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December 2011 Archives
December 01, 2011

Progressive organizations are implementing social media efforts in order to use the tools provided via social media to help in their operational efforts and communication channels.  Generally I'd call the effort fumbling, stumbling around trying to find the right approach to getting a social media system in place.  Lacking best practice examples everyone is doing the best they can with a mixture of results.


John Contestabile shared a link to Use of social media in crisis communication which is a 27 page document that speaks to the process of setting up a social media program for crisis response.  There is one little hitch to this and that is that I think the country of experience is Belgium.  So while there is no language translation required you do need to adjust the system they have to the United States way of doing emergencies and disasters.  Page 3 of the document has the "code" if you will.  For instance D5 is their Public Information function.  It is pretty easy to follow (since they have not made it as complicated as we have).


If you are just starting out and trying to organize your effort then this might be a good document to help in getting started, assembling a team and developing an approach to social media in a crisis.  This will not give you the policies and procedure documents, but more the framework to build on.


I believe the document was put together by a private company that picked the brains of the government types who had some experience in using social media for several events.  I looked up the word Kortom which is a Dutch adverb meaning, "in short, summarized, or shortly said."  These are all good words that illustrate the power of social media, especially on Twitter.

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December 01, 2011

Thailand has just had their worst flooding in half a century, yet I've not seen anything in the popular press on the disaster they just went through.


With that in mind, see two articles on the aftermath of the flooding.  Like here in the USA, disasters become political very quickly!


Thai minister survives flood censure vote

Misery lingers for Bangkok's 'forgotten' flood victims

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December 03, 2011

I figured I'd add my own opinion to the mix of reviews being written on the two devices.


Thanksgiving Day gave me the opportunity to check out my son-in-law's new Fire that he had just gotten.  Bottom line is that it is an entertainment device.  Great for all forms of media and for keeping up with your social media.  In his case he only has a work Blackberry so this gives him all the functionality of a smart phone with out the ability to talk on the device.


The there is my iPad1 that I've had for about 18 months.  Much better functionality, larger screen and for what I use it for more productive.  I've been looking for a portfolio keyboard to go with it.  I've tried several in stores and didn't like the touch of the keyboard for my fingers.  I want the "real key" feel.  There is a rubber roll-out keyboard that Brookstone carries that looks neat, is full sized, but I don't like the touch.  The one thing I did read this week was that Microsoft is working on an Office App for the iPad, $10 which would be "sweet."


The deal with the Fire is the price.  You will have to spend double its $199 price to get the entry level iPad at $499. 


Two people are getting devices this year as gifts.  One will get the Kindle Touch Reader and the other will get an iPad.  Since none of my family ever reads my blog posts I don't need to worry about giving the Secret Santa gift ideas away.


In the EOC it is the iPad all the way!!

December 03, 2011

I got the following email from Paige Colburn, an Emergency Manager at Madison County, Alabama.  She had asked a question about Citizen Corps and addressed it to Richard Serino, FEMA Deputy Administrator when he was speaking at the International Association of Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) Conference last month.


She followed up with an email to the people she met at the Conference.  See the text of that below: 


Hello Everyone!

 Hope your travels home from the IAEM conference in Las Vegas were safe and pleasant.

 I’m writing because each of you expressed interest or concern about Citizens Corps funding after I questioned Deputy Administrator Serino of FEMA.

 I’d like to begin a dialogue on this issue. What are your thoughts or goals for the Citizens Corps program? What might we do as a community to support its continuation and fruition?

 The Honorable Richard Serino pointed out that 33 billion was spent to improve infrastructure for search and rescue and communications over the last 10 years. The improvement is obvious all around us. These successes can be furthered in the next 10 years with a financial commitment to community and individual preparedness. All disasters are local. The victims are the first responders.

 The previous ten years were some of the worst budgetary conditions our nation has faced since the Great Depression. Yet 33 billion dramatically improved emergency communications and other response capabilities during these tight fiscal years.

 I do not accept the current financial environment as an excuse to cut Citizens Corps funding; not when FEMA and DHS are adamant about citizen preparedness.

 This is a great opportunity for FEMA and DHS to put the money where their mouth is. I can assure each of you citizen preparedness is significantly cheaper than communications infrastructure or search & rescue training, mobilization and equipment.

 Citizens preparedness is one of the least expensive things we as emergency managers do.

 In speaking with Mr. Serino after his presentation, I learned Citizens Corps funding might continue under a different moniker. I am used to names of programs and funding changing with political agendas. For my part, so long as funding for this critical mission continues, I don’t care what it’s called.   


Changing the name is not significant--if funding the program doesn't change.  Personally I'm not in love with the title "Citizen Corps."  My push is that we should be funding public education and mobilization of citizen volunteers with the same enthusiasm that we have spent millions of dollars on equipment and expendable goods like Personal Preparedness Equipment (PPE) that is now expiring and can only be used for training.  It is a battle that I've fought ever since the homeland security money started flowing in 2003.


One of the issues is that citizens don't have professional associations lobbying for funding for their preparedness like other "professional" responders.  Citizens are counting on emergency managers like Paige to be their spokespersons! 

December 03, 2011

In the category of "what will they think of next" expect to see more places added to Google Maps to tell you where you are -- indoors and on what floor!


See Google's Lat Long Blog   


This same type of technology is coming for 911 systems.  When people call 911 today they are (for the Primary Answering Points (PSAPs) equipped with the Enhanced 911 technology) plotted on a map.  About four years ago when I left King County one of the next innovations was going to be a plot for where they are within a high rise building.


Keeping up with consumer technology is one of our greatest challenges.  Because, what comes right behind the technology is the expectation that government is adopting and adapting to new forms of communications.  









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December 04, 2011

I just read an article from Governing Magazine, State, Local Finances in a Global Economy which provides what some of the influences are on the current state of affairs within state and local government.  Yes, Europe does influence what goes on in Waterloo, Iowa.


They list a number of influencers the first of which is people not spending as consumers.  While uncertainty has held back businesses from hiring it is also making people focus more on reducing their debt as individuals.


The key number in the entire article for me was that state and local governments have reduced their workforce by 700,000 positions.  It is easy to understand that with that size number what it has meant for people looking for work where organizations are eliminating jobs and not hiring.  Here in Washington State the Governor convened a special session of the legislature in December to address a $2B shortfall in the biennial budget.  The City of Tacoma is in the process of laying off police and firefighters for the first time in their history.  We have not hit bottom -- yet.


All of the above is the bad news.  How about some good news.  I've asked a number of people about my premise that there will be a wave of departures from emergency management due to retirements.  Everyone agrees with that prognosis.  I know that if you are looking for a job now, waiting for someone to retire seems like a long wait.  Yet, I heard last week of two people who have announced that they will be retiring in 2012.  I know of at least one other person leaving in June of next year and more will follow.  So, there is hope!


Lastly, if you read the latest unemployment figures for November you saw they went down.  One of the major causes was that people stopped looking for work.  Which was what I wrote about the last time in this space.  The holidays are a good time to step up your efforts.  Less people are looking and you will have an open door from people wanting to do good and feel good in this holiday time of year.  Get out there and do some informational interviews!





December 04, 2011

“You cannot run 24/7, 365 days a year.  You need to take time to enjoy the fruits of your labors.”  John Thompson  Hmm, is he talking about me?  I have to admit that generally speaking, I’m almost always working.  Is that so wrong? 


I get up early, 4:30AM on weekdays, ride the exercise bike and read periodicals and professional journals while exercising.  A quick blog post, off to the shower and then during breakfast more reading, probably one article while eating a bowl of cereal.  Then it is commute to work (I get my news via NPR), generally home by 6PM and I’ll change clothes and see what email has come in while my wife is making dinner. 


Back up to the office after dinner for another blog post, writing an article or working on a project.  The good news is that during the winter I don’t have to worry about the garden pulling me out to weed, water and deadhead.  By 9PM I’m back downstairs for a cup of coffee and to watch something we’ve recorded from TV (eliminates the ads and saves 15-20 minutes).  On weekends I’ll watch a movie at home in the evenings.  I try to be in bed by 9:30-10:00PM.


When on vacation I always take my laptop with me so that I can continue my blogging.  The good news is my wife likes to sleep in, so I can get my “work done” before she is up and ready to roll.


Relaxation for me is not that critical a component or goal in my life.  In fact I slept in an extra hour this morning and I was thinking about what I could have gotten done in that hour.  Now I’m behind!


Tonight is Sunday Night Football on NBC.  I’ll use this time to wrap the Christmas gifts for our family.  Yes, I’m the official wrapper! 


The day will come when I don’t have the energy or health to do everything I’m doing now.  Until that day comes, I’ll keep working!  I'll relax when I'm dead.

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December 04, 2011

Earlier this year I wrote about how applications were going to be the hottest next thing.  Now I see that the State of Georgia has one launched, see Ready Georgia App


Users can create a profile that has information like emergency contact phone numbers, out-of-state contact, meeting place, work and school details.  It also includes real-time hazard and weather alerts and the ability to track what emergency supplies they have on hand.  All of the above is preparedness focused.


During an emergency the app uses geolocation technology which helps determine a user's location in order to provide the location of open shelters and show the flow of traffic on evacuation maps.


The app works with iPhone, iPad and Android devices.  They paid $30K for the development of the app which was paid for by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


The above information was extracted from a short article in the current edition of Emergency Management Magazine.  


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December 04, 2011

On Friday I went to a Resilient Washington planning event where we reviewed materials that had been developed by a number of subcommittees based on a segmentation of the critical infrastructure and other areas.


One of the discussions we had in our transportation group was about where pipelines belong.  Typically they are classified as being in transportation.  As supported by the US Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety website and information.  


I'm sure someone has it all sorted out about when a gas line becomes big enough that it is now a pipeline and no long part of a utility's infrastructure.  For the typical "transportation types" pipelines don't seem to fit well with the rest of the discussions and group members.  


Maybe when they become interstate pipelines they should be considered part of the transportation system? 

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December 05, 2011

Have you prepared your Christmas want list and sent it off to Santa?  My list is a short one for 2011.  All I want for Christmas is one (1) smart phone!


Which, by the way I already have in hand, an Apple iPhone 4S which I love.  In reality I don't need anything new, I just want to ditch the BlackBerry from work that I carry.  It would be so much more convenient to have just one device.  After all, if the BlackBerry is a smart phone it has an IQ of 74!  Compared to my iPhone or a Droid it is a brick, better suited for chucking at people than surfing the web or accessing applications.


Steve Towns wrote about Plugging In and governments testing use of personal devices for work in the last edition of Governing Magazine.  The article provides some hope for the idea of personal devices being allowed at work and for work.


There are details to be worked out for sure.  Security for one, but as Steve points out with more information going to the cloud or on remote servers the device itself is just a dumb terminal that accesses programs and data.  


Then there is the challenge of who pays for what.  I keep seeing more governments shrink the number of cell phones available to staff.  I guess that in itself will convert they system to one that has personal devices being used for work purposes.  I'd be happy just to use one phone and not get reimbursed for anything, but I'm sure there are other workers who want to be compensated.  


Maybe what I need to do is ask Santa to take my BlackBerry and have it run over by a truck!

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