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April 2011 Archives
April 01, 2011

There is a wonderful article in the Scientific American Japan Faces Up to Failure of Its Earthquake Preparations


There's many lessons to be learned from Japan's recent trio of disasters.  The article referenced above highlights some significant issues--I'll add some more.


  • Scientists do not like being put in a box on what they are "sure of."  Because what they know today, may be changed by events tomorrow.  Science's best efforts built warning systems, tsunami seawalls, and estimated what type of event people and business should be prepared for--they were wrong!  This doesn't mean they didn't do their job, just that nature is full of surprises.
  • Protective measures are good, but they are not what you should base all your preparations on.  Eliminating or improving unreinforced masonry buildings is good.  Is it full proof?  No!  We should not be putting billions of dollars into seismic maginot lines of seismic proof obstacles, etc.  Eventually they will all fail in worst case events.
  • Resiliency in systems is the key objective.  Taking people and critical infrastructure out of harms way will produce better results long term.  It all goes back to mitigation and trying to avoid the hazard to begin with. 
  • In the end, disasters like real estate is all about location, location, location.

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April 02, 2011

Radiation is a wonderful tool for medicine, but few people want to encounter it outside of a medical setting.  This then is the challenge that will remain for months to come.  As long as Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant continues to leak radiation there will be a lingering concern about the levels of that radiation and where exactly is it in the environment.


The first such signal of this impacting the shipping industry was the rejection of a Japan ship in China  You could probably argue all day long about who's radiation readings are the right ones.  In this particular case it could be more political than scientific--who knows!


There have already been many twists and turns to this event with different and conflicting statements being made by plant and government officials.  When it comes to radiation it can only make the "distrust meter" tick louder.

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April 02, 2011

"People are not your most important asset. The right people are." Jim Collins It is said the biggest decision for the small business owner is when he or she has to hire their first employee. Up until then it has been all about them and the brand was evidenced by their personal efforts and personality. Now you are entrusting a significant piece of your success to someone else who represents you.

Hiring the "right people" is critical to your success. My worst decisions have been on hiring the wrong person. Here are a few personal lessons learned:

• A bird in hand is better than two in the bush--ah, not so fast. If you really need to hire someone badly, make sure that you are not sacrificing speed in hiring for quality. If the current candidate pool doesn't have a stellar candidate to hire-don't hire! You are better off suffering through a shortage than longer pain in trying to get rid of a substandard employee.
• Don't necessarily trust the references that are given. I've learned to ask a reference, "Do you know someone else who knows this person extremely well?" Some key questions to ask. "To what degree do you know and trust this individual? Is there anything about their performance or character you would like to tell me that we have not covered so far?"
• If you make a hiring error use the probationary period to first discover it and then take action to terminate the person if they have proven themselves incapable of performing the required duties. Cut your losses!
• As for the previous item, I recommend a one year probationary period for people who have larger projects (planning for instance) to accomplish. Six months is not enough time to appropriately measure their performance.
• Always trust your gut. Even if everything looks good on paper and the interviews seemed great, but there is this lingering doubt, don't hire. Wait and find a better candidate. Trust your gut feelings!

Remember the best thing you can do is to have the "right" people on your team!


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April 02, 2011

They have been showing 3D technology in science fiction movies for years.  Now we have DARPA demonstrating the technology, see DARPA Successfully Completes 3D Holographic Display Technology Demonstration Program  In the news release they state:

"UPSD assists team-based mission planning, visualization and interpretation of complex 3D data such as intelligence and medical imagery. It permits simultaneous viewing for up to 20 participants and is interactive, allowing the image to be frozen, rotated and zoomed up to the resolution limit of the data. The holographic display enables full visual depth capability up to 12 inches. The technology also enables realistic two-dimensional printouts of the 3D imagery that front line troops can take with them on missions."


If you are having trouble imaging what this looks like just remember the movie Avatar.  If you remember there is a scene where they are in the command center and they are looking at the big tree (Hometree), rotating it around to examine how it is structured.


The question is how might we use this for emergency management purposes?  One is specifically mentioned in the news release when they refer to LIDAR being used.  Here in Washington State the USGS has used LIDAR overflights to find earthquake faults that are hidden by the heavy vegetation in this region.  Imagine adding the 3D capability to this so that the results will jump out at you. 


For structural purposes designers could use this to improve the seismic reliability of the building, Urban Search and Rescue Teams would find it helpful to understand the construction of a collapsed structure and how best to enter it.  If it does work with mapping I see flood mapping and tsunami inundation being modeled with it and having a greater impact on the people viewing the data via an image since you could see water height in 3D.  There has to be lots more uses than the few I just listed!


One good example on how military research can be applied to peaceful purposes. Thanks to Rafael Fajardo for sharing this information.



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April 03, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about 3D Holographic Displays and then last night I watched this TED presentation on Sixth Sense Technology  It is beyond Buck Rogers, Buck always at least had to hold something in his hand.


Just think about all the ways this type of technology could be used in your daily lives, at work and yes--in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Imagine projecting a phone keypad on your fingers and then touching your fingers to dial. And, this is evidently not something that is decades away.  I expect we'll see devices showing up in the near term.


If you have never watched a YouTube video this is one to view!  Pass it along to others--I think they will be as amazed as you are.

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April 03, 2011

When you think of earthquakes in the United States, rightly or wrongly we think of California first.  They have had the most "public events" and have paid the most attention to seismic safety.  The Wall Street Journal story California Looks to Update Earthquake Plans has the usual statements from government officials about what's been done to become better prepared for the next disaster.


San Francisco has been in the bulls eye of disasters before and will be again in the future.  One of the things that can help focus attention on disaster preparedness is having external audits of programs.  See this quote from the article, "Another wake-up call for San Francisco came in a scathing Civil Grand Jury report in 2003 that called the city's emergency planning a "catastrophe."  Ouch!  That must have hurt back then to have that assessment.  Since then they have worked hard and had a better assessment five years later.


I liked Rob Dudgeon's evaluation of their recovery planning.  He called it in the "toddler stages" and there isn't a city in the nation ready for the challenges we saw in New Orleans or for that matter Japan.  Usually I call recovery planning as the bridge not crossed.  We never seem to be able to escape from disaster response planning.  Just try to do recovery planning and someone will drag you kicking and screaming back to disaster response--because that is what they know.


As a take off on Rob's assessment, I'll give my own.  We are certainly not in the crawling, walking or running phases of recovery planning.  I'd say that as a nation we are "Sitting up and drooling on ourselves" stage of recovery planning.


Tom Antush shared the link to the Wall Street Journal story.

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April 03, 2011

Communications interoperability at times looks like the Gordian Knot.  We all know by now that the issue of a lack of communications interoperability is not the equipment, but really the interpersonal, or lack there of, relationships between individuals and organizations who are to be coordinating together. 


A future Quote of the Week from me will be on this topic, "All you need to know about communications interoperability you should have learned in kindergarten. It's called sharing." Eric Holdeman


You read the story that was in The Bay Citizen, subject Bay Emergency Networks in Disarray and make your own conclusions. 


Here are a few observations on my part:


  • Clearly there was a lack of planning, and therefore the switch to an IP based radio system.  Which I think is the right way to go, but after a bunch of money had already been spent for old technology.
  • The grant time lines from the Feds can lead to these types of troubling decisions.  The Bay Area asked for the money before they had a plan in place and then had to execute before they understood what they were doing -- so as not to lose the funding.
  • Laura Phillips has a good reputation for running the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).  But, at a minimum there is the semblance impropriety because of her former relationship with Motorola.  
  • The lack of a formal agreement being in place before executing on the contract is troubling.  There is no guarantee of participation in any regional network without that agreement being in place--before ordering equipment.

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April 03, 2011

Washington State's Homeland Security Region 6 (geographic King County) has a new publication that just hit the street.   Its name is Facilitating Earthquake Preparedness: A Workplace Guide  Look for it as a PDF at the bottom of the web page.  If you happen to be in King County they have paper copies ready for distribution.


What's cool about this document is that it is not your typical blah, blah, blah, information on what you should do.  Instead, it is a "Facilitator's Guide" to walk your organization through testing and evaluation of current disaster response and recovery plans.  The interactive nature of this document is what I think is really cool.  Instead of one person getting the document and then trying to convince others to read it, the act of having a meeting/session and walking through the scenarios and "what would you/we do?" should provide for a very interactive session.


The scenario they use is a 6.7 Seattle Fault earthquake which is not a worst case event.  The scenario was prepared about 4-5 years ago by a team of experts and is the best estimate of what might happen when their is a Seattle Fault earthquake.



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April 04, 2011

The American system of disaster recovery is now automatically a Federal issue--or, so states and local jurisdictions try to make it so.  Yes, these are lean years for governmental budgets, yet the system we have evolved over time is to ask the Feds to bail us out when something bad happens--no matter the size.


The event that prompted this blog posting is the California Tsunami Damage Estimate Increases article.  With the next presidential election less than two years away you should expect the gravy train of Federal Disaster Declarations to continue.  Studies have shown that the trend is accurate no matter if there is a Democrat or Republican in office.


The above story says the disaster declaration will save California $25M.  A relatively rich (although almost broke) State like California should be able to afford a $25M bill.  The truth is most states don't have a disaster fund to help cities and counties out when there is a disaster that overwhelms their ability to pay for the recovery.  Uncle Sugar--FEMA is called upon "immediately" to take care of what in some cases should be the responsibility of state and local government and their citizens. 


We shirk those responsibilities.  We buy less disaster insurance because we know that the Federal government will come in and bail us out.  We don't have a disaster kitty because we don't need one.  We let people build in places where recurring floods have happened because there is a system in place that makes the people whole again, and again, and again.

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April 04, 2011

You know social media is going main stream when you have a state director's conference with a boot camp on social media.


See the link above and check out the other links you will find there at the bottom of the article for information on the boot camp.



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