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July 2012 Archives
July 01, 2012

“Without quality failures there will be no significant progress.”  Eric Holdeman  I believe in “quality failures.”  Trying something to see if you can make it work and change things for the better is a worthy endeavor.  If it doesn’t work, then adjust and try again. 


This doesn’t mean you try every hair-brained idea that comes along.  Instead taking calculated risks should be part of our everyday lives.


What brought this to mind was a short passage from Why Success Always Starts with Failure“…failures are part of life, and the art of success is to fail productively.”  

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July 02, 2012

Heat in our modern world is not something that everyone knows how to deal with.  We have become used to air conditioning and when it is not present, or for those without it to begin with, people can suffer and die from extreme heat conditions.


While the current national heat wave is moderating a little bit, dropping down from the record 100 plus temperatures to what might be a "normal" heat wave in the 90's the long term prognosis might be for repeated summers with these types of extreme heat surges becoming more the norm.  


It would pay for all of us to read Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (Illinois) which details the social conditions in Chicago in the summer of 1995 and the death toll that followed.  As Chicago found out, it takes a concerted full-court press by all public agencies to provide resources to ensure that there are relief measures available to people, especially the elderly and the very young.


As I looked at the temperatures on my television screen from this past week I kept thinking that "this is only June."  Late July and August is when things typically really heat up and if this trend continues we are in for a burner of a summer and higher food prices next year.  Not to mention an extreme fire season that may significantly cross the Mississippi River and also impact states in the Eastern United States.


While the clouds and rain in the Pacific Northwest can get tiresome, yesterday it barely made it into the low 70's.  

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July 02, 2012

The 2012 list of grant organizations that received Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) awards was announced late last week along with other grant program awards.  See FEMA Grant Programs Directorate Information Bulletin No. 387


I did a very quick count of number of awards and I came up with 205 total awards.  Then I looked for organizations with the word "port" or other such maritime connotation in their name.  I came up with 22 awards in that category.  That would mean that only about 12% of the PSGP grants actually went to ports!  The rest of the list has funding going to cities, police, fire departments, transportation departments, and other such organizations.  I figure there are a few marine terminals also included in the mix.


I cannot argue the fact that these first responder organizations do provide value added capabilities to port security.  I've seen that in action for myself.  It is just curious how this all sorts out.  I think when the original grant was conceived it was not expected that there would be that great a percentage of non-maritime organizations applying for and receiving grants.


In practice many fire and police organizations have become adept at applying for and getting grant funds from a wide selection of grants outside of their particular specific discipline grant streams.  These funds would include Urban Area Security Initiatives (UASI) as one primary example.  


This is when a block grant approach to awarding grants would be interesting to see how it would all sort out.  Those with dedicated funds like emergency managers are worried that the same type of double dipping might occur with their Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) funding suffering when grant review committees dominated by first responders awarded more funds to people who wear uniforms.  

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July 02, 2012

It was two years ago that I first blogged on Yammer as a social media tool for internal enterprise social media networking.  It was announced last week that Yammer was purchased by Microsoft for $1.2B.


I think the folks in Redmond, Washington are learning their lessons.  They are letting Yammer remain independent like they did with Skype.  This is an innovation move to keep the ideas and creativity flowing in different and smaller and more nimble workplaces.  As long as they don't try to "over control" these newer acquisitions they might have a chance at keeping up with younger and hungrier companies.


The purchase also tells me that Microsoft understands the future promise of corporate social networking.  It will be interesting when a large city or other government enterprise adapts the software to improve their own productivity.  That can't be very long from now!

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July 03, 2012

I like you are probably running an anti-virus program on our home computers.  The bad news is that a dedicated and committed individual or organization can hack into your computer at home and at work.  Virus protection programs can stop only about 1% of attacks.  


I equate this to the military situation of when gun powder and cannons made walled cities obsolete.  There are some things you can do in corporate/government settings:


  • Physical separation between networks
  • Enforce the "need to know" rule
  • Encrypt everything in transit and at rest, e.g. Smart Phones
  • For foreign travel use "throw away devices" laptop and phones
  • Use Web hosting services


More groups like Anonymous will spring up.  They are very good at what they do with talented people behind the scenes doing their damage.  We are only seeing the tip of the new cyber security iceberg.  


Someone recently pointed out that you would be better off using a highly secure cloud service like Microsoft Azure than using internal storage since you can't match the security capabilities of a Cloud solution. 


Lastly it was noted that instead of trying to prevent everything, you need to learn to fail "gracefully."  I guess you can add that to your resiliency playbook of how to survive in an increasingly suspect cyber world.

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July 04, 2012

One of the rapidly changing aspects of our modern world is the ways in which we can conduct warfare.  Lances and swords changed to guns and cannons, to aircraft and today one of the arrows in the quiver of warfare is cyber attack.


Now nation states and other "actors" have the capability to do great harm to systems that we depend on for our daily lives.  Listen to this KUOW NPR Radio show on the topic of Cyber Warfare  There are rules of war.  For instance you are not supposed to shoot at a pilot who has bailed out of an airplane as they are descending to earth via their parachute.  But, if it is airborne infantry above you, shoot away!  Since their mission will be to kill or capture you when their feet reach the ground.  For cyber warfare there aren't any rules--yet...


The issue of "attribution" and who is doing what to who seems to be a thorny problem.  How do you retaliate if you can't identify who attacked you?  Re-purposing of cyber weapons is something that puts a new twist on picking up the bullets just shot at you and throwing them back at the enemy--whoever that might be.  The rules of engagement, what to use, when and how will all have to be thought through.  I expect there will be some "trial and error."  The error part means someone will probably die because a cyber attack went awry.  


We have all heard about collateral damage from aircraft bombing runs.  How will that work with cyber warfare?  Will it be OK to attack electrical utilities?  Who declares "cyber wars?"  Life is changing rapidly and our old systems are going to have trouble keeping up with the changes, this includes the ethics of what we can do.


Changing subjects for a moment: For instance in the medical field ethics will be the issue dominating future discussions and decisions.  Modern medicine will allow us to do or not do many things we could never do before.  The allocation of resources will be hotly debated and the ethics of what we might be able to do "clone?" are not done being decided.  

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July 07, 2012

When we talk "Whole Community" the American Red Cross is one of our most important emergency management partners.  While they are undergoing some significant reforms and restructuring they continue to provide services wherever there are disasters.  See one update that came from them recently:


More than half a million households are still without power in areas where there is no break in sight from the extreme heat.

·       West Virginia is one of the hardest hit areas with more than 225,000 homes still without power.  Nearly 200 trained Red Cross disaster workers, a fleet of nearly 20 emergency vehicles and four mobile kitchens are in the state to help people affected with shelter, food, and a place to cool off.

·       More than 365 people spent Thursday night in Red Cross shelters in West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, Maryland and the District of Columbia where the power outages continue.


The Red Cross is also continuing to help people impacted by wildfires and Tropical Storm Debby.

·       Shelters are open in West Virginia, Montana, Florida, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, California, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and around Washington, D.C.  More than 620 people spent Thursday night in 45 Red Cross shelters across the country.

·       Since early June, the Red Cross has supported families across multiple states, operating shelters, serving more than 277,000 meals and snacks, and distributing nearly 160,000 relief items like rakes, shovels, coolers, work gloves, cleaning supplies and hygiene kits. 

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July 08, 2012

Emergency Management Magazine is hosting a Cybersecurity Teleconference that will focus on what emergency managers need to know about the threats and preparedness levels for critical infrastructure and what we should be doing.


I've got a conflict that day and will miss the call.  I will try to double back if they put it up on the web for listening to later.  This issue is really heating up.  The Federal Government is paying significant attention to the topic with national level exercises and Presidential level participation.  


Like nuclear warfare the oceans are not much protection when it comes to cyber issues.

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July 08, 2012

“Keep your advice.  Be an example.”  Author Unknown  “Listen to what I mean, not what I say.”  Jeremy Ernst  Two quotes for you this week.  They are somewhat related.  Jeremy is my son-in-law and he was commenting on “communications” between married couples, but it applies pretty much across the board. 


The best form of communications comes from how you live your life.  You can have all the right words and know all the platitudes and espouse them at the right time and place—yet, it is your personal behavior that says the most.  How you treat people, what you say about others when they are not in the room, etc. 


I always say that our families know us best.  If you want to do a “gut check” talk to your children and ask for some feedback on how you are when you are “being you.”  

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July 09, 2012

I'd love to have this earthquake map in poster size, framed and neon lit to highlight the Ring of Fire



I'm not so sure that if I was doing the project I'd go back as far as 1898.  It sounds too long ago.  In order to get people's attention to the threat of earthquakes I think using 80 years of time might have been better in order to "size it" to what the average person thinks is a human lifespan.  


Still it is a cool map that shows the seismic forces at work on this sphere we call earth.


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