Disaster Brokers

A brilliant and insightful blog post! A must read.


BCLC’s Richard Crespin writes about challenges in post-disaster corporate giving and local organizational efforts. Read the original article here. 

In eighth grade I had to pick an independent study project. It was the ’80s, the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, and it was cool to emulate Family Ties’ Alex P. Keaton (ok, maybe not cool, but cool enough for me), so I picked investing. This was before online brokers, before E-Trade, even before the Internet, so my dad took me down to the local Sears. That’s right. Sears. For some reason Sears had decided to offer financial services, so the local office of Dean Witter was squeezed between the lay-away desk and the lawn mowers.


As I sat there, a kindly man in shirtsleeves and a tie explained capital markets. Brokers like him earned their money by knowing who wanted something (the buyer) and who had it (the seller). He served not only…

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Must-Read Speaking Tips

From Forbes Magazine – originally written for entrepreneurs, but in general these are great tips for presenters and trainers!


For most of us, public speaking can be incredibly nerve-wracking. What if you mess up? What if no one claps? What if someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to? What if you throw up on stage? (Seriously, you should at least stop worrying about that one.)

But with the right preparation, public speaking doesn’t have to be such a daunting, fretful experience. The chance to strut your stuff and raise awareness for your brand is actually really exciting, especially if you’re a young company looking to introduce your expertise—and offering—to the world.

Here, we outline five steps to take before you get up on that stage to make sure you most genuinely connect with your audience, get your point across in the time allotted, and (most importantly) don’t pass out.


1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The benefits of this old adage are twofold. First, becoming comfortable with the material you’ll be delivering will ease your nerves—after reading your speech to your mom, grandma, and six closest friends, the experience will feel much less intimidating.

Second, you’ll significantly improve your delivery. Audiences want to connect with the people they’re watching speak or present, and if you’re reading from a piece of paper for 20 minutes, they’re not going to have the opportunity to do so. The more you know your stuff, the more you’ll be able to make eye contact, throw in a joke, and ensure you pack in all of your crucial points before the buzzer.


2. Know Your Space

If you have the opportunity to do so—like at a conference or cocktail party—check out where you’re going to be speaking. Are you using a microphone? Do you have any AV requirements? The better you understand your surroundings, the more you can concentrate on the public speaking itself. And if you’re incorporating AV aspects into your presentation, back to #1 you go.


3. Know Your Audience

I’ve talked at great length about the importance of knowing your audience across all of the various ways you communicate. But this sentiment is arguably most important when it comes to communicating in person. Your number one goal for any public speaking opportunity is to really connect with your audience. Regardless of how well you address the topic at hand, if people don’t get it, it won’t resonate. And if you’re not getting your message across, what’s the point?

Research the event and check-in with the coordinators beforehand so you know who to expect, and then tailor your comments accordingly. For example, think about explaining the current social media landscape to a room full of senior citizens versus a room full college students. Different speech, right? (Answer: Yes.)

Another aspect to consider, thanks to our ever-evolving digital world, is any virtual audience that might be participating in the event. Is your presentation being live streamed? Live tweeted? It’s just as important to understand this community. Ask what platforms will be pushing out the content—like the event’s Facebook page—so you can further amend your speech to address this audience. And, as the technology behind this can get complicated (especially if you’re planning to engage with your digital audience in real-time!), apply tips #1 and #2 solely to this aspect prior to getting on that stage.


4. Find the Balance

If you’ve founded a content producing business, and you’re speaking at a Content Producing 101 workshop, it makes a lot of sense for you to talk about your company and your experience in the industry. But many times, the connection between what you do and what you’re speaking about isn’t so straightforward. And in these cases, remember that while you want to use the speaking opportunity to draw attention to your business, you also don’t want to come across as too salesy.

So how do you find the balance? Well, remember that you represent your brand, so if you give a kick-ass speech, people are going to want to know more about you. As long as there’s an easy place for them to find you and to learn about what you do (a.k.a., make sure your company’s name, website, and Twitter handle is in your slides or the event’s program), the connection will be made naturally—no awkward, forced interjections of your brand into your speech required.

That said, it’s also OK to find one or two places to seamlessly (and genuinely) tie together what you do and the topic you’re discussing as you’re crafting your remarks.

Finally, make sure to network at the event. One of the biggest benefits of public speaking is the opportunity to position yourself as an expert, so make yourself available for questions and meet-and-greets both before and after your speech so you can strut your stuff.


5. Breathe

Really, don’t forget to breathe. You’ll be great!



In memoriam – Ape

Ape - Rest in Peace

Ape – Rest in Peace

Many around the nation are aware of the active shooter incident that occurred in central New York earlier this week.  This shooting occurred just a town east of where I live.

In this tragic event, four people, including an off duty corrections officer, were killed and two people were wounded.  As the incident came to a resolution, nearly a full day after it began, a special operations team entered a building where they suspected the shooter was hiding.  As the team searched the building, a Czech German Shepherd born on November 17, 2010 took point.  In the gunfire that was exchanged when the suspect was located, Ape, a K-9 member of the FBI since only February of this year was shot and killed by the suspect.

You can visit the Officer Down Memorial Page to pay your respects to Ape.

A Disasterous Trend: Cuts in Preparedness Funding

This post was initially inspired by an article from CBS News on funding cuts to disaster preparedness programs.  These cuts go further and deeper than the current sequester cuts we are now seeing.  These cuts are a dangerous and disastrous trend.  To quote the article…

“In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated $3.05 billion to FEMA for preparedness grants designed to strengthen “our nation’s ability to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies, …. In fiscal year 2012, that appropriation was less than half that figure – $1.35 billion. The same trend could be seen in FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grants, which fell from $100 million in 2010 to $35.5 million two years later.”

Have all the terrorists gone away?  Has Mother Nature stopped having temper tantrums?  Have stupid people stopped doing stupid things?  I don’t think so!  So why the cuts?

Let’s put some things in perspective… On one hand, we do need to have a bit of fiscal prudence and restraint.  GAO reports have repeatedly shown that many state and local governments are simply not spending down the grant funds they have been allocated.  DHS grants are backed up several grant years with unspent funds.  That said, as we peel back the layers of the onion, there are certain facts that need to be mentioned.  Why aren’t they spending the money they have been given?  First, grant periods have generally been too short.  The most significant reason for this is the inefficiency of bureaucracy we live in.  Follow this trail… The federal fiscal year begins October 1st.  The budget gets passed at some undermined point around that.  DHS, along with all the other agencies, get their allocations.  They then need time to formulate their grant guidance for the funds going to states and locals.  By the time states see this grant guidance and their respective allocations it’s usually close to the end of the second quarter of the federal fiscal year.  States then have to formulate their own grant guidance as they pass through funds to locals.  All this bureaucracy delays the grant year about six months.  Recognizing that nothing could be done about the bureaucracy, DHS finally extended grant years only recently, giving folks a more reasonable amount of time to spend the money.

Another reason why grant funds are slow to spend is that in most cases the grantees don’t actually ask for the money, therefore they don’t have a budget prepared beforehand.  DHS distributes funds based upon a formula.  While an application exists, it’s nothing more than an afterthought and formality.  That leaves states and locals with a pile of cash and no plan on how to spend it.  Here lies the beginning of the breakdown in accountability.  Now most folks will say that it’s easy to spend money.  In government, not so much.  Especially when you consider a few factors: 1) every level of government has spending rules (accountability is a good thing, but that can get in the way of efficiency when RFPs have to be issued for darn near everything); 2) a great deal of equipment was purchased in the big push of funds immediately surrounding 9/11 – what else do we need?; and 3) grants are restricting what funds can be spent on (i.e. there are limits on personnel (salary) expenses, and the purchase of disposables and maintenance costs of equipment – which are of particular importance for exercises).

So governments don’t have a lot of time to spend the money and face a few obstacles in getting the money spent.  But how is this a factor of cuts?  One reason for these cuts is that Congress is seeing that states and locals have a lot of money left over going back several grant years.  Failing to realize the whys and wherefores of it all, they are simply giving less money (because, to them, it’s not needed – but nothing could be further from the truth!).  They are also looking to reduce spending overall, as the article cites, and that’s a hit that will impact nearly everyone.

Taking a look at the grantees, however, there are a few criticisms.  Better and more proactive fiscal planning needs to be implemented.  Costs should be forecasted out several years to better anticipate needs.  They may, sadly, have to trim programs and streamline operations (although most emergency management programs certainly are not living in the lap of luxury).  They also need to be more creative with the declining funds they receive, especially through partnerships and regionalization.  An area doesn’t need to be regarded as a UASI or Catastrophic Planning Zone to work cooperatively as a region, which should include some pooling of funds for collective projects.

What can be approached regionally?  Most preparedness efforts fit well into that category: planning, training, and exercising.  Think about it, you work with your neighbors all the time and disasters don’t seem to stop at the county line, so why not make your cooperation more effective and efficient?  In the absence of regional catastrophic planning, which most areas don’t need to do, consider planning for some credible worst case scenarios and cascading impacts such as flooding and mass care.  Obviously regional mutual aid planning is essential.  How about working with your public health partners?  What about the private sector – how can you strengthen your relationships with them?  Regional planning conferences are a good start!  Regionalized training is obviously a no-brainer and regional exercises are essential making sure that the planning and training are effective and to give folks an opportunity to practice what they have learned.  Lastly, speaking as someone who has experience working for government and as a consultant, in many cases it’s actually more cost-effective and easier to coordinate regional preparedness activities by hiring a consulting firm, some of which have proven experience and expertise in working with the multiple stakeholders that a regional effort would include.

As we face reduced funding, we have to be more creative, cooperative, and communicate specific needs on a regular basis up the chain of government.  If you are with county or local government, let the state know what your needs are.  And don’t just tell them once – be sure to repeat yourself – not in an annoying wintertime house fly kind of way, but when the appropriate opportunity presents itself.  Make sure that you show justification for your needs through after action reports and documented strategies and plans.  Ask the State to take these needs up to federal partners – and when you have the opportunity to speak with these federal partners directly, take advantage of it; be they representatives of FEMA or your local representative of Congress or US Senator.  Remember to be specific and cite the need.  Don’t complain but be direct.  With funding that emergency management programs simply receive without asking being on the decline, we need to be proactive about receiving funds.

Emergency management and, to a greater degree homeland security, have been fortunate to have a good deal of funding over the last decade.  There has been so much money, though, with such short time lines, that things haven’t been done as well as they should have.  Now is the time to re-tool and reexamine how we do business.  Conduct needs assessments to determine what should be focused on and build upon community partnerships.  Consider what the community as a whole – the citizens – are willing to help in preparedness; as well as the private sector.  Whole-community partnerships have perhaps never been so important as they are now.

The Century Mark

This is my 100th blog post!  To celebrate the occasion I’m going to stray from my regular format to reflect a bit…

I feel quite accomplished by this.  Many bloggers never reach this mark, some have surpassed it – even quicker than I did.  Certainly many have a bigger following than I do, but mine has steadily grown through these months (thank you!).  While I’ve not blogged every day (it’s been about a week since my last post), there were some days when I posted two or even three times.  If you are a regular reader, you know that most of my posts revolve around emergency management and homeland security topics and some discuss training and presentations.  I enjoy sharing what I find and what I have learned.  Sometimes it’s a quick post, linking to an article of interest or reblogging someone else’s post that I found fascinating.  Other times it’s something more in-depth.  I’m proud to be one of WordPress‘s top emergency management bloggers and I’m humbled by the company I keep.

Gold TrophyIn my time, WordPress’s ‘Freshly Pressed’ designation has eluded me, but I’m confident I’ll reach it some day (how is that determined, by the way?  I want to know!!!).  For my readers who aren’t familiar, the high gurus of WordPress select a few posts each day to be highlighted on their Freshly Pressed (commonly ‘FP’) page, which brings in literally hundreds of readers.  It’s a great way for a blog to gain long-term visibility.  It’s pretty much the Oscar of blogging… the Bloggy… is that a thing?  Wait… OK, just looked into that and it actually is!  www.bloggyaward.com.  Who knew?  Obviously not me!

My path to blogging started on May 19th of last year with Reinvention 101.  This first post was about an article in Entrepreneur.com of that same name.  The article reflected on Robert Downey, Jr‘s rise to a greater level of success than he previously had before making some poor choices in life.  In the article, they outline his progress through five important life lessons as he picked himself up, dusted off, and moved on to greater things:

1) Concentrate on getting ahead one step at a time;

2) Don’t be too proud to accept help;

3) Believe that in the end, your talent will enable people to overlook your past mistakes;

4) It’s never too late to develop self-discipline;

5) Don’t be afraid to play in an ensemble.

In my post I mentioned that I had learned these lessons.  Looking back I suppose I was right – I had learned them – but they weren’t all necessarily in practice to the best of my ability at that time.  I don’t think they are now, either, but it’s certainly gotten better, more focused, and more intentional.  Take a look at these lessons for yourself.  I think everyone can apply them to different times in their lives.  Businesses and organizations can apply them as well.  Greater success is ahead – believe it and believe in yourself!

So there you have it – a brief retrospective on my past 99 blog posts.  I greatly appreciate all my readers – the occasional drop-ins, those that wander by for a glance, and those who regularly follow me.  I’m hopeful that I share some quality content, some valid points of view, and some relevant lessons learned.  If you like my blog, please let me know.  Click the little ‘like’ button, follow me, and share posts with others.  I greatly welcome comments, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program…

Thanks!  Tim Riecker




How to Replace Five Common Vital Records

I was sent the following from USA.gov on Friday.  It’s a good reminder to keep copies of these documents so you at least have a starting point and can reference the registration numbers of each.  I also keep copies of my driver’s license and credit cards (all front and back).

From a business perspective, you should also consider what documents you maintain copies of.  What records are vital to you?  Are the copies up to date?  Are they stored off-site?


How to Replace Five Common Vital Records

Vital records, like birth and marriage certificates and military service records are often necessary to access a variety of government benefits and services. But sometimes life happens and those vital records go missing. Maybe they were misplaced in a move, were stolen or got damaged in a fire.

USA.gov has information to help you find copies and replacements of your vital records so you can apply for whatever benefits and services you need.

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

These records come from the states. To find a copy, you’ll have to contact that state office where the life event occurred. Find the contact information for state and territory offices that can help you.


Report lost or stolen passports to the State Department right away by calling 1-877-487-2778. To report and replace the lost or stolen passport, you’ll have to submit forms DS-11 and DS- 64 in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility. If you lose a passport, and then find it again, you won’t be able to use it to travel. You should return the lost passport and request a new one.

Military Service Records

You often need copies of military service records to apply for a variety of government programs available for veterans, like health care, retirement or education benefits. The National Archives keeps copies of all veterans’ services records, and you can apply online to receive a copy of yours or an immediate family member’s if they are deceased. If you prefer to mail or fax a request for your records, you can download form SF-180. You can also find out how to replace lost military medals and awards.

Social Security Card

If you can’t find your Social Security card, you may not actually need to replace it. As long as you know your Social Security number, you will still be able to collect Social Security benefits, get a job and apply for many government benefits and services. However, if you do want to replace the card, you’ll need to gather documents proving your identity and citizenship to mail or take to a local Social Security office.

Green Card

If you have a U.S. Permanent Resident (Green) Card, you may need to replace it if it was lost, stolen or damaged or if your name or other biographical information has legally changed since it was issued. You can easily request a new one online. If you’re outside the United States and have lost your green card, you should contact the nearest U.S. consulate or immigrations office before you apply online for a new card.

If you need help getting copies of other vital records like tax returns or school records, you can find the information you need to replace them at USA.gov.