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by Eric Holdeman: Emergency management in the blogosphere

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October 2012 Archives
October 01, 2012

I know a thing or two about being the director of a large metropolitan county's emergency management agency.  It is not an easy thing to do.  Besides directing what staff you have and trying to get resources your primary activity is trying to get everyone to play nice in the regional sandbox. 


With the above in mind and if you have the experience and desire for regional efforts, the Director, Office of Emergency Management in Multnomah County is open and they are looking for qualified candidates.  Multnomah County is the most populous county in Oregon. 

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October 01, 2012

Earlier today I got an email from  Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) which provides "FREE" IT help to local emergency managers who need staff augmentation (I'm guessing it is done mostly remotely).  See email below and the offer of help.  This is the type of resource to coordinate in advance so you understand what they have to offer.


"As a longtime follower of your blog, I wanted to acknowledge your recent article titled “Small Town/County Emergency Management”, and introduce the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC).  


Briefly, the ITDRC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity comprised of volunteer IT Professionals from many disciplines who assist communities, non-profits, and small businesses with technology continuity and recovery from disaster.  We are a trusted response partner to many organizations and communities, providing temporary infrastructure assets and technology solutions in disaster.


Established in 2009, we’ve responded to a number of disasters across the US including: Hurricanes Isaac and Irene, tornado outbreaks in Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kentucky, and wildfires in Texas.  Although our roles vary by deployment, our mission priority is to Fire/Law/Emergency Management in the Response phase; Disaster Relief Organizations in the Short Term Recovery phase, and the Small Business Community in the Long Term Recovery phase of a disaster.


We are acutely aware of the challenges many smaller communities face related to Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery; in both the Public and Private Sectors, and have programs established to assist with each area.  As a NGO, all of our services are provided at no cost to communities by a nationwide team of service oriented technology professionals. 


My hope is that you will see the value our organization provides to communities, and share our resources with your readers.  Please visit our web site at www.itdrc.org and our social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter (/ITDRC and @ITDRC) for more information. 


I look forward to the opportunity to take you on a deeper dive into our organization and mission, and explore ways we may be able to better share our story with the Emergency Management community.  Please let me know your availability for a call, or feel free to contact me at your convenience."


This information was provided by Joe Hillis, Operations Director



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October 02, 2012

“I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  Helen Keller  What can I do, I’m only one person?  This is how we feel at times.  It is like trying to hold back the ocean, the waves just keep coming and our efforts can definitely feel futile.


Then is the time to remember the above quote.  First of all I would say that we can impact our own lives.  We can serve as an example to our families and friends of someone being true to themselves and serving others.


Then while one person can only do so much, we can do something.  It may not change the world, but it can change circumstances for another person.  Rather than focusing on things I think it is a much better course of action to focus on people.  Perhaps it is not your thing to do so, but events will overcome the material aspects of our lives.  If you impact a person, then that legacy lives on as he or she impacts the lives of other people.  This is why paying attention to the lives of your children is so important while they are growing up and in their formative years.


Let’s commit to changing the world and making it a better place.  Each of us doing what we can with what we have been provided intellectually and materially. 


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October 02, 2012

Recently I got a comment on a cybersecurity blog post from Bernie Skoch the CyberPatriot Commissioner.  


"...the best job I have had in a long time: Organizing and running an exciting cyber competition that draws American youth to the exciting field of cyber defense. I invite you and your readers to get involved in recruiting high school students to the National High School Cyber Defense Competition: CyberPatriot. Last year we had over 1,000 teams register from all 50 states. Teams learn how cyber systems work, and they learn how to identify and defend against the threats we are facing more and more every day. The generosity of the Northrop Grumman Foundation and our other sponsors has made it possible to reach over 100,000 youth over the past few years. Check us out: www.uscyberpatriot.org



As you coach your own children or others with whom you come in contact with about their future careers, you might add cybersecurity to the list.  It is a growing field that is going to be around for many more generations as we become more and more technologically dependent on systems that "work."


Check out the web link above and encourage schools and students to become involved in cybersecurity. 

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October 03, 2012

If you are a print reader, but like to get an early peak at the latest magazine that will be showing up soon in your mail box, check out a digital copy of the September-October Emergency Management Magazine.  My Eric's Corner this month is on relationships.

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October 04, 2012

A new Senate report is highly critical of how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has supervised the functioning of the many state and local fusion centers that have been established.  Homeland Security News Wire and the Los Angeles Times both have stories and reactions from the report.


The stories detail the complaints about how the funding that was provided by DHS was used and the ineffectiveness of the Fusion Centers to provide actionable intelligence.  The worst accusation in my mind is the allusion to stepping beyond their intelligence functions and spying on Americans.  This last one is sure to get the ire of many a civil libertarian organization and individuals.


I've written about this before and spoke a number of times on this topic to other professionals in the field.  My question has been, when the DHS money runs out, will Fusion Centers survive and be funded by state and local funds?  I think the answer is no.  Not because of the functionality of the centers, but because of increasing budget cuts to internal law enforcement agencies.  These departments will have to choose between funding their own cops on the street or contributing to a regional effort.  In my experience, except on rare occasions of visionary leaders, the organic needs of internal departments will win out.


If you want to focus on terrorism prevention then the Fusion Center is our best bet.  Yes, there are Joint Terrorism Task Forces, yet their willingness to share information with state and local jurisdictions is pretty limited.  The failure to connect the dots that we saw with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 will be repeated--again!  If I were the DHS Secretary or held an elected position in Congress, Fusion Centers would be the last thing I would cut if you are interested in counter terrorism efforts.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  


I'm in the consequence management business of reacting to bad things when they happen.  I'm also smart enough to know that preventing the occurrence of something is a much better investment strategy than trying to fund a response capability for every jurisdiction in the USA.  We have easily spent $300B on that effort since 9/11.  


Within the Beltway they march to a different tune.  Facts get twisted and presented to match what ax needs grinding.  Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and those with better information on the connection between crime and terrorism will protect the capability that we do have, as fragile and ineffective as it can sometimes be.

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October 05, 2012

I always find it interesting how information from disparate sources sometimes comes together to shape one's view of the world.  This is true for me in the case of the fragility of our electrical system.


Here in the Pacific Northwest a full-on battle is starting to occur about coal trains (Railroad types) and coal terminals for the export of coal. Where should the terminals be situated and what about the addition of 25 coal trains running through your community?  There is plenty of NIMBY action happening on the above topic.  Environmentalists of course oppose the idea based on coal's reputation for adding to global warming.  Then there is the issue of coal dust and particles spoiling the air in the communities where terminals would be located and all along the route as coal particulate is lost from train cars as they roll through communities.  


Personally I don't think the cities and counties lining up to pass local resolutions opposing coal trains going through their towns will impact the issue.  This is interstate commerce and it will take congressional action.  The coal is coming from states like Montana and destined for Asia that needs the energy source.  Already there is at least one coal train going through my city as it heads from Montana to British Columbia where there already is a coal export terminal.  I've seen it as it powers by me as I sit waiting for it to pass.


Then the next bit of information I read came from the September issue of Government Technology and was in an interview with Massoud Amin  There he states, "Because of the increasing demand, experts believe that the world's electricity supply will need to triple by 2015."  Yes, 2015!


Today I'm reading the book Bak's Sand Pile  This text is about the cascading nature of disasters.  How Black Swan events are not so uncommon and the fragility of the networks we have built and continue to build because of their efficiencies.  Chapter 6 is about the electrical power system here in the United States and the cliff we are walking along everyday.  During times of peak electrical demand, especially in the hotter times of the year the danger of electrical system failures grows significantly.  We have become very efficient in producing power and delivering it to where and when it is needed.  But, we are running out production resources and we really ran out of distribution systems a long time ago.  Our weakest point is the lack of long haul power lines, another NIMBY issue.


I'll add two other factoids.  Back in 1991 when I got into civilian emergency management we had seven power lines crossing the Cascade Mountains.  Most power generation is in Easter Washington while the consumption is in Western Washington.  On average we are adding about 100K people a year to the population of the state.  Most of that people growth is here on the West Side of the state.  No new power lines have been constructed or on the books to be built.


Then there has been the exponential growth of the IT industry and the huge electrical demand that comes from the proliferation of power drawing systems and devices.  Huge server farms have been constructed in Eastern Washington just in the last ten years.  Now those communities, like Moses Lake don't have the power to continue to support more larger server farms--think Cloud Computing.


I've written previously about the looming shortage of water in the world and the USA.  I think you can add electricity to that list and think about the cascading impacts of losing power for long duration events.  


We are becoming more fragile as a nation--not more resilient.  

October 05, 2012

This article caught my eye Ports are in danger of crumbling  It details the dollars needed for both new infrastructure and the rehabilitation of existing port facilities.  


Ports are always in a hot competition with one another for shipping business.  The challenge for the immediate future is that larger ships are being built.  9,500 TEU ships look huge today, 14,000 ships are already in service and 18,000 TEU ships are being designed and built.  Only mega terminals will be able to accommodate those size vessels.


When what you have is old and needing to be replaced and you have the challenge of building for the future the needs of the security infrastructure are going to run head-on into this battle for what are the priorities for the use of scarce resources for investment.  Yet, there have been and it looks like there will continue to be funding from the Department of Homeland Security for security infrastructure.  Collectively as a discipline security professionals need to lobby to get the 25% cash match done away with.  That enables a 100% Federally funded project for security needs that is not in competition with the everyday and very real needs of staying in business.  


Eventually there will be significant failure of infrastructure or security at a maritime port that draws attention to the issue.  This will focus more attention on the topic for a period of time.  We need to do what we can before that event to make sure the failure does not occur at our port, but at some other facility.  I guess even security can be competitive!

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October 06, 2012

Cheryl Bledsoe is moderating the #140 Conference on social media this morning at the Annual NEMA Conference in Seattle.


You can follow this event for the next two hours at #SMEMForum

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October 07, 2012

Garry Briese will be the focus of the next EMForum.org program with the topic being on followership.


This issue of followership has been on the agenda for a number of Emergency Management All-Hazards Stakeholder Summits.  One being in Denver not that long ago.  And, I've written about Garry's presentation on this blog.


However, this is your opportunity to hear it directly from Garry and I encourage you to tune into the program live, or in a recorded format when it is posted.  This morning I was reading a book The End of Leadership and much of what the author has to say in it is about the changing relationship between leaders and followers.  The digital age is a major part of that with social media being a significant contributor.


Times, they are a-changing...


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