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January 2011 Archives
January 02, 2011

Shawn Fenn read my earlier blog posting on remote control helicopters and forwarded an article on a Florida Police Paraglider Unit that has been testing the concept.


Not that once again it is the low operational cost of maintaining the equipment that makes the concept appealing.  You also need officers who are not afraid of heights.



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January 04, 2011

I've written plenty about this topic already.  See below for another person's take on what you should be doing and his assessment of the job market.  This was extracted out of a LinkedIn discussion group.  It rings pretty true for me.

"I am afraid with dwindling budgets and resources, getting hired in an EM position without sufficient entry level experience will be a severe challenge for the next several years. There are hundreds of well qualified emergency managers that have been laid off and you will be competing with many folks who will take any EM job offered just to pay the mortgage, feed the family, pay the bills. Having a degree may help, but being a college graduate with no experience still may not get you the job. These days experience is what gets you the job in most hiring situations. Most folks do not want or desire to hold someone's hand teaching them the ropes. Some do.

Some want young candidates that will do whatever they are told and jump when told to do so. Just depends on the culture of the hiring agency. Some places can be real burnout facilities that hire and fire year around. It all depends on how much you are willing to endure for a job.

Networking, making connections, and many other recommendations may help. Unfortunately, these days, you need to be able to express that you can "hit the ground running" from day one in the interview, and the credentials, experience, and training to back it up. While it's not a great time to be seeking entry level work, it isn't hopeless either. Years ago I sat on oral boards and interviewed candidates that could barely spell emergency manager and they got offered the job, because there were not many qualified candidates applying. Those days are rare. Today, the quality and quantity of applicants is much higher.

You may be able to intern, if you can afford to work for free. But free experience is good experience, and any experience is still experience. You need to try and be as competitive as you can, volunteer or offer your services in the meanwhile, it certainly cannot hurt you.

As Chris Gaylord stated, seeking employment with a large organization may open more doors, but even large municipal agencies are feeling the pinch of budget cuts and many jobs are frozen once they become vacant due to budget constraints. You may be able to grab some grant-related work, which is usually good for one to two years on contract, but you need to have significant grant experience.

In the interim, you need to get all the courses and certificates you can. Take a course at day at the FEMA/EMI Independent Study online courses, there are many out there, they are free, and you might as well make progress while you wait for the call."

Dave Burns, CEM

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January 04, 2011

Our political process can be messy.  While the other 50 plus state Emergency Management Directors may have elected Dave Miller to be President of NEMA for 2011, Governor Elect Branstad the new incoming Iowa Governor, did not cast his vote in favor of retaining Dave Miller as his Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administrator.


For NEMA this means, "Vice President Jim Mullen (WA) will assume the role of President effective January 14. Per the NEMA By-Laws Jim will appoint an Interim Vice President who will serve until elections can be held at the 2011 Annual Conference."


In the same announcement that Dave Miller was out as State Director, it was announced that, "Brigadier General Derek Hill will become the new HSEMD Administrator and Homeland Security Advisor."


As the song goes, "Another one bites the dust, and another one's gone..."

January 04, 2011

First a couple of facts to share, then a story, then some commentary.


Smart phones where about 5% of the market in 1998.  In 2008 they were 55% and it is predicted that by 2018 they will be 96% of the cell phone market.  Your basic "pocket PC" is going to be with you at all times and be the source of information.  Less of a phone and more of an encyclopedia of information that you cannot exist without.


Since we are "all back to work" following the holidays I had two of my co-workers come in and show me their new smart phones.  They could not stop stalking about how great they are and everything they can do.  Showing off app after app.  Then I asked about their government issued Blackberry?  Both think of the old device as antiquated and worthless when compared to either the iPhone or Android models.  I'm thinking Blackberry should be reading the Nokia tea leaves for what happened to that company's dominance of the market not that many years ago. 


Yesterday there was an NPR radio program that talked about 3D technology  Briefly the gist is that 3D technology is just starting to take off.  The 3D televisions are at the top end of the pricing and there isn't that much content.  All of which got me thinking about how 3D movies have things seemingly flying out at you from the screen.  Coming at you as Mad Hatter hats or spears or ???  The idea was tossed out that it will be probably 10 years before 3D is really main stream.  


When you look at social media it too has been around for a fairly short period of time.  Goldman Sachs just invested $500M in Facebook today--so they must know something. Facebook is valued at something like $50B.   Social media like 3D is going to keep "coming at you" so that you won't be able to ignore it and the expectations of the general public for services.  They will want to be warned, informed and engaged via their smart phone.  As noted by the Coast Guard following the Gulf Oil Spill, there will never be another "big event" that does not have public involvement.


So, look at what some progressive organizations are doing and "adapt the app" for what you think can be done in your area of responsibility. As an example, NYC311 has gone from a one to one response to at one to many using social media tools.  Another aspect of NYC's 311 program is that they are letting employees blog and share information in a "relaxed and informal manner."  Trusting employees to do the right thing with social media--what a concept!


The adoption of the Internet is now being mirrored somewhat by the how social media is being experimented with by government.  In the not too distant future it will be totally main stream.  If you try to stop it--you will be blow away, it's in 3D man, and it is coming right at you!

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January 05, 2011

There is an EnableUS Conference coming to the Pacific Northwest in March 2005.  Details are at the link provided.


This is what one person said about a previous event:  "Hello all! Just found out about this conference, and I am very excited that this regional (WA, ID, OR) enableUS conference is going to be in Tacoma. I had the opportunity to attend one of their initial ones in Philadelphia a year ago, and received a lot of great information from it on high risk populations and emergency management."


The registration fee of $185 is not too bad.  I can vouch for the hotel as being a good one.  Tacoma's downtown has some good places to eat too.


Because of my personal schedule this is one I'll end up missing, otherwise I'd try to attend.  Katrina raise a whole host of questions and issues around people with disabilities and disasters.  We have made some progress, but much work remains to be done.



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January 05, 2011

Washington State Emergency Management Division has a job opening.  It is the one held formerly by John Vollmer, who retired last year.  See posting for their Disaster Recovery Human Services Program Manager


It will be hard to beat John for the passion he had for helping people!

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January 07, 2011

See link to the Director, Support Programs and Emergency Management Ontario


This is not a position for a novice.  I do like how they describe the qualities of the individual and the responsibilities for the position.  Political acuity is not something that everyone has these days.



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January 09, 2011

The Federal government has a huge influence on what we work on as emergency managers at the State and Local levels.  When they choose to provide emphasis to one program area there is a trickle-down affect that impacts all of us.


The FEMA Resolve to be Ready is one such program.  You see States picking up on the idea and promoting it within their borders and cities and counties doing the same.  I've been saying for some time that you cannot have a resilient community or region unless the people living in there are personally prepared.  Lack of a personal disaster preparedness emphasis is very detrimental to your overall program goals.


There are other great programs that can be adapted to your own jurisdictional needs.  One for instance is Map Your Neighborhood  This was started in Washington State and spread to parts beyond our shores. 

Here's a brief MYN overview:
• MYN is designed to improve disaster readiness at the neighborhood level (generally 15-20 urban homes; 5-7 in rural areas).
• Teaches neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before fire, medical, police, or utility responders may be able to reach them.
• Takes just one person to begin this process by inviting the neighborhood to his or her home for a 90-minute meeting, facilitated by the program DVD.
• Craig Fugate, FEMA Director, recently commented that there needs to be something to "fill the gap" between CERT and individual preparedness - we believe MYN fits that bill.

Currently there are 29 counties in Washington State and 30 US states, plus New Zealand who have inquired or are implementing MYN.


3 Days, 3 Ways was the program we used in the King County region.  I called it a "non-denominational" approach.  It was jointly developed and delivered in the Central Puget Sound and also state-wide when funding resources allowed.  A major emphasis was using mass communications, radio, television and bill boards to get that message out to residents of the region.


I am encouraged when I see others, non-emergency managers, spreading the gospel of disaster preparedness.  Patti Payne a business columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal listed, "The determination to finally do something about your own personal or business disaster preparedness." She wrote this in a column on what she'd like people to have in the New Year. 


Lastly, you cannot talk about preparedness unless you personally are prepared for a disaster.  Yes, this means that emergency managers need to lead the way by setting the example for others to follow.  Unfortunately I keep seeing surveys that show that our discipline is not much better than the average citizen in becoming prepared.


Why don't we as emergency managers "Resolve to be Ready" or become ready in 2011.


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January 09, 2011

If you want to have a break through in your thinking on a topic I think you need to get outside of your discipline.  To be innovative you need to look at what others are doing within a discipline beyond that which you do every day. 


We should be looking at biology, history, genetics, politics and yes information technology for new ways of performing our mission.  One example I'll give you on this is the digital communities paper on Capitalizing on Collaboration


The paper's emphasis is on information technology and how jurisdictions are seeking to find ways to cut costs and create efficiencies.  Besides the money side of things, anything we can do to break down the barriers that exist between jurisdictions is a good thing I think. 


Take a peek at the paper.  Maybe there is something there that will inspire you do do something differently.  One thought I had was what if jurisdictions in a region shared a single enterprise wide copy of an information management system like WebEOC?  Maybe, finally, we could see what is happening in the other jurisdiction and become better at sharing resources?



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January 09, 2011

If you have followed this blog at all you know I love the idea of maps and what they can do for you before, during and after a disaster.  They create the picture of what exists and what might be in the future.


While GIS mapping has come a long way you still need GIS techs to help you in building your data sets and creating the layers of information that are useful to you.


Another path is to use Google or bing maps.  A third option is to take a relatively inexpensive software program like depiction and create what you need for your Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  I bought this software months ago, installed it and never used it or played with it until this past week.


I took one evening and went to a users group for novices like myself where we poked around on the system for two hours.  I'm still not much of a techie, but I think if did invest some time in the software I could come up with some useful tools.  They have some data sets included and you can import others from your local jurisdiction (think shape files).


There are probably other mapping systems out that can help you do what depiction does.  If GIS is not available or too expensive/complicated, find something else that works for you. You may become the next Magellan cartographer!

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