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July 2011 Archives
July 01, 2011

Sometimes Federal documents can be pretty lengthy, hundreds, if not thousands of pages long.  Thankfully the NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR COUNTERTERRORISM is only 19 pages long and I just finished reading it this morning while riding my exercise bike--which is where most of my "fun" reading gets done these days.


Here are a few thoughts that came to mind after reading the strategy:


  • There is a very heavy emphasis on al-Qa'ida and its minions while making a nod to other national and transnational terrorist groups.
  • Words count.  It was noted that we now have the laws in place to take legal action against terrorist activities.  Definitions have been clarified for the differences between affiliates, adherents and associated forces.
  • Key to the document is that while we will be relentless in our efforts we will adhere to our core principles and United States core values.  The end does not justify the means.
  • There are several notations about "building a culture of resilience."
  • What causes terrorism was not addressed in depth, but the recent civil disobedience in Greece gave me pause to think about this issue.  If you look at the history of pre-Nazi Germany, any time there is a group of people who feel "put upon" for lack of a better word they can move quickly from civil disobedience to more violent behavior.  I can potentially see another era of radicalization coming to the United States and own future if we don't put our financial house in order and people become willing to sacrifice something they are "due" in order to achieve long term economic stability.
  • All our international partners don't have the same values we have, but sometimes we need to work with them to counter terrorist threats.
  • Whole-of-government comes up several times.  But no mention of the role of the average citizen in fighting terrorism is mentioned.  That is where "whole community" should come to bear.
  • There is an acknowledgement that you can't "harden" every potential target and it is resiliency that will save the day.
  • I may have read this before, but they wrote, "Integrating and harmonizing the efforts of Federal, state local and tribal entities remains a challenge.  The word harmonizing might be one to use more. 
  • They note a "critical point of departure in saying that the countries and people of Southeast Asia bear the responsibility for addressing the challenges posed by terrorists in the region."  Sounds like we don't want to "open another front on terrorism."

Lastly, the strategy notes the evolving threat of terrorism and our need to adjust our strategy accordingly.  Which is to say, the next underwear bomber maybe wearing Victoria Secret panties, perhaps a thong.


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July 02, 2011

“However visionary, a leader with no followers is just a guy out taking a walk.”  Robert Bell  I like reading about leadership and observing other leaders.  I know that I’m not a perfect leader myself, but I can always improve.  Someone once told me that If you turn around and no one is following you—you are not a leader.  In the military we had annual evaluations that really counted.  There was one report that someone wrote of a lieutenant that said, “His men follow him out of pure curiosity.”

I do think that the leader should cast a vision for the future.  Not everyone will climb on board with the ideas espoused, but those that do will make a real difference.  As you cast your vision, what is it that you want to accomplish?  You can have some short term goals, but the tough stuff takes a while to accomplish.  Shooting for the moon is not such a bad idea.  To end this, here is another quote, “Aim high and you won’t shoot your foot off.”  Phyllis Diller

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July 04, 2011

I read two disaster stories yesterday that were in our local paper.  I normally don't even pick up the paper, but we were outside enjoying a morning bagel and cup of coffee.  My wife had the paper there, so I read.


The most dramatic for me was the one about St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO.  When the tornado struck that day lives were changed forever.  Anyone who lived through it will mark their lives with a point in time that was BT or AT.


The lessons are typical for post disaster analysis:

  • Enforced standards count for something
  • Training and exercises teach everyone what to do without instructions being needed
  • People may not heed the warning, they may not even know of the warning
  • Heroic action can be expected by many thrust into circumstances like these
  • A regional network of facilities helps when disaster strikes
  • Volunteers who leap into action can be a wonderful resource to your community


I'm sure there are more gems to be learned from this event.  Read the story and see if there is one that jumps out in your mind, and leave a comment.


Happy "disaster free" 4th of July--and be safe!



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July 05, 2011

If you are the adventurous type and would like some out-of-country experience this could be something to look at.

Disaster Risk Reduction Program Coordinator

Applications Close: 11 Jul 11

  • Melbourne based
  • 1 Year Fixed Term Contract

This newly created position is accountable for the successful delivery of the first phase of an AusAID funded Disaster Risk Reduction / Disaster Risk Management program, this will include four disaster risk reduction projects in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa, and The Solomon Islands.  In addition, this position will manage a project to provide tools and training materials to support the Disaster Risk Reduction / Disaster Risk Management program. The ideal candidate will have:

  • Substantial experience in working in disaster prone areas and humanitarian situations 
  • Experienced in managing a Disaster Risk Reduction / Disaster Risk Management and/or Climate Change Adaptation program 
  • Experience in developing and managing institutional donor funded humanitarian program budgets (preferably AusAID funded budgets) 
  • Experience in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) including developing frameworks and establishing baselines for programs

Salary $62,879 plus benefits and access to salary packaging. Please note that only applications submitted on our Application Form will be accepted.Download the position description and application form below or contact:
Rachida Hunting via rachidah@oxfam.org.au or 03-9289 9343

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July 07, 2011

Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are pretty sexy disaster subjects, but the most likely hazard you will encounter here in the United States and many areas of the world will be flooding.  See upcoming webinar on floodplain issues.


Date/Time:     July 12, 2011, 3:00-4:30 Eastern time

Topic:              Economic Evaluation of Floodplain Natural and Beneficial Functions

Host:                Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM)

Sponsor:          Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance (NFFA)


To participate in this webinar, you must scroll down to the end of this message and click on the “register now” button or the link below it to register. Simply fill in the information required and follow any instructions to download webinar software. The information to connect will then be sent to you.


This is your formal invitation to register for the NFFA-sponsored July 12 Webinar, the second in our summer series.  Historically assigning dollar values to natural resources has been a challenging and necessary part of doing cost/benefit analyses for water resource projects.  Failure to make the case that natural resources in the floodplain do have significant dollar value has meant that structural projects have been  selected much, much more often than projects leveraging natural floodplain resources.  Now on the national level there is renewed interest in bringing greater parity to the process of assessing structural versus nonstructural project alternatives.  In this webinar, David Baker of Earth Economics and Norm Starler of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources will enhance our understanding of the current opportunities and challenges.


The agenda below is identified as a draft because speakers may add a tweak to the agenda.


Draft Agenda (90 minutes)


  • Introductions (5 minutes)
  • Webinar participation basics ( 5 minutes)
  • Presentations  on Economic Evaluation of Floodplain Natural and Beneficial functions presentations by  David Batker, Earth Economics;  Norm Starler, USACE, Institute for Water Resources  (50 minutes)
  • Questions and Answers (10 mintes)
  • Discussion (20 minutes)




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July 08, 2011

I've found that sometimes I don't realize how good or how bad my state is in various areas of government.  The Center for Digital Government has a nifty interactive map Building the Innovation Nation that allows you to just click on the various states and get some quick statistics, like population, but then also an assessment of where they are in IT innovation, what I'd call e-government.


Check out your state and those of a comparable size and population.  Many of the Western States have lower populations.  Which does not need to limit your capacity to innovate!

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July 09, 2011

Disasters cause people and organizations to need to make life safety decisions within a very limited amount of time.  How an organization functions day-to-day will likely be the indicator to how they will respond during a disaster.


The place to start to set the tone is in the mission statement and the values identified as part of the strategic planing process.  Typically there will be at least one value statement about the employees of the organization and in the case of government, something about the value placed on citizens and their safety and welfare.  This is especially true of governments because they have a public responsibility to protect people.  Just as the Federal Government is responsible for national defense, state and local governments are responsible for the safety of their constituents as it relates to natural, technological and human caused disasters.

How first 24 hours shaped Japan's nuclear crisis is an AP article that gives some specifics on the response to the crisis in the first few hours of the Japan disaster and then the ensuing nuclear radiation event as it was unfolding.  The article is an interesting read.  There are some overt references and more insinuations about how the business leaders for the company responsible for running the nuclear plants thought about their business and how they would describe the incident and react to it.  It appears to me that the impacts to their business reputation and the bottom line guided their decision making, which the article points out was extremely slow. 
Typically this slowness comes from a lack of training of senior officials or confusion as to the priorities of the organization.  Going back to the values statement aspect of organizations.  If you are working to live out those values on a daily basis they will be a good guide and aid your decision making during a disaster. 
I remember the business leaders from the Odwalla juice company who spoke about the time their company experienced a contamination issue and how they faced it straight on (just click on the link to their site).  Their decision making was guided by their mission statement about providing health products for their customers.  It was a short discussion and slam dunk to come down on the side of doing a recall and accepting blame for what happened and working to make it right.  In the end, they survived as a company, even though the incident caused them to have to refinance the company.
When we have our disaster exercises that include elected and senior officials it would be good to bring copies of the organization's mission and value statement to the policy room.  Post them prominently and help those generally short statements to guide the decision making that might "harm" the business side of the organization, but remain loyal and true to the statements written long  before about protecting employees and the general public.

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July 09, 2011

Earlier today I participated on a social media panel at the ESRI Homeland Security Summit in San Diego.  I liked the panel and what the other panel members had to contribute.  Besides myself we had reps from ESRI, FEMA, and Australia. 


One of the questions and discussion that occurred was on the future of social media in emergency management.  There were several comments made about establishing standards, protocols and control mechanisms for how social media is used during disasters. 


It is certainly possible for an individual jurisdiction or agency to establish some internal standards and protocols for the use of social media, but I find the idea of having some national standard that the average citizen is going to follow pretty ludicrous.  Since I love analogies and metaphors I made one up for this issue. 


I see social media as a winding river full of snake bends and oxbow loops in it.  The river goes where it wants to go.  The idea of channeling that social media river is like what has been done by the Corps of Engineers as they have attempted to corral rivers and straighten them out with various flood control measures.  In the end, as we know from recent examples of spring disasters, the river will go where it will.  So will the use of social media by the general public.  There is not putting the genie back in the bottle.  The best thing we can try to do is put a bell on the social media cat so we know where it is at all times. 


Getting the public to conform is never going to happen.  I can use the simple example of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).  It became operational in the mid-90's.  We have had it in active use with monthly tests for at least 14 years.  Still today most people refer to this system as the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) which preceded it.  Now EAS is about to be replaced by IPAWS and we'll still see the general public calling it EBS--ya wanna bet!


We lost control a long time ago!

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July 09, 2011

Many people outside of government don't know much about ESRI the company or the concepts behind geographical information systems (GIS).  Therefore, the name Jack Dangermond is not one that is used around the kitchen table like that of Bill Gates. 


When describing ESRI as a company I tell people it is the Microsoft of the GIS software world.  There are other competitors, but there is only on ESRI.  The first time I met Jack was in December 1999 at the Project Impact Awards in D.C. where he got the businessman of the year award.  What struck me about him then was his down-to-earth nature.


This trait comes out dramatically as he speaks about the principals and values he learned being in the family nursery business growing up.  All of which is described in a NY Times article/interview with him Cultivating His Plants and His Company


I often say that the only thing I have in common with Bill Gates is that we both only have 24 hours in a day.  With all his money, he doesn't get any more minutes than what I have.  On the other hand, Jack and I share a love of gardening and the lessons that can be learned from getting your hands dirty and the transferable lessons to everyday life.  In fact I used to write a column for my church newsletter called Walking in the Garden where I would translate my garden experiences to some connection to a walk of faith.


Putting all that aside, in the interview you will the the rock solid nature of the man who has made ESRI his life's work.  The passion he has is what he looks for in others.  The idea that if you love what you do you won't have to work a day in your life.  Co-workers are just that.  People you come along side of and help them with the task at hand.  I always say I've cleaned toilets and still clean toilets at home.  The janitor has just as important a job as the CEO.  Each has a role to play that if it is not done properly the company will suffer. 

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July 10, 2011

Nancy Evans' quote, "When you're able to tell others what you really want to do, doors will open." is what got me thinking about this as it relates to finding a job.


When I transitioned from my military career to the next phase of my life (20 years ago) I did some serious self-study about what I wanted to do and in what professions.  Before I narrowed it down to (in priority order), nonprofit fundraising, emergency management and construction project management, people would ask me, "What type of job are you looking for?"  My response was, "A good job."  Duh, that's really helpful!!


People can't help you get a "good job" when you have not narrowed your search down to something specific.  Once I did this and I was building my network of contacts the doors started opening for me.  Back then people would hand me newspaper clippings, tell me about someone they knew in business or industry that I was looking at joining and also share their personal experiences, if any, within that line of business or career field. 


Only you can determine the direction.  The more specific you are the more helpful people can be.  If you have not found the book, "What Color is Your Parachute" it has a great section there on identifying what it is you want to do along with many other good job search tips.

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