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December 2012 Archives
December 01, 2012

Where do you get your ideas and concepts about leadership?  Mine come from professional reading mostly, trying to be a keen observer of others who set "good" or "poor" examples and then there are the movies.


See 007 – Leadership lessons from M who is of course the head of the British secret service where James Bond is employed.  I've seen all the Bond movies and have been collecting Blue Ray versions of the latest flicks.  Yes, I saw the last movie that is in theaters now.  


I don't disagree with any of the seven lessons that are outlined.  One resonates in particular because I was reading about the topic just this morning.  That is to not wait for the perfect plan.  You need to come up with a path forward and start working, almost immediately.  Make course corrections along the way, but the clock is moving too fast for us to dilly dally around trying to come up with something that everyone will agree with or has the fewest weaknesses.  There are no perfect plans anymore--if ever there were any.  


Hit, adjust, rotate, hit again.  Keep the ball moving forward and make changes along the way as you become smarter about what it is you are doing.  Begin today--time is wasting away!


Neil Clement shared the link above.

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December 01, 2012

I earlier blogged on some of the lessons learned from the Christchurch Earthquake see Christchurch at Two Years--Still a Mess  


Now there is a PowerPoint posted on this same event that provides images from the recovery and statistics and some comparisons for what we might experience here in the Pacific Northwest.  John D. Schelling, Earthquake Program Manager did a presentation earlier this week and it is up on the Seattle OEM website, The Hard Realities of Earthquake Recovery: Christchurch, NZ – Two Years Later



The significance of liquefaction in this event  cannot be over emphasized.  Since my day job is in the maritime industry it is interesting to see the use of cargo containers for temporary businesses.  Temporary is a relative term given it has been two years since the quake.  Note the population losses after the quakes.  I expect there will be a long term decrease in economic output given the extensive damages to the business area impacted by the earthquake.


One day it will be our turn here in the USA.  Remember it is not just California that is at risk.


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December 02, 2012

Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) has been around for a number of years for cities, counties and states.  Now it is becoming available for colleges and universities.  
See Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) offers accreditation to colleges and universities  They have evidently done a pilot program with four different schools to make sure that it is both possible to become accredited and they have the mechanisms in place to achieve the accreditation process.
It will be interesting to see how many jump on this bandwagon.  Since institutions of higher learning are used to becoming accredited there might be a number of deans who would like to see their schools meet this standard.  It is not for the faint of heart.  You have to be 100% of 100% in all areas.  Which means you can't just be strong in one aspect of emergency management.  
If it sounds like work--it is!

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December 03, 2012

“Each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”  Maurice Maeterlinck  I love this quote, since it seizes on the issue of how hard it is to get others to come along with you in making a switch.  Change is difficult to achieve precisely because of people vested in the past and what was and is.


These “guards” are vigilant in their duties, especially when they think that a change might impact them and; their authority, responsibilities, influence, position, knowledge, or anything else that diminishes them in any way. 


The guards are armed with: words like spears made for throwing, emails like arrows that fly through the air, swords that slash with innuendoes and mistruths, and then shields that they hide behind so they cannot be seen. 


Leading change is not for the faint of heart.  Like going into battle, one must recognize that the outcome for the individual is rarely known.  

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December 04, 2012

Valerie Lucus-McEwen has a very good article in the current edition of Emergency Management Magazine, see Dueling Degrees: Emergency Management vs. Homeland Security


This is written from an academic's perspective with much of the piece articulating the differences that sprung up after the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11 when many organizations, not just colleges and universities, jumped on the Homeland Security bandwagon when they saw dollars getting ready to flow to anything and anyone with that moniker.  


During the course of the article it is implied that emergency management degrees are for state and local folks and homeland security degrees are for those who are more concerned with national affairs.  I can tell you this, if you are looking for a job working in the profession of emergency management you will need to be a practitioner and also know what is going on at the national level in order to follow the "bouncing legislative and policy ball."  I suppose that if you are pursuing an advanced degree the differences might be more pronounced because of your specialization.  But, day-to-day we are all in the trenches together.


This debate about homeland security and emergency management reminds me of the old argument from long ago How Many Angels can Dance on a Pin?  Who cares?  What difference does it make to me and my life?  Since the academics have to spend their time doing something, why not argue about the differences between to very related topics that are combined from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on down.


I think that those states that established separate homeland security offices made a huge mistake.  They lost the integration with what emergency management needed to be doing everyday and led to much duplication and wasting of resources.  California is one state that corrected this situation a few years back and combined the two separate functions into one office.  


Lastly, there are those who cannot be accused of jumping on the latest fad.  You can spot them by the names of their organizations that remain tied to civil defense.  Now there is a name that might be ripe for changing and being updated to reflect 21st century realities of emergency management.

December 05, 2012

There is going to be a significant change in political appointees back in Washington, D.C.  The average lifespan of an appointee is 18 months.  That is not much time to come in, learn a job and contribute, before packing out your desk and moving on to the next position.


The first one I've heard about leaving at FEMA is Elizabeth Harman, Assistant Administrator and the person responsible for all the homeland security grants.  It is the grants position that has me wondering if she was tired of the job or she was "moved along" and out of the position.  


As funding has dwindled it has been her mission to administer fewer dollars to fewer jurisdictions, be they Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) cities or just fewer dollars to the same number of organizations.  It was under her tenure that the National Preparedness Grant Program was floated out there as a trial balloon, and shot down.  As I reported earlier this year, all the national associations rose up and testified in Congress about how they had not been coordinated with, etc.  It was not what I would call a "big win for the gipper."  While it still exists and the Administration has not backed off on it--it would seem to be "dead on arrival" for 2013 unless attitudes or the Fiscal Cliff changes everything.


Harman did last about 2.5 years which in "dog years" would almost be getting close to two decades.  But, alas in D.C. you age out quickly!

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December 05, 2012

The Administration was up on Capitol Hill today asking for funding for disaster relief to support recovery efforts underway from the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.  See White House To Seek Emergency Sandy Funds


Everything seems to be a political football these days and it looks as though disaster funding will turn into one in the coming weeks and months.  In the end $80B could end up being a smaller number than what is needed once all the work is completed--over the next few decades!  Yes, decades.  A disaster this big will go on and on and on.  Especially for the public works portion of the repair work and then hopefully post disaster mitigation funding will be supplied to help protect vital infrastructure and move people and things out of harms way by not rebuilding in exactly the same places.


I'll be writing about Hurricane Sandy until I'm dead!




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December 05, 2012

When a big disaster hits a broad geographical area and the impacts are felt in places large and small it is the "smaller" jurisdictions who will feel left out and abandoned.  


It starts with the immediate impact of the disaster.  News crews respond to the larger metropolitan areas where they have staff and where there is significant population and infrastructure impacts.  It is only days or weeks later that the stories of smaller cities and counties start to be told.  Hear one from a small town in Maryland that was on NPR today.  


So you have a small city with few economic resources dealing with significant damages and they are not being declared for Individual Assistance by FEMA/the President.  My guess is that in the end they will apply enough political pressure to reverse that decision.  I'll bet you that Maryland doesn't have a disaster fund so it is either be bailed out by the Feds or individuals will be on their own.  


This is why flood insurance is so critical a component for anyone living in the potential path of water.  It might be the only resource you have when a disaster does strike your home.  

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December 08, 2012

Emergency management is a growing profession that has a broad reach into our society.  While I believe the vast majority of people are woefully unprepared there is a subculture in our communities who are totally vested in disaster preparedness.  They are called Disaster Preppers  


One of my co-bloggers hit the proverbial "social media nerve" with her blog posting Doomsday Preppers are Socially Selfish  I believe that immediately somewhere someone said, "Release the Kracken"  Which led to a social media onslaught of commentary that set records for all the social media aspects at e.Republic across all their media platforms.  


These numbers are as of Friday, December 7th (a day that will live in infamy):

  • 11,023 page views from one blog posting
  • 450 Comments left on the posting
  • An additional 250 Facebook postings
  • Five minutes dwell time on the page--this is really high!
If you go to the link you now find a whole series of follow-on blog posts by Valerie Lucus-McEwen on the topic, as she has explained what she meant to say and apologized for a poor choice of words.  Amen!
Just a couple of thoughts that I'd like to add. 
  • There is power and influence in using social media to communicate.  Its reaches go deeply into our culture.  
  • Her posting shows that there are people who care deeply about disaster preparedness and take it to a level that most emergency managers can't match themselves.  We need to tap into that positive energy when and where we can
  • Val has done a great job of continuing to engage with the readers of her blog.  Rather than withdrawing and hiding out in cyberspace she has continued the dialog and engaged in constructive communications with those who want to have a social media conversation.
One comment that was provided to Val made some excellent points about how we need to engage as emergency managers and also Emergency Management Magazine and the freedom they have given bloggers who post on their site to explore controversial topics and challenge the status quo.  See below:

"All too often, both print and electronic media (and blogs) in EM & HS write, report and thereby simply reinforce concepts and operations that we already know or believe.....and don't utilize the opportunity we have with listeners and readers.   Of course, not every blog or presentation will be so challenging.  But if we are going to advance the profession, then as speakers, facilitators, teachers and writers, we have the obligation to provide insightful and challenging perspectives on conventional thought and doctrine. 


Congratulations on writing a blog that generated responses.....and as a thought-leader who provided a challenge, it should be expected that some of those responses will be emotional.  Unfortunate, but true.  Emergency Management magazine has always been supportive of those of us who write and speak challenging ideas and I am pleased to see that they continue with that support


Increasingly, Emergency Management magazine, and the blogs, are writing articles and blogs that generate reader responses.......those responses are an indicator that Emergency Management is driving thought-leadership and that the magazine and related media are willing to tackle vexing issues and challenges.  That's one of the reasons that so many people actually anticipate the arrival of the next print edition and are reading the various blogs."

December 09, 2012

We Americans like to think we are the best at everything.  People tout our healthcare system, educational system and form of governance.  While points can be made to support all of the above, e.g. our higher education system is exceptional, there are other minuses that detractors can also point to.


We have an excellent emergency management system here in the United States, yet in practice I don't see the fruits of that system bubbling up to deliver disaster resistant cities and regions.  No one is going to claim one of our cities as being the most prepared in the world.


NBC Nightly News had a story on what they titled perhaps the most Disaster Ready City in the world.  When the story was being introduced I thought of Tokyo and then switched to Hong Kong because I've read something previously about their focus on disasters.


Sure enough, it was Hong Kong being touted as the most disaster ready city.  The most impressive images were those of the underground storm water storage system they have.  While not illustrated very well, they also have some significant landslide/rock slide barriers on the hilly sections of the city.


What they did not describe was the willingness of the citizens of the city to go along with disaster preparations and to be compliant with directives about their personal safety.  


Maybe in a generation, after we work hard, we might be able to at least put forth our most disaster ready city for an international competition.

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