Showing posts from August, 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 ho…

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 f…

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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

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, su…

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 bas…

What about THIRA - what does it have to do with my grants?

THIRA is the acronym for a "Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment."While many people do not really understand the difference between the terms threat, hazard, and risk (that can be the subject of another piece) I’m sure most of our readers are familiar with Threat Assessments and/or Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments (HIRAs).The term THIRA may be something new but the concept is not.The reason that it is a term of some importance is that the term was included in the FY2011 Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) guidance and it is causing a concern for some grantees.The HSGP guidance says that:
"In order to qualify for FY 2011 funding, all grantees shall develop and maintain a THIRA."
While good folks at DHS/FEMA are developing a Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) supplement that will aid in the conduct of these and other risk assessments, there is no specific guidance out about how to do a THIRA that meets the requirements of the grant. 

UASI Collaboration Update

Those of you that know me, probably know that I have been very involved in the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and the annual National UASI Conference since the inception of both programs. I blog today to note that, while I am no longer going to be involved with the UASI conference, I am going to keep working to support collaboration among UASIs as I have been doing for the last five years.

Why the Change?
As you may know, the UASI conference is now managed by a Board of Directors, elected from UASI Points of Contact and organized as a 501c6. This group is now the "National UASI Association" and has taken full responsibility for the conference.  Last year was a transition year and I helped plan the conference on behalf of San Francisco, the 2011 host. Going forward, the conference will be working to do the conference on their own.

Meanwhile, I plan to continue to support and facilitate collaboration and communication among UASIs as I have done for the last five years via…

New Emergency Preparedness Tools for Local Health Departments

The San Francisco Bay Area Advanced Practice Center, which represents a partnership between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Diseases and Emergency Readiness, recently launched two new emergency preparedness products for local health departments: the Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) Toolkit and the Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza Vaccination Assessment (SPIVA) Toolkit.

The IDER Toolkit provides local health departments with guidance and templates that can be used to develop and operationalize a National Incident Management System-compliant response plan for infectious disease emergencies at the local level. It draws on extensive public health preparedness activities, experiences from the recent H1N1 outbreak, survey findings, and discussions with health departments throughout the country. The IDER Toolkit addresses unique features of an infectious disease emergency response, such as disease containment and epidemiology…