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May 2012 Archives
May 01, 2012

I know that not everyone has a success story to tell about how they got into the profession of emergency management.  It was heartening to get an email earlier today from one person who did make a very successful transition into the profession.  With his permission I've copied his narrative into this blog posting.  There you will find examples of what can work.  After reading his piece--see my comments later in this blog posting.


"I was recently reading your blog in Emergency Management Magazine and wanted to share a quick story about my path into EM. 

 I was in my mid 40’s and working in the Fire Protection industry when I decided to get a Master’s Degree in Emergency Management from Massachusetts Maritime Academy as a way of changing careers.

Early on in the program one of the guest speakers mentioned Emergency Management Magazine and that they had read in your blog that the way to transition into the EM field was to volunteer.  With this in mind one of our assignments revolved around finding and interviewing a Emergency Management Director.

 In my case, my interview led to a “volunteer” job offer in my local town on Cape Cod to help with planning an upcoming exercise.  After working in this department for almost two years both the EM Director and Deputy stepped down due to health reasons and I was able to apply for the Deputy position (having finished my Masters by that point) which is still a volunteer position.  (I still have this position as well as my full time job in ______)

 Within a year of this happening I was able to get a full time position at _______________.  Ironically the Director [at the emergency management agency where he finally got a paid position] at the time was partnered with me during an HSEEP course about 18 months prior.  I actually had to quit my job at the time to attend the HSEEP course but in the end it all worked out.

 My route into EM is a classic path of volunteering, timing and networking that all led to my career change.

 Keep up the good work…your advice works. Sean"


Key Points from the story above:


  • He made a commitment to the profession and pursued training.
  • He found a volunteer position--where he still volunteers.  This tells me he is what I call a "true believer" in the profession.  It is not "just a job" it is a way of life.
  • Timing can be everything.  When I reflect on my own journey timing has played a key role again and again.
  • Networking is a not something you do occasionally, if you are an emergency manager the relationships you establish will carry you forward.  Help others, they will help you!
  • He took a risk in attending a course by quitting his job.  Not for the faint of heart--but you see where it led.
  • He did not quit!  Staying the course and actively being engaged helps make things happen--eventually.  It was a process that took years, not weeks or months.


It was really great to have this in my email box today!

1 comment
May 01, 2012

The Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) provides a wide range of hands-on resident training for first responders.  Their facility...


"located in Anniston, AL has just released the 4th Quarter, Fiscal Year 12 training calendar in hopes of meeting everybody’s training needs. This is an exciting time for the CDP with the completion of numerous renovations to include the Emergency Department, dining facility, dorms, assorted training areas to enhance the abilities of America’s first responders.


This training is federally funded (to include roundtrip airfare, lodging, meals, and tuition) to all actively employed state, local and tribal first responders."


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May 01, 2012

Doubts about Grants Plan Continues to Fester is the name of an article in Congressional Quarterly that summarizes what was said in testimony before a House Committee on Homeland Security.


This is the same hearing I blogged on last week National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP) Foibles  At least I see the reporter writing the article read and heard the same thing I did.  In reality the only organizations that really like the new proposal are states that will have the responsibility for allocating the funds and administering the programs.  


If I were a state I think that they should do the following to establish trust in the process:


  • Everyone who has received grant funds in the past needs organizational (association?) representation in the process of determining the allocation of funding.
  • Those disciplines/organizations like ports and transit agencies that are new to state allocation strategies need to be brought on board.
  • The same is true for the THIRA that is required to be accomplished.  "FEMA has proposed that funds be distributed based on risk examinations by each state called a Threat Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA). There are no details yet as to whether states would be required to provide local governments with any role in the THIRA examination. FEMA would then choose which projects to fund from each state’s THIRA based on national priorities." National League of Cities
  • Transparency in the allocations is necessary.  You can't have a body that makes recommendations that are passed forward to only have the final decisions made in the proverbial "smoke filled room" where the "big boys" decide who gets what.
  • Larger metropolitan areas will try to throw their political weight around to influence the allocation process.  I agree with the risk allocation strategy, but that does not make it simply a one way street of Brinks Armored Cars headed to the big city with funds to replace Urban Area Strategy Initiative (UASI) dedicated funding.
  • This a great example of when the process is key to having outcomes that are more acceptable to the majority of organizations.
  • Another strategy is attempt to piss everyone off so that no one feels like they "won the day."


Maybe the best option might be to have state-wide "Grant Games" (Think Hunger Games) where you try to kill your opponents off and win the money prize.  We could televise the competition and cities and counties would cheer on their representatives participating in the mayhem.  We could charge an admission fee to replace the reduced 2012 Federal funding--but then, the Feds would want a cut of the revenue too.

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May 05, 2012

You always hear about thousands of dollars in scholarships that are available, yet no one takes advantage of the opportunity to obtain this funding.  In Emergency Management there aren't that many to choose from and apply for, but there is one, the Joel Aggergaard Scholarship


The Washington State Emergency Management Association established this scholarship in memory of Joel Aggergaard who was a longtime State Emergency Manager for Washington State.  What set Joel apart from many was his willingness to listen and provide advice to local emergency managers.  He was one person they could count on to take their call and provide a friendly and sympathetic ear.


If you are from Washington State and enrolled in an emergency management program here in Washington you are eligible to apply for a $2,500 scholarship.  Applications are due August 1, 2012.

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May 05, 2012

One bit of advice I give aspiring emergency managers is that they have to go where the jobs are.  If you are hanging around waiting for one person to retire -- it is not a good strategy.  On the other hand, if you are single and looking for work in this profession you have to be willing to relocate to where the jobs are.


One such position is the Klickitat County Emergency Management Director  No Klickitat County is not a metropolis, basically a rural county that borders the Columbia River.  When I worked for Washington State Emergency Management Division I recall the summer fire season as being an active one with many grass fires in the area created by passing trains.  


Thies look like an interesting position to me.  A new facility and staff to work with and plenty of hazards to consider and plan for.  Lots of sun and wind in those parts!  don't let the salary scare you away.  I'm sure the cost of living is about right for the pay they are offering.

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May 06, 2012

“He who laughs--lasts.”  Mary Pettiboone Poole  The workplace should be a fun place.  If there are no laughs when at work—it can be, well—work!  This does not mean that it is a place of continuous jokes and pranks, but a little of that goes a long way. 


When people can laugh at and with others it is a much more enjoyable existence.  To really do this you have to be willing to be a bit vulnerable.  The best person to make fun of is yourself.  When things get tough I believe that the lighter moments in the past and perhaps a joke in the present will break the tension.


Like in all things in life this requires balance.  Find humor in the workplace, use it appropriately and you and others will enjoy Mondays much more in the future.

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May 06, 2012

Previously I've blogged on how in the 2004 Presidential Election I had never read anything about the candidates on the topic of Homeland Security.  Now I can at least say that has changed a bit with a Huffington Post article Mitt Romney Homeland Security Record In Massachusetts: Domestic Spying, Wiretapping


The emphasis there is on his interest in the intelligence and information sharing (Prevention) aspect of our profession.  Remembering the era that he was active in with his Olympic Games experience and then taking over as Governor in Massachusetts with 9/11 not that far in the rear view mirror he again concentrated on the intelligence function.  


I do appreciate that he was proactive and looked to make sure that mechanisms like a Fusion Center were established for the collection and sharing of information.  It will be interesting to see what his priorities might be as a new President.  The "fix" to intelligence sharing of information has still not been accomplished.  People and agencies have fallen back into their old ways of guarding their sources and not showing all their cards to other intelligence agencies or with state and local governments.  


Will it take another intelligence failure to put a spotlight back on the issue?  Yes!


Note, Andrea Stone has now done several articles on issues related to homeland security and emergency management.  I can't say that she is a "beat reporter," but with experience comes knowledge and a perspective on the topics.  I hope she and her editors let her continue to write on the subject matter.

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May 06, 2012

Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 201: Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) Guide It is a mouthful to say and not a small task for the fifty states that will have staff working on the development of a THIRA that is due before 2012 is put in the record books.


Here's a few thoughts on the document and the process:


  • The question about the need for locals to do a THIRA has not been answered.  What is the relationship between a city or county THIRA and the State's?  I figure some states will say that a local THIRA is not needed.
  • When you are talking risk, there may be a very significant threat in a local jurisdiction, say a volcano or maybe a Dam that when you look at these from the perspective of the state these risks don't carry the same amount of weight that they do for the single jurisdiction that is threatened.  How are resources allocated based on the THIRA when the two don't match-up?
  • Besides being a hazard and risk assessment there now is incorporated into the THIRA process an assessment of Core Capabilities which have replaced Target Capabilities.  Things got a little bit more complicated!!
  • I did see "whole community" mentioned at least once, but the level of readiness of the general public is not emphasized at all.  My premise is that if you don't have a prepared public you are not very ready for disasters since government will never be able to respond to all the needs of an unprepared community.
FEMA has some training prepared for states to receive on how to do the THIRA.  With any new process one can expect a bunch of questions and a variety of answers.  It will be interesting to see how different states compare to one another.  One challenge is that every FEMA Region is roll-up the THIRAs for states in their region and prepare a regional THIRA.  The formats better match-up pretty well for this to happen smoothly.

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May 06, 2012

I received an email on Friday that asked a few questions about a particular social media application that is under development.  One of the questions was, "Who will hate it?"


See below for my response and a short list of social media haters:


The good news is that nationally there is a very strong movement towards the use of social media across a wide range of disciplines and topics, emergency management included.  While we have not reached the “tipping point” of SM being totally accepted as Mom and Apple Pie, progress is being made as practical uses are developed used and demonstrated in actual disasters and emergencies.


Still there will be those who will hate it:

  •  Some IT people who don’t want to deal with one more thing
  • Attorneys who will scare the bejezzus out of everyone
  • Records management staff who don’t see a way to meet 20th Century requirements that have not been adapted to address 21st Century technologies
  • Those who might say it supports the profiling of people, races and religious beliefs
  • Those who fear “big brother” government in the “see something, say something” aspect
  • Those who worked hard to develop programs and processes that this might replace
  • Those who are not technologically adept, are near retirement and “hanging on” for a few more years—goal is to keep it at bay for their tenure
I know someone I work with who will say, "Hey, hey, hey--don't hate!"  Hopefully my list above will be proven wrong, but...I'm not so sure.

1 comment
May 07, 2012

What to get for the woman who has everything, needs nothing, and wants nothing.  I don't know about you, but I always got my mother something.  In her later years, and since I lived 2,000 miles away, I'd send flowers.  Typically some Spring bulbs, tulips or daffodils since we have an abundance here in my region.


There is the possibility to give another type of gift, one that lasts and does good at the same time.  If I was lucky the tulips might last 10 days in a vase.  I suggest the American Red Cross and a charitable donation to their cause -- theirs is our cause after all.  They call it a "tribute gift" which I think is an appropriate title for the person who bore you and wiped your snotty nose, not to mention the diapers thing.


My mother passed on several years ago, so there will be no flowers sent this year.  Maybe I'll make a tribute gift in her honor anyway.

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