoint software that is maybe about to outflank companies like WebEOC and E-Team.

I've now heard several emergency management programs looking to switch their EOC information management systems from a provider like WebEOC to a self-developed SharePoint solution tailored to their needs. The tools are similar and a talented SharePoint user can set up a solution that works. It also is the collaboration tool aspect of SharePoint that can be leveraged everyday in a regional setting that is very powerful. My previous organization, King County OEM is developing a regional SharePoint site that will share the collective plans of the region plus other valuable information.

If I was WebEOC I'd be looking for ways to differentiate myself from SharePoint. Otherwise their market share is going to be going down.

September 02, 2010

FEMA has announced the 2010 National Citizen Corps Achievement Awards These awards span very large to smaller communities and also individual awards.

One of the success stories of the post 9/11 frenzy to create programs is Citizen Corps. It leverages a fairly unique American trait of volunteerism. The strength so far has been in the training that individuals receive and the awareness and education that is being shared, along with some skills.

The long term challenge is keeping "teams" energized and engaged. Certainly drills and exercises are needed to keep the fervor towards disaster preparedness going in a community. I also think that for the majority of very small cities having a "community team" is the way to go. These can augment first responders, who may be volunteers themselves.

Congratulations to everyone who got a 2010 award. You are doing meaningful work that will pay off in the long run.

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September 03, 2010

I have a philosophy that sometimes leaders have to exhibit what I call "False Enthusiasm." This is when things are not going that well, but we need to remain "upbeat."

Government budgets are going down, down, down. Washington State is looking at a 7%, perhaps 10% cut in state agency budgets across the board. If it had not been for a number of retirements I think there would already have been some layoffs at Washington State EMD, and I think layoffs in the future could be possible. Emergency management is not immune from these budget reductions. Fortunately there have been some federal Homeland Security Grants that have sustained some targeted efforts. For 2012 we can expect cuts there too. I proposed recently to one congressional staffer what those reductions might be and when I said a 50% cut, he did not think they would be that deep.

Which leads me to the jobs piece. If you are looking for a job I think you have to be mobile. If you are a recent graduate--look to the private sector and some of the larger consulting firms in the D.C. area. Another option is to broaden you job horizon a bit. See the job recruitment announcement below. Maybe it is not an exact fit, but in desperate times, desperate measures are required.

Safety and Health Professional
(Industrial Hygienist 3)

Washington State University's Department of Environmental Health and Safety www.ehs.wsu.edu has an opening for a Safety and Health Professional (listed as an Industrial Hygienist 3) located at the Pullman, Washington campus.

This position is responsible for developing and coordinating implementation of safety and health programs and conducting safety and industrial hygiene evaluations. General duties include evaluating work practices and equipment, investigating accidents, recommending hazard controls, and developing and conducting training. This position is primarily assigned to Housing and Dining Maintenance Services.

A Bachelor's degree involving major study in occupational safety and/or health, industrial hygiene, chemistry, physics, chemical, mechanical OR sanitary engineering, environmental science, nursing, medicine, biology, OR related field AND Three years of experience as an industrial hygienist; OR equivalent education/experience.

LOCATION: Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Washington State University is approximately eighty miles south of Spokane and seven miles west of Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho. WSU serves approximately 18,000 students. The surrounding area largely consists of agricultural and forested lands. Recreational opportunities abound in the nearby mountains and the Snake/Clearwater River system.

Apply online at http://www.wsujobs.com The position is listed as an Industrial Hygienist 3. The position is open until September 20, 2010. Questions about the position may be directed to Ed Havey (509-335-5311; havey@wsu.edu).

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September 04, 2010

Depending on the demographics of a region, the number of children from birth to age 18 can be very significant. In King County it was around 25% of the general population. As we look to prepare our communities it is important to not forget the children.

We all want to leverage kids to be part of our preparedness efforts and to get them to motivate their parents to have a family disaster preparedness plan and kit.

Check out Kidz a web site that Washington State put up at the start of this Disaster Preparedness Month. I suppose most of you won't have volcanoes in your hazard list, but here in this state they are an issue.

My only issue with the site is the music. It is constant, repetitious, annoying, etc. I don't see many parents directing their children to the site. For sure it is not elevator music!

I always believe in taking what you can use and adapting it to your own purposes. Maybe there is something there that you'd like to copy.

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September 04, 2010

The nine year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001 is coming up this next week. One of the "lessons observed" from that event was the lack of information sharing between federal intelligence agencies and then also the state and local arms of law enforcement.

Information sharing remains a challenge. The window of opportunity to advance the national ball is long gone. People and organizations have generally dug new entrenchments and are settled back into their old ways--in my opinion. Things are better, but way off of perfect.

Then I see that the Boeing Company is launching a new Intelligence Collaboration Center The good thing about using technology is it takes the human emotions out of the equation. Perhaps it is technology that will help us connect the dots once someone has identified a potential series of disparate and seemingly unconnected events and facts.

I also wonder if they have a new widget or are they just really late in coming to the table? Boeing prides themselves in being system integrators so maybe that is the solution that can help bridge the human connections that still don't exist.

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September 05, 2010

One of the things I like about emergency management is that we touch just about every aspect of public/governmental and private sector activity. We cut a broad swath through our communities.

This then includes the duties of the medical examiner/coroner. We also touch on death itself with victims of disasters and there are many emergency management programs that coordinate search and rescue volunteers that help with missing person searches.

Government Technology has an article on Positive Identification of human remains. Like everything else in our modern society there is now a technological component to the issue. And, as we have seen many times before there is the issue of states or localities each developing their own solution for creating databases for missing persons or remains with no ability to communicate with other such databases. We live in such a mobile society the idea of stand-alone single jurisdictional systems are no longer what the need demands.

Progress is being made, see NamUs.gov for the federal solution. The article did not touch on it specifically, but there certainly could be a social media connection to finding missing persons. They did note that there are cyber sleuths who this type of thing as a hobby. The goal is to have systems integration so that multiple databases can talk to one another and are searchable from one system to the other.

My last comment on this issue of the deceased is that in a disaster my mantra is that you are not dead until the medical examiner says you are dead. Only one spokesperson on deaths and that is the medical examiner. It will save you a whole lot of grief on changing estimates and numbers following a disaster.

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September 05, 2010

"The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and watch someone else doing it wrong, without comment." Theodore H. White

As you become more experienced in life and in skills you develop expertise that others don't have. I think as leaders our goal is to develop people to take our places when we leave an organization moving on to another job or perhaps to retirement.

One of the best ways to help people learn new things is to let them try their hand at it. This then is when the quote above comes in. You have delegated a task that you know how to do and then you see someone doing it "wrong." What do you do? When do you critique the effort? Do you jump in at the first sign of things going off course, or do you allow the person to "get the experience" without help.

One other minor issue you should consider. Might the person doing the task have found a way to do it successfully, but on a different path than one you have followed yourself? Perhaps success is defined by more than "your way of doing things."

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September 05, 2010

Is All Hazards and "Weather Radio" contradictory? Maybe...since I know in this region of the USA we have linked our Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages to the National Weather Service's weather radio warning system so it is truly an "all-hazards" system. It is a neat partnership. The All Hazards Blog by Professor David Wild has a blog posting on the weather radio he uses at home.

And speaking of our partnership with the National Weather Service. Tsunami Ted (Buehner) our warning dude at the Seattle Weather Service Office hosts an annual Media and Emergency Management Workshop There they talk about what's new with technology and what their predictions are for the winter, flooding--yes or no!

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September 05, 2010

Here in Washington State Disaster Preparedness Month is in April. Now it is "celebrated" (is that the right word?) twice a year since the Department of Homeland Security started September as Disaster Preparedness Month following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I know it is traditional to have one month be an area of emphasis. For instance, I can remember that October is Fire Safety Month--because it has been for-ev-er. Just because it has been doesn't mean that it always has to be!

Shouldn't every month be "Disaster Preparedness Month?" Are we sending the wrong message when we have an emphasis only one twelfth of the year? There are efforts that have been done by the Red Cross and other local emergency management programs to have the Disaster Calendar with pictures of beefcake emergency managers (no not really) and a tip of the month, an activity to do, etc. like "update your disaster plan."

I think there might be a better way--I just don't know what it is. When we did our 3days3ways.org media campaigns we always held a portion of our funding in reserve for the window of opportunity that provides the teachable moment. If the moment (a disaster) never happened we'd spend the money down anyway.

See what the national folks are thinking about FEMA's Ready Campaign

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