Incorporating Social Media Into Your Exercises

Incorporating Social Media Into Your Exercises, a post within the blog.

This blog was first brought to my attention through the most recent DHS Capacity Building Webinar Series episode called Innovating with Disaster Drills and Exercises (also available on iTunes, which is how I usually listen to them).  The blog’s primary writer, Kim Stephens, is very well spoken and well versed in using social media in emergency management (#smem).  Claire Rubin, who I’ve referenced several times before, also guest posts on the idisaster blog.  I’ve spent some time looking through the blog and find it to be well written and very informative – they certainly gained a new follower!

Be sure to check out both and the DHS Capacity Building Webinar Series.

– TR

EM, HS, and Politics

As the mechanizations of election season warm up their engines, let’s be sure to identify the standing of candidates in regard to emergency management and homeland security policies.  While we will never get a fully accurate picture of their intentions in these programs this early on (I’m sure few candidates are even thinking about EM/HS policy aside from immigration), we can get some indication of what their thoughts are and, once primary season is over, who the final candidates might be considering to head important agencies such as DHS and FEMA.

Any examination of this history of emergency management shows that politics seem to shape the direction of what we do as much as significant disasters do.  If you are interested in reading up on this, there are two great sources I’d recommend – Emergency Management: The American Experience 1900-2010 (Rubin. 2012.) provides good summaries of benchmark disasters and legislation through the years; and Next-Generation Homeland Security: Network Federalism and the Course to National Preparedness (Morton. 2012.) provides an in-depth look at this history with detailed references to the administrations, agencies, and people involved.

Rubin and Morton References

Rubin and Morton References

While we have certainly seen an overall positive trend of progress in emergency management (which is heavily influenced and sometimes dictated by federal policy), this has come despite some political actions which have either slowed progress or sometimes fully did away with positive and effective programs.  Having major changes in policy and programs every few years has become unsustainable for our practice, especially at the local level where EM/HS programs are often coordinated by one person.  Change isn’t always bad, but changes should be put in place only after being thought-through and reviewed by professionals to ensure they are effective and sustainable – not just politically motivated.  FEMA has been doing a great job in the last several years by providing public comment periods on new and major changes to guidance.  I hope this continues.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


What is Resilience?

The topic of resilience is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.  This morning it struck me that today was the day.  I was spurred to it today by the LLIS page on the Community Resilience Core Capability.  I have a few references that I organized then opened up WordPress to starting writing… only to find that earlier today Claire Rubin beat me to it!  Claire Rubin, the ‘Recovery Diva’ is a well respected researcher, consultant, and educator in the field of emergency management.  She’s been in this business for quite a while and like me, likes to share resources and her thoughts on various topics in emergency management.  She also runs a blog on WordPress.  Follow her blog… it’s well worth it!  In her posting on Resilience today she really just provided a link to a document for us to chew on for a bit.  The document, a topical paper on Resilience, was published by the GSDRC, a partnership of research institutes in the UK.  This is a must read for emergency management folks.

So why write on the topic of Resilience in the first place?  There are many, myself included, who often wonder exactly what it is.  I think most of know intuitively, but it feels like it’s not a tangible thing that we can put a finger on.  Are Resilience and mitigation one in the same?  I would say no.  Resilience includes but transcends mitigation.  Community Resilience is a core capability within the mitigation mission area of the National Preparedness Goal’s Core Capabilities, but only because it’s the best place to put it, in my opinion.  A Resiliency strategy should address capabilities across all mission areas.

What is Resilience?  The Core Capabilities give a very brief description:

“Lead the integrated effort to recognize, understand, communicate, plan, and address risks so that the community can develop a set of      actions to accomplish Mitigation and improve resilience.”  Didn’t we learn in grade school to not use the word we are defining in the definition?

The GSDRC document has a much more comprehensive definition:

“Disaster resilience is the ability of individuals, communities, organizations, and states to adapt to and recovery from hazards, shocks, or stresses without compromising long-term prospects for development.”

The GSDRC references another definition, perhaps the one I like best, originating from the Hyogo Framework for Action (a UNISDR document) as follows:

“Disaster resilience is determined by the degree to which individuals, communities, and public and private organizations are capable of organizing themselves to learn from past disasters and reduce their risks to future ones, at international, regional, national, and local levels.”

The concept of learning from past disasters – either your own or those experienced by someone else – seems to me to be a critical component to Resilience.  Without experiencing the impacts of disasters, or at least learning from others about them, we don’t know what to prepare for.  Preparedness is another key component of Resiliency.  We have to create plans, train our community, and exercise those plans to become more Resilient.  Mitigation is certainly an important aspect of Resiliency – we must engineer risk reducing measures to become more Resilient.

I was fortunate to attend the 2013 IAEM conference in Reno and sit through a presentation from Dr. Dennis Mileti one day following lunch.  He spoke largely on Resiliency, first mentioning community focuses necessary for reducing loss including land use management, building codes, public education, warning systems, insurance, and preparedness efforts.  He also spoke on the barriers we face in Resilience which include a lack of understanding of risk, poor community prioritization, and poor leadership and management in these efforts.  It’s interesting that the barriers are all largely ‘people problems’.

In the pursuit of my Master’s degree, my class had a considerable dialogue on climate change.  For the last few decades we have fought climate change through various mitigation efforts.  While these efforts have largely made our planet a better place to live, climate change – due to both human impacts as well as the natural progression of global climates – is happening.  We can’t stop it, so we need to adapt to what is coming.  This adaptation is Resiliency – part mitigation, part preparedness.  It’s even in how we recover – remembering that recovery is not just rebuilding, it’s a series of conscious decisions in how we rebuild.  (FYI the Diva posted some references on communities relocating after a disaster instead of rebuilding where they were).

In New York State, there is a current initiative called New York Rising.  You will see from the information on their site that they are piloting this in five counties who were impacted by severe storms in 2013, including counties in my area.  They are using disaster recovery as a starting point and worked toward a strategic plan to make communities more resilient.  It seems pretty simple, but it’s a good starting point.  Community engagement and buy-in is an important aspect of Resiliency.

The concept of Resiliency still seems rather amorphic, but it is certainly the culmination of many deliberate activities.  Like any activity, we need to be able to measure it and gauge where we are in our own progress (and of course funders will want to know this as well).  The GSDRC document (page 20) briefly outlines proposed metrics/indicators of resilience.  The ones they outline are largely subjective and open to individual interpretation, so some schema for assigning a value to each would need to be developed (and perhaps already has) to really allow us to analyze Resiliency performance.

Resiliency has become a new buzz word in emergency management.  I hope it’s one that is here to stay.  The longer it is here, the better definition we will be able to assign it and the better we will be able to measure it.  As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  Once we are better able to measure it (and its many components and influencing factors) the better able we will be to work toward increasing our Resiliency.

What thoughts do you have on Resiliency?

© 2014 Timothy Riecker


A Disaster Superfund aka Redundant Bureaucracy

Linking to a blog I read often by fellow emergency manager Claire Rubin. She posted a link to an article that makes a case for a disaster superfund… you’ll see my thoughts as a comment on Claire’s page.

Recovery Diva

In an article titled The Dance for Disaster Dough, the author makes an interesting case for creating a Disaster Superfund. The author, Steven Cohen, is Executive Dir. of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

See readers’ comments below.

View original post