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October 2011 Archives
October 02, 2011

Ten years ago you were cutting edge if you had a website as an emergency management agency.  Today the bar has moved a bit higher and to be called "cutting edge" I'd say you would have to be working on fielding a mobile application (app).

 

See iPhone or Android? Governments Ponder App Development Strategies for an article on what governments are doing with application development.  Boston has had the clear lead with mobile apps.  As the article notes, they are targeting information that people would want to access when they are "on the move."

 

What is causing this technology shift is the fielding and adoption of mobile devices, both smart phones and tablet computers.  Personally I'm getting antsy to get the new iPhone 5 being announced on Monday.  My iPhone 3GS is getting a bit long-in-the tooth, slow and I'm ready for that upgrade.  I've waited to get the latest and greatest since in 6-12 months is will be once again "outdated."

 

While Boston has a 311 app, mobile applications would be a good emergency management and disaster tool.  Think of the possibilities:

  • Evacuation routes
  • Shelter locations
  • Warning
  • Transportation blockages
  • How to help
  • Where to donate
  • Reporting and documenting damages
  • Situational awareness

 

The above are only a few items off the top of my head--I'm sure there are many more.  I read a report on the use of Web 2.0 technology (sorry could not find a web link) being used for the National Level Exercise (NLE) held earlier this year.  There are huge benefits to tapping into technology.

 

If you have not done so already, take your IT Director to lunch or coffee and start having that conversation about adopting Web 2.0 tools for emergency management.


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October 02, 2011

What I liked about the Target Capabilities List (TCL) and the Universal Task List (UTL) was that they gave us some doctrine behind the discipline of emergency management.  The UTL in particular dissected what it took to do various aspects of emergency management.  

 

BUT, that is about to change, and hopefully for the better.  I've only seen a glimpse of the Core Capabilities (formerly Centers of Gravity) and what it will look like.  Evidently a great deal of work has been done behind the scenes for months as groups of people with representation from state and local emergency managers worked on the new system.  

 

I read the following, "Core Capabilities are defined as those critical capabilities that represent the highest priority essential functions necessary for both saving and sustain lives, and stabilizing the site and the situation within 72 hours.  The firs six enable a rapid and effective response, while the remainder address the needs and priorities of the people and communities impacted by the "catastrophic" event."   72 hours seems pretty short for a "catastrophic" event in my mind.  Federal help will only begin arriving in significant force about that time for a no-notice disaster.

 

Core Capabilities is further broken down as:

 

Enables Response:

  • Situational Assessment
  • Public Messaging
  • Command, Control, & Coordination
  • Critical Communications
  • Environmental Health & Safety
  • Critical Transportation

 

Survivor Needs are defined as:

  • On-scene security and protection
  • Mass search and rescue operations
  • Health and medical treatment
  • Mass care services
  • Public & private services & resources
  • Stabilize and repair essential infrastructure
  • Fatality Management Services 
Don't take the above as gospel, just an indicator of what we might see in the draft version that is supposed to be announced soon, perhaps as early as this week.


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October 02, 2011

I know it doesn't seem like it now, but there is going to be a employee shortage coming soon.  This is going to be driven by the retirement of Baby Boomers leaving the workplace for retirement.  Perhaps their departure will be delayed a little bit, but death does seem to claim all its victims--eventually.  For instance, the Boeing Company has about 50% of their workforce retirement eligible in the next few years.  

 

This means that emergency managers will be competing with the private sector and other governments for the best and the brightest.  Finding them and bringing them into your organization will be a high priority as you seek to replace people leaving the workforce.  

 

Check out How to Hire which is oriented on technology types, but the four tips provided there are pretty much applicable across the board.  In particular I like the "Call to Service" that has an emphasis on more than making money.  I've seen many a person attracted to the emergency management profession by the good that can be done in public service. 


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October 02, 2011

What really is the difference between someone who is a "professional" emergency manager and another person who just fills the position or dabbles in the profession as an additional duty?  Both may carry the title of "Emergency Manager" yet there could a vast difference in experience, talent and capabilities between the two.

 

I ran across the following quote that got me thinking about this topic, "In Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers, "(this is the same author that gave us "The Tipping Point" and "Blink") he suggests that the difference between a professional and a talented amateur is 10,000 hours of practice."

 

If you think about the 10,000 hours of "practice" that would equate to around five years of work.  Does working in a profession make you a professional?  Not necessarily.  Does having the certification that comes from going through the certification process make you a professional?  Not necessarily.  On the surface it does, but I've met a number of people who are "certifiable" and still not "professionals" in my opinion.  

 

We rely on the number of years worked in a profession and certifications to help us winnow the list of candidates down to those who we want to interview for an open position, yet--is that the best process for finding the right person?  Not always!  

 

I do like the Southwest Airlines method of hiring for personality and then giving them the training necessary.  I'm sure the pilots that apply have some pretty good skills to begin with, but the personality is a trait that cannot be interpreted in number of flying hours, which typically equates with experience and expertise.

 

The quote from above came from an article on selling and sales.  I think we need to remember as we look for the professionals to fill the open positions we have it requires the experience, but the intangible aspect of what makes for a successful professional can go beyond the degrees, cerifications and past work history.  I'm always looking for people with the "it factor" that makes them special.

 

I've often said that emergency management is not rocket science.  Although, it is becoming more technical in nature.  We need to find the right combination of knowledge and personality that will define a new era of what it means to be a professional emergency manager.

 


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October 02, 2011

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep; give people the room they need.”  William McKnight  There was a time that I was very good about putting people that worked for me in the corral.  I expected to know everything that was going on and if there was a new initiative I wanted be sure that it was the right one.  I was a micro manager!

 

This is back when I was in my 20’s, in the Army, and I was emulating the leadership example that had been given to me.  It was the mid-1970’s and I was told that officers had started providing almost all the leadership because the good noncommissioned officers where either killed off in Vietnam or retired. 

 

Then a dangerous thing happened.  I started reading leadership books and I found out that while what I had been doing was effective, it was also limiting in developing the people under me.  There was a better way.  It took some trial and error on my part, but I learned to trust people to “do the right thing” and offered them the freedom to figure out how do something when all I gave them was the mission and not directions on how to do it. 

 

My preferred style today is to have my staff be assigned tasks and then turn them loose on accomplishing them.  If they have a question or want to discuss alternatives and the pros and cons of each I’m happy to have an open door and listen and add my two cents, but still allow them to choose, unless there is a fatal flaw that I see in a particular course of action.  I call those potholes.  After I tell someone not to drive into a “pothole” I’m not happy should they ignore my advice. 

 

Like all wanna be leaders, I’m still reading and learning!


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October 03, 2011

Voice over IP (VoIP) was the last technological innovation to hit business and the consumer industries.  Using the Internet to make your phone calls lowered costs dramatically when compared to using a traditional carrier.  Although I'd add that some providers were not good initially in providing the same level of 911 service as you get with a landline phone.

 

Today the move is towards replacing the landline phone system entirely and just issuing people at work a cell phone as their primary voice communications device.  We've already seen this trend with young people moving out on their own.  I don't know anyone under the age of 30 who has a landline phone at home.  Their primary communications device, across the board, is their smart phone.

 

As companies look to perhaps replace landline phones they need to consider the business climate of the telecommunications industry where they are located and other issues.  See list below that someone sent me concerning the potential downside of using just cell phones:

 

  • Cost prohibitive--you need competition between cell carriers
  • Cell phones cannot fulfill Emergency requirements
  • Cell phones cannot fulfill occupational health and safety requirements
  • Cell phones cannot provide the vast features that a phone system can

 

Depending on where you are located and how advanced your 911 public safety answering point (PSAP) is on keeping up with technology, the cell phone should be OK for emergency calls, but not everywhere.  

 

Technology seems to find a way to fix the vexing problems that people encounter.  I'm sure that one of the consumerization trends we've seen of cell phones replacing landlne phones in the workplace will continue.


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October 03, 2011

The tone alert NOAA Weather Radio is one of the best tools you can have to know when severe weather is threatening you and your loved ones.  There was a time where there were only a few models to choose from.  Today there are many more types available.  There are electric, battery operated, solar powered, hand cranked, desktop and handheld to name just a few of the variations in features.

 

If you are confused about which one is right for you, perhaps the Home Weather Stations Guide will help you in determining which model is right for you and your personal situation.  

 

Nextag has a comprehensive listing of weather radios ranging in price from $16-$81

 

Consumersearch has a comparison of three models of weather radios

 

Tsunami Ted, my favorite National Weather Service Warning Forecaster, would say that anyway you slice it--you need one of these devices in your home!

 

Janet Liebsch shared the links above.  

 

 


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October 03, 2011

Habitat for Humanity International will release the “Shelter Report 2012 - Build Hope: Housing Cities after a Disaster” on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. This report highlights the urgent need for safer urban housing conditions to improve resilience and recovery after disasters.

The Shelter Report 2012 details the importance of planning for long-term recovery as a part of disaster response, the important role housing plays in disaster recovery and obstacles that stand in the way of rebuilding permanent homes. [I've asked them to send me a link to the report once it is released.]

The Shelter Report 2012 will be officially unveiled at an event held at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. 

You can register for the webcast of the event: Rebuilding a City:  The Dos and Don'ts in Post-Disaster Urban Recovery

I've always been a fan of Habitat for Humanity International.  It is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.  Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by welcoming people of all races, religions and nationalities to construct, rehabilitate or preserve homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. 


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October 04, 2011

"How did you get into the field of emergency management?" is a great opener for anyone networking with individuals and trying to find a way into the emergency management career field.  I'm personally more of the "old story" of how you get into the field of emergency management.  My goal getting out of the Army was to go into fundraising as a profession.  In the end, I ended up in emergency management because I had a multi-pronged career search pattern.  I could have also ended up in construction management.  The path into emergency management is almost as varied as there are individuals.

 

One of the major stories in the current edition of Emergency Management Magazine is An Evolving Profession which highlights the careers of women of influence in emergency management today.  One of the success stories for the profession of emergency management has been the addition of women who have brought change to the way in which emergency management functions on a day to day basis.  What I value is the different perspective that they bring to the table and the spirit of collaboration that can supplant the competitiveness between individuals and agencies as everyone scrambles for the almighty dollar or influence.  

 

When I think of my closest friends in emergency management the clear majority are women.  It is because they are the ones I've interacted most with throughout the years as they have worked their way up in the profession.  I don't see any difference in capability between women and men for the profession of emergency management.  Both are equal and the difference is really in the individuals applying for the job and the skill sets they bring to the table.  Young women entering the profession today should be aspiring to hold the senior positions in their states and the nation.  We will have a woman FEMA Administrator at some point in the future.  If I remember right, Ellen Gordon, who i profiled in the article was approached as a candidate for FEMA Administrator in the Obama Administration.  

 

I think one reason there is still a predominantly male pattern to state emergency management directors is the alignment of National Guard and the emergency management and homeland security agencies in states.  Nothing against the military (remember my roots) but, it a natural tendency to select people more like you.  It has been a long time since I looked at the percentage of states with the National Guard as the lead agency for emergency management.  Many years ago it was about 50%.

 

The next challenge for our profession is not women in the workforce, that is taking care of itself nicely.  It is bringing in minority populations to work within our career field.  Still with all the young bright faces of people I encounter looking to break into emergency management they are overwhelmingly white.  As you look at the changing demographics of the United States we are going to have to do a much better job of recruiting minorities into our workforce.  

 

Let's find someone, someone not like us, who has potential and mentor them along!


8 comments
October 04, 2011

People are watching more and more video on their computers and their handheld devices like tablets and smart phones.  When you compare video to a paper brochure that we might have used 5-10-15 years ago the tri-fold is a pretty dry presentation of information.

 

Someone I've known for many years now is Michael Lienau who has a video production company called Global Net Productions.  I met Michael after he did a presentation at a Washington State Emergency Management Association (WSMA) Conference in 2000.  His life story is one that many of us can relate to as how we got bitten by the emergency and disaster bug.  He was your average videoographer going into Mt. St. Helens after the first volcanic eruption and he got caught by a second blast, and lived to tell the story.  Since that time he has produced a series of educational videos on disasters and disaster preparedness.  These were done first in a VHS tape format, then on DVD.  Today he has taken it to a third generation interactive online mode.  Check out his Disaster Education and Outreach Material Be Ready that is web based and he is promoting to local emergency managers for them to have this type of interactive public education material on their website--for a fee.  

 

Global Net Productions is offering local/regional jurisdictions a new ADA compliant, interactive web quiz titled “BeReady - Personal Survival Kit" with high resolution video and new interactive Q&A.  It has been updated with footage from the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami and new information about personal communication and reunification plan.  An accompanying checklist and study guide is available to customize and download by user.

 

This web based tool is being offered for placement on local/regional DEM/EMD/EOC websites for a nominal licensing fee depending on size of jurisdiction  [He is not making a killing on this].  Research shows that using 3 new modes of communication helps to reach and impact audiences significantly by using Search (google) Social (facebook, twitter etc.) linked to videos is far more effective in reaching today's audience.  He is also offering custom made mobile-apps that can link everything back to a local emergency management web site and web quiz. 

 

Besides the above he still offers educational DVDs on earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos and disaster preparedness which have previously been seen on National Geographic Television, Discovery and PBS and can be licensed to show in groups and purchased in bulk to hand out to preparedness groups and educators in your jurisdiction/region.

 

The end of the calendar year is coming up and I always use to look to spend funding that would otherwise expire.  This might be a good way for you to dip your toes into the interactive web world and see if it works for your community.

 

I think the next big step for web tools is gamification of public education materials to make it more dynamic and interesting to people who want to be entertained at the same time they are being educated.  


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