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May 2011 Archives
May 01, 2011

"That which you don't understand or fear you try to kill." Eric Holdeman Why aren't new ideas readily accepted? What causes people to react to change in the way that they do? I think much of that comes from the quote above.

Sometimes not understanding a new concept and fear come hand-in-hand, and I suppose there could be full understanding and no fear or just fear based on your knowledge of what you think will happen when Pandora's Box is opened.

I've seen this behavior time and again. It can be caused by people's experiences or lack thereof. The more you believe something may impact you the more likely is the notion that it could be bad and therefore must be eliminated. Software and technology are the types of innovation that evokes "kill" responses from people. The software we love most and believe in is that which we understand and are practiced in using.

I believe social media is a prime example of something that taps an emotion. It is discombobulating on so many fronts. It runs against all our notions of control and having "order" in the world. It might seem to be an anathema to the Incident Command System (ICS) that tries to bring order from chaos. Yet, I see the people who fear it the most are not users and certainly don't understand the power and productivity that social media brings.

If you are an innovator and want to bring about change you will have to deal with the "kill" emotion detailed above.


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May 02, 2011

Choosing a place to live in order to avoid natural disasters is like financial investing.  Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. 


There is a recent NY Times article and map that shows the metro areas that have the highest risk and lowest risk of having a natural disaster.  This was put together by Sperling's Best Places, a publisher of city rankings.  I think they were smoking dope at the time the lists were compiled.


I'm sure there is data somewhere to support their conclusions.  But look at the map and California!  Check out the risks of hurricanes to coastal communities and places like New York City.  Forget terrorism, when the big one hits NYC is not the place to be.


I pretty much know the Pacific Northwest's hazards like the back of my hand.  Seven of the top eight safest places to live are in Washington and Oregon.  Give me a break!  No the Seattle Fault hasn't ruptured for a long, long time--but the risk remains there.  Those mountains have come from some geological action!  I guess they don't know about the Seattle basin that is caused by repeated earthquakes.  Or, the fact that when there is an event you won't be able to move in the metro area.  Confined in the west by water, the east by mountains there are only three north-south routes through a metro area of 3M people. 


It is stories like this that makes me think that those "worst metro areas for traffic" might be all be poppycock too.


Claire Rubin shared the link to the Story.  Recovery Diva -- you know how to get a guy's motor running in the morning!



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May 02, 2011

The news that bin Laden was killed by a team of US Navy SEALS spread quickly last night.  The US State Department was quick to issue a travel advisory for Americans who might be traveling abroad.  But what about here in the USA?

The new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) will not be used for general advisories so there is no way to issue a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) for potential indicators of pre-operational activities.  The international travel advisory gives the impression that there isn't anything to fear here in the United States.

Bin Laden's terrorist organization was not monolithic and directed from the top.  It might have started that way ten years ago, but today is a loose coalition of independent groups and individuals who act in uncoordinated ways.

With the death of bin Laden we have not seen the end of terror in the world or here in the USA.  Unfortunately, there is more to come.

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May 02, 2011

There was an emergency management job opening in a city earlier this spring that they are now doing the interviews for.  Here's some numbers for you to contemplate:


  • 140 applicants
  • Five had PhD degrees
  • Four were PhD Candidates
  • 36 had masters degrees


That is how the competition is stacking up these days.  Now admittedly many of those applying were not qualified, but it does show how you need to meet the education minimums and that almost always is a four year degree.

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May 02, 2011

Later this month I'll be at the #140Conf NW helping to moderate and doing a session on "Adapting to No!"  Trust me I've had lots of practice with the "no" part in my life.


The reality is that everyone can get in the game.  As an example, I met Jennifer Engkraf from _____ County (you can't be found if you don't use their name :)  Anyway she sent me a link to the blog post that she wrote just today. 


I loved it!.  It was folksy, creative and entertaining--at least to me.  She called out all the issues and reactions she has come up against when it comes to social media.  She even worked in some human sacrifice which is a nice touch when it comes to social media. 


She isn't letting low numbers and odd looks keep her from personally participating in social media professionally.  She's young, she "gets it" and is doing her part.  Eventually it will pay off big time for the people she serves. 


One of her comments is one that I'll address with my "Adapting to No" ten minute session (there will be over 70 speakers in one day).  That is, if you are with a smaller organization you can still go maverick and deep dive into social media and maybe no one will care or even know you are doing it. 


Don't forget to register for the #140Conf NW which you can attend in person or on line.  They have around 900 people registered, 500 coming in person.


See you there Jennifer!

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May 03, 2011

Angry Birds is the most popular computer game out there today.  I'm not a gamer, but we did buy a copy for the iPad and my wife and I got hooked.  Most days I don't play, but when I pick up where I left off--it can be addictive.


What does all this have to do with emergency management.  I had the opportunity to meet some of the folks at LifeGuard who are selling a line of office furniture that is built extra sturdy (that phrase may seem a bit weak in itself) that can protect people in an earthquake from a building collapse.


Their product design is not for just the non-structural items in a room, but an actual building collapse.  While I've shared a photo below of desks holding up a floor in a collapsed school, that was by coincidence.  This furniture is by design.


The Angry Birds part comes in with the video that will automatically play on their web site  showing "normal" office furniture being crushed while theirs survive.  In particular there is one scenario where a wall falls over and falls on the desk.  If you've played Angry Birds you will immediately recognize the scenario.  Anyone underneath the desk (the pig or yourself) would be protected. 


The challenge for the furniture line is in my estimation the price.  It is not cheap and to have that much support it appears "clunky."  The ideal application would be for a business concerned about their employees while being located in an older unreinforced masonry building.  Having LifeGuard furniture in that instance would let you be the pig and win.



May 03, 2011

The existing FEMA training and education system has been around for at least 20 years.  More and more courses were added as there was a new emphasis on a particular hazard or function.  I remember when I was the Washington State Training Officer (STO) and there wasn't even an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) course available.  We designed one and delivered it ourselves out of the need for just such a course.


All this is now changing.  While there are over 400 courses in existence today the curriculum is being revamped.  Now after over five years of work, one of which specifically engaged a variety of external stakeholders, they are close to piloting a new national education system and rolling it out as soon as this coming fall (which might be optimistic based on my experience with the Emergency Management Institute (EMI).


There is to be four levels: Training and Education Levels with defined Competency Areas and Competency Statements:

Foundations (Emergency Management Academy) - training is intended to be the first training offered to new emergency managers as well as professionals from related career fields entering emergency management. Foundational training and education is being proposed as an Emergency Management Academy consisting of 5 courses including a two-week introduction to emergency management. The training will be packaged to permit residential delivery at EMI as well as regional or State delivery.

Specialized - training is intended to explore specialized topic areas such as Mitigation, Prevention, Protection, Preparedness (Planning, Training and Exercising), Response and Recovery. Candidates will concentrate on specific areas with identified training requirements that lead to certifications.

Managerial / Executive - training is targeted to provide enhanced leadership development, decision making and advanced skills in emergency management program management and supervision.

Strategic Leadership - capstone level training that will develop and challenge strategic planners and critical thinkers who serve as the executive leadership of the emergency management community.

The plan is to do several pilots before rolling out the whole shebang.  Standby for official news when EMI finalizes the curriculum and announces the courses.



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May 05, 2011

I was just telling someone the other day that the employment picture is starting to pick up.  I'm seeing more and more jobs being advertised and the economy turning around is the principle reason that the near term future looks brighter.


Check out this Emergency Manager position for the Woodinville Fire & Rescue District in Washington State.  Note the education requirement and how an emergency management degree is now popping up more in job announcements.


Lastly, the other reason the job outlook is improving is what I observed at the last Partners in Preparedness Conference held last week.  The long term emergency management people in this state are all looking older and heavier.  When I look in the mirror I'm observing the same situation.  There is going to be a huge transition in emergency managers in the coming 5-10 years.  Almost the entire crop of existing directors are going to rotate out due to retirement.  So, get your foot in the door, get some experience and the market will be looking really good sooner than you think.

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May 05, 2011

It is not too late to maybe tune in and hear what Craig Fugate and others will say about the importance of Social Media in Disasters 


This testimony will be given to the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs.


The line up of speakers includes:

Panel 1

* The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Panel 2

* Renee Preslar
Public Information Officer
Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
* Ms. Suzy DeFrancis
Chief Public Affairs Officer
American Red Cross
* Shona Brown
Senior Vice President
* Heather Blanchard


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May 05, 2011

Hardly a day goes by that I don't add a contact to my Outlook Contacts database.  It takes time and effort to keep up with my contacts, but I believe in the power of relationships.


To help you on your journey of powerful relationships see these Seven Steps to Networking Success  There isn't anything there that I disagree with and much of what is described in a few short words and pictures is what I tell people to do in order to build their network.  The official title has "social networking" in it, but really the meat and bones of the link is about the nitty gritty of building relationships.


For instance, tomorrow I need to send out five handwritten note cards to people I met this past week.  Where do you get those note cards?  You buy them!  It cost me $680 for a thousand personalized cards.  Maybe you don't need to go that far, but I think they represent quality and who I am.

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