Saturday, December 31, 2011

All Hands Consulting Reviews 2011, Has Positive Outlook for 2012

Happy New Year's Eve everyone. I prepared the following as an update on AHC activities past, present and future.

All Hands Consulting (AHC) is ending another successful year: its twelfth since rebranding DavisLogic as All Hands in early 2000.  2012 will be the thirteenth year of operations for this unique emergency management consulting firm.  AHC is starting off the New Year with many exciting projects on the books.  The 2012 outlook is positive despite the sluggish economy and cut backs in homeland security grants.

Reflecting on 2011

This is the time of year to reflect on our past accomplishments and keys to success. We want to thank everyone who has been a part of All Hands including our consultants, clients and partners. Despite the recession, 2011 was a year of steady work for AHC. All Hands consultants kept busy working with many returning clients and a few new clients. Our client list has grown to over 150 while our team of consultants has climbed well past 1,000.

AHC supported planning, training and exercise (PT&E) projects across the USA, both as prime and as sub–contractors. We also provided supplemental staffing support to large firms in a variety of PT&E efforts.

Our contracts included several projects across the northern tier of states. We helped with comprehensive emergency management plans (CEMPs), and developed operational procedures, guidebooks and playbooks.  We supported several exercises, taught classes on incident command and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), and conducted multiple organizational and capabilities assessments and workshops in Butte, MT and Saint Paul, MN.

Back east, we supported the NY-NJ-CT-PA Regional Catastrophic Planning Team with both an Executive Catastrophic Playbook and a Best Practices for Large-Scale Evacuations document.  We also helped design Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) in Georgia and Florida. We continue to do a lot of work in Florida, and have developed CEMP and Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans for Miami Dade College and tested the plans by conducting two exercises. We also supported Miami Beach with planning and exercises and started a project in Palm Beach.

On the west coast, 2011 saw the sixth Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Conference that we supported. The 2011 conference was in San Francisco. All Hands President Steve Davis supported San Francisco as Planning Chief and organized the program for what was the largest conference ever.  This was the final year of transition to a non-profit organization which will now organize the conferences in the future. We also helped with EOC design services in Brookings, OR.

We are also supporting a state-wide assessment of schools using the Automated Critical Asset Management System (ACAMS).  AHC staff have been in the field collecting data through a series of site assessments.

In addition to the PT&E work, we did a couple of After Action Reports on real-world events and supported the response to the BP Oil Spill.  We have been maintaining a “ready reserve” cadre of disaster responders for support to FEMA’s Individual Assistance Technical Assistance program and other state and local deployment contracts.

Our efforts on disaster response during 2011 included catastrophic planning efforts, workshops and interviews as well as IMT staffing.  In addition, AHC supported several Business Continuity Plan projects for private sector organizations.

Social Media

We continue to be active in social media, and our presence and reach grew considerably during 2011.  Our long time efforts to communicate by e-mail continue.  For instance, our "Emergency Management Discussion" group has 2,372 members and has hosted over 20,000 messages.  We have fully embraced the use of Twitter where we are nearing 2,000 followers on our @AllHandsDotNet account.  We have integrated our Tweets with Facebook, and LinkedIn and our various web sites and we continue to blog about emergency management and the Urban Areas Security Initiative.

Our websites continue to lead the way in information sharing as evidenced by a total of over eight million hits this year across the enterprise of All Hands web sites.  Together, our various websites and social media outlets have put the All Hands Network at the forefront of social media based information sharing.

A Look Ahead to 2012

2012 appears to be promising with many new projects already on the schedule. We will be doing municipal and county CEMPs in Florida, Louisiana, and Wisconsin and elsewhere as well as designing and conducting a transit exercise in Florida and a federal COOP project in South Carolina.  Our on-going work in New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana and Florida should also continue during the year.  We hope to keep supporting other firms with PT&E projects as well as pursuing opportunities focused on hazard assessments, recovery planning, disaster response, supplemental staffing and other projects.  In addition, we are currently working on several opportunities (both foreign and domestic) to do Emergency Operations Center design, operational planning, training and exercise work.

Thanks again to every who is a part of All Hands and a part of our continued success.

Steve Davis

Monday, November 21, 2011

FEMA's new Think Tank Project

A New Collaboration Community

FEMA has created a new "Collaboration Community" where stakeholders can come to a forum-type website and view, contribute and comment on conversations about emergency preparedness, disaster response and recovery, and other emergency management topics. They are calling this the "FEMA Think Tank".

The FEMA web page giving background information on the Think Tank is at

The site has gotten off to a great start since being announced at the IAEM conference last week. As of today, the usage statistics show that 72 ideas have been posted with 199 comments and 613 votes from 389 users.  The ideas are very interesting, some are a bit off topic, some are venting, and some are a bit redundant. However, I am sure that FEMA is getting a lot of good ideas from the stream of consciousness presented on the site already.

How does it work?

The site is built to run on user ideas and votes. Users submit their ideas, then the community discusses and votes for ideas and the best ideas "bubble up to the top". I am not sure exactly how this will work but each idea can be voted on as "I agree" or "I disagree" and then each can receive comments and the comments can receive votes and comments in a nested forum structure.  How all this ends up as a way to have ideas "bubble up" is beyond me. I am not sure that a "like or dislike" option is the best way to go here.

As I have worked with this IdealScales site, which I think is wonderful and robust (although it was slowed to a crawl this morning), I have been somewhat frustrated by the binary nature of giving ideas and comments either a thumbs up or thumbs down. It is not always that simple.  And, I hate to say that I dislike someone' s ideas. I do not want to vote "I disagree" to someone's idea when I am really trying to say it is not as important as some of the other ideas.

Prioritization vs. Voting "Up or Down"

I tried to add this to the discussion on the Think Tank site but it was found to be "off topic" so I will do it here.  My idea is that we need to prioritize what will eventually be a very large list of ideas if we really want the best to bubble up to the top.

It seems to me that a better approach might be to ask for a score on a five or ten point scale to help identify priorities for further research and implementation. I'm not sure if this is possible but I don't think that a number of people that "like" something is equivalent to the value of the idea. It is more important how much people think the idea is valuable. 

So, I'm suggesting that the site change over to some form of value voting. That is my thought for the day...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

National Disaster Recovery Framework Based on ERI / All Hands Consulting Best Practices

I found this little bit of history interesting... Good work "back in the day" by my good friend and business partner Rick LaValla was the basis of the new FEMA doctrine for recovery. Rick did not get any credit for this groundbreaking work but the story below helps set the record straight.


Reviewing the Origins of the National Disaster Recovery Framework

The basis for the newly released National Disaster Recovery Framework is the concept of "Recovery Support Functions” (RSFs). The original idea and concepts of RSFs was born in Cape Coral, Florida in 2001-2002. This pioneering work was the result of Rick LaValla, President of ERI International and Co-Founder and Vice President of All Hands Consulting, done under on contract with the City of Cape Coral.

Mr. LaValla conducted recovery workshops and focus groups with Cape Coral Fire Chief and Emergency Manager William “Bill” Van Helden in 2001 and 2002 which led to the development of the recovery function concept. Rick recalled that “It was late one evening that the epiphany occurred; we were staring at the walls and reviewing the work of the focus group when suddenly it occurred to me that if we use ESFs for response, then why not use RSFs for recovery?". Bill and Rick quickly brainstormed and developed a recovery framework based on RSFs.

This pioneering work was then utilized in Hilton Head Island, SC and Jefferson County, AL; many other local jurisdictions, and ultimately in Monroe County, FL. FEMA uses the Cape Coral Recovery Plan at EMI and its RSFs are a case study and best practice in their Disaster Recovery Planning courses. Out of all this sprang the newly released National Disaster Recovery Framework.

Many AHC clients are now using the RSF framework in their CEMP Recovery Annex and in their Recovery Plans and procedures.

Emergency Support Functions and Recovery Support Functions

Local government response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters begins with activation of Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). ESFs represent groupings of types of assistance activities that local government citizens and visitors are likely to need in times of emergency or disaster. A lead agency/department for each ESF is indicated, and is responsible for coordinating the delivery of that ESF to the emergency area. The lead agency/department is responsible for identifying the resources within the ESF that will accomplish the mission, and will coordinate the resource delivery. During emergencies, the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) determines which County ESFs are activated to meet the disaster response needs.

Recovery planning also begins when the EOC is activated. Recovery planners begin an assessment of the disaster impacts and determine which Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) will be activated to meet the local government’s recovery needs. Just like ESFs, Recovery Support Functions represent groupings of types of recovery activities and programs that the local government and its citizens/visitors are likely to need following disaster. Some ESFs will become RSFs as their scope changes from “emergency” to “recovery.” An example is the "ESF: Public Information". During the emergency phase, this ESF is concerned with the issuing of warning, emergency instructions and information. As the emergency phase ends and the recovery phase begin, this function becomes RSF: Public Information, and is now concerned with providing recovery information, post disaster health and safety information, and so.

Just like ESFs, a “primary” agency/department for each RSF is indicated, and will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the recovery activity or programs. The primary agency/department will be responsible for identifying the resources (support departments and organizations) within the RSF that will accomplish the post disaster activities. The primary agency/department is also responsible for coordinating the resource delivery.

Schedule of RSFs

While the NDRF describes six federal RSFs that can be activated to support state and local governments, there are many more RSFs to consider. Disasters are owned by local governments and they have many more recovery tasks to consider than the federal government does.
Local government RSFs can include:

RSF # 1        Impact Assessment (Disaster Assessment)
RSF # 2        Continuation of Government
RSF # 3        Public Information; Community Relations
RSF # 4        Human Services (Short–term)
RSF # 5        Individual Assistance
RSF # 6        Volunteers and Donations
RSF # 7        Unmet Needs
RSF # 8        Debris Management
RSF # 9        Reentry, Security
RSF # 10      Health
RSF # 11      Safety
RSF # 12      Repair and Restoration of Public Infrastructure, Services, Buildings
RSF # 13      Building Inspections and Permits
RSF # 14      Rebuilding, Construction, Repairs, Restoration
RSF # 15      Housing
RSF # 16      Redevelopment (Planning and Community Development)
RSF # 17      Economic Restoration and Development
RSF # 18      Environmental Concerns
RSF # 19      Mitigation
RSF # 20      Recovery Administration and Finance
RSF # 21      Mutual Aid

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Many DHS Grants are Effective and Have Proper Oversight

Today's blog takes a twist on a recent piece that was published on the Homeland Security Newswire and repeated on several UASI and Emergency Management mail lists and blogs.

The title of this piece was "Many DHS grantsineffective, lack proper oversight" and it was based on an interview with David Muhlhausen, a research fellow in empirical policy analysis at the Heritage Foundation.

As our blog's title clearly indicates, we do not agree with this premise.  And, we question the Heritage Foundation's constant criticism of homeland security grants and efforts.

First some background on where this is coming from.  The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

The foundation is considered to be one of the most influential conservative research organizations in the United States. While this blog strives for neutrality, some people could surmise that homeland security grants do not fit the hardcore conservative profile of "limited government" which the Heritage Foundation promotes.  This may explain a history of anti-homeland security grants opinion which has been pumped out by this foundation.  One could surmise that, since the UASI program is focused on urban areas, which typically skew to the left and are mostly run by Democrats, that the right is not enthralled with the idea of pumping government money to these areas. But clearly, this outfit has an agenda which does not support the UASI grant program. So, one should take what they have to say with a large grain of salt.

Now, to the point of the article, it is the opinion of the writer, and of many UASI grantees, that the DHS grants are very effective and may even have too much oversight.  While some examples of poor choices will be easy to find, for the most part, great things have been done with UASI money.  We have all shared examples of these at UASI conferences where we showcase programs based on planning, organizing, equipping, training and exercising to enhance capabilities to fight terrorism.  While we know that all of the grant programs suffer for a shortage of effective measurement devices, we know that these programs have increased our effectiveness.  We have a good documented history of preventing terrorism; many incidents have been avoided. Non-terrorism disasters, from the I-35 bridge collapse to the recent natural disasters, have shown how much better we are at preventing, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

UASIs need to do a better job of documenting this effectiveness; but, we all know with certainty that the UASI program worked. We are better prepared on all fronts for all types of disasters.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

UASI 2012: An Alternative Future

One of my "UASI Friends" asked why the proposed 2012 UASI funding of $400 million couldn't be shared among the 2011 UASI awardees.  It could obviously. That approach would amount to about 60% of the current award. An updated curve graphic of what this would look like is shown below. This is one alternative future, the money could be spread over more or less UASIs based on the decision of the Homeland Security Secretary.

The "Sixty Percent Solution"

You can click on this image to get a larger version which you may be able to actually read.

Just a note, this is all obviously very speculative. UASIs should consider what is realistic to expect given the funding and the previous clear desire to fund the most at-risk cities over those less at-risk.  However, the argument can certainly be made that all of the cities currently receiving UASI dollars are at-risk and worthy of funding. I expect this will be a debate as the budget is finalized and finally implemented.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why $400 Million Will Not Save Tier II UASIs

Yesterday’s blog provided a chart that shows how the Senate’s proposed FY 2012 Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) budget compared to previous years.  While the chart shows a steep decline, you may think that $400 million is still a lot of money.  It certainly is a lot of money, and it is better than what the House bill would have provided, but the chart belies the impact on what DHS calls “Tier II” UASI cities. 

Today’s blog looks at the impact of the proposed funding level on UASI cities.

The total number of UASI cities grew to 64 in FY 2010 but saw a dramatic decrease in FY 2011 when it was cut down to 31 due to a 21% decrease in funding.  One can only guess at this point how many FY 2012 UASIs there will be; but, an educated guess is that there will be no more than ten or eleven.  Eleven is the current number of Tier I cities, while ten is a number that has been thrown around by both legislators and grants managers.

The Tier I cities have historically received the “Lion’s Share” of the UASI funding based on a DHS formula that allocated the majority of the funding to these high-risk and heavily populated regions. With less money available, and a desire to keep funding the most high-risk cities, one can assume that only the top cities will be funded in 2012.

By The Numbers

In round numbers, the Senate’s proposed 2012 UASI allocation is 40% less than FY 2011 and only half of the FY 2010 funding amount. Due to the funding curve, where smaller, lower risk cities get smaller amounts, you need to drop a lot of smaller cities to maintain funding for the larger higher risk cities. The 2011 awards dropped 33 of the smaller cities, many of them relatively large cites like Kansas City.

Assuming that the strategy will be to keep as much funding going to the top ten cities, the following chart demonstrates the impact on the other larger high-risk cities.  The top ten, if funded, would share funding which totals only 79% of their current funding levels. While these cities would see significantly reduced funding, all of the other cities would be dropped off the list.  This means that 54 previously funded cities would be dropped. The largest of these is Miami, while Boston is currently ranked higher based on Risk.

Theoretical 2012 UASI Allocations Compared to Previous Years

Of course, this is all conjecture. It could end up that the final budget is more or less.  The number of cities could be less; DHS could opt to go back to the original seven UASI I cities that were the first funded after 9/11.  If the House prevails, homeland security funding will be a block grant. If the FEMA disaster funding impacts the budget, as many think it will, the budget could be cut further. The states are currently proposing grant reforms which may totally change the funding process. The future is uncertain to say the least.

But for now, based on what the Senate Appropriations Committee is voting on today, it seems safe to assume that only seven to eleven UASIs will be funded in 2012.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

FY 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill

Senate bill provides $2.58 billion for state and local grants - $557 million above the House level.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a Fiscal Year 2012 funding legislation bill on September 6th.  The legislation, which still needs to go through the conference committee process and be signed by the President before it becomes law, totals $41 billion in discretionary budget authority, $2.6 billion below the President’s request, and $666 million (-1.6%) below FY 2011.

The good news for DHS and grantees is that this is $408 million above the House-passed bill. 

The Senate rejected the House approach to grants.  In particular, The bill rejects the House proposal to eliminate the Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grants, and Transit Security Grants and other programs and replace them with a block grant.

The bill provides $2.58 billion for state and local grants, which is $557 million above the House level.  The bill rejects the House proposal to eliminate the Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grants, and Transit Security Grants and other programs and replace them with a block grant.

Included in the total are the following amounts:
·        State Homeland Security Grant Program - $430 million. 
o   Within the total, Operation Stonegarden - $50 million
·        Urban Area Security Initiative - $400 million
·        Emergency Operations Centers - $15 million
·        Port Security Grants - $200 million
·        Transit Security Grants - $200 million

No specific funding is provided for Citizens Corps, Driver’s License Security, Buffer Zone Protection Program, Metropolitan Medical Response System and Interoperable Emergency Communications grants.

Activities previously funded under these programs are eligible in the funded programs; – $10 million to help state and local communities cover law enforcement and other costs associated with hosting National Special Security Events such as the Asia Pacific Economic Conference

The bill provides $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants, $11 million above the FY 2011 level.

The following graphic displays the level of UASI funding since the inception of the program.

While this continues a steep decline in funding, the good news is that the cuts were not as much as proposed by the House of Representatives.  It is not clear at this point what the number of UASI grantees may total. Last year, the number of UASIs was reduced from 64 to 31 – with the level of funding proposed, this is an additional 40% cut to the program.

This may leave additional UASI cities off the list for FY 2012.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tales of Irene: Did we over react?

August 27, 2011 1100 hrs EDT (Maryland)

I have been watching Irene with interest, both as a resident of the east coast and as an emergency management practitioner.  I have been impressed with the planning and preparation so far, surprised by some of the doom and gloom, and now listening to those that think that everyone overreacted. So, I am prompted to impose my opinions on my readers once again...

The short answer to the question of overreactions is, IMHO, that it was not overreacting based on what the emergency managers had in the way of a forecast.  Hurricanes are unique, and preparedness officials are blessed, in that there is a lot of warning with tropical systems - almost too much it seems. The problem is there is not as much certainly as we would like. Forecast tracks change all the time and forecast strength is also seldom correct. But you need to work with what you have.

Evacuations are a tool to save lives. Getting people out of the impact zone is a no-brainier but when and how many is the tough decision facing emergency managers.  It takes a long time to evacuate resorts and metropolitan areas.  If you pull the trigger too fast (and the threat does not play out) you may have caused some unnecessary disruption to business and vacations. If you pull the trigger too late, you might put more people in harm's way, causing huge traffic jams and more suffering.  The forecast was dire and the track was a worst case scenario; so, emergency managers had to weigh these factors and that is what lead to evacuations from the OBX up to New England. 

Too Much Hype?
Almost everyone dislikes the hyperbole that politicians and newscasters seem to enjoy so much. I personally wish there was more of a "just the facts" approach to public information.  I understand that it is a tough job to get people to pay attention to warnings and to react to government advice, so a little hype is understandable. You need to do something to get people's attention, denial and inertia are normal and a lot of people do not listen but the over-the-top hype seems to have a negative effect on many.

My pet peeve and dismay is reserved for the the weatherman on the beach, or in the street, watching the destruction. There they stand, crouched down against the wind, dodging flying debris, etc., all while warning everyone to stay inside!  The hypocrisy is unbelievable! They set a bad example for everyone. If they can be on the beach why can't we?

Making Tough Decisions
With the storm weakening and the damage appearing to be minor (at this hour), I am sure that people are wondering if it was worth shutting down the entire eastern seaboard for this so called "storm of the century".  I applaud the emergency managers and politicians for making the tough decisions and announcing them far enough in advance to work.  The evacuations that I saw carried out went very smoothly. Ocean City and the State deployed  buses which came down and fetched the international student workers, who do not have cars normally, and took them up to Baltimore to stay in a University. That was a good plan and well executed. It appears to have gone off without a hitch.

Irene impacts Surf Beach, North Carolina (Rick Paxton photo)

I was faced with a personal evacuation "decision dilemma" myself as I was enjoying some time at the beach. I immediately started weighing my options when the forecast track got close to my location. It would be easy to move in the deck furniture and leave. Part of me wanted to stay as I enjoy a good storm. I grew up at the beach and never evacuated before. As a fire fighter I went out and ran calls in storms and I must say I found it invigorating. However, with family and pets to think about, and having no first responder role to play, I decided to leave and then went to work trying to talk my family members who live there into leaving.  

I left early and had no traffic. As soon as I got home the evacuation orders started so I would have needed to leave anyway.  As for my family, and other "locals" I know, none of them wanted to go and many of them stayed.  They wanted to watch over their property; even after evacuations were ordered and it was announced that water and sewer would be shut off. I hope that they all make out alright and I am watching closely to see how bad they get it.

Lessons to Learn
As with any disaster, or near disaster, there are lessons to learn. We will be watching for after action reviews and recommendations.  I hope that no one thinks this was a "crying wolf" situation. When the next one comes, the threat may be worse and the issues will be the same.  Bottom line, have a plan, be prepared, and remember it is better to be safe than sorry.

Looking forward to getting back to the beach to see if the roof is still on the condo!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

I wanted to share this"Preparing for Hurricane Irene" letter from Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano to his constituents on Long Island.  I think they have done an excellent job of communicating with the local residents in advance of Irene.

Dear Neighbors,

With hurricane Irene heading toward our coast, we urge all Nassau County residents to prepare appropriately for the storm. Below please find a list of precautions to take and items to have in your home to prepare you.

1. Select a safe place for the family to weather the storm. This may be a location in your home - consider a windowless room on the bottom floor. If your home doesn't have a safe area, you should know the locations of at least two emergency shelters near your home. If you have special medical needs and don't think you'll be able to get to the shelter on your own, contact the county in advance to make prior arrangements.

2. Stock up on food and water. You should have enough non-perishable food and water in your home to last the family for at least a week. If your stock of supplies is old, be sure to refresh it. You might want to purchase new canned goods every few years and rotate the rest through your pantry. Water should be replaced annually.

3. Prepare other disaster supplies. You'll need to stock up on batteries, flashlights, rope, tarps, plastic bags, bad-weather clothing and other essentials to help you through the aftermath of a bad storm.

4. Get your home ready. If you have hurricane shutters, make sure that you have all of the parts and have some extra screws/washers handy. If you don't, have a supply of plywood precut to fit your windows. Gather anything loose from your yard and store it in the garage. Watch the news when a storm is approaching and protect your home when advised by local authorities. If you wait until the rain starts, it may be too late.
5. Develop a family communications plan. You might become separated before or after the storm. It's a good idea to have an out-of-state contact (a relative up north?) to act as the point of contact for all family members in the event of an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family knows who that person is and carries their phone number in their wallet or purse.

6. Check your insurance coverage. Companies stop writing coverage when a storm is approaching. Ensure that your homeowner's insurance has enough windstorm coverage to rebuild your home in today's market. Also, remember that standard insurance doesn't cover flooding. You'll need special flood insurance from the federal government.

7. Plan for the family pets. Shelters will not accept pets. However, there will be Pet Shelters in close proximity to the Human shelters for your pets. The best idea is to evacuate early to a friend's home that's located in a safe area.

8. Keep your vehicles gassed up to at least half a tank at all times throughout hurricane season. When a storm approaches, lines WILL get long (up to five hours!) and gas stations will run out of gas before the storm hits. You need to have enough gas to safely evacuate if the situation warrants.

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra
  • batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
  • (EFFAK) - PDF, 277Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
  • Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency by visiting

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.  Stay safe.
Ed Signature
Edward P. Mangano
County Executive

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Sometimes you just need to share a good picture. This is one of my pet peeves....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Supplanting - Will it be an issue for preparedness grants?

As you may know, the FEMA preparedness grant programs are designed to “enhance community emergency preparedness and participation capabilities”, not to help fund baseline programs. The common concept for grants is that they are to “supplement not supplant” local dollars. However, many communities are looking at a loss of both local tax dollars and grant funds at the same time; what are they to do? Tough decisions must be made; is the option of shifting tax-funded program activities to grants a viable one? Maybe, but caution is warranted.
Many grant programs, including FEMA preparedness grants, have specific requirements that all grant-funded expenses must be new and that grant funds cannot replace existing state or local government funding. Substitution of existing funds with federal grants (supplanting) will be the subject of monitoring and audit reports. Non-supplanting rules are serious business, violations can result in penalties, including suspension of current and future funds, suspension or debarment from federal grants, repayment of monies provided under a grant, and civil and/or criminal penalties. So it is wise to carefully consider this as you restructure programs in light of shrinking fiscal resources.
The DHS Financial Management Guide offers one possible source of relief to the non-supplanting requirement in light of the situation presented by budget cuts.The guidance states that: “Recipients therefore must ensure that they do not reduce the current overall level of funding support to preparedness missions,absent exigent circumstances.”
Exigent circumstances are emergency conditions and many communities are certainly in situations that are deemed financial emergencies. So, does a budget crisis meet the test of an “exigent circumstance”? I am not going to answer that but suggest grantees may want to ask the question of their legal advisors and/or ask the Grant Programs Directorate for and interpretation. I think a lot of grantees are going to be finding themselves in this situation.
The DHS Financial Management Guide language on supplanting is quoted verbatim below.

Recipients of G&T funds shall not replace funding appropriated from State and local governments with their Federal grant funding. It is the purpose of these grants to increase the overall amount of resources available to any G&T funded organization in order to bolster preparedness and to increase services and opportunities. Current levels of activities or programs funded by State, local or non-governmental entity resources should only be increased by receipt of Federal funding. Recipients therefore must ensure that they do not reduce the current overall level of funding support to preparedness missions, absent exigent circumstances.
For example, if a State pays the salaries of three intelligence analysts, it cannot begin to pay the salary of one of them with Federal grant funding. It could, however, hire a fourth analyst.
Potential supplanting will be the subject of application review, as well as pre-award review, post-award monitoring, and audit. If there is a potential presence of supplanting, the applicant or grantee will be required to supply documentation demonstrating that the reduction in non-Federal resources occurred for reasons other than the receipt or expected receipt of Federal funds.
A confirmation during the application process may be requested by the awarding agency or recipient agency stating that Federal funds will not be used to supplant State or local funds.

Steve Davis, All Hands

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Twitter Hashtags and Emergency Management

(Updated November 11, 2011)  

While some emergency managers are embracing social media, others are still avoiding it. However, social media has emerged as an important tool for emergency managers. Emergency managers are using social media as a preparedness tool to engage the community, help with public information and as otherwise aid in dissemination of the preparedness message.  In addition, social media is emerging as an important tool for situation awareness during the response and recovery phases of an emergency.
It is important, in using social media for all phases of emergency management, to understand that it is not just about Twitter.  However, Twitter has clearly emerged as the most significant platform for emergency management engagement and situational awareness.  Twitter is simple; it is a micro blogging tool which is limited to 140 characters.  Anyone can follow what anyone else has to say.  This stream of  data (the Twittersphere or Twitter Stream) can be overwhelming based on the huge volume of silly Tweets that populate the stream.  However, the use of a “hashtag” (a short term preceded by the hash or # symbol) makes it manageable.  In addition, there are many Twitter aggregators and trend monitoring websites available; these use a variety of tactics to filter out what’s important or of interest to emergency managers. Currently some better software tools are emerging which may help automate the monitoring process.  Any monitoring or use of the Twittersphere will ultimately need to use hashtags. 

Hashtags are good to understand but hard to control; some say that hashtagging is a subtle art and I would have to agree.  As a user-defined tool, hashtags are both organic and rapidly evolving and there is no way to control them but there are some established ones to use and follow related to emergency management.  People will just start using a hash tag that seems to make sense given an emergency (Ex” #Joplin, #tornado, or #Earl) or use common terms like #hurricane. Hashtags help the public and emergency managers alike follow the conversation to see what I relevant to the event.  It will be interesting to see what emerges as an effective way to integrate Twitter and other social media in emergency management but it is clear that TwitterFacebook and a host of other tools are here to stay and these have already impacted the world of emergency management greatly.
Here is my list of commonly used hashtags (updated and in order of preference).
Hash Tag List
Emergency Management and Homeland Security
#HSEM – Homeland Security/Emergency Management - This is my clear favorite and it is becoming the preferred tag to use by many in emergency management and homeland security.  It is broad in meaning and well used.  In fact, the following hashtags are underused or used for different subjects as noted below.
#Disaster – Disaster related (also used often for trivial things like, “My hair is a #disaster!”)
#UASI – Urban Areas Security Initiative and anything relevant to those in UASI programs (past or present). Note: This started as a tag for the UASI conference but is now used to talk about relevant topics and Drive the #UASI Daily paper. However there are not many posts using it currently.
#DHS – Department of Homeland Security
#EM, #Emergency – Emergency Management – Used for many other (non emergency management) things and not used that often now for emergency management.

#Homeland – This used to mean that a post was related to Homeland Security but this has now been overtaken by those discussing the TV series Homeland and other things that are not relevant to Homeland Security. Instead, I suggest that you use #HSEM, #UASI, or #SMEM as appropriate. (This drives the #Homeland Daily but that is now all about the TV show.)

Public Health
#Outbreak – Disease outbreak
#H1N1 – The H1N1 virus
#Health – Health related
#BOLO – Be on the Look Out
#Quake, #Earthquake – All things seismic
#CBRNE – CBRNE is for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (or energetic) topics
#EMS – Emergency medical Services
#Fire – Fire and Rescue
#Hazmat – Hazardous Materials
#Missing – Missing person
#LEO – Law Enforcement Office or Organization
#WANTED –  Wanted person or vehicle
Weather Related
#Hurricane – Hurricane (obviously)
#Storm – any sort of storm (You can use #tropical #storm for instance)
#Tropical – Tropical weather (Ex: #tropical #wave emerges in the #Atlantic and Will we have #Franklin and #Gert roaming the Atlantic soon? #Tropical update)
#Tropicalstorm #TS (Tropical Storm)
#Tropicalwx – Tropical Weather)
#Twoat – Tropical Weather Outlook Atlantic)
#WX – Weather-Specific (preface with state initials for state-specific, e.g., #MDWX)
Social Media
#SMEM – Social Media and Emergency Management (Often abused for things not SMEM related)
#SMEMChat – Used during Twitter chats about SMEM on Fridays between 9:30-10:30a PST
#SM, #SocMed, #SocialMedia – Social Media in general