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November 2011 Archives
November 01, 2011

The following is extracted from an email I was cc'd on.  It makes the point that without consequences states continue to shift the disaster bill to the federal government and they are not acting responsibly when it comes to disaster mitigation.  I agree with the thoughts below:  


On the other hand, why shouldn’t the States, where all of this risky behavior takes place, be responsible for cleaning up after their actions, or inactions.

If the States had to foot the bill, they might be a little more responsible.

Okfuskee County,Oklahoma, has more Federally Declared Disasters than any county in the nation, yet they don’t even have building codes.

Oklahoma has the 3rd highest insurance rates in the nation, but did not have a state-wide building code until this July.

We are in Tornado alley, yet do not require, for $750 additional cost, homes to be built to IBHS minimum wind-fortified Standards.

As long as we allow/endorse irresponsible, risky behavior, private builders/developers privatize the profits, and pass the costs and damages on to society, what’s the incentive to change?

We’ve tried this approach for 50 years, and our losses just keep climbing.

The disasters happen, the federal dollars roll in, nobody changes or “builds back better,” and we just borrow/print more money to pay for it.

Something is radically wrong with this picture.

If we can’t get individual or local responsibility,maybe State assumption of some of the responsibility is a step in the right direction.

Maybe it’s time for a new approach?

November 01, 2011

There is a National Homeland Security Consortium (NHSC) which is part of NEMA and has 20 associations as members.  


I read a PDF document that shared the top five priorities for each of these associations.  There was some surprising commonality between all the groups.  I did not tally these to determine the list below, but it teases out some of the big ones:


  1. D-Block was a clear winner with an emphasis on the need for more radio spectrum.
  2. Immigration reform and border control came up frequently and not just for law enforcement associations.
  3. Cyber security was one of the ones that had some commonality between the lists of priorities
  4. Consistent funding was listed but not as much as I thought it might be.
  5. Critical infrastructure was listed by a number of groups
Interestingly, it was only the Governors Homeland Security Advisors /Council (GHSAC) that listed "strengthening citizen preparedness" as a priority.  This has to be one of the top priorities on my list!
Last but not least, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) took a bit of "out of the box" approach.  Perhaps because they are not an association, but an institution.  Their list is below:
Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)
1. Acceptance that “homeland security” is a permanent and pervasive component of our culture for the foreseeable future.
2. Prevention of terrorist acts deserves a “whole of governments” priority beyond law enforcement and federal agencies
3. The era of selflessness and rallying to a common goal has waned in the years since 9/11.
4. “All hazards” and “all disasters are local” have become misleading concepts and create division between governments and disciplines.
5. What do we want the country to “look like” after the next attack or catastrophic incident and what is in place to realize that vision?

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November 01, 2011

I keep sharing articles on how communities and government organizations are adopting social media technologies and now mobile platforms to have a better engagement with the public that they serve.  This article, Power to the People gives more examples for what agencies are doing to improve their communications with the ones they serve.  


There are hurdles to get over in adopting social media.  You need the bandwidth, you need a supportive IT organization, you need public information officers who are not afraid of letting go and embracing the change.  Most of all I think we need to change our thinking about the citizen.  I think the thought that is captured below and closed the linked article above says it all when it comes to the emergency management's adoption of social media.  It means we too let go of "control" and become more collaborative with the people we serve.

"Perhaps the greatest long-term benefit of the citizen-engagement phenomenon is that it provides governments with the ability to treat constituents less as citizens and more as colleagues.

'The citizenry actually becomes an extension of our response team in those situations,' Armstrong said. 'That will help us react in a much more rapid manner and hopefully get things back to normal quicker than we would have otherwise.”

November 03, 2011

China is the largest country by population and an emerging economic powerhouse.  They also have significant risks from natural and technological disasters.  As I noted recently here in this blog, concentrating your population and achieving increased density is good for mass transit, but bad for the impact of disasters when they strike that densely populated region.


With the above in mind, see the announcement below on a Chinese conference in 2012.  If you are in the disaster business this might be your opportunity to get a foot in the door.  Remember that in Asia you first become friends before you do business, so you have to do the leg work to establish relationships before there will be a signed contract.  Sorry no web site was provided, but there is a contact name and email address.


The 3rd China International Disaster Reduction and Emergency Service Show (The 3rd IDRES CHINA 2012)        will be held in May 7th - 9th, 2012 at China World Trade Center, Beijing. The great show is Sponsored by Office of the State Committee for Disaster Reduction, National Disaster Reduction Center of Ministry of Civil Affairs, China Association for Disaster Prevention and Trade Development Bureau of Ministry.

The last session is one China activitie during National Disaster Reduction Day, which attracted wide attention from all ranks besides medias. CCTV, BTV, Beijing Broadcasting, People Daily, Xinhua Express, Guangming Daily, Economy Daily, China Daily, China News Express, Beijing Youth, International Commerce, China Economy Guide, Beijing News, China Social News and other medias had been here for interview and report. This show is the biggest one of this field around the world, which covered 12,000 sqrs, and nearly 200 exhibitors participated in the fair from US, Germany, France, UK, Danmark, Austria, Israel, Japan, Singapore, HK-Mocau-Taiwan religon and China Mainland. More than ten thousand visitors come to the show, they are from national authorities for disaster prevention and reduction, local authorities of civil affairs, research & institute, natural disaster organizations of disaster prevention and relief, search & rescue, aid, quarantine and research institute, material reserve systems, purchase dept, overseas embassy, and China Rep of UN.

The 3rd show is also a comprehensive exposition with the theme of disaster protection, reduction and emergency, hi-tech characteristic, the purpose is to provide an open platform for disaster reduction and emergency industry. Recently, China allots ten billions yuan to procure disaster reduction equipment and products every year, which means government’s great attention to Chinese disaster reduction affair, we hope more and more dealers come here to improve the national disaster reduction and emergency affairs.     

  We sincerely invite overseas science and research units, maufactures, dealers, agencies , users and relevant industries to come here. We wish to offer more wider stage to exhibitors and help them to learn the newest technique development, meet new & old customers and make more businese opportunities.

If you are engaged in the follwing industry, you shoudn’t miss the fair.

1. Disaster Forecast and Inspection

2. Disaster Assistance Tech and Equipment

3. Emergency Security Equipment

4. Emergency First-aid and Quarantine

5. Emergency Rescue

6. Consulting Agencies

7. Relief Material Reserves and Public Disaster Reduction and Emergency Service

8. Safety Potection Tech and Equipment

9. Advanced technology of disaster prevention and relief

For more details, please feel free to see the attached or directly contact John Zhang.


Overseas Business: John Zhang           Chinese Name: Zhang Lei (张磊)

Mobile: 86 +130 5163 6976              E-mail: ecidrea@yahoo.cn

Tel: 86 +(0)10-8329 4491                

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November 03, 2011

Almost every day I'm seeing a professional article or news item on cyber security.  This is not because of some event that has focused the spotlight on the topic, rather it is the realization that our risks are increasing.


See these two items.  One is an article quoting DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on the increasing risks of cyber attacks Napolitano Gives Rundown on U.S. Cybersecurity Efforts and then there was an NPR story on yesterday's Morning Edition Program Stuxnet Raises 'Blowback' Risk in Cyberwar



Two big takeaways for me is that in the Napolitano article she says we don't know where these cyber attacks that probe America's government and industrial base are coming from.  It is hard to counter when you don't know the source.  Then in the NPR story there is some background on the Stuxnet virus we (or someone else, Israel?) unleashed on Iran's nuke program.  It goes on to illustrate the risks to our computer systems that control power, water and just about every other modern process.


The only peace I get out of the above is that for the profession of emergency management we are concerned with the consequences and that, however bad they are, is something we are trained to manage.  As we ourselves as a profession become more technologically dependent we too can become a target for attacks.  This is not a reason to run away from technology, but we need to keep our eyes wide open and maintain those white boards in our Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) as a backup to digital display and information systems. 




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November 04, 2011

One of the challenges I think we have in getting the engines of social media running in government is that we are working with a bunch of "Digital Immigrants" who are decision makers and who hold the purse strings.   A "Digital Immigrant" is the opposite of a "Digital Native."  The era they grew up in had TVs with knobs and tubes.  I remember going down to the drug store with my dad to put different tubes from the TV in this tester thing to find the bad tube and then buy a new one.  All you immigrants out there can relate to that story.  For a Digital Native it is beyond their imagination.  


For explaining the usefulness of social media to Digital Immigrants I can think of no better tool than examples of what other communities and agencies are doing.  They may poo poo the idea in the board room, but they also don't want to be left behind or look backwards.  The mindset is that of settlers versus pioneers.  Pioneers are the ones who had arrows in their back and they don't want to end up that way.  But, they may be willing to be settlers in social media and build on the success of the pioneers.  Or, they may want to stay in the old country and wag their heads at anyone wanting to make the digital journey.


To help in the endeavor of providing those examples you need to check out Citizen 2.0 which has 17 examples of social media and government innovation.  Some of these you may have heard of before, but there are others I'm sure you have not read about.  


Print out a nice color copy of the document and attach a note and put it in a decision makers "In Box" should such a physical thing still exist.

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November 05, 2011

Some people decry the revolution in communications that social media is bringing to society.  This change is impacting families, governments, education, business, media, entertainment, etc.  You cannot box yourself out of social media and remain effective in communicating with the people of the world in this new era.  


Jeff Pulver had a great interview at one of this #140 Conferences, this one being in Israel.  I encourage you to watch and listen to what he has to say about the new and dynamic way in which people are communicating and becoming connected with one another.  Interestingly, he is a big advocate for the physical hug.  That most personal of all connections that goes beyond the handshake.  We can be personal and connect electronically.  Why not do both!


It is a very small thing, but what would it mean to be a pen pal in the 21st century?  How difficult might it be to connect with someone half way around the world?  Not difficult at all!  You might start with email, but communications for the digital natives joining the workplace means social media.  


It is wonderful and challenging at the same time.  We must continue to hug in person and communicate digitally.


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November 06, 2011

Someone sent me a copy of an email that COMCAST sent to her concerning the National EAS Test and issues that might be encountered.  Read below:


"On Wednesday, November 9 at 2 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct the nation's first ever Emergency Alert System (EAS) test. The purpose of this test is to help determine if the national-level system will work as designed, should officials ever need to send a national alert.

This test will last approximately three minutes and will be seen on all local, cable, and satellite TV stations across the country, as well as radio.

Here's What You Should Know

Your Comcast programming will be temporarily interrupted. However, as soon as the test ends, you will be returned to your regularly scheduled programming. While we do not anticipate an interruption in your service, in some rare cases, you may need to:


Use your remote to channel up and then channel down or power down your box to fully restore programming after the test completes.



Any DVR recordings that are in progress during this test will be interrupted, and in some cases, lost.



If you experience the Emergency Alert System message for more than five minutes, please do the following:

Power-cycle your cable box by unplugging the power cord from the outlet



Wait thirty seconds and then plug it back in

The guide data and Video On Demand content will take a period of time to fully restore. Please wait 20 minutes before choosing Video On Demand as this might result in other errors with your box."


I'm thinking there could be some really ticked off people when their system gets screwed up.  It seems to me that these compatibility issues should not exist at this late date in the era of the implementation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).  


Stand-by for "citizen outrage" when their favorite program is not recorded!

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November 06, 2011

I think I've been blogging about the use of social media for emergency management for about three years.  We have certainly made progress in the profession beginning to use social media tools.  The early adopters are certainly on board.  


Now there is a nice compendium, a bibliography if you will,of writings on the topic that Kim Stephens has at her blog site idisaster 2.0.  See her social media Bibliography 


And, a teaser for you you.  Stay tuned for the release of another document that coming out this Friday.  I'll be blogging on a portion of the document.  My topic will be about how social media can bring the entire community into the fold for disaster preparedness, response and recovery.  A link to the paper will be provided.  

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November 06, 2011

Stephanie Jo Kent, a Doctoral Candidate, Communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst USA has asked for our help.  See her request below.  

"May I ask each of you to help me right now spread the news about a research of the upcoming test of the Emergency Alert System to assess effectiveness of reaching the Deaf community?  Two blogpost links below explain more and a vlog (in American Sign Language) will follow this afternoon.

I'm using a technology called DiscoverText, a public comment aggregator/analysis tool, to collect Tweets with the hashtags #demx  Deaf EMergency X and #smem. 

The idea is to get as many staff, volunteers and all first responders to tweet about all activities related to communicating with Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing persons before, during or because of the EAS Test. 

Deaf Tweet-to-Teach Emergency Responders
Deaf Eye: Do Emergency  Warnings Catch Yours?

Simultaneously, we're campaigning to get the Deaf community to Tweet when, how, where they learn of the test, and if the communication they receive is clear, understandable, etc.

I'll be grateful for any help you can provide in spreading the word and recruiting participants!"


Any time that we can add to the knowledge base for our profession we should do so.  If you are doing something with this special needs community, share it with Stephanie Jo Kent via Twitter.

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